Shepherd’s Pie with Ground Turkey

One of the problems I have with moving is that I have a LOT of stuff. Especially when it comes to the kitchen. I am not exageratting when I say that half of our storage unit is San Diego is kitchen stuff. Dishes, pots, pans, appliances, cupcake liners, cooking tools, towels, cupcake liners, baking tools, corning ware, cupcake liners…. See what I mean? So. Much. Stuff. But all of that is fine because it can be stored and it can and will all be used again (and I actually get to go through it when we are back in San Diego and pick out some of the more important stuff to bring back to China!) But what wasn’t so fine was the amount of food in my pantry and refrigerator that couldn’t very make it China, but also can’t be stored to wait for our return.

So during my last week in San Diego I was left with arduous task of sorting food. What could I give away to friends? What (if anything!) could be stored? What could I use before I left? What would (sadly) need to be pitched.

In the end I decided to make a box of dry goods that could safely be stored for 2 months and eventually go back to China with me. I also labeled a few bags and set them just outside of the trash area at the apartment complex (I went back and forth about this, but in the end I would see the same few homeless people going through and picking out bottles/cans every morning and I thought maybe they would appreciate a few boxes of [good] snacks and if not it was right there and could go out with the trash. I would have handed them to them myself but my schedule was crazy that last week). I also was able to give some things away to friends and very few things needed to actually be thrown away.

This meal actually started out as just an attempt to use up remaining perishable foods and it turned into something much more memorable. Warm and comforting. Rich and filling. As an added bonus, I really appreciated having the left overs in a time that may have otherwise been filled with fast food, as I did all of my last minute packing and moving.

Shepherd’s Pie with Ground Turkey

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 small-medium onion, diced
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped*
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
Kosher salt to taste
1 lb ground turkey**
3/4 cup frozen vegetables, I used lima beans, corn, and peas
1/2 tsp pepper
pinch (~1/4 tsp) nutmeg
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp corn starch
2 Tbsp cold water
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2-2 cups mashed potatoes***

* I think that the fresh herbs were what really made this dish shine. You can substitute dry if you need to (adjusting the amounts since dry herbs have a more concentrated flavor) but if you have access to fresh, use them!
**Typically Shepherd’s Pie is made with beef or lamb, but turkey is what I had on hand.
***I had leftover mashed potatoes, but I would guess 4-5 medium or 3-4 large potatoes for this amount of meat, mashed anyway you like, in my case with s&p, garlic, butter, milk, and sour cream.

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic, and carrots and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the onions are tender, stirring occasionally. Add the fresh rosemary and thyme cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ground turkey, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then cook until the meat has browned and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. Pour in the chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the frozen vegetables and bring to a simmer. While the broth is coming to a simmer, whisk together the corn starch and cold water then stir into the simmering broth. Cook for 1 minute or until it starts to thicken then reduce the heat to medium-low, add the milk and cook for another minute.

If you were using a skillet, carefully transfer the contents of the skillet to a baking dish, other wise just make sure the mixture is evenly distributed around the bottom of the dutch oven. Carefully spread the mashed potatoes over the mixture (I found it was easiest to drop heaping spoonfuls all over then use the back of the spoon to “meld” the heaps together). Place the baking dish or dutch oven in preheated oven and cook for 15 minutes, then turn oven to broil and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes or until the peaks of the potatoes start to turn golden brown.

Sunny Side Up original recipe, inspired by the many Shepherd’s Pie I’ve eaten throughout my life

Mashed Potato Pizza


That’s right. You read the title right; Mashed Potato Pizza. I told you last week that Jesse is heading back out to China soon and before he leaves I’m going to fill him up with carb-y goodness. And before I see comments about evil carbs, please know that this isn’t the kind of meal you’re going to have all the time. Everything in moderation. Don’t worry, the following night we had a very healthy dinner with a small side of brown rice.

I can’t take full credit for this idea. Back in Ohio being an Irish dancing teacher meant occasional weekend commitments for dancing events. This would usually mean lots of time fixing wigs, zipping dresses, tying shoes, and saying “shhhh, the audience can hear you”. But it also meant all of us teachers going out for a nice dinner after the event. After the beginner recital we went to a place called Watson Bros Brewery, and they served the most unusual and delicious dish – Mashed Potato Pizza. Sadly one day I went and the doors were closed. But I never stopped thinking about it. And I finally recreated it. Possibly even better than the original.

Mashed Potato Pizza
(Sunny Side Up Original)

2-3 cups mashed potatoes (recipe below)
1 pound ball of pizza dough
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 green onion, sliced diagonally
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp sour cream
2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
*1 chicken breast, cooked and cut into bite size chunks – optional

*The chicken was a little minute addition I made to attempt to round out the meal.

Preheat the oven and a pizza stone to 450 degrees.

Shape the pizza dough into a 12 inch circle**. Add the garlic to the melted the butter, then brush over the entire top of the dough. Carefully move the dough the hot pizza stone and bake for 8-9 minutes, or until the top starts to turn a light golden brown.

Remove the dough from the oven. Spread 2 tablespoons of sour cream over the top of the pizza dough. Then spread the mashed potatoes. Return to the oven for 5 minutes until the pizza dough seems crisp and the mashed potato peaks just begin to turn brown. If you want you can turn on the broiler for a minute, just keep an eye on it.

Top the pizza with Parmesan cheese, green onion, bacon, chicken (if you’re using it) and a big dollop of sour cream in the middle . Serve with additional sour cream or Ranch dressing, if desired.

** I shape my dough right on a piece of parchment paper so when it comes to moving it to the hot stone all I have to do is slide the paper over.

Mashed Potatoes
(I make the mashed potatoes while the oven is preheating and the dough is cooking)

1 1/2 pounds Russet potatoes
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp half and half (or milk)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Add potatoes, garlic, and 2 teaspoons of salt to large saucepan filled with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Remove from heat and drain water from potatoes.

Add the kosher salt (for some reason I think the rough kosher salt helps the potatoes mash easier, could be in my head, but it’s what I always do) to the potatoes and use a potato ricer to begin mashing the potatoes. Add the butter, half and half, and sour cream and continuing mashing and stirring until smooth. If they seem dry you can add a little more half and half or milk. Test the taste and season with pepper and, if necessary, more salt.

Pizza Dough*

2/3 cup warm water
1 packet or 2 1/2 tsp active yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp butter, melted (usually I use olive oil but for this pizza I used butter)
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Stir the yeast and sugar into the warm water. Let sit for 8-10 minutes, or until the water looks creamy and the top is foamy. Stir in the melted butter.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or large mixing bowl) stir together the flour, salt, and garlic powder. Create a well in the center and pour in the water/yeast. If you’re using a standing mixer, turn the mixer to low and let it knead for 5 minutes, adding more water a teaspoon at a time if necessary. If you’re not using a standing mixer begin stirring together with a wooden spoon and when it gets tough to stir start kneading with clean hands. Knead by hand for 10 minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl, and cover with a clean towel. Let rise for about 30 minutes.

* This pizza dough is incredibly forgiving. I make it at least once a week and more or less go by feel of the dough now. If you want to let it rise for longer and double you can, but you can also just let it rest for a few minutes and roll it out. The longer the rise, the lighter your crust will be. The shorter the rise, the denser the crust will be. I do it both ways all the time but I guess I can say that I prefer a 30-45 minute rise.