summer shepherd’s pie

lovely shepherd's pie

When you think of a comfort food dish like Shepherd’s Pie, usually you think of it as cold weather fare. But when you have a nice heapin’ helpin of garlic scape mashed potatoes as leftovers and you also have a pound of local, organic ground beef thawed and ready to goin your fridge, the two just cry out in unison, “Shepherd’s Pie, please!” And with all the great early summer veggies out there to throw into the mix, if the day isnt too hot to turn on the oven, how can you resist?

Summer Shepherd’s Pie
serves 4-6
3 cups mashed potatoes
1 lb organic ground beef
2-3 garlic scapes
2 whole green onions
3 mushrooms
2 small carrots, diced into pea-size chunks
1/3 cup peas
tsp butter
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onio powder
½ tsp paprika
2 Tblspn flour
2 Tblspn tomato paste
¾ tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp balsalmic vinegar (optional)
1 cup organic beef broth

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. While the oven is warming, brown your pound of meat over medium-high heat in a large frying pan.

lovely shepherd's pie

3. While meat is browning, put mushrooms, onions, and garlic scapes in your food processor or dice very fine (note: you can also slice your mushrooms thick and enjoy their taste and texture in the meal, but my husband doesnt like mushrooms so I ‘sneak’ them in this way).

lovely shepherd's pie

4. When meat is browned but not overly done, remove from pan and set aside. Return pan to medium heat, melt your tsp of butter and saute your mushroom, onion, and scape mixture until soft and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.

lovely shepherd's pie

5. Add your peas and carrots. Saute, stirring often, for three minutes.

6. Return browned meat to the pan, and add all of the dry seasonings. Stir very well, and cook for three minutes.

7. Add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and vinegar, and stir well. Sprinkle the flour evenly over the contents of the pan and stir very well.

lovely shepherd's pie

8. Add your up of broth, bring contents just to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer on low heat. Simmer 15 minutes, allowing the meat to tenderize and the sauce to reduce.

9. While the sauce is reducing, warm your left over mashed potatoes in a large saucepan with just a dash of milk to make them spreadable but not liquidy.

lovely shepherd's pie

10. After 15 minutes, place the meat mixture into a medium casserole dish. Scoop or, if you are really fancy, pipe warmed mashed potatoes on top. Sprinkle with paprika and melted butter if you wish and bake for 30 minutes.

lovely shepherd's pie

11. Note: I have yet to make the “perfect” shepherd’s pie where the sauce did not bubble up over the mashed potatoes at some point. I find if I put in any less liquid than the amount listed above, the mixture gets dried out and isn’t tender and tasty. But we don’t mind, because it still tastes great!

lovely shepherd's pie

This meal takes a little effort, but it is well-worth it, friends. Serve this with some crusty bread and a side salad, or a dish of fresh, local strawberries from your loft box and you have a fabulous summer meal. Bon Apetite!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and organically for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

garlic scape mashed potatoes

lovely garlic scape potatoes

This if my first year working with garlic scapes. I have been intimidated by them when I’ve seen them at farmers markets in year’s past, but as I received some in my local box this year I felt challenged to learn how to use these perfectly edible (and as it turns out perfectly delicious!) early summer vegetable. Teamed with some green onion, butter and sour cream, you’ve got the makings of some very tasty mashed potatoes!

Garlic Scape Mashed Potatoes
makes 2-3, easily doubled

10 new red potatoes
3 garlic scrapes
2 large green onions (whites and greens both)
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

1. Scrub, but do not peel, your potatoes. Cover with salted water in a large pot and boil until tender but not mushy.

lovely garlic scape potatoes
lovely garlic scape potatoes

2. While potatoes are boiling, dice fine your garlic scrapes and green onion (in fact, after I made this recipe I wish I had put them in the food processor, but a fine dice works nice, too).

lovely garlic scape potatoes

3. In a medium sauce pan, melt one tablespoon of butter over medium heat and saute the scrapes and onions until nice and tender, about 10 minutes.

lovely garlic scape potatoes

4. When your scrapes are tender, remove the pan from heat, and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter to the pan to allow it to melt.

5. When the potatoes are tender, drain and put them in a large mixing bowl. Pour the scrapes/melted butter combination over the potatoes.

