Recipe: Modified Meatless Shepherd’s Pie

Recently I went to one of my book club meetings (yes, okay, I’m in two book clubs. I read…a lot.) and had this amazing modified shepherd’s pie. Modified because it was vegetarian! And also it incorporated some other changes like no potatoes and the addition of some feta cheese. It was so yum!

Can I just disgress for a moment to say how lucky I am to have such accommodating, generous friends who cook vegetarian meals because they know I’m coming over? I know that vegetarian meals aren’t always all about me, but, well, sometimes they are, in that uncomfortable way where I realize everyone else would prefer to be eating ribs or steak and they’re “stuck” with something veg. I’m rarely the only vegetarian in the room, which makes it a little easier, but still. Anyway, my friends never make me feel that way and I love them for it. Moving on.

One such friend is Kathy, who I have to credit with this creating this delicious recipe. Thanks for sharing this with me and for making such an elaborate book club meal!

Modified Meatless Shepherds Pie

1 pie bottom shell
1 pie crust topping (rolled-out dough or store-bought)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion, chopped
2 tbsp. Herbes de Provence (or mix your own using thyme, basil, oregano and parsley to your taste)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb (package) Yves meatless ground round
1/2 cup tomato sauce (or more as needed)
2 cups diced carrots, peas, and corn (or mixed vegetables of your choice)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 egg beaten w/ 1 tsp water (egg wash for the pie crust)

To Make:
1. Heat olive oil in medium saucepan and add the chopped onion and herbs. Cook until onions start to turn clear.
2. Add the meatless ground round and cook thoroughly, adding salt and pepper to taste.
3. Add the carrots, peas and corn (or other veggies) and stir. Cook for 5 minutes or until slightly softened.
4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375.
5. Lightly brush pie bottom shell with egg wash.
6. Spoon stuffing mix into pie shell. Add feta cheese to top of the mix.
7. Cover stuffing with pie crust topping and brush top crust with egg wash before putting it in oven. Cut the top of the pie crust like an X to allow steam to exit while baking.
8. Cook for 30 minutes or until crust is golden.

The meat eaters around the table could hardly tell that it was made using fake meat (or at least, that’s what they told me…)! It may depend on which brand of soy crumbles you use, I haven’t tried too many of them. If you have a favorite, let me know please! Also a good substitute would be lentils or finely chopped mushrooms, or both.

This recipe is perfect as we struggle through the last few chilly, rainy days before summer. Enjoy!


Looking Forward to Winter Recipes

It’s Sunday night and I’m looking forward to what I’m going to cook this week! Since the temperatures have dropped and look like they’re officially going to stay there, I’m looking forward to make some winter-y meals.

Photo Credit Shutterbean – Tuscan Ribollita

Chopped Apple Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Blue Cheese and Pomegranate Vinaigrette: I made this for book club a few weeks ago, and although I generally feel that cold lettuce leaves do not make a meal, I really liked the rich flavors in this salad. It helped to make the dressing from scratch (although I eliminated the pomegranate) – can’t go wrong when you do that. And of course, I added plenty of extra blue cheese!

Quick and Easy Tofu with Ramen Noodles: I like this method of cooking tofu (searing it without the trouble of pressing and marinating it beforehand), and of course I’m going to love anything with noodles. Hey, my half-marathon might be over, but I’m still going to carb-load. How else will I stay warm in winter?!

Red Quinoa Salad with Spicy Lime Vinaigrette: I love lime, I love spicy food, and I love quinoa. This salad looks like it has some great cold weather ingredients (pumpkin, etc.) and some unique flavor combinations.

Tuscan Ribollita: Shutterbean is one of my favorite food blogs. It’s the first one I started reading with any regularity, and the recipes that she posts are realistic yet comforting and gorgeous all at the same time. I think N and I made this Ribollita soup recipe a few years ago – when we didn’t have a big soup pot so we had to make the recipe in two small saucepans. I now have a huge soup pot and look forward to making this rich, almost stew-like soup again. Yummy Italian flavors, served warm, with a big hunk of bread and hearty, healthy ingredients? Can’t go wrong.

What are you making as the weather changes?

Ina Garten at Sixth and I

UPDATE: The event with Ina has been postponed to December 12th at 7:30pm. 

I’ve loved watching Ina Garten on the Barefoot Contessa ever since my mom and I got hooked on the Food Network when I was in high school. I would get home from cross country practice, turn on the Food Network, and bug my mom about food until dinner was ready. I was such a delight as a teenager.

Ina is a warm, ethereal, and talented chef (cook?) whose show features predominantly French cuisine. I will confess that I’ve never tried any of her recipes, though not for a lack of wanting to. Which is why this upcoming Sixth and I event might be the perfect opportunity for me…

Ina Garten is coming to Sixth and I in DC on October 31st  to offer recipes for entertaining and everyday meals in her new book Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust. According to the event website, she’ll be offering “instructions for mapping out a ‘game plan’ to ensure your meal is ready on time, plus foolproof tips for cooking and table settings.” The program will not have a book signing (so probably little or no chance of meeting Ina :() but each ticket does include a signed copy of the book.

