Monday, October 31, 2011

Philly: Sheppard's Pie

Today being Halloween thought I would post the very Fall-appropriate shepherd's Pie I made last week. This will definitely keep you warm and toasty! Ever since Aaron’s computer crashed last week, we have been sharing mine. Let’s just say I am very much looking forward to him getting his computer fixed so I can get on a regular blog and computer schedule again.

But last Tuesday I decided to finally make one of Aaron’s favorite meals in the new casserole dish my mother had given us a few weeks prior. As you know, I don’t eat red meat or pork so instead I used ground turkey in my recipe. Traditionally, this recipe would use ground beef, but if you are like me you will love the version with the amazing 99% fat free ground turkey…a.k.a. semi-guilt free. But when you look at the ingredients for this recipe, it is actually pretty healthy. Even with the mashed potatoes and cheese.

What is great about this massive casserole is the leftovers last for the next week. Even for us! (Can we say Lunch!)
This is also a great opportunity to use up the leftover mashed potatoes you may have in your fridge, but fair warning, you need a lot! (about 4 cups)
This is one of the few meals I feel I can express my native English roots without making people say, ewww! And for the record, English food gets an unfair bad rep. I hope you agree with this recipe that will have you coming back for seconds!
Shepherd’s Pie: 8 + servings!

1-1 ½ cups of reduced fat mild cheddar cheese
Mashed Potatoes:
5-6 medium white potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 small white onion cut in half
1 whole garlic clove
4 oz. (1/2 package) low fat cream cheese
About ¼-1/2 skim milk
3 tbsp. salted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Meat Mixture:
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 large onion, roughly chopped
6-7 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
8 oz. of sliced white mushrooms (1 package)
1 cup frozen peas
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 package of Onion gravy mix
½ package brown gravy mix
2 cups of dry red wine
Pepper to taste
Olive Oil
Preheat Oven at 325 degrees.
For mashed potatoes:
Bring a large pot of salted water with peeled and cut potatoes, small onion, and whole garlic clove to boil.
Once boiling, cook for about 30 minutes or until potatoes easily crumble with a fork.

Drain water and mash the potatoes, onion, and garlic well.

Mix in cream cheese, butter, salt and pepper to taste, and enough milk to make creamy.
Set mashed potatoes aside with the lid on to keep warm.
Note: If you use refrigerated or frozen mashed potatoes you will need a longer baking time.

Meanwhile in a large pan begin to brown onions and garlic with olive oil over medium heat.
Add mushrooms and begin to brown once lightly browned, add ground turkey and brown together.

Add 1 cup of red wine and begin simmer.

Mix in contents of the gravy packets.

While meat is browning, begin to cook carrots and celery in a separate pot with 1 cup of wine with salt and pepper to taste. Continue to do so with lid on for as long as onions, mushrooms, and ground turkey are browning.

Once the meat mixture is cooking and a gravy has formed, as meat mixture and frozen peas to the vegetables and mix well.

Transfer mixture to a large casserole dish and even out.

Evenly scope mashed potatoes over the mixture.

Spread the potatoes over the meat with a spoon and sprinkle with black pepper.

Bake for about 20- 30 minutes or until the potatoes are lightly brown and meat mixture is bubbly.

Pull dish out of the oven and evenly top with the cheddar cheese and more ground pepper.
Put back in oven for ten minutes to allow cheese to melt and become bubbly.

Pull out of oven and allow the pie to cool for a few minutes before serving so that is does not become too “soupy.”
Serve warm and enjoy your beautiful Fall day!
Shepherd’s Pie is even better the day after so make sure there are leftovers! Great way to stay on a budget!
Happy Halloween!
The College Cuisiner

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Philly: October Favorites

This being my 61st post, I wanted to do a “favorites” as a type of celebration for this "milestone." Since July I have been writing about recipes, restaurants, and adventures. I have been very lucky to have some great readers and you are what keeps me writing. While once back in college my days have become full of reading, I am always cooking. I hope you are too!
This brings me to some my favorite things:

