A Green Noodle Sunday

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A long, long time ago (you know, before I fell down the rabbit's hole of wedding planning) I was a member of the Daring Bakers. Each month there would be a new baking challenge that I would manage to get done by the deadline.

One month, the challenge was a spinach lasagna, featuring homemade spinach noodles. I skipped that month due to lack of time. And, quite honestly, I didn't have a pasta roller at the time so who knows what lumpy state my noodles would have been in. Now, almost a year later, I have redeemed myself and conquered the green noodle. Oh, and I lived to blog about it.

It all started out with 5 ounces of yummy organic baby spinach.

I wilted the spinach in my steamer/rice cooker and then put it in a colander to squish out all of the extra liquid.

I then finely chopped the wilted spinach.

Putting 2 cups of all-purpose flour on my trusty Crate & Barrel mat, I created a well in the flour and cracked 3 eggs into it. Using a fork, I lightly beat the eggs within the well. Can someone please explain to me why they have you do this? There ended up being egg running everywhere. If you want to retain your sanity, beat the eggs beforehand.

After the egg ran amuck all over my mat, I managed to gather it up with the flour, and then dropped the chopped spinach into the mess. Some hand cleaning, kneading, and a little extra flour resulted in this lovely little ball of noodle dough. I wrapped it up and let it rest for 30 or 45 minutes.

After the dough had rested, I took a piece of it and starting putting it through my KitchenAid pasta roller, starting with level 1 and moving up to 5. It takes a bit to get the hang of, and the more you work with the dough, the more the spinach gets worked in. The noodles on the front of the board were the first that I did, and could have been run through more. The two in the back are much better.

One noodle at a time went into a pot of boiling, salted water for about 1 minute, into an ice bath for a couple of minutes, and then laid out onto a clean towel.

When you start rolling out the noodles, it can get stressful. I tend to scream and yell. Fortunately, Steve is able to overlook my nervous energy and general frustrations and helps me out. He took over the noodles in the boiling and cooling department.

While my dough was resting I had started my lasagna sauce. The only lasagna I've ever made was my grandmother's recipe. I'm pretty sure it is the most basic of basic recipes, and I don't have any memories of her making this lasagna, but nevertheless it's the recipe I use and I'm sticking with it.

As you can tell, we like our organic meats from Whole Foods. For our lasagna we bought a pound of organic ground bison. Bison, if you didn't know is a very lean meat - leaner than red meat and even chicken.

After sauteing an onion and cooking the meat with garlic, salt and pepper, I added tomato sauce and tomato soup to the mix. Whole Foods 365 brand is great for these basics (organic and cheap!). We have been addicted to this creamy tomato basil soup.

After the sauce simmered for a half hour or so and the noodles were all cooked, we layed the noodles in a glass baking dish with the sauce and some part-skim mozzarella, topping it off with more mozzarella and freshly grated parmesan.

I popped it into a 350 degree oven, covered with foil, for 30 minutes, and then baked it uncovered for an additional 15 minutes until it was browned up and bubbling.

What else to serve on the side but spinach salad!

I am IN LOVE with these spinach noodles- only three ingredients and you get something so tasty. The lasagna held up wonderfully for dinner the next two nights and the noodles were just as tasty each night.

Thank you again to Steve for saving my butt in the kitchen. I'm pretty sure he just does it because he wants to eat as a semi-reasonable hour. But regardless, his help when I'm at my wit's end is very appreciated.

For the Spinach Pasta:
5 ounces fresh spinach
2 to 2-1/2 cups flour
3 eggs

Steam the spinach until just wilted. Cool a little and squeeze all the liquid out. Chop finely. Mound flour on work surface. Make a well in the center and break eggs into the well. Beat lightly with fork and add the spinach into the eggs (or pre-beat the eggs before adding if you don't want a mess on your hands. Litterally.). Mix with fork. Start incorporating the flour until all the flour is added. If still sticky, add more flour, little by little, until you have a dough that is not too dry and not too sticky. Knead by hand for 5 minutes. Wrap in well floured plastic wrap and set aside to rest at least for 30 minutes.

