Improv Challenge: Peas and Carrots (Shepherd’s Pie)

I’m excited to once again be participating in the Improv Challenge hosted by Kristen from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker! This month, the challenge ingredients are peas and carrots. So far, I’ve shared:

For this month’s Improv Challenge, I made Shepherd’s Pie! When I heard the challenge ingredients were peas and carrots, I knew exactly what I would be making (It happens to be one of Bryan’s favourite meals). I changed up the recipe a bit from the usual… I added some crimini mushrooms and cut the amount of mashed potatoes in half. The mushrooms were a great addition. I missed the extra potatoes (Bryan seemed to enjoy it more this way)! If you love mashed potatoes… DOUBLE the amount called for in this recipe.

Shepherd’s Pie


  • 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil – approximate cost $0.05
  • 4 onions, sliced – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1 bunch (9 small) carrots, sliced – approximate cost $2.00
  • 250 grams crimini mushrooms, sliced – approximate cost $1.50
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced – approximate cost $0.50
  • 2 pounds learn ground beef – approximate cost $9.00
  • 2 284 milliliter cans of beef broth (+ 2 cans of water) – approximate cost $2.40
  • 500 grams green peas – approximate cost $3.00
  • 3 pounds potatoes, diced – approximate cost $3.00
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch – approximate cost $0.10
  • 2 teaspoons paprika – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 cup milk – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1/2 cup butter – approximate cost $1.00


  1. Prepare the meat and vegetable mixture.
    1. Preheat the grapeseed oil in a large pot over medium heat.
    2. Add the onion slices.
    3. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the onion is soft.
    4. Add the minced garlic.
    5. Cook until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes).
    6. Remove the onion and garlic mixture and set aside in a mixing bowl.
    7. Add the ground beef to the cooking pot.
    8. Brown the ground beef.
    9. Use a wooden spoon to break the ground beef into small pieces.
    10. Return the onion and garlic mixture to the pot.
    11. Add the carrot, mushrooms, and green peas.
    12. Mix well.
    13. Add the beef broth and water.
    14. Bring the pot to a boil.
    15. Cook for about 5 minutes.
    16. Add the paprika, rosemary, and black pepper.
    17. Mix the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup cold water.
    18. Stir the cornstarch into the broth slowly.
    19. Stir frequently until thickened.
  2. Prepare the mashed potatoes.
    1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
    2. Optional: Peel the potatoes. (We dice them right away, leaving the skin on)
    3. Dice the potatoes.
    4. Boil the potatoes until tender (about 10-15 minutes).
    5. Drain the potatoes.
    6. Add the milk and butter to the potatoes.
    7. Use a potatoes masher to mash the potatoes.
  3. Put it all together!
    1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
    2. Divide the meat and vegetable mixture evenly between two 9×13 baking dishes.
    3. Top with an even layer of mashed potatoes.
    4. Bake the Shepherd’s Pie for about an hour and a half.
  4. Remove the shepherd’s pie from the oven.
  5. Let it sit on the counter for about 10 minutes.
  6. Serve and enjoy! (Makes fantastic leftovers)

Makes 16 servings (approximate cost: $1.58 per serving).

Venison Stew

Over the last month, there have been many new additions to my little kitchen that I’ve been waiting to share with you.

We got a few new plates for Christmas! We broke a few dinner plates over the last year. We had three plates left around October. I began to worry how we were going to have friends over for meals if we didn’t even own enough plates to eat said dinner on. I love having a full set again, even if they aren’t an exact match.

I also got a lovely, pre-seasoned, cast iron dutch oven as a Christmas gift. Actually, it’s what I used to cook this lovely stew. I love it as well! I’ve read through the instruction manual and am fairly confident I will be able to take care of it. Any tips for maintaining cast iron cookware?

Finally, I splurged after the holiday… but it’s totally worth it! A department store in the area is going out of business (actually, I think the final day was over the weekend). I went in looking for a potato masher. And once I found this small appliance, I completely forgot about the potato masher and contemplated a bigger purchase… a KitchenAid Stand Mixer! The pros: It was half price and worked. The cons: No package or instruction manual and there’s a missing screw, so the KitchenAid decal does not fasten to the front of the mixer. I’m pretty excited about this purchase and have already used it to make breakfast (potato pancakes) and am planning some banana bread for later this week.