If you have stopped by the Cuisiner before, you know that I LOVE FALL! When the weather begins to get slightly chilly I am all for spending afternoons around the various shops and spots here in Philadelphia.
Last Saturday, just to get out of the house, Aaron and I went to Suburban Square in Ardmore (Main Line) to window shop. It is a great upscale outside shopping center with lots of unique shops along with the more established places.
I have wanted to check out the Ardmore Farmer’s Market in Suburban Square for awhile now. Let’s just say it won’t be my last trip. The market is relatively small but everything is high quality which makes it super fun for me. Along with a DiBruno Brothers (originally of Italian Market fame), the market holds three bakeries, a pretty incredible pizza shop, a great “by-the-lb.” Asian food stand, a great seafood and butcher, and of course a produce stand. Not to mention my weakness- Mennonite soft pretzels (no one in the world make better pretzels than the Amish and the Mennonites.)
To say the least I was in heaven. Of course, the prices have to be reasonable, which they are! And due to its incredible close proximity to Trader Joe’s, this will now be a staple of my food shopping.

2. Jalapeños

When my surrogate sister Amanda came over for my mother’s birthday dinner last week back home, she brought with her bags of her own homegrown jalapeños. I couldn’t wait to try them! (Look for tomorrow’s post)
This spicy green pepper is a lot more versatile than you might think. While jalapeños are traditionally used in Latin cooking, they are definitely not constrained to it. These little guys can pack quite a powerful kick but when cooked down they reveal a subtle spiciness that adds to many dishes. Try it yourself!

3. Plaid

I might be a foodie but I also LOVE fashion, even if I can never afford it! For me plaid is one of those staples that never goes out of style. While I have my own favorite plaid skirt already, I couldn’t resist taking a second look at this one from Brooks Brothers. But sadly, all I can do is look…

4. Cheese Plates

The cheese plate is making a comeback in my apartment. When we went to the Farmer’s market I splurged on a very small piece of “fancy” cheese and some nice black pepper crackers. Along with the jar of homemade quince paste my sister gave me a few weeks ago, we were in business. I have been waiting to try this quince paste but I never broke down and actually bought the cheese and crackers to go with it. So for a “pre-dinner” snack on Sunday, Aaron and I scarfed down this delicious cheese plate like we haven’t eaten in weeks. But then again, that’s how we eat every meal. Every once in a while it is okay to buy nice cheese. When I win the lottery, I am going to buy a cheese company just for my private use because that isn’t excessive at all!

5. Crayons!!

On Saturday I took part in my school’s community service day awaiting the exciting prospect of doing yard work for the local library. Alas when we arrived, no one was to be seen so we headed back to the school and spent a few hours making “Fall” cards for nursing home residents. If you are saying to yourself, “what is a Fall card?” You are most likely not alone. Basically we drew pretty fall scenes and wrote inside, “Happy Fall!”
I still think my saying was the best: “As the weather grows colder, may your heart grow warmer…Happy Fall!”
I know, Genius.

One of my group member's beautiful Fall cards.
Through this whole endeavor I remember how much I LOVE crayons. I think I might have to buy a box.

6. Coffee Cups

Along with the artistic theme, a current “pastime” of mine has become drawing on my coffee cups once I have finished my latte from my favorite neighborhood coffee shop, Town Hall Coffee. This can has proved to be a welcome relief during my 3 HOUR SEMINAR CLASS! Basically I draw on them and then proceed to throw them away. It’s kind of sad, but how many empty artistic coffee cups can a girl really keep without looking crazy…probably one.

7. My current playlist: “Oldies” but goodies.
Speed of Sound- Coldplay
Bittersweet Symphony- The Verve
Let Go- Frou Frou
Free Fallin’- John Mayer
Wonderwall- Ryan Adams
Sundress- Ben Kweller
Secret Smile- Semisonic
Thanks for stopping by for my 61st post! And hope to see you for my upcoming posts this weekend on Jalapeño poached salmon and Sheppard’s Pie! (Separately of course.)
As always, enjoy!
The College Cuisiner

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Philly: Healthy Burgers, Fries, and Milkshakes

They said it couldn't be done. But I did it:

Burgers, fries and shakes healthy style.