Cut a section of dough and put through pasta maker rollers on widest setting. Fold in thirds, dust with more flour, and put through rollers again. Do this a few times and then adjust rollers to next number. Put pasta through the rollers, adding flour if you need to so it doesn't stick. Adjust rollers to next number and run pasta through until you run the pasta through setting #5. Lay pasta out on well floured surface and cut to length of your pan.

Bring a large pot of well salted water to boil and prepare a large bowl filled with ice water. Cook the lasagna noodles, only 2 or 3 at a time for just a minute or so. Take out with a large spider or spoon and place the pasta in the ice bath for a couple of minutes. Remove the pasta and place on a clean towel. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Grandma Susin's Lasagna

½ C Chopped White Onion
2 tsp Oil
1 lb Ground Beef (or Bison!)
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Parsley
16 Ounces Tomato Sauce
1 C Tomato Soup
6 Lasagna Noodles
Parmesan cheese
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Sauté chopped onion in oil. Remove from skillet. Brown ground beef and add garlic, salt, and pepper. Return onions to skillet and add oregano, parsley, tomato sauce, and tomato soup. Simmer for ½ hour. Cook and cool 6 lasagna noodles. Layer cooked noodles, sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Top with Parmesan cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes covered with foil. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes.

Hello, Lover. Or...Sephora by Mail

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Yesterday, this box of lovelies arrived at my door:

I had been promising myself that after the wedding I'd invest in some good makeup. I had been feeling far too much guilt when it came to spending money on beauty products (ie if it wasn't on clearance at Walgreens, I wasn't buying it!), so I decided that I would finally hit up Sephora with a set budget in mind, and have them help me build a new face.

Needless to say, I was too lazy to actually go to a Sephora (and really, it's much easier to stick to a budget when you're not actually seeing the products in person). So, I decided to be my own makeup artist and last week I picked out some fun products. Mind you: both choosing and applying makeup are not my forte. I truly excel at buying a lot of products I'll never use, though.

So, I started with some Sephora Collection Lip Attitude - Chic lipstick. It was a steal at $6.00. And no, I didn't buy it in this fabulously bold red (because if you couldn't guess, I've never learned how to do a great red lip).

Instead, I purchased it in this Sexy Jungle which is supposed to be a "cool toffee brown." Umm, it's really a very pale neutral, but on the upside it's super moisturizing, smells faintly of cherry chapstick (mmm) and I can apply it without needing look in the mirror.

I've been told that the key to starting a good makeup collection is a nice set of brushes. I can't afford a nice set of brushes. So, I bought this little pocket brush set for $15. It's small, but since I don't have a clue how to use most of the brushes, I think this is a great jumping off point for me. Kind of like brush training wheels before I get the grown up kind.

I have wanted these Stila lip and cheek stains for FOR.EV.ER. But come on, $24? So when I saw this A Couple of Crushes set for $10 I jumped on it. I don't think these are smaller than the product normally is, and it was such a great deal. I have no clue why, but who am I to question my good fortune?

The only downside is that the product is a little runny, so it feels weird on the lips. But I'm sure that's how it's supposed to be. I might be a little bummed out by that if I had paid full price, but since I did not I'm gleefully happy with this product. It also looks great on the cheeks.

When I had my makeup done for the wedding, it was the first time I had my makeup done professionally. Ever. So when she filled in my eyebrows a bit I loved how it looked - I'd never done that before (shocker, I know).

So, I searched around for an eyebrow kit. And, of course, I also searched for the cheapest one I could find. Ta da - Lorac's Take a Brow for $22. The pricier kits ($30+) all included extra tools like mini tweezers. I can live without those, thankyouverymuch. I looove this little kit. Brush some powder in, pretend I have a clue what to do with the wax, done! Easy and makes a big difference.

I always end up buying the same eye shadows - pinks or browns. Without a professional to help me, I ended up with some of the same, this Stila Eyeshadow Trio in Bella for $20. But I love the shades...they're very rich colors, go on nicely, and so far today they are wearing well! Oh, and this was about the cheapest eyeshadow I could find on the site. Yes, me = cheapskate.

