Learning As I Chop

The King Spoke About Shepherd’s Pie

Posted in Baking/Cooking, Holiday by R @ Learning As I Chop on February 28, 2011


H and I have always made a night of Oscar Night.  Before the big day, we try to see most of the nominated movies, so we can make educated guesses and be informed viewers.  The evening always includes some kind of special meal, and a good time is had by both. This year, inspired by LAIC, I decided to created an Oscar-themed meal to accompany our viewing pleasure.  At first I thought about a dish based on Oscar Meyer hotdogs, but given that we had been-there-done-that around Superbowl, something new was needed. So I looked at the Oscar nominated films and voiced some suggestions:

1) “Black Swan” – blackened chicken or some kind of duck?

2) “The Kids Are Alright” – fancy mac-n-cheese and homemade chicken nuggets?

3) “Winter’s Bone” –  a truly wintery dish (something chock full of parsnips and turnips) together with some meat on the bone. How do I get these ideas? True genius, I know.

4) “The King’s Speech” – something English-y? To which H responded “Shepherd’s Pie?”

And a meal was born.

Except that some of us weren’t too crazy about using lamb. A quick substitute and voila! Cottage pie instead.

The J of C provided an easy recipe. First, you must peel your potatoes and ready them for mashing.

While the potatoes are boiling, you chop your veggies. This recipe is pretty versatile, so you can substitute ingredients as you see fit. Broccoli if you feel like something healthier. Peas if you feel like something sweeter. I chose to follow the template and used the recommended carrots, celery and onion.

Saute the veggies and then combine with chopped meat. Beef if you’re making cottage pie, lamb if you’re making shepherd’s. I’m not normally one to take pictures of ground beef but these colors were so striking. Perhaps it’s the lean/grass-fed beef I bought.

Then you add some spices. I’m happy to report that I’m warming-up to thyme and rosemary. Plus, I’d never used nutmeg in a savory dish before. It had always been a pumpkin pie spice to me. Exciting!

Once the filling is ready, mash the potatoes and create two layers – a meat layer and a potato topping. Stick in the oven for 30 minutes and arrange your sides. In our case, this step involved a quick salad and some dish washing. Always make sure to wash dishes will cooking – you’ll be so happy you did.

All in all, I am happy with this dish. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly unphotogenic so we’ll omit a picture for artistry’s sake. However both H and I enjoyed it, and I have a feeling the pie will be even better on its second day. Definitely good for a cold winter’s eve or if you’re needing some comfort food. Enjoy!


Is All Oatmeal Equal?

Posted in General, Tips by R @ Learning As I Chop on February 23, 2011


You often see oatmeal on most “healthy food blogs.” It’s quick, yummy and good for you, so it’s an easy and smart choice. Plus, since oatmeal is rather bland and pairs well with many ingredients, you can personalize your bowl and change it up on a daily basis. I personally used to eat tons of oatmeal and have added the following: honey, almond butter, raisins, agave nectar, bluberries, strawberries… You get the point.

In an effort to provide healthier choices, McDonalds has started offering oatmeal on its breakfast menu. Here’s what Mark Bittman has to say about it. Enjoy!

Looks Like I Learned As I Chopped

Posted in Tips by R @ Learning As I Chop on February 18, 2011

Last month, I decided to attempt my first potpie. The recipe introduced me to a new friend – puff pastry – and I did my best to navigate the challenge. However I kind of knew something wasn’t right when the pastry sunk into the dish. So when I saw a potpie on a different blog, I immediately recognized where I went wrong. In the effort of transparency, and because you probably already see the problem, I admit that I failed to unfold the pastry. Oh man, how embarrassing. I’m willing to bet, though, that I’m not the first novice to make this mistake. As I cooked my second pie tonight, I therefore decided to create a small tutorial. Puff pastry in pictures. Enjoy!

1. Defrost the puff

2. Unfold the puff

3. Cut some slits and egg the puff

4. And voila!