Shepherd’s Pie and Pistachio Pudding Cake

Our first failure. Well, sort of. I don’t consider it a true failure—that requires a colossal disaster, which I am perfectly capable of. This was beneath my potential and therefore more along the lines of a trial failure.

It had been a long week, but we had to have our dinner on Friday. There was no other day this month that worked for our families. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I decide on an Irish theme—shepherd’s pie, fancy green drinks, and pistachio pudding cake. On the side, I added chunky cinnamon applesauce and cottage cheese. Great, right? Well, it would have been, but I cheated, and as Ali reminded me several times throughout the evening, cheaters never win.

Quick and easy was the name of my game, and I thought I was pretty clever in using an adapted version of shepherd’s pie. Ali was kind enough to back-seat chef me and question everything that came out of a can or box. “That’s Fey food. Our dinners are supposed to be more than that. You’re going to have to do this over.” Yeah, yeah. So maybe she was right, but no way was I going to tell her that. I was cheating for a reason after all. Sheesh.

So, without further ado, following are the recipes, which even Ali agreed were tasty, that I used to cheat. But first, allow me to point out that this was also the first meal that the Fey, including the baby (with her blended version), enjoyed as well.

Shepherd’s Pie


  • 1 lb ground beef (I substituted vegetarian ground meat)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small can peas
  • 1 small can carrots (Ali doesn’t like cooked carrots, so I substituted corn)
  • ½ cup honey barbecue sauce
  • ⅓ cup ketchup
  • 1 pkg refrigerated mashed potatoes
  • ½ tsp paprika


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Brown the meat with the onion in a large skillet. (Since I substituted vegetarian ground meat, I sautéed the onion in olive oil and added the “meat.”)
  3. Turn off the heat, and add the vegetables, barbecue sauce, and ketchup.
  4. Put into a greased 1 ½ quart baking dish.


5.  Spread the mashed potatoes on top and sprinkle with paprika.


6.  Bake for 30–35 minutes.


Optional: Add shredded cheese on top before serving.

Pistachio Pudding Cake


  • 1 pkg yellow cake mixPistachio Pudding Cake
  • 2 pkgs instant pistachio pudding mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup club soda
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, divided
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¾ cup 2% milk
  • 2 tsp confectioner’s sugar


  1. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, 1 package of pudding mix, eggs, club soda, and oil. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then beat on medium for 2 minutes. Stir in ½ cup walnuts.
  2. Pour into a greased and floured 10-inch fluted tube pan.
  3. Bake at 350° for 40–45 minutes.
  4. Cool for ten minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the cream, milk, 1 package of pudding mix, and confectioners’ sugar on high until stiff peaks form.
  6. Frost the cake. Sprinkle with remaining walnuts. (In our case, the kids threw the walnuts at the cake to see how many would stick.)

Minted Sake and Pineapple Cooler

This is what I had planned to make, but I didn’t have a sieve. I don’t easily give up and tried several workarounds but none really worked: taping a coffee filter to a bowl, straining the concoction through a garlic press, you know, the usual.


  • 1½ cups loosely packed mint leaves (about 1 ounce)
  • 1 cup sake
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 cans (6 oz each) pineapple juice, divided
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • Pineapple slices (optional)


  1. Combine mint, sake, and sugar in a blender; process for 2 minutes or until mint is very finely chopped.
  2. Strain sake mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids.
  3. Stir in 2 cans pineapple juice and lime juice. Cover and chill.
  4. Pour the remaining 1 can pineapple juice into a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Lay the bag flat in the freezer; freeze 1 hour or until frozen.
  5. Combine the sake mixture and frozen pineapple juice in a blender; process 1 minute or until thoroughly combined.
  6. Pour about ¾ cup pineapple mixture into each glass, and let stand 1 minute before serving. Garnish with pineapple slices, if desired.


St. Patrick’s Day Drinks


  • Lime sherbetSt Patricks day drinks
  • Lemon-lime soda


  1. Fill glass about two-thirds full with soda.
  2. Add one or two scoops of sherbet and let sit for about ten minutes.
  3. Gently stir the drink, wait for it to settle, and serve.

Adult version: Substitute white wine or champagne for the soda.