If you sign up for Sephora's Beauty Insider group, you can get a present! I signed up a couple of weeks ago since my birthday is next week. Pretty much just to get the free present. I ended up getting a little set of three of the Sephora Collection Mini Super Shimmer Lipglosses. I have three of the colors that are in the picture below...I think actually the first three in the line. They're fun colors, make your lips smell like grape bubblegum (not overpowering, just good), and they were FREE.


I also ended up with a few different free samples (since they give those with every purchase) as well as a free little tube of Smashbox Photo Finish Targeted Pore & Liner Primer. I'll be honest, I have no clue what to do with this stuff, but it was free so I'll give it a try. Since the "real size" product looks pretty tiny and is $32, it would have to make me look like a new person for me to actually purchase it.


So, what started out as an "I'm going to splurge on some fabulous makeup that's just right for me" turned into a bargain-hunt-bonanza with products that are great but not purchased under the watchful eye of a professional. However, I feel like I got a lotta goods for $78. Right? Right.

What are your "go to's" in the makeup department? And, would you like to take me shopping for some more? Obviously I'm a wee bit hopeless (and, umm, poor)!

The Kooky Couple & Indian Food

Sunday, February 21, 2010

We finished our Valentine's Day celebration with a yummy, yummy dessert, but rest assured we stuffed ourselves with plenty of good, nutritious food beforehand. Good, nutritious Indian food, that is. Yummy.

Any good Indian dinner starts off with samosas. Most of our recipes were from an Indian cookbook featuring lighter recipes, so our samosas were made with phyllo dough and baked. More traditionally samosas are made with a pastry dough and deep fried.

I became a pro at rolling these babies into perfect little triangles, and because they weren't as heavy, we could eat waaaaay more of them. See recipe at the end of the post if you feel like trying these out.

We decided to make a chicken tikka masala as our main course. The recipe was pretty straightforward, but we honestly didn't LOVE it. Fortunately, we had an extra pound of chicken that we needed to use, so at the last minute Steve decided to add in another dish...

We made some butter chicken. Divine! Just spicy enough, tender chicken and a great tasting sauce. However, this did not come from the "light" cookbook which also helps. Plenty of butter went into this dish! Because of its extra deliciousness, the recipe for this will be at the end of this post as well.

To accompany everything, we made some tomato rice that featured yellow pepper, green chile, tomato and potato. Good but not mind blowing.

Finally, the naan. Hmm. I love making bread. I've tried my hand at everything from bagels to brioche and everything in between. But something about this naan just wasn't "it." Maybe the recipe? Maybe the execution? I'm not sure. After baking it we pan fried it with some butter to help with the taste and texture, but next time around I would try a different recipe and also buy some from the store as a backup plan.

And, finally, we enjoyed a bottle of sparkling shiraz. If you haven't tried it, you must. It's a red (obviously), but because it's sparkling it is very light. You will down a bottle in the blink of an eye.

We definitely had our failures and successes for our foray into Indian cooking. We dirtied everything pot/pan/utensil in our kitchen. At least once. I bought and blended a lot of exotic spices. We learned that cilantro and coriander were the same thing. I'm even more of a whiz at working with phyllo dough than I was before. And, most importantly, Steve and I had a such a fun day of cooking, trying to new flavors and techniques, and enjoying each other's company in the kitchen. I couldn't have asked for a better first Valentine's Day as a married couple!

Makhani Chicken (Indian Butter Chicken)

1 3/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cubed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chili powder salt to taste
1 cup yogurt salt to taste
2 tablespoons garlic paste
1/2 tablespoon garam masala
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons ginger paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped green chile pepper
2 cups tomato puree
1 tablespoon chili powder salt to taste
1 cup water 1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
1 cup heavy cream Directions

To Marinate: Place chicken in a nonporous glass dish or bowl with lemon juice, 1 tablespoon chili powder and salt. Toss to coat; cover dish and refrigerate to marinate for 1 hour.

