Cheesy Shepherd’s Pie

I AM DONE EXAMS WAHOOOOOOO!  Other than half of a take home exam that I need to finish for tomorrow night, I am now officially on Christmas break.  This means that I finally have time to do things other than sitting in my bed/library studying and eating Costco-sized Toblerone bars.  For the next two weeks, I will have all the time in the world to blog, relax, play Super Mario with my little brother, cook and spend endless amounts of my day watching my new favourite tv show, How I Met Your Mother.

So ANYWAYS…

I realized the other day that I haven’t been testing out many of the recipes that have been in the recent issues of Canadian Living.  For a few months I was on a real roll, and had been trying out nearly half of their recipes from each issue.  Since I am now regularly getting their monthly magazine sent to me at home (thank you cheap student subscription rates!), it should be easier for me to try out their stuff, right?  Well regardless of the answer to that question, I am just going to have to make a conscious effort to review more of their recipes, starting now.

Making this recipe was actually what saved me from complete unhealthiness last week.  With leftover tourtiere in my freezer and this, I was eating somewhat decently for at least one meal a day, something which I am sure my stomach appreciated.

This shepherd’s pie recipe is found in the December issue of the magazine.  For some reason that boggles my mind, the recipe is actually called “cheddar cottage pie.”  The only reason I didn’t call it this in the title was because I really had no idea what a cottage pie was.  After several debates with Britt and our other friend Freya, we came to the conclusion that this name was because the pie was a “warm winter cottage-like food.”  Apparently we were wrong.  Here is what the ever helpful Wikipedia says:

The term cottage pie is known to have been in use in 1791, when potato was being introduced as an edible crop affordable for the poor (“cottage” meaning a modest dwelling for rural workers).

Alright, so we were completely off there.  But we ARE students after all, and “affordable crops” are always a plus.  Thank you again to Wikipedia for the endless bank of wisdom.

So this one was pretty good, but unlike many other Canadian Living recipes, I found this one to actually be a bit bland.  Ever since I started cooking in the summer, my taste buds have somehow gotten super sensitive, meaning I’m always craving some sort of spicy kick.  I think it’s probably just me and my neuroses, but I’d add a little extra thyme, salt and pepper to this one just for safe keeping.

Also, happy first day of winter!  To celebrate, here is a picture of the circumstances that I’m going to have to photograph under until the day I decide to make myself a light box. I get even more weird looks from the neighbours now that I’m dragging a chair out to the front steps…

The final product.  I think my potato level was a little dominating in a “I’m going to crush the life out of your meat layer so it’s not photogenic” sort of way, but so such is life.  The half Irish in me screams that you can never have too much of our little spud friend.


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Mexican Tortilla Salad

With the insanity of this week (frosh week at Carleton, I work everyday!) I am absolutely shocked that I managed to find any time to make any sort of food other than soup noodles.  Since I am completely exhausted, I will keep this post short and sweet, before my eyeballs drop out of my head and decide to take a quick power nap on my keyboard.

This salad was inspired by the Mexican Tostada Salad found in the September issue of Canadian Living.  I say “inspired by” only because I made a few alterations.  One of these alterations was to make my own crispy version of tortilla chips.  As I discovered when I made my chicken tortilla soup back in May, a great way to make a quick snack/meal helper-outer is simply to slice up flour tortillas and fry them on the stove.  They come out perfectly browned and deliciously crunchy; in this case they served as the perfect replacement to the tostadas required in the original recipe.  Also, I don’t know what tostadas actually are…  Now, the original recipe in Canadian Living identified this dish as vegetarian and required you add some sort of protein replacement thinger.  Never a fan of any protein replacement (tofu=disaster), I fried up some ground beef to add to the mix.  Another change I made was to not put salsa into the recipe (I got enough tomato taste from the tomato juice and sliced plum tomatoes).  Finally, rather than layering all the fun ingredients, I just kind of tossed them around in one of our popcorn bowls and voila!  Salad is complete.  Delicious.

Spiced Beef Skillet Dinner (and my first encounter with green olives)

I am beginning to distrust ground beef.  Making this meal, I casually took some ground beef out of the freezer (I never use things when I first buy them, I’m horrible!) and defrosted it in the microwave in preparation for skillet-frying.  This was a smooth process, and it wasn’t until I started to stove fry the beef that I suspected something fishy.  As I fried up this defrosted beef, my nose was unhappily tickled by an unpleasant scent.  Unsure of whether or not this smell was coming from the beef, and being the paranoid/neurotic person that I am, I shut off the stove and sniffed my way around the kitchen in search of this mysterious scent.  Unable to find the source, and being far too hungry to care any longer, I continued to cook the meat, smell and all.  In the future, I promise to use fresh ground beef, and avoid the freezer from here on in.

Another unhappy note: back in June, I announced that I discovered I did not like black olives.  It is with a heavy heart that I admit that green olives too have an absolutely awful flavour, and that their oil-based taste does not do me any favours.  When this meal was done, you could evidently tell I had picked around the green, doughnut shaped vegetable, and left them for the compost in a neat little pile on my plate.

All in all, this dish made fireworks go off in my mouth.  There were such bizarre spices in it, spices that I never thought would be seen together, including paprika, cinnamon, cumin, ginger and coriander.  Surprisingly enough, they all worked out, and the entire meal had a consistently spicy taste.  Perfect supper for someone who is trying to develop their palette!

The recipe was from my“Make it Tonight” cookbook, a book I need to start using more, since it has so many fantastic-looking recipes!  Perhaps I will cook my way through all of the Canadian Living cookbooks, a sort of Julie/Julia challenge, n’est pas?

PS: WHY can I NOT cook couscous?  The recipe in my cookbook was apparently “fail-proof,” however my couscous STILL ended up resembling mashed potatoes.  Couscous: a must conquer in the near-future.