Autumn Shepherd’s Pie

Autumn Shepherd's Pie #acornsquash #squash #autumnrecipes

So the weather outside today felt more like summer than autumn but I was still in the mood for my autumnal version of the perennial classic, Shepherd’s Pie. I had some acorn squash that I was looking forward to cooking up, and Shepherd’s Pie was the perfect use for it.

It’s a simple meal, but both my DH and I love Shepherd’s Pie. I especially love changing it up a little, as I did tonight. Enjoy!


This post was originally published in Oct 2009.

A Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal

**This post was originally published in 2009.  Beat the Summer Heat with a Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal Cold Plate #nocook #summermeal Summertiiiiimmmeee… and the livin’ is eeeaaasssyyyy…

Fish are jumpin’ … and the cotton is high…

And I don’t feel like cookin’….

Oh wait, that’s not part of the song. But it should be! Who wants to cook on a hot summer day? Not me! So I decided NOT to cook today, but I still felt like I should feed my family, so I compromised: Cold Plates!

An Easy No-Cook Summer Meal

This is one of those ideas that’s just so brilliant, I wonder why I didn’t think of it sooner! All one has to do is assemble a variety of cold, fresh foods, make it pretty and put it on the table. Presto, Change-o, Dinner! Simple as that.

I used some cold ham slices as the main portion of the meal and augmented them with some scoops of tuna salad. Then I added in some various fresh fruits and veggies, some cheese for my DH, and some pickles. A dollop of honey mustard served as a dipping sauce for the ham. Usually, bread of some sort is served with a cold plate, but I had none, so I offered crackers on the side.

The nice thing about these cold plates is that I could customize them to our different dietary needs. Here’s my plate with strawberries and unpeeled apples and apricots:

Beat the Summer Heat with a Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal Cold Plate #nocook #summermeal
Here’s DH’s plate with cheese and peeled apples instead:

Beat the Summer Heat with a Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal Cold Plate #nocook #summermealEven our Certain Little Someone had his own cold plate (not that he ate it all! He was mostly interested in the watermelon and sweet potato fries!):

Beat the Summer Heat with a Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal Cold Plate #nocook #summermealSharing at Grounded & Surrounded, Tasty Tuesday

Cheese-Stuffed Meat Rolls #BakingMyHeritage

Stuffed Meat Rolls #bakingmyheritage #groundbeef #FinnishcuisineBack in January, I introduced my new obsession, to which I very appropriately ascribed a hashtag, namely, #bakingmyheritage. In case you’ve forgotten the details, my mom is of Finnish descent; and when I was visiting her over Christmas in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I happened upon The Finnish Cookbook in a consignment store there. I’ve been having tons of fun baking and cooking all sorts of recipes from this awesome treasure of a cookbook. (Oh, and PLUS! It’s a vintage cookbook! You know me and vintage cookbooks...)

Stuffed Meat Rolls #bakingmyheritage #groundbeef #FinnishcuisineMy first post about my Finnish baking adventures was this deliciously awesome (and very easy!) Spice Cake, which I actually plan to bake this weekend for our church’s annual International Banquet.  Today’s post goes in a decidedly different direction with a savory recipe (which I suppose would then be #cookingmyheritage. Nah. Doesn’t have the same ring to it.), known in Finnish as “lihamurekekaaryleet”. 

Stuffed Meat Rolls #bakingmyheritage #groundbeef #FinnishcuisineYeah, we’ll just call ’em “Stuffed Meat Rolls”. (Although my DH calls them “the bomb”… or maybe it was me that was “the bomb” because I made them. Huh! Anyway, they have his stamp of approval!)

If you want to keep up with my Finnish baking adventures, follow me on Instagram!

Stuffed Meat Rolls #bakingmyheritage #groundbeef #Finnishcuisine


I used 1 pound of ground beef because I didn’t feel like defrosting another package (ha!), and it turned out OK. I only got 12 rolls instead of 16, and the mixture was not quite as sturdy, but they were still very good.

I also used cheese sticks, which were very easy to use.

5 Creative Ideas for Leftover Meat

5 ideas for leftover meat Got some leftover meat and no idea what to do with it? I’ve got an idea for you! No more boring casseroles or lame pasta dishes: Here’s some creative fun you can have that will turn your hunk of “meh” into “YUM!”.

5 Creative Ideas for Leftover Meat

1. Spring Rolls

This is probably one of my favorite leftover options. Literally any kind of meat – and it doesn’t have to be Asian-flavored – can be rolled up in a rice paper wrapper, fried or baked, and served with a dip. Certainly you can make them Asian flavors if you want, but why not go with Mexican or BBQ, if that’s what you’ve got? Mexican spring rolls can be served with salsa, and BBQ spring rolls with (what else?) barbecue sauce.