Event starts at 7pm and doors open at 6pm. Tickets are $42.50 – but think of all the money you’ll save on Halloween candy since you won’t be at home to give it out!

Thanks to my book club buddy Amanda for giving me the heads up about Ina!

Recipe: Dumpling Soup

Last year, I went a little crazy experimenting with dumplings. As my fellow book clubbers (and coincidentally, fellow bloggers Sarah and Dee!) will tell you, I was bringing dumplings to every book club potluck. I made these wonderful pea/ricotta/lemon gems that were too easy and too delicious to not make every week. Sigh. Even writing about them makes me want to eat them again.

However, those fabulous babies are not what this particular post is about. See, even though homemade dumplings are very easy to make (buy some wonton wrappers from the grocery store and fill with whatever you want!), sometimes you don’t have wonton wrappers on hand, sometimes you don’t have appropriate filling, or sometimes you’re a little… well, pressed for time!

So I’ve developed a semi-homemade (thanks, Sandra Lee!) method for having dumplings that is still delicious. I’ve adapted it from this version of “Quick Potsticker Soup.” To be honest, their recipe sounds way more rounded-out than mine. However, mine cannot be beat for simplicity, and is oddly and completely satisfying. I would eat this after a cold walk home from work in the winter, or for lunch when I feel like eating something warm but still light.

Dumpling Soup

6 frozen dumplings, your choice (I like Trader Joe’s Vegetable Gyoza)
1.5 cups of vegetable stock (or water and bouillon)

To make:
1. Warm your stock on medium heat in a small saucepan. Or, create your stock by dissolving the bouillon cube per package instructions.
2. Once the stock is simmering gently, drop frozen dumplings into the broth. Cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the dumplings are semi-translucent and can be pierced easily with a fork.
3. Pour yourself a nice bowl of dumpling soup goodness!

Optionally, you could add some chopped scallions to the broth. To make a more well-rounded meal (or to add your daily recommended vegetable servings if you choose to use meat-based dumplings) you could add some frozen peas or stir-fry vegetables. Or (so many variations!) you could partially cook the dumplings first by searing them in a pan so they turn golden brown, and then adding them to the stock.

I know this meal sounds simple, but I promise it’s really yummy! Better than just eating the microwaved dumplings on a plate by themselves, for sure. And it can be made really easily for an army of one or for multiple people. Just increase the amount of broth and number of dumplings as needed.


Review: Zengo Happy Hour

Well, this blog has been active for about a month or two now, and I haven’t yet written about any happy hours. Shame on me! It’s not because I don’t go to them, I definitely do. But most of them are unmemorable or with people who aren’t comfortable with the idea of me whipping out my phone and taking pictures of everything. Can you believe that?

All that changed when I went to Zengo last week. I was there on a friend date with fellow book clubber KF. We’ve been to Zengo together before – it’s convenient for both of us after work, we like the drink specials, and it’s a good happy hour spot for a smaller group (in our case, a group of two!).

Or We Could Do Happy Hour | Zengo

I do feel the need to review Zengo, though, by saying more than just: “oh yea, that place is great for happy hour!” Because it does have some limitations.

For example: I had been a few months ago with coworker LV, who is responsible for about 85% of the cool things that I know about or do in the city. Case in point: she introduced me to Zengo! And also to my ballet studio. And also to the wonder that is the Shaw neighborhood. (That last one might be a little tongue-in-cheek). So LV and I went to Zengo with a group of a few other people on a Friday night. The place was a madhouse! Standing room only, super loud, servers rushing by, hard to get the bartender’s attention. I think she was disappointed that it hadn’t blown my mind on that first visit. But fast forward a few months to my friend date with KF, and we’re sitting pretty at a lovely low table right in the front by the window, with attentive service and just a lively hubbub of chatter from the other happy-hour-goers.

So, Zengo happy hour tip #1: Go early, go on a weekday evening, and minimize the size of your group.

Fast forward a few minutes. KF and I are deciding what to order. “I have been craving that calamari salad since the last time we came here,” she says. But alas, Zengo isn’t doing the calamari salad on the happy hour menu any more! Boo. We asked the server and they do still serve it, but not at the happy hour price (dishes at happy hour are on a select menu and range from $5-$7). So, we made do with the edamame and the vegetarian sushi, which were both delicious.

Zengo happy hour tip #2: Food dishes can be snatched off the menu at any time, so don’t get your heart set on a specific one. Also, vegetarians beware: Zengo tends to have lots of meat and fish dishes.

Despite not getting our favorite dish, KF and I were very happy with our beverage choices. She got the pineapple mojito, which was good but a little too sweet for me. I got the white wine which was perfect with the vegetarian dishes we ordered.

Zengo happy hour tip #3: Order the drinks. They are yummy and cheap. But if you’re sensitive to sweetness, steer clear of the margarita.

I will be back to Zengo for sure. It would make a good second or third date spot, and it’s always perfect for catching up with a friend. If they only brought back the calamari salad I’d live there. Oh, and I almost forgot…

Zengo happy hour tip #4: Sign up for the Zengo mailing list and they’ll send you a coupon for a complementary drink! You’re welcome.