Venison Stew


  • 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil, divided – approximate cost $0.10
  • 220 grams (about 1/2 pound) bacon, chopped – approximate cost $3.00
  • 575 grams (about 1 1/4 pounds) venison stewing meat (chopped into approximately 1/2 inch cubes) – approximate cost $12.00
  • 5 small carrots, chopped into bite-sized pieces – approximate cost $2.00
  • 1 large sweet onions, roughly chopped – approximate cost $0.75
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced – approximate cost $0.75
  • 220 grams (about 1/2 pound) crimini mushrooms, quartered – approximate cost $2.50
  • 2 cups red wine (I used Catastrophe Red, made by Cattail Creek Winery) – approximate cost $6.00
  • 4 cups beef broth – approximate cost $2.00
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 156ml can of tomato paste – approximate cost $0.60
  • 8 small potatoes, quartered (I used Klondike Gold Dust potatoes) – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05


  1. Preheat a large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the bacon and cook until crispy.
  3. Remove and set aside.
  4. Brown the venison meat
  5. Remove and set aside.
  6. Heat 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil in a large pot.
  7. Add the onions and cook until they begin to soften and brown (about 5-7 minutes).
  8. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute).
  9. Add the mushrooms and cook until browned (about 5 minutes).
  10. Add the bacon and venison back into the pot.
  11. Mix well.
  12. Add the carrots and mix in.
  13. Add the red wine, beef broth, rosemary, and thyme.
  14. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
  15. Cover and cook for at least 2 hours.
  16. Prepare the potatoes about half way through cooking the stew.
    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
    2. Place the potato pieces in baking dish.
    3. Toss potatoes with 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil and salt.
    4. Roast for about 40 minutes (or until potatoes are browned and tender).
  17. Stir the tomato paste into the stew, stirring constantly until it is mixed in.
  18. Add the potatoes and mix well.
  19. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Makes about 6 servings (approximate cost: $5.24 per serving).

Wednesday Link Parties

Cast Party Wednesday

White Lights on Wednesdays

Rabbit Braised in White Wine

My parents tell me that rabbit was one of my favourite foods as a child. Yet, I don’t remember eating it, ever (nor do I remember seeing it for sale at the grocery store). I have trouble believing I was so adventuresome with my food choices at the time.

So, when rabbit was available at work, I quickly text messaged Bryan, asking him if we should give it a try. It was a bit more expensive than what we would usually buy for dinner, so I wanted to consult with him about whether I was being a bit too spontaneous with my food purchases.

I hummed and hawed over the purchase. Bryan was more than willing to give it a try. He was more confident than I was about my ability to turn it into something edible for dinner.

Was I going to like it? Would it be too much over our usual budget? Have I progressed enough as a cook to take on something like this? It still kind of looked like a rabbit… could I bring myself to cook it?

At the end of the day… it was still there, so I wrapped it up and decided to buy it. Worst case scenario I botch it and we order pizza instead.

Well, I cooked it, ate it, and enjoyed it very much. Bryan seemed to enjoy it a lot as well. We had leftovers for a few days and I found it was best reheated in the oven as opposed to the microwave.

Have you ever been nervous about cooking dinner? If so, what is it that you were nervous about cooking? What made you nervous?

Rabbit Braised in White Wine

Adapted from Rabbit with White Wine from Canadian Living


  • 1 rabbit, cut into bite-sized pieces – approximate cost $15.00
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 teaspoons black pepper – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 tablespoon butter – approximate cost $0.10
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced – approximate cost $0.30
  • 1 Spanish onion, diced – approximate cost $1.00
  • 4 carrots, sliced – approximate cost $2.50
  • 1 package (about 500 grams) crimini mushrooms – approximate cost $3.00
  • 1 cup white wine (I used Silver Point Sauvignon Blanc 2010, New Zealand) – approximate cost $1.75
  • 1 cup chicken broth – approximate cost $1.50
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary (I used fresh rosemary from my garden, but 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves would work as well) – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme – approximate cost $0.20
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1 baguette (for serving) – approximate cost $2.00


