I’ve never been very good at keeping resolutions. One year for New Year’s not so long ago I decided to give up my bottled water habit – I have a thing for Evian – it just tastes better – but I knew bottled water was bad for both the environment and my wallet. I was so proud of this decision I flaunted my resolve to my friends and roommates, bragging how easy it would be, how much money I would save. By January 8th I’d totally caved, walked around the corner to Hana Food and indulged in a $3 bottle of water. When a roommate came home and caught me in bed with that tall drink of water, I humbly confessed, “I gave up.”
This year (of my birth, not the calendar), instead of setting resolutions I set goals. I realize that benchmarks are a more feasible alternative to my ambitious and perhaps unrealistic resolutions. But if you read my last post (from SIX MONTHS ago) you probably noticed that I have set A LOT of goals. Eating better, working out, writing more, traveling, success! I mean, I know I had a whole year ahead of me but I also have much I need to accomplish. I must say I’ve done pretty okay on some of my goals. Six months into my twenty-eighth year (okay, technically it’s my twenty-ninth) year I thought this would be a good time to evaluate my progress and finally update my blog. First and foremost, I GOT MY FUCKING DRIVERS’ LICENSE – something I’ve been putting off for 12ish years (I mean, I am a New Yorker, crazy good at the subway and a top-notch passenger), but an adult needs driver’s. Now I just need to master stick shift… I also renewed my passport, which will help me attain future goals! I’ve already pampered myself with a two-week vacation in Hawaii (travel blog-post coming soon) AND a trip to Uruguay (blog posts about both coming soon!). I’ve reshuffled my restaurant staff and have been booking parties left and right. At one point I was working out daily, though recently my work out schedule has dwindled, but hey, that’s way better than my exercise commitment over the past few years, which was never.
Going forward I plan to focus more on my blog and my diet. So here I go blogging about my eating habits AND sharing a super cozy recipe for the last cold nights of winter! Cold grey weather almost guarantees poor diet choices. The homemade pastas at my restaurant have been beckoning me with their delicious sauces and fresh meats and vegetables. I’ve also imbibed a fair amount of booze. But over the past few months I have to remind myself that I don’t have to be perfect. Everything in moderation is my mantra now; not exactly the Party Girl Plan, more like the Party Girl Plan Lite (but still pretty heavy). If I want to have gnocchi for lunch I’ll have a salad for dinner, not only because salad is the healthy choice but also because I know those greens will help my body digest the gnocchi, and TBH I really like salad. Smoothies in the morning instead of bagels. Dessert once (or twice) a week instead of every night and usually homemade. And for good measure, I’ll throw in a Pilates class here and there. It’s sweater season and I’m feeling good about myself and so should you!
In honor of the cooler weather and my dabbling with indulgence today I’m sharing the recipe for my mom’s Shepard’s Pie. I know, with a name like Isabella Gambuto you’d think I’m 100% Guido, but alas that conclusion is flawed. My mother is Jewish, of South African and English decent. My Grandmother Patricia is a very proper Londoner (accent, marmite, Sainsbury’s Red Label tea, keep calm and carry on and all that). This recipe is my mom’s version of one of her grandmother’s signature dishes. Though classically made with lamb, mom now makes hers with ground turkey and the rest of us make it with ground beef, which in the UK they call Cottage Pie. But this one is my recipe and I’m going to call it what I damn well please! Caramelized onions and seasoned ground beef, topped with layers of peas, roasted sweet potatoes and creamy mashed potatoes, all covered with grated sharp cheddar and baked in the oven. It’s the perfect one pot meal, great for a crowd or family dinner. Preparation is a little time consuming but totally worth the effort. It’s also even better the next day! I mean, I’m pretty sure this recipe could win a Shepard’s/Cottage Pie competition, if such thing existed…
SHEPARD’S aka COTTAGE PIE
Shepard’s pie is pretty much an entire meal – meat, potatoes and veggies – stacked into one delicious casserole. I apologize for the so-so photo – I made a super fun GIF of all the layers but an too computer illiterate to figure out how to post it on wordpress (help?!).
Serving size: 8-10 people. This is a good dinner party dish!
2 LBS ground beef
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
2 tbs olive oil
1 beef boullian
1 cup water
3 large sweet potatoes
4 large potatoes
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)(I know, a lot of butter)
1/4 cup heavy cream (yea, I never said this was particularly healthy)
1 bag frozen peas
1/2 cup sharp cheese of your choice SHREDDED (I used a mix of parmesan and white cheddar)
salt and pepper
***heavy bottomed pot like a Le Creuset
- peel potatoes and chop fourths. place in a medium pot and cover with water and bring to a boil. once water has boiled uncover pot and lower heat to a simmer and let cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes. once cooked, drain water and mash with butter and cream. salt and pepper to taste.
- while potatoes are boiling prick your sweet potatoes with a fork two or three times each and place on a tin foil lined baking sheet. put in over and heat to 425 degrees feranheit. bake for 30-45 minutes, until fork tender. once cooked, scoop out roasted potatoes and discard skins, salt and pepper to taste.
- while your sweet potatoes are roasting heat a large pan with olive oil and brown ground beef. make sure to drain any liquid released from beef from the pan – do this by covering your pan and carefully pouring out excess liquid into a bowl. you can discard this excess liquid
- once meat is nice and browned set removed from pan and set aside. add onions into same pan and sauté, making sure to pick up any little bits of beef stuck to the pan (that’s flavor baby!) you may need to add another glug or two of olive oil here. cook until tender and sweet about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and turn down heat to 400 degrees farenheit.
- add meat back in with onions, throw in beef boullian cube and cover with water. let cook until water is fully reduce and taste. if too salty or too dry add another 1/2 cup of water and let reduce again. salt and pepper to taste.
- the final step before layering your pie is to defrost your frozen peas! this can be done in the microwave, a steamer or a shallow pan filled with 1/2 inch water. just make sure to drain any excess liquid post defrosting!
- at this point you should have all five (YES FIVE) components of your pie ready and waiting! In your heavy bottom pan layer your ingredients in this order: : beef and onions, peas, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes. Make sure you are evenly spreading the sweet and mashed potatoes.
- once put together it’s time for your final finishing touch: CHEESE! sprinkle the cheese of your choice all over the top. also feel free to add a couple pats of butter if you’re feeling crazy!
- once fully assembled place pie uncovered into oven (which should still be heated from your roasting) and cook uncovered for 20-30 minutes, until cheese is melted and the top is lightly browned. Let cool at least five minutes and then dig in!
***Optional eating advice — I like the mash my pie all together, unto a big ugly mess, that way you get a bit of beef, peas, sweet and mashed potatoes in every bite! But that’s just a suggestion!
And now a smattering of photos from the last half year of my life just because!