feeling spring – shepherd’s pie

shepherd’s pie with cheesy mashed potato topping, served with irish soda bread

picture of shepherd's pie
bowl of shepherd's pie
picture of irish soda bread

i literally forgot about st. patrick’s day this year until my sister reminded me, but happened to test this recipe last week for shepherd’s pie, so i was unexpectedly prepared for this! i did do late night baking last night so i would at least have the soda bread ready for the kids breakfast in the morning. i used this recipe for my soda bread from sally’s baking addiction and it was delicious and easy. the only thing i was missing was buttermilk, so i used her substitution of vinegar with 2% milk, and that worked just fine.

i used to loveeeee st. patricks day because that meant i got my favorite meal… corned beef and cabbage, haha! i would even ask my mom to make it on my birthday so i would get it twice in march. but with two little ones, i really can’t be bothered to boil corned beef for hours, and i already had all the ingredients for this shepherd’s pie in my fridge/freezer. the best thing about this recipe as opposed to corned beef and cabbage is it’s a great freezer meal! shepherd’s pie can be frozen before or after baking, and tastes just as good out of the freezer as it did on day one. plus, both my kids love it. if you give it a try, let me know what you think in the comments. happy st. paddy’s day everyone!


meat filling
1 lb ground beef (i use the organic grass fed ground beef from aldi)
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
about 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion (i used 1/2 a large onion)
2 cloves minced garlic
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon worcestershire
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cup frozen mixed vegetables

potato topping
1 1/2-2 lbs potatoes – i used 6 small russet potatoes, or you could use 2-3 large potatoes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 oz cream cheese
1/3-1/2 cup 2% or whole milk – i start with a third of a cup and add more if needed. you want this to be stiffer than traditional mashed potatoes
salt to taste – i start with a small amount, because we’re also adding cheese and cheese is salty!
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3/4 – 1 cup grated cheddar cheese


peel the potatoes, but them into bite sized chunks, and put them in a large pot covered with cold water. turn burner on high and bring them to a boil, then cook them for about 8-10 minutes until fork tender. set a timer if you need to so you don’t forget about them while you’re cooking the filling! preheat oven to 400 degrees. meanwhile, in a heavy bottomed skillet or dutch oven, melt the tablespoon of butter or olive oil over medium high heat and start browning the ground beef. once it’s all the way browned, check how much grease came off the meat. you may need to drain some if it looks too greasy! lower the heat to medium, then add your chopped half an onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic. cook until the onion becomes translucent, and add in the 1 1/2 cups of frozen mixed veggies. cook this until the veggies lose their chill, 2-3 minutes, and then add the thyme, bay leaf, worcestershire, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, and 2 tablespoons of flour. continue cooking this mixture for about 2 minutes, stirring continuously so the flour doesn’t burn to the bottom. then pour in the beef stock/broth and wine. bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for about 6-7 minutes. remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.

drain your potatoes once they’re done and return to the pot with the burner still on low. start mashing the potatoes with the burner on to get all the liquid out of the potatoes. add the butter, cream cheese, salt, pepper, and grated cheddar. mash until combined and turn the burner off. i also sometimes add a little seasoned salt to taste if it feels like they’re missing something.

assemble the shepherd’s pie in a 9 inch pie plate by layering the meat mixture on the bottom and potatoes on top. bake at 400 degrees, uncovered for about 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. be careful when baking, if your dish is very full to put a sheet pan under the pie plate, because i’ve had filling run out all over my oven before! enjoy with soda bread and a guinness or glass of red wine 🙂 happy st. paddy’s day! ps. check out my very first cook with me video on youtube to see the exact method i used for this recipe!

homestead-y things – sourdough bread saga continued

poppyseed-raisin sourdough bread loaf with cultured butter

picture of sourdough bread with golden raisins and poppyseeds
picture of sourdough bread with golden raisins and poppyseeds, with butter and jam

this is one of my favorite sourdoughs recently, i love the sweet burst of golden raisins with the crunch of the poppyseeds. my toddler also loves it smeared with homemade cultured butter and his favorite “orange jam.” as long as i cut off the crusts for him… of course. it’s so soft and airy on the inside with that super crunchy crust. i’ll also post the recipe for the cultured butter we’ve been using for the past couple of months. so delicious spread on fresh sourdough or any bread. you can also use it for cooking, but it will lose the “cultured” properties once you cook it. this recipe is adapted from feasting at home’s no-knead sourdough bread, and please check out her post on sourdough starter as well if you need tips for that! for this recipe you will need a kitchen scale… except for measuring the half cup of whole wheat flour, i usually don’t use any cup measurements when i make bread. this is a long recipe, but check out the video below for the full method!