Grilled Pesto Turkey Burgers and low fat Swiss cheese

Baked Sweet Potato French Fries

Strawberry Milk Shakes (Frozen whole strawberries, non-fat vanilla frozen yogurt, non-fat milk)

These guilt-free milkshakes are so easy and all you need is three ingredients and a blender!

I have already featured a version of my turkey burgers before but the difference is I added 1 tablespoon of Basil pesto and didn’t use fresh chopped onions, (because I didn’t have them.) They were good though, very moist and flavorful.

Ever since I got the giant bag of sweet potatoes from my mother I have been meaning to make sweet potato fries. I finally did!

I wanted to make the sweet potato fries with balsamic drizzle that I saw on but I couldn’t find the recipe.

But enjoy my version of sweet potato fries!

What was nice about these is I just put them in the oven and forgot about them for 45 minutes or so and they got perfectly soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. Definitely worth trying since they are so delicious, easy, and nutritious!

And for a burger, fries, and shake this uber-healthy version is super cost effective.

With ingredients for each item here's how it roughly breaks down to cost:

$0.95 for each burger (7 burgers per 1lb. ground turkey)

$0.71 for each serving of sweet potato fries ( about 3 servings per recipe)

$1.20 for each milk shake

= $ 2.86 per meal, not bad!

So with that, here is my super easy recipe for sweet potato fries!

Baked Sweet Potato Fries: about 3 servings


3 large sweet potatoes or 5-6 small ones
2 tbsp. Olive Oil

1 ½  tbsp. garlic salt

1 tsp. black pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into pieces ½ inch thick and 3-4 inches long.

Arrange sweet potatoes on an oiled baking sheet so they can bake evenly.

Drizzle oil over sweet potatoes and season with garlic salt and pepper.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Serve with your healthy and cheap burgers and Shakes!

Cooking is always more fun with music, here’s what was playing in my kitchen:

Can’t Go Back Now-The Weepies
Two Weeks-Grizzly Bear
Good to Sea-Pinback
First Train Home- Imogen Heap
Fake Plastic Trees- Radio Head
Eleanor Rigby- The Beatles
Half Acre-Hem
Haven’t Met You Yet-Michael Buble
Just Say Yes- Snow Patrol



The College Cuisiner

How do you feel about making burgers with turkey instead of beef on a regular basis?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Small Town: Birthday Coq Au Vin

Maybe it was the inspiration of our wine tasting trip that prompted me to make coq au vin for my mom’s birthday on Tuesday night. Her birthday was Wednesday but since we were still home for break on Tuesday I decided to make her a special birthday meal since we weren’t going to be there for it.

Coq Au Vin
Parsley potatoes
Arugula salad with grapefruit, cucumbers, and homemade vinaigrette
Strawberry Lemon cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing
I obviously had no idea how much I had my work cut out for me! I thought coq au vin was easy!! But in no way was it simple. Good thing is was incredibly delicious though. One regret, I should have added peas, (Julia forgive me!)

The Dinner "guests" were my mom, Aaron, Amanda, my Aunt Jeanna, and my cousin Reaghan. There was just enough for everyone.
This is probably one of the most intense meals I have ever made. It was simpley time consuming, but oh was it good!
When looking at the recipe you might notice that I use “real” bacon instead of turkey like usual. Honestly, we only had smoked pork bacon and I didn’t want to ruin the intended flavor so I simply sucked it up and dealt with the after-meal stomach ache. It was worth it.
Another note, I used big chopped pieces of split chicken breasts for the most flavor with the skin on. You can also use boneless skinless chicken breasts.
If you decide to make Coq Au Vin, be warned that it is very time consuming (took me over 3 hours with everything else as well.)
This is definitely what I would classify as a “special occasion” meal.
I followed this recipe pretty closely only doubling the amount of mushrooms (trust me you need at least 16 oz. I would even suggest more!)