  1. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a plastic bag.
  2. Add rabbit pieces (in batches).
  3. Shake the flour mixture to coat the rabbit pieces.
  4. Repeat until all pieces are coated in flour.
  5. In large pot, heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat.
  6. Brown rabbit pieces (in small batches).
  7. Transfer browned rabbit pieces to a large baking dish.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  9. Reduce heat to medium.
  10. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of butter in the pot.
  11. Add onion pieces, carrots, and a few tablespoons of the remaining flour mixture.
  12. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion pieces soften.
  13. Add crimini mushrooms and garlic.
  14. Cook for about 1 minute (garlic will become fragrant).
  15. Add white wine and chicken stock.
  16. Bring to a boil (mixture should begin to thicken).
  17. Remove from heat and pour over rabbit pieces.
  18. Sprinkle with rosemary, thyme, and lemon juice.
  19. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes (or until the rabbit pieces are cooked through).
  20. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving with a piece of baguette as a side (and a glass of leftover wine).

Makes about 6 servings (approximate cost: $4.93 per serving).

Monday Link Parties


mop it up mondays

Chicken Burgers with Smoked Paprika and Rosemary

One of my blogging goals I set for myself is to post three times per week (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), except on those really busy weeks when I can’t meet those goals. To help me continue motivating myself and working towards my blogging goals, I’ve decided to start participating in Mangia Mondays – a weekly blog hop/link party hosted by Delightfully Dowling & Shine Your Light. I’m excited to be participating!

June is a busy month for occasions in my family with both mom and dad’s birthdays and father’s day (not to mention it can be a bit expensive). Yes, yes, I know July is mostly over, but I want to share the chicken burgers that we made for mom’s birthday a few weeks back and I’m just now getting around to sharing the recipe.

This year, my brother and I set out to celebrate on a budget. For each occasion, we made a home-cooked meal (instead of eating out) and took care of the clean-up. This way, we treated out parents to a delicious, healthy meal and they didn’t have to do any work. We’re pretty sure they appreciated it as well as enjoyed the visit.

I didn’t get any photos from dad’s dinner, there were no leftovers for me to bring home and share with you, so I will only be posting about mom’s dinner.

When I shared the recipe for Chicken Roasted with Rosemary and Smoked Paprika, I mentioned that I might have been adding smoked paprika to just about everything I’m cooking. When coming up with the seasoning for these burgers, I insisted on using smoked paprika and consulted with my brother about what else we might use, what toppings we should buy, and what condiments would go best with the burger.

I topped my burger with mayo, lettuce, and a slice of tomato. The one in the photo is one of two that were leftover at the end of the meal, and it was surprisingly delicious the next day (I was worried it would be dry).

What do you cook for your parents on their birthday?

Chicken Burgers with Smoked Paprika and Rosemary

Recipe co-created by me and my brother


  • 2 pounds ground chicken – approximate cost $10.00
  • 1 egg – approximate cost $0.35
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika – approximate cost $0.50
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary – approximate cost $0.25
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.10
  • 8 hamburger buns – approximate cost $2.00


  1. Combine the ground chicken, egg, smoked paprika, rosemary, sea salt, and black pepper in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix thoroughly using your hands (but be careful not to over-work the meat, that will make it tough).
  3. Divide the chicken mixture into 8 portions.
  4. Shape each portion into a burger patty.
  5. Cook the chicken burger patties any way you like!
    1. Barbecue the burgers until cooked through and slightly toast the buns.
    2. Fry the burgers over medium-high heat.
    3. Grill the burgers on a counter-top grill.
    4. Broil the burgers in the oven, turning once to cook both sides.
  6. Serve on hamburger buns with your favourite toppings!

Serving Suggestions

Serve with slices of your favourite vegetables and condiments.


  • Onion
  • Tomato
  • Lettuce
  • Avocado


  • Mayo
  • Avocado mayo
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Relish

Makes 8 servings (approximate cost: $1.66 per serving + toppings and condiments).

Check out the other posts for Mangia Monday!

Also linking to Makin’ You Crave Monday and Made by you Monday!

