Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Quickie Sheperd's Pie: Now With Ghosts!

I love Halloween. It's always been one of my favorite holidays -- dressing up in something that makes you feel fabulous, staying out "late," eating too many sweet things, feeling that little jolt of adrenaline when you get spooked . . . What's not to like here, folks?

On Halloween night, I always try to feed my kids an early and hearty dinner, aiming to stuff them full of something healthy before the candy binge starts. In the past, I've made a big pot of meatball minestrone, but my stash of frozen homemade meatballs was depleted this year. I wasn't sure what to make until I saw a picture of a mashed potato ghost sitting atop a bed of Sheperd's Pie in Better Homes & Gardens' special Halloween issue. Since I have a "quickie" (30-min) version of Sheperd's Pie in my repetoire, I had to try it with the ghosts on top!

It turned out really cute and both kids were delighted with their plates. (I added some "ghost toast" and "bat bread" to extend the spooky theme -- just buttered toast cut with a cookie cutter.) Ruby ate her mashed potato ghost immediately (and happily!), but Billy is still sticking to his anti-potato position. He ended up eating three pieces of "bat bread." Oh, well. Win some, lose some.
Here is my recipe for "Quickie" Sheperd's Pie, based on one I found years ago in my trusty Desperation Dinners cookbook. My main adaptation has been to use my own leftover mashed potatoes and to hide some extra veggies in the meat. (My kids are not great veggie-lovers, so I run a carrot and a red pepper in the food processor and add them.) This is a great post-Thanksgiving meal, as it uses up extra mashed potatoes!


Source: Adapted from Desperation Dinners, Beverly Mills & Alicia Ross
Serves: 4-6
Time: less than 30 mins
  • 1 lb ground beef

  • 2 tsp canola oil

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 2 TBSP ketchup

  • 1 TBSP Worchestershire sauce

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 c frozen peas

  • 1 c frozen corn

  • other veggies as desired (canned, frozen, steamed & pureed, or just fresh veggies chopped finely in the food processor)

  • 1 tsp beef "Better Than Bouillon" (or 1 beef bouillon cube)

  • 1/2 c water

  • 1 TBSP cornstarch (might need more if you use a lot of pureed or minced veggies)

  • leftover mashed potatoes OR 20 oz. package of refrigerated mashed potatoes OR large container of mashed potatoes from deli section of your grocery store

  • 1/2 c sour cream

  • 1 c shredded sharp Cheddar
  1. Turn on your broiler.

  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Peel and chop the onion and add it to the skillet. Add the beef and raise the heat to high. Cook, breaking up the beef, about 5 mins. or until the beef is browned.

  3. Stir in the ketchup, Worchestershire, and garlic. Then stir in any veggies you are using (frozen peas, corn, purees, whatever you've got). Reduce the heat and let simmer.

  4. Meanwhile, combine the "Better Than Bouillon" with the 1/2 c water and heat in a microwave. Stir to fully dissolve. Next, make a slurry to thicken the beef mixture: stir the cornstarch into the bouillon to dissolve. Pour the slurry over the skillet and stir well. Continue to simmer, letting it thicken. If it doesn't thicken enough, make another little slurry (1 TBSP cornstarch in 2-3 TBSP water) and add.

  5. Meanwhile, heat up your potatoes (either according to package directions or just in the microwave for a minute or so).

  6. Add the sour cream to the beef mixture once it is thickened. Then pour the mixture into a casserole dish (11x9 works well, but it's up to you). Plop the potatoes all over the top of the beef mixture and spread them out with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the cheddar over the top and pop it under the broiler until the cheese in melted and brown in spots.

TO MAKE GHOSTS: Save some of your mashed potatoes. Spoon them into a plastic baggie and snip off one corner. Squeeze the potatoes out of the open corner into a ghost shape. I did one blob for the body and another, smaller one for the head, with a little tail on top. Add eyes. (I used two black, disc-shaped sprinkles we happened to have around, but chocolate sprinkles or raisins would work. Better Homes & Gardens suggested capers, but my kids would freak out over that.)

Hope you all had a wonderful, fun Halloween!


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