6. Add sour cream, and, using your electric mixer, whip the potatoes well. Taste and add salt and pepper to your taste, and mix again.

lovely garlic scape potatoes

I served these with baked chicken and Strawberry Salad on the side- a delicious early summer meal! I hope you have an opportunity to cook with garlic scrapes soon, including this great potato recipe. Enjoy!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and organically for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

hash browns & freezing potatoes


lovely hash browns

We were sick in our house this past week, which means I didnt do the amount of cooking I usually do in a week. Result: by Tuesday I had a drawer full of potatoes staring at me. I try to use up the produce from my local box each week before I get the next one, so I started meditating on the best way to use up these taters before I had another batch in my bin.

We love home fries with our breakfasts, but I dont make them very often because they are a multi-step process. Often in the morning I am looking for something easy, so the beloved home fries get left out. But what if I could have most of the work done ahead of time and have the potatoes in the freezer, ready to fry? I decided to give it a try and see if it would work.

lovely hash browns

And it did! I did a nice big batch of potatoes and froze them. The next day I used them in my regular home fries recipe and they worked like a charm. From now on whenever I have potatoes that need to get used up before they get soft, Im going to process them like this and have a nice stash in the freezer for early mornings when a full breakfast sounds delicious but Im too tired from being up with a baby at night to bother.

Freezing Potatoes

1. About 6 medium sized potatoes worked great for one “batch” of potatoes to freeze at a time. You want just enough to create a single layer on whatever baking sheet you are going to use to flash freeze them, so you may need to play with sizes and quantities of potatoes.

2. Wash and peel your potatoes. Dice them into about 1 inch cubes. Don’t dice them too small or the freezing process will turn them into mush when you try to cook them.

lovely hash browns

3. Soak your potatoes in very cold water for about 10 minutes. This helps get rid of some of the starch and makes for a crispier fried potato. Drain.

4. Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water (allow just about an inch of water over potatoes). Add some salt, cover, and cook on medium high heat.

5. Keep a close eye on your pot, and once it starts to boil remove the lid. You want to cook your potatoes just until fork tender, not all the way. This is important as you cannot freeze fully cooked potatoes, they will turn to mush. Keep checking them with a fork and as soon as the fork can comfortably skewer the potato, drain immediately.

6. Cover potatoes with cold water to stop cooking process. I cover them once, then drain them, them let them sit in a cold water bath for a few minutes before draining again.

lovely hash browns

7. Drain potatoes and lay them out on a dish cloth, allowing them to dry very well. Salt and Pepper your potatoes.

lovely hash browns

8. On a baking sheet that will fit nicely in your freezer, line with parchment paper or plastic wrap, and place potatoes in a single layer on the sheet. Both lining the sheet and placing them in a single layer only is important, so they will freeze properly and will not stick to your baking sheet.

lovely hash browns

9. Place your sheet in your freezer and allow a few hours so that that potatoes are completely frozen. Don’t leave them in longer than needed, as they are uncovered and can become freezer burned.

10. Once frozen, the potatoes will come off the sheet nicely and you can pop them in a freezer bag or a container of your choice. Label and return to freezer. I have read that frozen potatoes are good for up to two months.

Hash Browns with Frozen Potatoes

      3 T butter


      1 small onion


      2-3 cups frozen potato cubes


    salt and pepper
lovely hash browns

1. Peel and dice your onion. In a large frying pan, heat butter on medium high heat and saute onions for a few minutes, stiring frequently.

lovely hash browns

2. Add frozen potatoes. Salt and pepper as needed to taste. Toss the potatoes to coat in butter and onions, and then leave them to brown.

3. After a few minutes, turn your potatoes over, let them brown again. To get a nice brown, I cooked mine from frozen for about 10 minutes, stirring ever few minutes to keep from burning but trying not to stir so much that they didn’t brown nicely.

