Sunday, March 11, 2012

Casserole or Hotdish?

Casserole or Hotdish?

I didn't grow up on casseroles or as they say here in Minnesota, Hotdish. It was one of many nuances I've learned in my now 17 year here; cottage & cabin, pier and dock, keg & barrel, hassock & ottoman, the list goes on and on and on.  Bubler is a dead give away that my roots are in Wisconsin and I can't tell you how pleased I was when I heard my 11 year old,  born and raised here in the twin cities, ask where the bubler way....made mama proud!

At any rate, I've been cooking a lot over the past three months, I have two friends fighting cancer, both with kids and I wanted to help them out the best I could.  Since I posses no cure, work 50+ hours a week and feel like a chauffeur on nights and weekends the best way I can think to help them out is to cook or provide services like cleaning, laundry etc.....Food seemed to be the one thing they both could appreciate and accept without hesitation.  That worked out well for for all of us.

I had run out of ideas and asked H what she would like. In the midst of a 5 day chemo she had shared that her cravings during chemo turned to what else? Comfort food.  She wanted a hot dish.  I didn't know what to do. I don't do hot dish.  I started to read up on this Minnesota delicacy and decided a version of Shepard's pie was what I was going to tackle.  My research had listed Mac and Cheese, Chicken and Dumplings and Shepard's Pie as the top comfort dishes in this region.  Since I had already made the first two for my friends I decided the third was a must.  I made lots of changes to meet the needs of H, which was LOTS of vegetables and the rest is what I came up with.  I thought it tasted great.  Probably offensive to those whose Grandma made traditional Shepard's Pie so I apologize if you are offended, here is my version. Please keep in mind I was cooking for two families and it made two hearty 9x9 pans, cut in half if needed.

2 Lbs extra lean ground beef
2 Cups onions diced
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 Lb mushrooms, sliced
4 Garlic cloves, chopped
1 Cup fresh green beans, cut into 1" pieces
1 small yellow squash, cubed
10 asparagus, cut into 1" pieces
1/2 Cup peas
1/2 Cup corn
1Cup chicken stock

2T Flour
2t Worcestershire
2T tomato paste
1/2 t fresh pepper, ground
1 t salt
1/2 t thyme

Start by making your favorite type of mashed potato for the topping.  For this particular day I used reds and added a touch of Parmesan. While potatoes are boiling start the filling.

Saute onions, mushrooms and carrots in a bit of heated oil, once they start to cook down add the garlic and cook for another few minutes.  Add the beef, salt, and pepper and cook until brown.  Tilt saute pan and spoon out all but one or two Tablespoons of fat.  Add green beans, squash and asparagus and cook for two or three minutes.  Sprinkle two Tablespoons of flour over mixture and toss until coated.  Add tomato paste, stock, Worcestershire, thyme and mix well.  Once reduced, 10 minutes or so, stir in peas and corn.

Spread evenly into an 11x7 pan, topping with the mashed potatoes of your choice. I like to use a pastry bag and make florets of pattern.  Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes if mixture is hot.  If making ahead, plan for an hour.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Hamantaschen...small triangular shaped cookies with fruit filling remind me of Hebrew School many many years ago.  I remember prune and poppy seed being my favorite followed by apricot, and believe I was the only student who didn't like the nontraditional chocolate chip version.  Hamantaschen are made during the holiday of Purim, if I recall correctly a celebration from the book of Esther where the evil Haman planned to kill all the Jews but instead Mordecai came to their rescue.  This day of deliverance is now celebrated with carnivals and kidsdress up like Esther or Mordecai with the courageous ones dressed as Haman or a hamantaschen.  Hamantaschen are triangular in shape and they represent the three pointed hate the Haman wore.  At work this week my team member from Germany told me that taschen means purse or pouch, it made.

Our temple does the most amazing services during this holiday, they write scripts and act them out using themes from things we love like Dr. Seuss, GLEE and most recently, "The Muppets Take Purim". They are quite an amazing group of people.

Anywhooo.......I saw Purim on my Outlook calendar one night while working at home and thought it would be a great idea to make some with my daughter.  Seldom home and often crabby I knew she would be a captive audience since her grounding wasn't up for another two days.  I thought a little bonding and chatting while baking might be one of those memories I could help create, the kind I long for with my own family but can't. It took her a while to get into the rolling of the dough but after an hour or two she actually smiled, teeth and all!  It was a great evening for the both of us and one I hope to make an annual event from here on out.  I tried a new filling this year, almond and WOW were they delicious!  Here is hoe the recipe goes, it is from The Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook I received many years ago from G as a Chanukah present.  It goes a little like this...............

Hamantaschen Dough
3 cups all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
3/4 cup lightly salted butter
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs plus one to be beaten with 1 T water
1 t vanilla

I don't do filling.  I want the exact same flavors I had as a child and there is no substitution in my mind for Solo.  You can find it in the baking aisle.

  1. Whisk flour and baking powder
  2. In a separate bowl cream butter and sugar
  3. Add butter/sugar mixture to flour mixture and combine
  4. Add3 eggs and vanilla mixing until dough in formed
  5. Refrigerate for at least two hours
  6. Roll out to 1/8" thickness
  7. Cut into circles.  I use a water glass with approx 3" diameter
  8. Place 1 teaspoon filling into center
  9. Fold dough and pinch creating a triangle
  10. Brush with egg/water mixture
  11. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment
  12. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes
  13. Let cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.