Deviled Crab Bowls

For dinner this month, I had to redeem myself. Considering that Ali complimented my umpteenth failure at cooking asparagus, I think my goal was met. (Or maybe I just plied her with too much wine.) Regardless, the deviled crab was nothing like I’d ever tasted, and I think we both agreed we would like the experience again. Well, with properly cooked asparagus next time. Paired with a Riesling and enjoyed on the deck while the Fey played in the yard, this dinner made for a delicious evening.


2 small spherical loaves of your choice of bread
1/4 c chopped green onions, divided
1/2 c dry white wine, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp ground mustard
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
1/8 tsp paprika
1/2 lb lump crabmeat
1/3 c reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1/4 c finely chopped shallots
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Hollow out each loaf and place bread shells on a baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. (I used the bread “scraps” for a delicious humus and avocado snack the next day.)
  3. In a medium saucepan, mix 2 tablespoons of green onions, 1/4 cup wine, and garlic, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in mayonnaise, mustard, red pepper, and paprika.
  5. Add 2 tablespoons chopped green onions and crabmeat; stir in gently.
  6. Divide the crab mixture evenly into bread shells. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
  7. In a small saucepan, combine 2 tablespoons broth, shallots, 1/4 cup wine, vinegar, and bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 3 minutes. Drain through a fine sieve into a bowl. Discard solids.
  8. Return liquid to the saucepan. Stir in remaining broth and cornstarch with a whisk. Bring to a boil and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  9. Add butter, stirring until butter melts. Stir in lemon juice and black pepper.
  10. Pour over warm deviled crab bowls and serve.

Recipe found at

Cuban-Style Steak and Moros y Cristianos

I was really excited to make this dish. It included many of my favorite flavors in a combination that I would not expect. I must admit, though, I was also a little intimidated. One, the dish included meat. Cooking meat makes me very nervous. I’ve never had food poisoning, but I attribute that to consciously choosing other varieties of protein in my meal. I also knew Lesley was not a fan of meat and didn’t want to disappoint. Second, it had A LOT of prep work. I’m sure it goes without saying, but my nights are full! Where was I going to find time to chop all of those onions? Then I remembered! Lesley has a food chopper! Oh, that made my excitement even greater. I always wanted to try one of those, and if it worked, it would save me a great deal of time. I brought home my borrowed food chopper and got to work. In no time (okay, maybe 45 minutes or so), I had chopped all the onions and green peppers, made the marinade, and assembled the garnish all with a baby on hip. Success!

Cuban-Style SteakCuban style steak

6-8 oz flank steak or round steak

1/2 cup naranja agria (2 parts orange juice, 1 part lemon juice)

2 Tbsp minced garlic

1/2 cup medium onions, chopped

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped

Olive oil

2 limes, cut into wedges

1) Combine naranja agria and garlic. Marinate steaks for 1 hour.

2) Prepare garnish in a medium bowl. Combine parsley, onions, and lime juice. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the mixture and cover. Set aside.

3) Cook steak. Garnish the steak and serve with lime wedges.

Moros y Cristianos (Cuban Red Beans and Rice)Red Beans and Rice

1 1/2 cups dried black beans

1/4 cup olive oil

2 1/2 cups white onions, chopped

2 1/2 cups green peppers, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

3 Tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp oregano

1 bay leaf

3 Tbsp white vinegar

2 Tbsp tomato paste

2 Tsp salt

1/2 Tsp pepper

4 1/2 cups chicken stock

3 cups long-grain rice

Olive oil

1) Saute onions and green peppers in olive oil until tender. Add garlic and saute 1 to 2 more minutes.

2) Add tomato paste, black beans, oregano, cumin, bay leaf, and vinegar. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring gently.

3) Add chicken stock and rice. Bring to a boil. Turn the temperature down and allow to simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes.

*This recipe makes a lot of rice. Approximately 8-10 servings. Depending on the size of your family or the number of guests you have over, you will likely have leftovers. Try making Leftover Rice Cakes with this flavorful rice!

Ali’s Awesome Sangria


Another excitement for me in preparing this dinner was making sangria. I’ve never made it but always wanted to try. While looking at several sangria recipes, I decided that, basically, you throw a lot of fruit into red wine. So I did, and it was amazing.

1 bottle of dry red wine

1 6 oz can of peach juice

1 20 oz can of cubed pineapple, with juice

1 nectarine, chopped

2 oranges, chopped

1 lime, juiced

1/2 cup sugar

1) Combine all ingredients in pitcher and put it in the refrigerator overnight. Serve chilled.