4. Serve immediately with breakfast or any other dish.

lovely hash browns

These could also be used in other dishes that call for parboiled potatoes, or thrown into soups (as long as you take into account the fact that they are partially precooked). Enjoy!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and seasonally for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

roots curry

lovely roots

Who doesn’t love a good curry? Well, as it turns out, my husband. Poor fellow. Apparently his dad grew up in a house where the only spice used was curry powder, and as such grew an understandable dislike of the flavor, and thus my husband was never exposed to anything Indian. So sad- I could eat curry three days a week. Maybe four. And thankfully, our baby girl has inherited her mamma’s taste for international cuisine and digs this flavorful dish (see the end of the post for tips for serving this to babies).

lovely roots

I call this meal Roots Curry because it’s made primarily of root vegetables, and also as a little tongue in cheek reference to the very Canadian ingredients for a late winter/early spring seasonal dish. If you aren’t accustomed to making your own curry but enjoy Indian food, do yourself a favor and go out and invest in the necessary spices to do so (Bulk Barn is a great place for exotic spices). Don’t be intimidated- curries are a bit like chilis in that once you have the right spices, the rest is rather forgivable.

Roots Curry
makes 4-6 servings
(T= Tablespoon, t = teaspoon)
Spices :

    3T Curry powder
    2 t sugar
    1t salt
    1t corriander (dried spice, not cilantro leaves)
    1t garam masala
    1t dried ginger
    ½ t cinnamon
    3 bay leaves
    4 whole cloves
    1/3 C butter, divided in two (must use butter or ghee to get the right flavor)
    2 medium onions
    1 small parsnip
    2 small potatoes
    1 medium orange carrot
    1 cup cooked chickpeas
    1 large can tomatoes (or 3 cups of your own canned tomatoes)
    1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
lovely roots

1. Assemble all of your needed spices in a small dish so that they are ready to go when needed.

2. Cube your parsnips, potatoes, and carrots into ½ inch cubes and set aside.

lovely roots

3. Dice your onions very fine (I like to use my food processor).

4. In a large saucepot or dutch oven, melt 1/6 C of butter over medium heat and stir in onions. Cook onions for a few minutes until just starting to become translucent.

5. Add your spices to your onions. What you want to do is stir them into the onions well, and then make sure the onion/spice mixture is evenly spread across the bottom of your pot. This will allow the spices to become nice and aromatic. Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring so your spices and onions do not burn.

lovely roots

6. Add your other 1/6 cup of butter, and once it starts to melt add in your root vegetables. Stir the veggies in and make sure they are covered completely by the onion/spice mixture. Saute, stirring frequently to prevent burning, for 3-4 minutes.

lovely roots

7. Add coconut milk and canned tomatoes, and stir well. The liquid should be just covering allt he veggies- if it is not add just enough water to cover. Bring the mixture to a boil only for a moment, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for about an hour, until veg is nice and tender and the flavor comes together nicely (and what I like to do is cook the dish for about 45 minutes and then put it in my crockpot on low for another hour or so before dinner to let the spices get even happier).

lovely roots
lovely roots

Before serving, remove bay leaves and give everyone a head’s up to look out for the whole cloves- they won’t hurt you but they’ll be bitter if eaten whole. Serve with basmati rice or preferred grain, and naan bread if you have any on hand. This dish freezes very well; I like to make a nice big batch and freeze in individual servings for lunches.

Tip for babies: For those babies over 9 months and toddlers, this can be a great dish. For our daughter (who is 11 months now) I combine the following in our food processor:
¼ cup cooked rice (or other grain)
½ cup Roots Curry
¼ cup plain, full-fat yogurt

lovely roots

I blend just enough to bring all the ingredients together and make the food into pea-sized lumps, but feel free to blend further for wee ones who still prefer puree. The yogurt helps take a bite out of the spices and gives baby the fat they need in each meal.

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and seasonally for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

cream of potato and parsnip soup


lovely soup

Warm weather is coming, but there are still plenty of chilly days and nights left to enjoy a heary bowl of cream soup. With the potatoes, parsnips and cream, I was tempted to name this “Winter White” soup, but I didn’t dare use the “W” word now that we’re officially in Spring!

The great thing about soups is that its a good way to use up some of your veg if its not in its best state. Your taters and parsnips can be a bit soft and not-so-perfect and you can still get a fabulous soup out of them. Hope you enjoy my creation as much as we did!

