It’s time to meet yet another new Baby Gizmo editor. This time we brought on a writer who’s specialty is family-friendly food. Michelle is now our resident Baby Gizmo Foodie. Each Friday she is going to share a family-friendly recipe or food post just to mix things up. Everyone likes to eat, right?! So, we thought we would just do one recipe a week to give you additional ideas for feeding your family. We are super excited to see what Michelle brings us each week! Let’s all give you a hearty welcome!
Michelle is a working mom living in the Washington, DC area with her husband, daughter, and crazy pound pup. Her days are spent doing public relations for a public health association; outside of work when she isn’t trying to make her baby laugh or chasing her dog around the backyard, Michelle writes for her blog, EatNiks.com (@Eatniks on Twitter). Food is her passion — she loves writing, reading, and talking about food but mostly Michelle loves to cook and eat. She and her husband are very excited to show their daughter the wide world of deliciousness!
Last week a friend asked me how many hours I have in my days because hers are only 24 hours long yet mine seem to be 48. “How do you DO it all?!” she asked me. Sure, I only have one kid and she is still an infant (ie, not climbing her dresser like a staircase and jumping off it to see if she can fly… yet). But any parent – even a parent of a very easy baby – will likely say that fitting everything into a day is hard if not impossible.
My days are crazy and completely full – I wake up at 5:30am and I collapse in a heap of exhaustion around 9:30 or 10 (ok, sometimes 8:30p). During those hours I’m a mom, a wife, a cook, a friend, an employee, and a lady trying desperately to shed those last few pounds of baby weight. In short: I’m pretty typical. I’m a person who has made some choices. I know where my priorities are (baby, husband, dog, food…I feel like I forgot something… Oh! Me! Right!) and where my priorities are not (reading books for pleasure… which is unfortunate). During the work week, while my daughter is awake, she gets my undivided attention. As any working parent knows, that time is limited and precious. My husband does the last feeding of the night, so that’s when I start my stuff. On some nights I cook and on nights where dinner is already prepared I exercise. It is that simple. (Famous last words…)
To me, cooking is both a passion and a necessity. Many people see it as a chore and that’s where it drops on the priority list. I love to cook. I have always had a passion for food, but only learned to cook in the years right after college… the years when uh-oh… there’s no dining hall in this office? I taught myself by watching the Food Network. That’s right. Because I already loved food and understood flavors, I really just needed to learn technique so I could execute properly. It was a long road of failed dishes (ask my husband about the pasta with the citrus cream sauce… er, pasta with orange juice and milk), but eventually I started figuring things out. Now I’m a mom and I fantasize about taking my daughter to exciting restaurants and introducing her to new and interesting flavors. I daydream about cooking together and hearing her little voice say, “It needs more basil, Mommy! And maybe just a pinch of cayenne?” Yes, that is totally what I daydream about. Honestly.
While I can’t spend the time that I once spent cooking, I can still spend some time. I can’t possibly cook every single night, so now every dish I make needs to be enough for at least two nights worth of dinner. My Sunday afternoons are almost always dedicated to cooking. A big pot of chili, a double-sized stir fry, or a whole roasted chicken takes time – but spending that time on Sunday means Monday and maybe even Tuesday nights are wide open. I plan ahead. I budget my time. Think about it like money: Spending $10 on something that will break after two uses means spending another $10 on it again… and another $10 again. Spending $30 on something that will last a long time is a much better use of your money. Same thing with time. Cooking for 2 hours on Sunday (a luxury brought to me by my super helpful husband) means at least 2 whole nights free to exercise, clean, write, or even relax. That’s a good value. Have a few spare hours? Prep for another night of cooking – chop your veggies, break down your chicken, whatever you can do. Or cook something just to put in the freezer for those nights when there is nothing in the fridge but you just can’t bring yourself to feed your kids pizza for the third time this week.