Drain yogurt in a cloth for 15 to 20 minutes. Place in a medium bowl; mix in salt, garlic paste, garam masala, butter, chili powder, ginger paste, lemon juice and oil. Pour yogurt mixture over chicken, replace cover and refrigerate to marinate for another 3 to 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Place chicken on skewers. Place skewers in a 9x13 inch baking dish and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until almost cooked through.

To Make Sauce: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garam masala. When masala begins to crackle, mix in ginger paste, chopped garlic and green chile peppers. Saute until tender, then stir in tomato puree, chili powder, salt and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring in honey and fenugreek. Place chicken in sauce mixture. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink inside. Stir in fresh cream.

Vegetable Samosas
From The New Indian Cooking Course

Note: this recipe makes 28 samosas. Cut down the quantities as needed.

14 sheets of phyllo pastry, thawed and wrapped in a damp dish towel
Oil for brushing the pastries
3 large potatoes, boiled and coarsely mashed
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/3 cup canned sweetcorn, drained
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dry mango powder (amchur)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
2 T coriander leaves, chopped
2 T mint leaves, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Gut each sheet of phyllo pastry in half lengthways and fold each piece in half lengthways to give 28 thin stripes. Lightly brush with oil.

Toss all the the filling ingredients together in a large mixing bowl until they are well blended. Adjust the seasoning with salt and lemon juice if necessary.

Using one strip of the pastry at a time, place 1 T of the filing mixture at one end of the strip and diagonally fold the pastry up to form a triangle shape. Brush the samosas with oil and bake in the oven fro 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Note: I found that flipping them halfway through the baking time ensures both sides brown up.

Dessert First, Please

Monday, February 15, 2010

Steve and I celebrated a fabulous Valentine's Day by taking a stab at Indian cooking. Not going to lie - our house smelled ah-mazing! But, I decided that the way to blog our dinner was by starting with the end of our evening...dessert!

I found this recipe for a Strawberry Mousse Cake Strata on Use Real Butter and knew this would be the perfect Valentine's treat. But, since Valentine's Day is nothing without hearts, hearts everywhere, I made some little extras and adjustments to the original.

A day in advance, made some chocolate hearts. I went super simple and just melted some semi-sweet chocolate chips in a pan. I used a little less than half a bag, but for what I needed I easily could have used less.

After the chips were good and melted, I spread the chocolate onto a baking sheet that was lined with parchment paper. I popped this into the fridge for 30-45 minutes until the chocolate was pretty solid. (Note: if you're not sure if it's done, try cutting out a small shape as a test. It will be VERY easy to tell if your chocolate is firm enough!)

Once the chocolate was firmed up, I cut out my hearts with some cookie cutters.

I think I'm a sucker for everything heart shaped...especially chocolate! I placed the hearts into a tupperware, placed parchment paper in between them so they wouldn't get stuck together, and put them in the fridge.

On Sunday morning it was time to make the cake! The recipe for the strata called for a chiffon cake. I opted to just make a white butter cake (recipe, below) because chiffon cakes call for far too many eggs and I didn't feel like blowing my supply on one cake!

Once the cakes were cooled, I popped them in the freezer for about an hour or two for them to really firm up. I then pulled them out of the freezer and grabbed one of my heart-shaped springform pans to cut out heart shaped cakes.

I got 4 hearts out of two 8-inch layers, which was all we needed. The original strata recipe has you split the layers in half which means you can get more desserts out of this, but we didn't need any more than 4.

We also didn't complain as we shoved the leftover cake into our mouths. Who doesn't love a little cake for lunch? Also, don't make the same mistake as me and line your cookie sheet with parchment before putting the cakes on there or they'll stick like crazy, ugh.

After cutting the cakes I slid them into the springform pans. These worked out perfectly in lieu of using molds. I spread strawberry preserves on top...

And then layered on the strawberry mousse that I whipped up. Then I popped these babies into the freezer. This is a great make ahead recipe because you can freeze them all day and then pull them out a little before you want to eat them.

After we fixed all of the chaos in the kitchen from our spread of chicken tikka, samosas and naan, I pulled the dessert out of the freezer, took them out of the molds and topped them with the whipped cream I had made just minutes before.