Chicken Roasted with Rosemary and Smoked Paprika

I’ve been working in a butcher shop this summer. It’s a big change from the last few years, I’ve mostly worked office type jobs. It’s been a long time since I worked in customer service. Yet, I can’t complain at all about being back in that line of work! The hours are irregular, but they work around my academic schedule. The people I work with are all fantastic! The customers are pleasant. Some of them like to talk to me about cooking and even ask me for cooking advice. And, I get a discount on meat.

Each week since I’ve started, I’ve brought home something different. So I can try it and give an honest opinion to the customers. I also just want to have good food (all the product is local, free range, hormone free and antibiotic free). Last week I brought home a whole chicken. Despite my ambition to keep the apartment cool by not turning on the oven… I broke down and roasted a lovely whole chicken.

I can’t get enough of this chicken! It’s so delicious. I’m also a bit obsessed with smoked paprika at the moment (I just bought my very first bottle of it this month). I love paprika to begin with, but smoked tastes and smells delicious! I may be going a bit overboard with the ingredient at the moment… I’ve been adding smoked paprika to just about everything!

After picking apart the chicken over a few meals, I used the bones and bits of leftover meat to make chicken stock. Actually, I’ve learned more about making soup stocks recently. One of my co-workers and I were discussing it the other week. Apparently I’ve been doing it wrong the last few years since I started cooking for myself. Apparently you should never let the stock boil, only simmer. A slow cooker will bring it to a boil, so you should always make stock on the stove-top. If it boils, the stock will become cloudy. I kept this in mind while making chicken stock the other day.

What are your favourite spices to use when roasting a chicken?

Chicken Roasted with Rosemary and Smoked Paprika


  • 1 whole chicken – approximate cost $15.00
  • 3 tablespoons smoked paprika – approximate cost $0.75
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil – approximate cost $0.25
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.05


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
  2. In a small bowl, combine smoked paprika, dried rosemary, sea salt, and black pepper and mix well.
  3. Add olive oil to the spices and stir well.
  4. Gently loosen the skin from the chicken (breast, legs, back), being careful not to tear it.
  5. Place the chicken in a roasting pan.
  6. Rub the spice mix under the chicken’s skin.
  7. If you have extra spice mixture, pour it over top of the chicken.
  8. Add about 1/2 cup of water to the bottom of the roasting pan.
  9. Roast the chicken, covered, until cooked through.
  10. Remove cover (lid, aluminum foil).
  11. Turn the oven to broil.
  12. Continue to cook until the skin becomes crispy.
  13. Remove from oven.
  14. Allow to stand 5 minutes.
  15. Serve with your favourite side dished and enjoy!

Makes about 6 servings + stock (approximate cost: $2.70 per serving).

Garden Update

Happy 4th of July to all my American family, friends and readers!

Thank you everyone for your suggestions on making sure my garden is successful this year! Look at how well the plants are growing this year!

The herbs look healthier and are much bigger!

The tomato plants are taller and starting to sprout buds!

Look at my garden grow!

This year I’m not starting a garden. It’s too much work weeding and preparing to plant. It’s a lot to maintain it. Last year’s garden didn’t grow so well (neither did the neighbour’s), all of the herbs died within the first month and I only got two tomatoes from four tomato plants. Or at least, that’s what I kept telling myself.

But, when my Aunt was in town the other week, she brought tomato plants with her. I couldn’t say no.

This year, I’m taking a different approach to gardening. I bought planters and fresh soil, then placed them in the garden. Each tomato plant (Yellow Cherry and Moonglow) and the basil have their own planter. The other herbs (rosemary, mint, cilantro, and chives) are two in each planter. The plants look healthier than last year already.

My brother is growing a Pink Ponderosa tomato plant. This is one of the ones that didn’t work out for me last year.

My herbs are still growing. The tomatoes haven’t blossomed yet. They’ll grow… I hope.

Any tips for a successful garden?

Day 26: Spices

I had trouble choosing just one favourite. Here are a selection of dried spices from my cupboard:

Top row: paprika, Adobo all purpose seasoning, seasoned salt, sage leaves, rosemary leaves, Italian seasoning

Bottom row: white pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, thyme, red chilis, chives

Chicken Pot Pie

As much as I love cooking, going home for dinner is always a treat. It’s nice to let someone else cook and visit with my family. When I stopped by for dinner a few weeks ago, my stepmother was preparing chicken pot pie. It smelled divine. And, it was very very very tasty. So much, that I asked if I could take a serving of leftovers home with me (Sorry B, I wasn’t intending to share the leftovers either!). I was so disappointed when I got home and realized I forgot to grab my leftovers.