If you’ve never played with spring roll wrappers before, here’s my super brief tutorial: 

  • They come fresh or dried. Many regular grocery stores carry both types, but I usually buy mine at the Asian store. The fresh ones are more expensive and can be found in the produce or freezer section, while the dried ones are usually somewhere near the rice noodles and that kind of thing.
  • The fresh ones (which I’ve never actually used) are pliable and ready to be used. Just place a couple tablespoons of the filling (whatever you want!) on to one side of the wrapper, and fold up the closest edge to cover the filling. Fold the sides up, then roll the whole thing all the way to the other edge. Dip your fingers in water to seal the edge.
  • Dried wrappers need to be briefly soaked in water before using. Once they’re pliable (but not too much so, or they’ll rip) fill them in the same way I described above. No need to seal with water, though.
  • Fry them up on the stove top (make sure your oil is hot enough or the seal won’t stick).
  • OR bake them in the oven following these directions.

I’m totally serious, by the way, that just about any thing can be wrapped up in a spring roll! Don’t feel like you need a special recipe or anything: if you’ve got shredded BBQ meat, for example, just plop some of it on the wrapper, top it with a sprinkle of cheese (or maybe some cole slaw?), wrap it up and cook it!

2. Stir Fry

Again with the Asian influence, but seriously. Stir fry is the way to go! Especially if you also have leftover veggies – even better!

Once again, you don’t have to worry about sticking to an Asian flavor of some kind, although practically any cooked meat can morph into Asian cuisine via stir fry. Just follow this great tutorial from , keeping in mind that pre-cooked meats and veggies will not need nearly as much time as is prescribed in the article.

A stir fry is also great because it can also utilize any leftover starch (noodles or rice, for example) that you may have. Get rid of those leftovers in one fell swoop!

flatbread sandwich thins3. Sandwiches

Now, I’m not talking about a boring ol’ meatloaf sandwich with a hunk of nasty cold meatloaf shoved between two slices of plain ol’ bread. No way. Not how I roll. 

What I’m talking about is creativity, and it starts with the bread. If you want your leftover sandwich to appeal to the masses (i.e.  your starving leftover-hating family), it’s going to have to have some charm to it. Thankfully, the possibilities are practically endless:

  • biscuits
  • English muffins
  • flatbread
  • muffins (why not?)
  • waffles (Yes! Truthfully my favorite sandwich bread.)
  • pita bread
  • croissant
  • bagel
  • etc.

You get the idea. Now top it with some fancy (or not so fancy) cheese, a little bit of sauce and maybe some crunchy shredded veggies for good measure, and you’ve got some gourmet leftovers goin’ on!

sausage zucchini pizza4. Pizza

Everybody knows that everybody hates leftovers, right? BUT! Everybody loves pizza, right? So there ya go. Turn the leftovers into pizza and everybody’s happy. 

And it’s so easy, too! Pizza crust is a yeast bread, but it doesn’t require all that bothersome kneading and rising stuff, so even a novice can manage it. I usually make either my Spelt Pizza Crust or my Honey Whole Wheat Pizza Crust, but you can make any kind of pizza crust you desire.

Then top it with a sauce of some kind, and it most certainly does not have to be pizza sauce. (I guess technically it doesn’t even need sauce… but it’s nice if you have it.) If you have a sauce that went with the meat when you first ate it, then that’s perfect! Whatever it is, it will work. If not, try Ranch dressing, or BBQ sauce, or a basic white sauce or cheese sauce.

Next, slice or shred the meat and sprinkle it over the sauce. Top with veggies and cheese like you would any pizza, and bake as usual. No complaints on leftover night!

ham fruit pasta salad5. Salad

Here you have two options. You can go with a green salad or a starch salad, and you can get as creative as you want with either one. 

Personally, a green salad seems kind of like a boring option, so since we’re looking at creative ideas here, let’s talk about the “starch salad”. I say “starch salad” because you can use just about any kind of starch as the main component: 

  • potato (and voila! you have potato salad!)
  • bread (panzanella anybody?)
  • pasta
  • whole grains such as rice, barley, and the like
  • quinoa

Cook the starch as you normally wood, then add your meat and whatever vegetables you like. To finish off your leftover magic, whip up a simple vinaigrette  to bring it all together. My “Not Your Grandma’s” Ham & Pasta Salad is a great example that can get you started.

There you go, friend! Five fun ideas for leftover meat that will please your palate and your hungry family. Here’s to NO WASTE!