Cream of Potato and Parsnip Soup
makes four to six servings

3 cups peeled, cubed potatoes

1 medium peeled, cubed parsnip

1 medium onion

½ to 1 clove garlic, to your taste (1 good size local box garlic clove will make this pretty garlicy)

2 Tblsp fat (bacon grease, olive oil, or butter)

1 tsp kosher salt

pepper to taste

1/3 cup dry white wine

2 ½ cups chicken or veg broth

1 Bayleaf

¼ boullion cube disolved in 1/8 cup boiling water

1 Cup cream or milk

1. Peel and cube your potatoes and parsnips and put aside.

lovely soup

2. Dice your onion and garlic fine (I use my food processor)

lovely soup

3. In a large soup pot, melt your fat (I really like bacon grease for this dish) on medium heat. Once melted, simmer your onion and garlic for a few minutes, until onion becomes translucent.

4. Add potatoes and parsnips, salt and pepper, and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, for 3 to five minutes.

lovely soup

5. Add white wine and stir well, pulling up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan.

6. Add bayleaf and chicken broth. Dissolve ¼ chicken boullion cube in 1/8 cup boiling water and add this to the mixture. Bring to a boil.

7. Reduce heat and simmer on a low boil for 20 minutes or until veg are nice and tender.

8. Remove bayleaf and add cream. Stir well and increase heat to allow the soup to just reach a boil, then remove from heat.

9. Blend at least half of the soup, with either a submerssion hand blender or by carefully putting half of the soup into a blender or food processor. Be careful not to burn yourself. I prefer to blend this soup completely, it gives it a lovely thick, smooth texture.

lovely soup

Serve this soup with some of these deliciously easy cheese biscuits, and the white wine you used for the soup. Also nice with this would be a miniature version of the Spring Equinox Salad from a previous post. Bon Apetite!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and seasonally for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

cottage pie

What I find hard at this time of year is that among all the extra events, baking projects, gift hunting and such, you still need to eat dinner. It’s easy to resort to just eating crap. I came to the realization today that I have four busy evenings out of five this week and that, unless we want to eat scrambled eggs for dinner every night, I had better start doing some planning.

I made this Cottage Pie tonight and will just pop it in the oven to reheat tomorrow after work. It’s more or less a Shepherd’s Pie, but instead of using mashed potatoes on top, it uses thinly sliced ones. Super smart. Two minutes with a mandolin and the potatoes are ready to top your pie. And it looks quite lovely in the end, doesn’t it? Carrots, potatoes and onions all put to good use here.

cottage pie

– Dinah Murdoch lives, eats and writes in Kitchener.

veggie chips

The Jerusalem artichoke has ties to neither Jerusalem nor artichokes. It’s actually a tuber, and a member of the sunflower family. You may have also heard it called a sunchoke. They’re potato-esque in texture but sweeter and nuttier in flavour. Do a Google search for recipes and you’ll find lots of soups.

I decided to try making chips out of them. First let me say that I never deep fry things. I don’t own a deep fryer or any type of frying equipment (i.e., oil thermometer, skimmer) so this was a bit of a departure for me, but the project was super easy and the results were friggin awesome and I will definitely do it again. The only thing you really need is a mandoline slicer. It gets the chips nice and thin. If you don’t have one, you can, of course, use a knife but some pretty awesome knife skills are required to get your sunchokes sliced really thin but also to get any kind of uniformity.

My inspiration was this recipe here. I don’t have the thermometer so I just heated the half-inch of oil in a deep pot over medium high heat until it really sputtered when I dropped a slice of sunchoke in. Then it’s just a matter of keeping watch and having tongs handy to fish the chips out quickly when they’re golden in colour.

The rosemary salt in the recipe is not, of course, mandatory, but man, so good. I used my mortar and pestle to muddle the salt and rosemary together and then sprinkled it on the chips as they blotted on paper towel.

Once the sunchokes were done (and it didn’t take long), I got excited about other possibilities and ended up slicing up a sweet potato, a golden beet and a yellow potato. Fried all those, too, and ended it up with a lovely little bowl of homemade root veg chips. They lasted about five minutes.


Here are the sliced artichokes soaking in water…


Here are the artichokes frying…


Here are the finished sunchokes…

time to fry

A sliced beet, potato and sweet potato awaiting their fate…

veggie chips

And finally…the finished bowl of veggie chips. Yum.

– Dinah Murdoch lives, eats and writes in Kitchener.

winter borscht

I made a big batch of soup to use my dill this weekend and, in the end, nearly forgot to put the dill in. I had the soup all portioned into containers to freeze and opened the fridge to grab something else and saw the dill looking at me like, “Haven’t you forgotten something?” Oops. Chopped it up and stirred the bits and pieces into my various containers. Better late than never.