I was probably too busy saying goodbye to these two cuties:

Rebel (4 year old Austrian shepherd)

Rascal (1 year old yellow lab and white German shepherd cross)

So, I texted my stepmother to ask how she made the chicken pot pie, so I could make one myself. And you know, it didn’t sound as difficult as it looked. Of course, I took a few shortcuts to make it easier to prepare as a weeknight dinner.

I bought prepared pie crust.

I baked and shredded the chicken the night before.

I bought a gravy mix.

I’m not sure my version of the chicken pot pie was as tasty, but it was nice to be able to share it with B and have leftovers for the next few days.

Chicken pot pie



  • 2 prepared pie crusts – approximate cost $4.00


  • 1 1/2 cups of cooked chicken, chopped into small pieces – approximate cost $4.00
  • 1 cup of green peas – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1 cup of carrots, chopped into small pieces – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1 onion, chopped into small pieces – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1 cup chicken gravy – approximate cost $1.15
  • 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.05
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil – approximate cost $0.25


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Brush 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a 9-inch pie pan.
  3. Arrange the first pie crust in the pie pan.
  4. Cook the onion pieces until softened.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the cooked chicken pieces, peas, carrots, onions, rosemary, and black pepper.
  6. Pour the chicken and vegetable mixture into the prepared pie pan.
  7. Pour the gravy over the chicken and vegetable mixture.
  8. Cover the pie with the remaining pie crust.
  9. Pinch the edge where the crusts meet.
  10. Trim the excess crust from around the edges of the pie pan.
  11. Brush the top crust with the remaining olive oil.
  12. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until cooked through and the crust begins to turn golden-brown.
  13. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Makes about 6 servings (approximate cost: $2.01 per serving).

The Side Dish: Accordion Potatoes

I came across this recipe for accordion or hasselback potatoes sometime in September. What made this recipe stand out from other potato recipes was the presentation. It’s one of the few dishes I’ve thought that I could make and it would look just as pretty as the pictures on the blog.

I also found the name variations interesting, accordion or hasselback potatoes. Accordion potato is obvious because of the way you slice the potato before baking it. But where did the name “Hasselback potato” come from? According to, “[t]his Swedish dish takes its name from Hasselbacken, the Stockholm restaurant where it was first served. The seasoned potatoes turn out crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.”

My potatoes weren’t as pretty. I could have taken more time working on the presentation by arranging the rosemary so it looked better, but I didn’t because dinner had already been delayed and we were hungry. Still, they looked fancier than the usual baked potato and tasted great.

Accordion Potatoes

Adapted from The Culinary Chronicles


  • 4 potatoes, washed and dried (I used a generic baking potato) – approximate cost $2.00
  • 1/4 cup olive oil – approximate cost $1.00
  • 4 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, chopped – approximate cost $1.00
  • 4 cloves of garlic, very thinly sliced – approximate cost $0.35
  • Salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • Pepper – approximate cost $0.05


  1. Heat the olive oil.
  2. When the oil is hot, remove it from the heat, place the rosemary in the oil, and cover.
  3. Let the rosemary flavour infuse into the oil by letting the mixture stand for a minimum of 10 minutes.
  4. Preheat the over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Place the potato on a cutting board and place a chop stick on either side.
  6. Carefully slice the potato from top to about ¼ inch before the bottom, making sure not to slice all the way through (the chopsticks will help with this)
  7. Repeat as many times as possible, making the slices as thin as possible. (This will require patience! It took me about 5 minutes per potato, but believe me, it’s worth the time).
  8. Gently separate the slices one at a time and place a piece of garlic between each slice.
  9. Place all of the potatoes in a baking dish.
  10. Pour the rosemary and oil mixture over the potatoes.
  11. Season with salt and pepper.
  12. Bake until the potatoes are tender (about 30-40 minutes), basting the potatoes at least once.

Makes 4 servings (approximate cost: $1.11 per serving).

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