5 Quick Dinner Ideas {Menu: Fish}

If you have a busy schedule and are in need of some super-duper quick dinner ideas, fish can’t be beat in terms of getting a healthy meal on the table in  no time flat. Filleted, frozen, and canned seafood are all great options that not only come together quickly, but are delicious and nourishing.

Note: Not all fish are created equal, and not all fish are healthy. The topic is far too complicated for me to delve into here, but I will point you instead to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s excellent resource, a printable guide (or app!) that tells you at a glance which types of fish are the best. And since that chart is not particularly helpful in regards to tuna, I found this very informative resource that details what to look for in tuna and where to find it.

So if you need some super quick dinner ideas, I’ve got 5 great recipes for you that should be on the table in 30 minutes or less. I can personally vouch for each recipe, as these are the ones I turn to time and again whenever fish is on the menu (or I need dinner STAT!).

5 Quick Dinner Ideas

{When Fish is on the Menu}

super fast fish fingers

Perfect for lunch OR dinner: cornmeal-crusted fish fingers that come together in a jiffy and taste delicious!


toasty salmon melts

A hot open-faced sandwich with melty cheese... what's not to love?

tuna pasta salad

To avoid the issues presented by canned tuna, switch it out for canned salmon in this yummy pasta salad that's perfect any time of year.

Lemon and fish just seem to be made for each other, as exemplified in this super simple recipe for Lemon Garlic Tilapia that can be made with just about any kind of fish.

Garlic Dill Salmon: This is the first recipe I ever tried with salmon... and I keep coming back to it!

Quick & Easy Fish Fingers

I don’t have a lot of fish recipes on this blog because, frankly, I didn’t really cook fish until about a year ago or so: Canned tuna and salmon were pretty much the extent of my fish-cooking repertoire. Also, since I didn’t really grow up eating a lot of fish, I hadn’t really developed a taste for it and honestly knew nothing about it. 

But for the past year or more, I’ve been slowly learning more and more about fish and how to prepare it, and I’ve realized it’s a busy mama’s secret weapon for quick and easy – but healthy – meals. Fish fillets cook up so quickly no matter which method you choose and offer a lot of great nutritional benefits to boot. Currently, we eat fish once a week, and I’ve enjoyed trying many different recipes and experimenting with different cooking methods.

Typically, I buy the individually quick frozen wild-caught fish fillets because they are the most reasonably priced. I can typically get them for around $4 a pound, and many types of fish are available in this manner (tilapia, cod, whiting and perch, to name a few).

This particular recipe is one of my early experiments, and one that turned out perfectly. It was so simple and so yummy; my kind of recipe! I recommend using stone-ground non-GMO cornmeal for optimum nutrition. 

How do you like to cook fish?

Toasty Salmon Melts

I’m always looking for great recipes that make use of canned salmon because it’s an inexpensive way to incorporate more of that healthy wild-caught fish into our diets. I don’t really love canned salmon, to be honest, but along the way I’ve discovered some great ways to cook it that are truly delicious. Our whole family enjoys eating fish, which I love!

I stumbled across this recipe for grilled salmon and cheese when searching for more canned salmon inspiration. I changed it up a little bit and turned it into these hot and toasty open-faced sandwiches that are great for lunch or dinner, served with a green salad and/or some fresh fruit. Easy, quick, and healthy. (There’s a reason my blog used to be called Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy!)

You could also eat this fresh and raw, without baking, but please don’t tell me if you do. Blech. 

What’s your favorite way to prepare canned salmon?


Spelt Pizza Crust – Great Alternative for Wheat-Free Diets

I have really been enjoying experimenting with other grains in my WonderMill, namely spelt. Spelt is such a great alternative to wheat, because although it tastes and behaves similar to wheat, it can be tolerated by people with sensitivities or allergies to wheat.

My son is one of those who cannot have wheat, but we have found that he can handle spelt. I am thrilled, because spelt is easy to use, creates a finished product very much like those made with wheat flour, and is at least as nutritious as whole wheat flour.

Find my new favorite pizza crust recipe at the Grain Mill Wagon.

This post was made possible by WonderMill and the Grain Mill Wagon.