Crab-Stuffed Manicotti with Spinach-Strawberry Salad

I spent a respectable amount of time on Pinterest researching the perfect recipe for our Valentine’s Dinner — celebrated a few days late to allow for schedules. This dish from with a few tweaks was perfect paired with my go-to salad and a Malbec from Chalkboard. The stuffing had more of a lemony flavor than I expected, but it worked with the crab flavor wonderfully. I can’t say enough good things about the salad. It’s healthy, but adds enough sweet and vinegar flavors to make it irresistible. For a little bit of fun, I added strawberries cut like roses with a toothpick as a “stem.” While only one of them really turned out, the kids loved them, and it added color to the plate. Had the strawberries been in season, I think they would have turned out better. I’m counting this one as a hit!

Crab-Stuffed Manicotti

Crabstuffed Manicotti

4 manicotti shells

1 tbsp butter

4 tbsp flour

1 to 2 cups milk

4 tbsp Parmesan cheese

1 cup lump crab meat, drained

1/3 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 tsp lemon-pepper seasoning

1/4 tsp pepper

1/5 tsp garlic powder

Fresh parsley, minced

1) Cook manicotti shells according to package.

2) Make a roux by melting the butter in a pan and slowly whisking in flour. When combined, slowly whisk in milk until desired consistency is reached. Be sure to go slowly to avoid making the roux too thin.

3) Whisk in Parmesan cheese and remove from heat.

4) In a separate bowl, mix crab meat, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, lemon-pepper seasoning, pepper, and garlic powder.

5) Pour 1/4 of Parmesan sauce on bottom of a 8 x 8 inch pan.

6) Stuff cooked manicotti shells with crab meat mixture and place in pan. Cover with remaining Parmesan sauce.

7) Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.


Spinach-Strawberry Salad

Strawberry Spinach Salad

2 tbsp sesame seeds

1 tbsp poppy seeds

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp minced onion

10 oz fresh spinach

1 quart strawberries

1/4 cup almonds

1) In small bowl, combine minced onion, olive oil, white vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, sugar, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds. Mix and allow to sit for a minimum of 1 hour.

2) Mix spinach, strawberries, and almonds in a salad bowl.

3) Top with dressing and serve!


Chalkboard Malbec


Cod with Pickled Grapes & Summer Succotash


Our first dinner date — oh, the pressure! I turned to the genius of Blue Apron, and I knew all would be well. If you haven’t tried Blue Apron, I highly suggest you do. They provide an amazing service, and their recipes are not only mouth-watering; they’re also foolproof, as you’ll see below. Trust me; I’m the fool in the kitchen.

While it took longer than I typically spend on meals, primarily because I have difficulty with timing out meal preparation, the meal itself was a hit. I especially loved the flavor the pickled grapes added. I have a feeling I will be using pickled grapes on quite a few dishes in the future. Who’d have thought?!

What You’ll Need

2 cloves garlic

1 bunch tarragon

1 ear of corn

1 tomato

1 shallot

¼ pound green beans

¼ pound red seedless grapes

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tbsp sugar

2 cod fillets

½ cup rice flour


    1. Wash and dry the fresh produce. Peel and mince the garlic. Pick the tarragon leaves off the stems; discard the stems and roughly chop the leaves. Remove the husks and silks from the corn. Cut the kernels off the cob; discard the cob. Large-dice the tomato. Peel and thinly slice the shallot. Trim off and discard the stem ends of the green beans; cut the green beans into 1-inch pieces.
    2. Thinly slice the grapes. In a small bowl, stir together the white wine vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt until the sugar is almost dissolved. Add the sliced grapes and set aside.


3.In a large pan, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until softened and fragrant. Stir in the corn and green beans and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes, or until the green beans have turned bright green. Add the tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until just softened. Transfer the succotash to a plate and set aside. Wipe out the pan.

4.Place the rice flour in a shallow dish. Season the cod fillets with salt and pepper on both sides; thoroughly coat each in the rice flour, tapping off any excess. In the same pan used to cook the succotash, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the coated fish and cook 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Transfer the cooked fish to a paper towel-lined plate; season with salt and pepper immediately.

5. Add half the tarragon to the pickled grapes. Divide the succotash and cooked fish between 2 plates. Spoon half the pickled grapes over each piece of fish, leaving most of the pickling liquid behind. Garnish with the remaining tarragon.