This dessert was just ammmazing. It was like eating a strawberry shortcake and the chocolate heart was an excellent edition. My mind is now wandering to the leftovers in the fridge...nom nom nom.

White Butter Cake

1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated white sugar, divided
2 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

While eggs are still cold separate the eggs, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another bowl. Cover the two bowls with plastic wrap and allow the eggs to come to room temperature before using (about 30 minutes).

In a mixing bowl sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In bowl of electric mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add 3/4 cup (150 grams) of the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.

With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. In a clean bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup (50 grams) of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

With a rubber spatula gently fold a little of the whites into the batter to lighten it, and then fold in the remaining whites until combined. Do not over mix the batter or it will deflate. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.

Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 20 - 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Place a wire rack on top of the cake pan and invert, lifting off the pan. Once the cakes have completely cooled, wrap in plastic and place the cake layers in the freezer for at least an hour.

Strawberry Mousse

Note: below is the full recipe. I divided this by half because I only made 4 individual desserts.

1 envelope gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
2 cups strawberries (sliced, or if frozen strawberries, then thawed)
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp sugar

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small saucepan and let soak for a minute. If using frozen strawberries, use 1/4 cup of the strawberry liquid instead of water. Stir over low heat until the gelatin is dissolved (about a minute). Remove from heat.

Mix the berries, sugar, and gelatin mixture in a food processor and purée. Chill until the mixture piles in a mound when spooned. Beat the cream and sugar to soft peaks. Temper the whipped cream into the strawberry mixture (incorporate about a third of the whipped cream first). Fold in the rest of the whipped cream.

Whipped Cream

Note: below is the full recipe. I divided this by half because I only made 4 individual desserts.

1 1/2 cups whipping cream
3 tbsp sugar

Combine cream and sugar in mixing bowl and whip on high until soft peaks.

Use a 3-inch round cutter to cut as many circles from the butter cake, or small springform pans that can double as molds. Place each circle of cake at the base of a 3-inch diameter ring mold (2-inches high) or springform pan. Spoon about one to two teaspoons of strawberry preserves on top of the cake and spread it evenly to the edges. Spoon strawberry mousse into each ring mold to the top. Freeze the ring molds for a couple of hours. When ready, remove ring molds from freezer and push the strata out of the mold onto serving plate. Let it come to room temperature (about 30 minutes to an hour) and top with whipped cream.

Engagement Session W's

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Have I mentioned that my husband is a fantastically wonderful photographer? Well, he is! I'm supremely lucky that we have fabulous pictures documenting our whole relationship, not to mention the fact that I have a husband who watches wedding shows, looks at more wedding eye candy these days than I do, and has a high appreciation of bird cage veils.

And, quite honestly, everyone needs great pictures at different stages of your relationship. Yes, I said it - needs. Having professional pictures taken is such a great way to capture important moments and memories!

If you're thinking about taking that first step with some engagement pictures, Steve just did a fabulous post about the what, why and where of fabulous engagement sessions.

Join me in drooling over some of my favorites from his past shoots...love it!

Source: Steve Koo Photography

Source: Steve Koo Photography

(And yes, I realize that I chose pictures that don't show any faces...I promise he takes fabulous pictures of faces, too! Go on, check it out.)

You Must Whip It

Monday, February 8, 2010

Every once in awhile (meaning on the rarest of rarest occasions) I get it into my head that I need to cook dinner in order to be a good wife. And then after a lot of planning, prep and special ingredients I end up completely flustered, frazzled and, more often than not, burnt.

I got the "be a good wife" bug a couple of weeks ago after seeing this awesome recipe for shepherd's pie. It seemed simple enough, even for this girl. Plus, I've always wanted to make shepherd's pie and since it has "pie" in the name, it's kind of like baking...right?

So I started out with some organic lean ground lamb from Whole Foods. Organic meat is worth every single penny and then some. The recipe called for 2 pounds of meat, but our Whole Foods seemed to have a shortage of ground lamb that day so we ended up with around 1.5 pounds or a little more. Which was fine, I could just cut the ratio down on everything else.