Sharing at  Traditional TuesdayTitus 2sdayTeach me TuesdayWomen Living Well Wednesday,Works for Me WednesdayWhole Foods WednesdayFrugal Days Sustainable WaysReal Food WednesdayEncourage One Another,Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Mommy Solutions, Your Green Resource, Tastetastic ThursdayFight Back FridayFreaky FridayFriday’s Favorites, The Better Mom Monday, Homestead Barn Hop

The Easiest Way to Prepare Steak – Salt “Marinade”

Salt Marinated SteakMy DH has had some fun this summer, grilling on our little itty bitty charcoal grill. We had never had one before; I’m not sure why, to be honest! We just never got around to buying one, I guess because it’s a little awkward when you live in an apartment. But around Father’s Day, my DH determined that he was going to get one of those little cheap-o charcoal grills at Target by hook or by crook. Thankfully, neither hook nor crook was necessary, as his brother happened to have an extra one on hand. Still a cheap-o little charcoal grill, but one that had only been used once, and was in great condition. And FREE! Can’t beat free!

One of the first things we (by which I mean my DH) grilled was New York Strip Steak. Now, I know what you’re thinking. El Cheapo grilled steak? And New York Strip Steak at that?! 

Yes, I know. It was highly out of character for me. But it was for Father’s Day. My DH is a great dad and he loves steak, so I decided to treat him with fancy schmancy steak in our not-so-fancy-schmancy grill. (Note to the mommies out there: this is a very sneaky way to get your husband to make his own Father’s Day dinner without him hardly even realizing it. Shameless, I know!)

And yes. I know. It’s July, and Father’s Day was a month ago. What can I say?

But it doesn’t have to be Father’s Day to enjoy grilling steak. Any old day is perfect for grilled steak. And what I love about this recipe is its speed – no need to think ahead and marinate for hours on end. For one thing, that’s not necessary with a good steak. For another, marinating for hours on end will not get you any better results than this simple salting method. I guarantee. Why take all day when 25 minutes will do?

Steak "marinading"

Salted New  York Strip SteakThis is a great QUICK meal for any hot summer night!

Steaks are EASY to cook, especially on the grill!

CHEAP? Um. No. Not even close! Especially since I bought Safeway’s Open Nature beef, which is not as good as grass-fed beef, but much better than regular old beef… and costs quite a bit more, too!

If you can get grass-fed beef, this is a very HEALTHY meal. I know that vegetarians would beg to differ with me, but if you’re an omnivore like me, you understand!

Sharing at Simple Lives Thursday, Tastetastic Thursday, Titus 2sday, Traditional Tuesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Women Living Well Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Allergy-Free Wednesday

Black Bean Chili with Avocado Mousse {Recipes from Avocado Lovers}

Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy: Black Bean Chili with Avocado Mousse We are avocado lovers around here. Well, my boys and I are. My DH doesn’t much care for them (although he enjoys my Chicken Pizza with Avocado Ranch Sauce well enough). But ever since my boys were babies, they’ve been eating avocado straight up like it’s candy. Delicious, wholesome, healthy candy.

I’ve experimented with avocado in baking – still working on that one – and in smoothies (Shamrock Shake, and Choc-Ocado Smoothie), as a pasta sauce, and – naturally – in guacamole. Recently, though, Avocados from Mexico challenged some of us bloggers to create new Mexican-inspired recipes using avocados. My mind naturally goes to guacamole when I think of Mexican avocado dishes, but I wanted to do something a little different. As yummy as guacamole is, and as fun as it is to create different variations of it, I embraced the opportunity to come up with something I’ve never done before.

Avocado Mousse is what I ended up with, although not the typical dessert variety (I’ve had the chocolate one – it’s yummy!). Nope! I went with a savory version, and served it atop some black bean chili. Yum! Black beans and avocado were made for each other, don’t you think?

If you’re an avocado lover, too, you can find a whole treasure trove of avocado inspiration at Recipes from Avocado Lovers. There’s a whole section there devoted to guacamole if that’s your preferred method of avocado delivery, but if you’re a little more adventuresome, you’ll find ideas for Avocado Ice Cream, Baked Eggvocado, Mexican Lasagna, and a whole lot more. You can also upload your own favorite avocado recipes so others can enjoy them, too.

Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy: Black Bean Chili with Avocado Mousse

It’s not exactly QUICK because you have to soak the beans and everything. But the hands on time is minimal. And the avocado mousse is a special touch that takes less than a few minutes.

The slow cooker makes it EASY! So does the VitaMix.

Beans are CHEAP, so they make a great frugal meal anytime! And I found Organic Avocados from Mexico at Trader Joe’s in a package of 4 for less than $4, so they were pretty cheap, too.

Wow, this dish is so HEALTHY! The healthy fats from the avocado and yogurt, combined with the protein and fiber from the beans make it a delicious combination that is really good for you.

Submit a recipe to the Recipes From Avocado Lovers website from Avocados From Mexico

Are you an avocado lover?


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Sharing at Tastetastic Thursday