Friday, December 3, 2010

The Meal Train

When our son was born, the most amazing, comforting, and supportive network of friends and neighbors got together and set up a "meal train" for us. For an entire month (or maybe more) we had dinner brought to us five to six nights per week. This was absolutely fantastic and allowed us to focus on our new family rather than what was for dinner and how we would even manage to get ourselves to a store. There are some great websites out there that offer easy-to-use formats for making the necessary arrangements such as Sign Up Genius and Keep and Share. We put a cooler on our front patio so folks could just leave the food in there in case we weren't home, or trying to catch some precious sleep. Mostly, we were excited to see our friends and looked forward to the visits. Ever since then, I have tried to quickly jump on the bandwagon of bringing food to new parents, since we appreciated it so much.

This of course led me on a search for recipes that were easy, delicious, nutrient dense, that you can make a lot of in case there are family members visiting, siblings, or just to have extra to freeze after the meal train stops coming. Recently, a family at my son's preschool had a new baby and I of course jumped on the opportunity to sign up for meal delivery. The call for meals didn't state any food aversions or preferences, but it was requested that there be enough for a family of four. While perusing my favorite sources for healthy, real food-based recipes, I came across this one from Nourished Kitchen. If you aren't familiar with this blog, you should be! Jenny's blog and website are full of amazing recipes, tips, cooking videos, courses, and food news.

I chose this recipe because it is filling, nutrient-dense, freezable, has lots of healthy fats, vitamins, protein, iron, doesn't contain any grains or gluten, and will likely appeal to a broad range of ages.

Cottage Pie with Mashed Yams

1 lb grass-fed ground beef
1 cup homemade beef stock or store bought organic beef broth
1/4 cup cream from grass-fed cows
3/4 stick good-quality butter (the higher fat content the better)
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup diced carrots
2 medium sized yams or sweet potatoes
3/4 cup shredded grass-fed sharp cheddar cheese
1 T arrowroot powder
1 T finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
2 T organic tomato paste (Bionaturae as it comes in glass jars)
1 tsp organic Worcestershire sauce
real sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste

  1. Bake yams in a 375 degree oven for 30-45 minutes or until soft when pricked with a fork. Peel yams, discarding the peel and mash them with 1/2 stick butter, 1/4 cup cream and a dash of salt in an electric mixer. When the yams are nicely mashed set aside.
  2. In a large cast-iron pan saute onions and carrots in 1/4 stick butter on medium heat, stirring until onions are translucent and carrots are slightly browned. Add in ground beef, breaking up meat into small pieces with the back of a wooden spoon. Stir occasionally until beef is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  3. Pour in beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary and thyme, stirring to incorporate and turn heat to low. Allow the liquid to reduce a bit, about 15 minutes or so. Add in the peas, and sprinkle the arrowroot on top. Briskly stir to prevent the arrowroot from clumping, then continue stirring gently until the sauce has thickened, less then 5 minutes. Add in salt and pepper to taste. Remove pan from heat, turn oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Spread mashed yams evenly on top of the meat and veggie mixture. Sprinkle cheese over the yams. Bake for about 25 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.

Possible variations:
Try using small pieces of broccoli instead of peas
Add a big handful of spinach


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