So, I cooked up the lamb - in two batches - and drained the fat. Surprisingly fatty for being "lean." I was really proud of myself at this point. Meat that appeared to be fully cooked and I didn't splatter myself with grease during the process!

Next up I cooked the onion, carrots and some tomato paste. I was a smart cook and did all of my veggie prep before I had anything on the stove so that I could concentrate step by step. I was applauding myself for stellar organizational and planning skills as I cooked away.

I then added the meat, some water, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to the pot and let it simmer. As the peas were to be added at the very end, I planned to leave them in the freezer until the last minute. Until, of course, I read that they should be thawed. Doh! But I caught my mistake early enough and got a pot on the stove to boil. Mini-crisis averted.

With everything simmering, I got started on making my potatoes (which I had been boiling while cooking the meat). So I added in my milk and butter and then re-read my recipe. Hmm. It said to simmer the meat mixture about 10 minutes until it has thickened up, but I had easily surpassed that timeframe and it still looked like soup. Remember above when I said that I had less lamb so I'd cut back a little on everything else? Well, that explains the soup.

I added a little extra flour and used a big spoon to drain off some of the liquid and it finally started to look more normal. After my peas (that I had rushed to make!) had sat in a pot for half of forever (because there were no clean strainers left), I was finally able to add them into the mix.

After all of that, isn't it pretty?

Unfortunately, not all mistakes came out with a beautiful, happy ending. Remember, by the time I had caught onto my error of quantities, I had already started the potatoes. And by started, I mean, I had already added 1 cup of milk and 6 tablespoons of friggin' butter. I had prepped less potatoes (good!) but still put in the full amount of milk and butter (bad!). Go figure.

Since the potatoes were almost pure liquid (but delightfully rich) and I was running around in a state of panic cursing myself, Steve calmly suggested we whip them in the trusty KitchenAid. Come on, sing along with me...

Now whip it
Into shape
Shape it up
Get straight
Go forward
Move ahead
Try to detect it
It’s not too late
To whip it
Whip it good

And, with that, the potatoes were somewhat saved. While they weren't thick enough to pipe on beautifully, they held their own and tasted divine.

Once I had regained my sanity (a bit), I got my containers ready. The recipe called for either 8 8-ounce ramekins or 2 9-inch pie plates. I had 4 ramekins that I wanted to use, so I pulled out a 1.5 quart casserole dish from Crate & Barrel that was the perfect size.

I filled everything up with the beautiful meat and veggie mixture...

And spooned the sort of okay potatoes on top and tried my best to make them look somewhat fancy. Hmph.

About 30 minutes later in a 425 degree oven, everything was brown up and ready to go.

I won't lie to you, the smell in our house was amazing.

We busted into the casserole dish that evening and simply devoured the contents. Then, after cooling we refrigerated the ramekins and reheated them in a 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes a couple of nights later for dinner. The pie was even better the second time around because the potatoes browned up even more.

And, thus, I will continue to stick with baking until I see another recipe that seems too simple for even me to mess up. Le sigh. I really would like to be good at this (or at least somewhat competent), but there's just something so intimidating about cooking, with all the pots, pans, hot oil and raw meat that goes into it. Baking is just so....zen.

Shepherd's Pie

2 pounds freshly ground lamb
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Coarse salt and ground pepper
10 ounces frozen peas, thawed
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat a large skillet over high heat. In two batches, cook lamb until no longer pink, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer lamb to a colander set in a bowl; let fat drain off and discard.

Add 1/4 cup water to the skillet, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium; add onion and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Add flour; cook, stirring, 2 minutes.

Add Worcestershire sauce, 2 cups water, and lamb. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Stir in peas; cook 1 minute. Divide among eight 8-ounce ramekins or two 9-inch glass pie dishes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cover potatoes with salted water by 1 inch; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain.

In pan, bring milk and butter to a simmer; remove from heat. Return potatoes; mash. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread over pies; use a fork to make peaks. Bake on a baking sheet until tops are browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool slightly; serve.