Note: I did use a flambé technique in this recipe so be aware and don’t do this step without anyone else around. (Aaron took the picture!) I was terrified but it wasn’t that bad.
I have also been told that it is even better to cook Coq Au Vin the day before and just reheat so the flavors are completely settled.
P.s. the recipe called for “4 oz. of bacon” and not knowing how much that was I used 8 slices. Trust me, it was good especially since the bacon is used mostly to render the fat. Yum!!
Good Luck!
Coq Au Vin: about 4 servings (we served six and in my opinion you need more!)

(Adapted from

2 1/2 to 3 pounds cut-up frying chicken, skin on and thoroughly dried
4 ounces lean thick-cut bacon (I used 8 slices)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup cognac
2 cups red wine (I used Pinot Noir but you can use Burgundy, Beaujolais or Chianti)
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, mashed or minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon thyme
Brown-Braised Onions (see recipe below)
Mushrooms (see recipe below)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Parsley sprigs
NOTE: Both Onions and mushrooms may be cooked in advance, set aside in separate bowls, then reheated when needed.

Brown-Braised Onions:
2 medium white onions cut into large pieces.
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste

Drop onions into boiling water, bring water back to the boil, and let boil for 1 minute.


Remove from heat and drain. Cool onions in ice water.


In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil, add parboiled onions, and toss for several minutes until lightly browned (this will be a patchy brown).

Add water to halfway up onions and add 1/4 to1/2 teaspoon salt. (I used garlic salt for extra flavor.)

Cover pan and simmer slowly for 25 to 30 minutes or until onions are tender when pierce with a knife.

Set onions aside ina bowl.


1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered if large
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat butter and olive oil.

When bubbling hot, toss in mushrooms and saute over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

Remove from heat and place in bowl.

Chicken and Sauce:

Dry chicken thoroughly in a towel. Season chicken with salt and pepper; set aside.

Remove any rind off the bacon and cut the bacon into lardons (rectangles 1/4-inch across and 1-inch long).

In a saucepan, simmer the bacon sticks in 2 quarts of water for 10 minutes; remove from heat,
drain, rinse in cold water, and pat dry.

In a large heavy frying pan over medium heat, heat olive oil until moderately hot.


Add the bacon and saute slowly until they are lightly browned.

Remove bacon to a side dish.

Place chicken pieces into the hot oil (not crowding pan), and brown on all sides.

Return bacon to the pan, cover pan, and cook slowly for 10 minutes, turning chicken once.

After browning the chicken, uncover pan, pour in the cognac. Flambe by igniting with a lighted match. Let flame a minute, swirling pan by its handle to burn off alcohol; extinguish with pan cover.

 Pour the red wine into the pan and add just enough chicken broth to completely cover the chicken pieces.

Stir in tomato paste, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme.

Bring the liquid to a simmer, then cover pan, and simmer slowly for about 30 minutes or until the chicken meat is tender when pierced with a fork or an instant-read meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

When the chicken is done cooking, remove from the pan to a platter, leaving the cooking liquid in the pan.

Increase heat to high and boil the cooking liquid rapidly until approximately 2 cups of liquid remains.

While the liquid is boiling, in a small bowl, blend the 3 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons softened butter into a smooth paste; beat the flour/butter mixture into the approximately 2 cups hot cooking liquid with a whisk. Simmer and stir for a minute or two until the sauce has thickened (the result will be a sauce thick enough to lightly coat a spoon - just thick enough to coat the chicken and vegetables lightly). If sauce is too thin, boil down rapidly to concentrate; if sauce is too thick, thin out with additional spoonfuls of chicken stock. Taste the final sauce, adding more salt and pepper only if necessary.

Before serving, reheat the onions and mushrooms (if necessary).

Serve chicken on a large platter. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Arrange the Brown-Braised Onions on one side of the chicken and the Mushrooms on the other side.

Decorate with sprigs of parsley. Accompany with parsley potatoes, ( or rice, or noodles; buttered green peas) and a green salad; hot French bread; and the same red wine you used for cooking the chicken.

And definitely make cupcakes too!
The College Cuisner

What is your favorite meal for a special occassion?