I’m going to give you the recipe for one of my favorite meals – and my husband loves this. For a few years in a row when I asked him what I could make him for his birthday – anything in the world that he wanted!—he chose this. It is healthy, it is hearty, it is adult and kid friendly, completely customizable, and it is super easy to make. After following the recipe a couple times, you won’t need it anymore. You can also easily double or halve this recipe to fit your family. (This recipe was originally Rachel Ray’s, but I’ve changed it a bit over the years.)
Turkey Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie
- 2-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds ground turkey
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 large carrots, grated
- ½ bag frozen corn
- 10-ounce box frozen peas
- 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning (buy this in a bottle or make your own)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour – any type is fine. I use whole wheat for good measure, but white flour, rice flour, etc will work fine.
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- A few dashes Worcestershire sauce
- Salt & pepper
- A few dashes hot sauce (optional)
Note: Replace any of the veggies with whatever your family prefers. I usually leave out the carrots and celery and just add more peas and corn. Spinach or other greens also work great. You could also replace the sweet potatoes with white potatoes or another hard winter squash. Your choice! Fresh or frozen are completely fine even for the sweet potatoes. If you’re extra pressed for time, use the steam-in-the-bag frozen sweet potatoes. Just make sure they are only sweet potatoes.
Peel and cube the sweet potatoes. The smaller the cubes, the quicker they cook! Put them in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until they are tender. It usually takes about 15-25 minutes depending on the size of your potato chunks. (Do this the day before to get a head start!)
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
If you are using any fresh veggies, chop those – no need for perfect knife cuts here. You just want bite-size pieces. (You can also do this ahead of time!)
While the potatoes are cooking, heat a little oil in a pan and brown the turkey. Add the poultry seasoning to the cooked turkey. Depending on the size of your pan, you can do this in batches. It should be completely cooked! Yes, this dish is going in the oven for a bit but not long enough to cook the turkey. Once it is all cooked, pour the turkey into a strainer and let the liquid drain. Move the turkey to your baking dish – a 9×12 dish is fine for this size recipe.
In a saucepan melt the 2 tablespoons of butter, then add the 2 tablespoons of flour. You’re making a roux to thicken the gravy that will go into the shepherd’s pie. Once the flour and butter are well combined, add the chicken stock. (Look for low-sodium stock or make your own! Adding salt yourself for flavor is ideal… all that extra sodium that comes in many canned and boxed stocks isn’t good for your family.) Add a little salt and pepper to taste – the secret to being a good cook is TASTE OFTEN! Add a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce (soy sauce would work fine too or you can skip this and season with another flavor that your family likes). Stir. Bring this to a boil. A roux doesn’t reach its full thickening power until it comes to a boil. Once it starts to thicken, pour it over the turkey.
If you’re using frozen veggies, toss them into one of the pans you already used over low-heat just to thaw them a bit. You could also pop them in the microwave. You don’t want to cook them, just defrost. No mushy peas please! If you’re using fresh veggies, sauté them in a little bit of oil.
By now your potatoes should be done cooking. Drain them and return them to the pot. Mash them until they are smooth – add a little salt and pepper if you want. If you would like, you can add a little milk, butter, or stock to help make them creamier. Straight-up sweet potatoes work great too.
Have an infant? Give her some of the cooked sweet potatoes before you season them or some of the thawed peas. See, this meal is great for the whole family!
Add your veggies to the turkey and gravy in your baking dish. Give it a little stir just to incorporate everything. Spread the potatoes on top. You could add a little cheddar cheese on top if you want, although I don’t really see the need. If your family wants the cheese, go for it.
Put the whole dish in the oven for about 10-15 minutes. You really just want it to get all nice and hot; the gravy will thicken a bit more and the potatoes should get more firm. Once it is done, remove from the oven and let it sit for about couple minutes. I find letting it cool a bit helps the gravy to really thicken.
Scoop and serve – a well rounded meal in one dish! Add a few dashes of hot sauce on top for an extra kick.
You can also let this cool completely and freeze it either whole or separated into portions.
So tell me… how was your turkey sweet potato shepherd’s pie??