520g flour (half a cup of whole wheat flour, and the rest bread flour)
2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons poppyseeds
1 cup golden raisins
415g filtered water at room temperature
90g active sourdough starter (i usually feed mine 12 hours before making the dough, so it has time to rise and then fall again)
small amount of olive oil, just to coat bowl where bread will be proofing


kitchen scale
dutch oven – make sure the handle is metal, must be heat resistant!
parchment paper
bread lame or super sharp knife


when making this sourdough loaf, you want to start thinking about it 24 hours in advance of when you’ll bake it, because the starter needs 12-ish hours to do it’s thing once you feed it. the dough then takes about 12 more hours to proof, not counting the final proof in the fridge for an hour or more. i like to typically make my dough at night so it can proof on the counter overnight, or if i make it in the morning i will put it in the oven with the light on so it will take less time. if you leave it in the oven with the light on, make sure to keep an eye on it because i’ve had loaves proof in about 7 hours or less! you don’t want to end up over proofing it if it’s in a very warm place. it seems like a long process, but it’s so so worth it when you finally get to taste that amazing fresh home baked bread.

so the first step will be to feed your starter. or you can use starter that’s been in the fridge for up to a week for a more sour flavor. the longer it’s been sitting, the more sour it will taste. for this recipe, i typically will feed it 12 hours before i plan on making the loaf, since it has sweet elements (golden raisins), i like a more mild flavored bread. once the starter has peaked, and then come down again, it’s ready. you want it to come down again after it peaks because then you know it’s hungry again.

in a large bowl, combine your flours, salt, poppy seeds, and raisins. in a separate bowl, or 2 cup liquid measuring cup, use a fork to whisk together the water and active starter. it should look like cloudy water. pour in the water/starter mixture to the dry ingredients, and using a rubber spatula, start folding everything until it comes together into a rough dough ball, and there is no dry flour visible. at this point, i usually will coat a different bowl with olive oil and flip the dough ball out into this bowl to proof. you don’t have to do this… i just do it because i can’t stand it being in the messy bowl, ha ha. cover the dough ball with a damp dish towel, and sit in a warm spot to start proofing. let it sit for 15 minutes, and then you’re going to stretch and fold. take a look at the stretch and fold video in this post for a demo! i definitely tend to get a little bit more aggressive with my stretching and folding… so then you will let it proof for 15 more minutes, stretch and fold again, 15 more minutes and stretch and fold again. for a total of three times. i always let mine do the initial proof in the oven with the light on. i feel like it just stays warmer in there since our house doesn’t have great insulation. after that you can just leave it overnight on the counter or table with the damp towel on top.

in the morning (i wake up at 6:30 typically), check the rise on your dough. it should be just about doubled in size and have a domed top. you can take a wet finger and push it into the dough, and the indent should slowly start to fill back in.

you will then take your dutch oven, pop it into the oven with the lid on and preheat it to 470 degrees. you may need to play around with the temperature. initially i had it around 500, and it was wayyyyy too hot. my oven runs hot though. set your timer for an hour. the dutch oven needs to be super hot when you put the dough in. now you will do your final stretch and fold, place the dough into a smaller bowl lined with parchment paper and place in the fridge to proof while the oven preheats. take a bowl that is slightly smaller, i use a 1.5 qt pyrex, and line it with parchment. basically i just lay the sheet of parchment over the bowl and once the dough ball settles down into it, it lines itself. the final stretch and fold is a little different because you’ll actually lift the dough out of the bowl with both hands (make sure you wet your hands), hold it up in the air over the bowl, and let it fold down on top of itself. turn the bowl a quarter, and do it again. turn the bowl a quarter and do it again, but this time, it shouldn’t stretch nearly as much, and you will fold the bottoms in, and set the dough ball into the parchment lined bowl. see video for demo. then place it into the fridge while the oven heats up (one hour). you could also leave the dough in the fridge a little longer, 2-3 hours to develop the gluten further and develop a nice skin on the outside, making it easier to score. i found i was able to score it much easier when i left it in the fridge for 2 hours vs 1. usually i only preheat the oven for an hour.

once the hour is up, take out the dutch oven and be very careful removing the lid, make sure to remember your oven mitts, it will be extremely hot!! take the bread loaf out of the fridge, dust with flour, and score the top using a very sharp knife or bread lame. then pick it up in the parchment paper and place the whole thing (parchment included!) directly into the dutch oven. put the lid on and bake for 25 minutes at 470 degrees. during my initial bake i always put a sheet pan under my dutch oven because i was having issues with burnt bottoms on my bread. you will need to experiment to see if this will work for you or not. then remove the lid and bake for 10-15 more minutes, until the crust is deeply golden brown, and the middle is at least 200 degrees fahrenheit using a meat thermometer. let the bread loaf rest for at least 1 hour before slicing into it. the waiting is the hardest part! then enjoy your delicious homemade sourdough with your favorite toppings 🙂 recipe for cultured butter coming soon, and check out the video below for the full method!

sourdough saga

poppyseed-golden raisin sourdough

this is something i’ve been working on for a while. i am honestly super proud for following through and finally keeping up with my sourdough starter and not letting it go bad, or just tossing it because it seemed like too much work. it’s actually been working so well i’ve decided to name it…. bread-ie mercury. obvs. we’re still working on perfecting the actual loaf, and playing around with oven temps, recipes, etc. i’m having a consistent issue with burnt bottoms, so if anyone knows a foolproof method… please comment and let me know! currently i’m using the no-knead sourdough recipe from sylvia fountaine at feasting at home and it’s been going really well. it’s so easy because you literally whip up the dough the night before, it proofs on the counter overnight and is ready to bake by the morning.

i’m not posting a recipe here because i’m really still working on this but just wanted to share my journey with sourdough so far, and a few pics of this delicious loaf. i decided to add golden raisins and poppyseeds and it is a hit. feasting at home’s post has completely walked me through my first few loaves and i definitely recommend following her instructions, and i also used her tips for starting my sourdough starter as well.

bonus… if you really want to take your bread to the next level, top it with this cultured butter from ny times. so so easy, and way better than store bought butter, imo.