This was a great recipe for using up lots of Loft items — a half-cabbage from a couple of weeks ago that was getting a bit brown in spots, a few beets, an onion, some carrots and, yes, the dill.

The soup is called Winter Borscht, and the recipe comes from Simply in Season, the same recipe book I went on about in last week’s post about vegetarian chili. I made some changes to the recipe, which has the whole soup cooking for only 30 minutes, which I found odd. Stewing beef will never get tender in 30 minutes, so I turned this into a whole-day affair and just let it simmer and simmer until everything was tender.

Miraculously, my 14-month-old ate a giant bowl of this not once, but twice. I had to puree it first. It’s terribly ugly that way — it turns into a colour for which there is no name — but what more can a mother ask for than for her kid to eat something as healthy as this?

Winter Borscht

1 lb stewing beef, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
8 cups water
2 cups potatoes, chopped
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
1 cup beets, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup barley
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup fresh chives (optional)
1 tbsp oil

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Brown beef on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from pot and set aside.

2. Add onions, carrots and beets and saute until onion softens.

3. Add cabbage, beef, bay leaves, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Let simmer until beef is very tender, which may take a few hours. (A slow cooker is a good option if you have one — follow the same steps, transferring everything to a slow cooker.

4. About 30 minutes before serving, stir in the barley and dill.


– Dinah Murdoch lives, eats and writes in Kitchener.

green eggs

Normally I have our weekday meals pretty much mapped out by the end of the weekend so the evenings run smoothly. Otherwise the dilly dallying of “What are we having tonight?” makes me crazy and I end up running to the store for this or that last minute, wasting time, and I hate that.

This week was all mapped out except that, at around 4 p.m. today, I realized that Wednesday night somehow got forgotten about. So I had no plan. I also had this week’s spinach in the fridge and no plan for it, so I knew I was creating a meal out of spinach but with little time or ambition.

So, I fell back on that old desperate standby, breakfast for dinner. In this case, green eggs, bacon and potatoes. Not a meal to be especially proud of, but one that did make use of two Loft ingredients, so hey, we got some organic veg into us.

To make the potatoes, we peeled about four little brown ones and grated them on a box grater. Heated a little olive oil in a pan over medium, threw in grated potatoes, tossed here and there, added some salt and pepper. Took no time and tasted great.

Green eggs: I washed that big old bunch of spinach, steamed it, let it cool, squeezed all the water out, and was left with one large handful. (That always amazes me). I chopped that up and set it aside. Then I whisked 6 eggs and poured them in a pan with a little melted butter. As I started to scramble them, I sprinkled in the chopped spinach, some salt and pepper, and carried on tossing it around until cooked.

A couple of pieces of really flavourful Berkshire bacon on the side — a happy mid-week treat — and dinner was served.

green eggs

– Dinah Murdoch lives, eats and writes in Kitchener.

gardener’s pie

The potato situation in my pantry is getting a bit out of control. Every time we get potatoes in the local bag, I toss them into a big paper bag in the pantry. We don’t eat a great deal of them, so I have several pounds accumulated, and some of them were starting to get a bit wilty. Thankfully Thanksgiving is fast approaching.

In the meantime, tonight’s dinner — made in the slow cooker — was Shepherd’s Pie. That used up 3-1/2 lbs of potatoes and made a significant dent in the supply. Best of all, my kid loved it and there’s lots leftover.

The recipe I used was actually for something called Gardener’s Pie, which uses ground soy protein. I used beef, so ours was really just Shepherd’s Pie.

You’ll find an oven version of the vegetarian recipe here. To make it with meat, substitute 1 lb of lean ground beef for the soy protein. A slow cooker version of the recipe is in The Canadian Living Slow Cooker Cookbook.

Basically, you’d follow the instructions for the “meat” part the same way, only scrape everything into the slow cooker instead of a baking dish, then turn it onto low for 3 to 4 hours. You’d then make the potatoes as directed, spread them on top and cook for 20 minutes more until the whole dish is good and hot.

shepherd's pie

– Dinah Murdoch lives, eats and writes in Kitchener.