Showing posts with label back to school recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label back to school recipes. Show all posts

Friday, September 14, 2012

Back to School: Shepherd's Pie

by Sheila Connolly
The only hard and fast school tradition when I was growing up was the cookie tin (which I still have) filled with homemade chocolate chip cookies (the Nestle package recipe, of course).  I'd come in the door, grab a couple of cookies and a Coke, and do my homework.  Did I mention I like sugar?

For my elementary school years, I attended a variety of schools that had a cafeteria, so I didn't have to take lunch (much to my mother's joy, no doubt, since she was so not a morning person!).  The only item that stands out from my time at a Quaker school in Pennsylvania was the cream-cheese-and-apple-butter sandwiches, but I think you can figure out how to make that one for yourselves.

Which leaves my fourth-grade school, Springside, in Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia.  Again, I have few memories of meals there, but what I do remember was that it was the first time I encountered Shepherd's Pie.  And I liked it.

That seems odd to me now, since at home we did eat lamb stew and lamb chops and leg of lamb, but maybe ground lamb was too exotic or hard to come by.  Now, however, it's a family staple, and it's most often my husband who makes it.

One point that mystifies me:  you find a lot of recipes that call for ground beef in Shepherd's Pie.  Uh, excuse me, but doesn't that make it Cowherd's Pie?  I know there are people who dislike the taste of lamb, but in that case, find another name.  Still, this recipe will still taste good with ground beef, ground chicken or turkey, buffalo (we find it in our market), and for all I know, crumbled tofu (haven't tried that).




1 pound ground lamb (or substitute a meat of your choice, ground)

1 Tblsp cooking oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

1 Tblsp tomato paste

1 Tblsp flour

1 cup beef broth

2 cups cooked mixed vegetables (Note: you can buy a variety of combinations, frozen, at the market, and most include chopped carrots and peas; you can add corn to the mix, since its slightly sweet flavor matches well with the lamb.)

Salt and pepper to taste


5 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed (the potatoes must be loose enough to spread over the dish. Feel free to add milk and butter, and definitely some salt and pepper.)  If you happen to have leftover mashed potatoes, they'll do fine.

1 Tblsp butter to top


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Brown the ground lamb in oil, and drain off any excess.  Stir in the onions and cook for about five minutes, until the onions are soft.  Stir in the tomato paste, flour and broth.  And the cooked vegetables, and salt and pepper.

Transfer the mixture into a large, deep casserole.  Top with the mashed potatoes (if you want to get fancy, you can pipe the potatoes on top with a pastry bag), and dot with butter.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

This recipe should serve 4 to 6 people.  It tastes even better left over!


One funny story about the doughty kitchen ladies of Springside School.  I lived in the burbs, and one day I found in my backyard a small (maybe a foot long?) baby black snake, which I proudly took to school to show off—probably because my mother wouldn't let me keep it in the house.  Somehow it escaped from its terrarium in my classroom, on the second floor, and made its way to the kitchen, in the basement, where the lunch ladies found it.  Did they panic?  Nope—they traced it to me, and politely requested that I remove it, which I did, setting it free at the edge of the playground.  Kudos to them for not smashing it with the nearest cooking utensil.
Our class production of Alice in Wonderland--that's me on the
right, as Alice.  BTW, I designed the scenery.  I have no
idea why I put a fountain in it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Back-to-School: Fancy Krispie Treats

When the kitchen decided to do a back-to-school week, my first impulse was panic.  I don't have kids, and "back to school" for me is about the start of new classes and a huge rush of work.  Back to school is when I rely on take-out, not when I work magic in the kitchen.

But then I started thinking about my own youth and all the food memories associated with school starting.  I usually ate lunch in the cafeteria.  The cafeteria was a source of perpetual conflict, since they made you drink milk and I HATED milk . . . and stare-offs between me and the cafeteria monitor often ended with me in tears.  I got a break from the cafeteria, though, when we'd go on field trips to places like the Toledo Zoo, and the Detroit Institute of Art, and Greenfield Village.  On field trip days, we'd all load into a line of yellow school buses and head off onto the interstate.

(In retrospect, I cannot imagine how the teachers survived, taking the entire third grade on school buses and corralling us in public for a full day.)

Wendy/Annie - 3rd Grade
On those magical outings, far from the cafeteria, we'd have sack lunch.  Oh, sack lunch!  Bologna sandwiches on white bread with mustard.  A stack of Pringles.  An apple.  A can of soda wrapped in foil to keep it cold.  And dessert.

Sometimes dessert meant a snack cake . . . a Twinkie or a Little Debbie oatmeal cream pie.  But sometimes it meant my mom would make my absolute favorite treat:  her special rice krispie treats!

Krispie treats are, by definition, delicious.  How can you go wrong with sugar, butter, and crunch?  But my mom took genius to a whole new level.  First, she added peanut butter to the krispie mix.  It added that hint of salt that kicks all desserts up a notch.  And then she poured a melted mixture of chocolate and butterscotch chips over the top.  Heaven.

Oh, wow.  After half a day sitting in a warm bus, the chocolate topping would get a little soft and melty, and the whole thing was a block of ooey-chewy wonder.

So thank you to all the teachers who faced down the terror of leaving school grounds and opening up a whole wide world to us, even though I'm sure we were little hellions.  And thank you to my mom, for keeping the Coke cold and never forgetting to include dessert in my sack lunch.

Fancy Krispie Treats

3 Tbs. margarine or butter
7 oz. jar marshmallow fluff
1/2 c. peanut butter
6 c. puffed rice cereal

1 c. butterscotch chips
1 c. chocolate chips

Grease a 9 x 13 pan and line it with parchment or wax paper; grease the paper, too.

Place margarine or butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat until melted.  Add marshmallow fluff and stir until combined.  Add peanut butter and stir until combined.  Remove from heat and stir in the cereal until the cereal is coated with the marshmallow combination.  Turn into the greased pan and flatten/compress until the cereal is a fairly uniform thickness in the pan.

Allow to cool/harden.

Melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips in a bowl set over barely simmering water.  Spread the chocolate mixture over the treat and allow to cool, harden.

Use the wax/parchment paper to lift the treats from the pan.  Cut with a sharp knife and serve!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Back to school - GF sugar cookies

GF sugar cookies
Daryl and/or Avery 2nd grade


Many of us are posting pictures of us from way back here I am with cute short hair. Dame Judi Dench cut. I'm thinking when I get to her age, I'll return to this cut and let it go white, white. What do you think? Anybody have a haircut computer program to test out the look?  LOL

Do you remember anything better than coming home to cookies and milk after a long day at school? How about cuddling up in a chair and having that delectable treat while reading a book? How about having cupcakes at school? Or pizza parties? Hot dog day, where all the moms (or dad/grandparents) helped serve and moms (or dads/grandparents) made the cupcakes or cookies to hand out to the kids?

School is fun. Parties are fun.

Do you know how hard it is to pass all of this up when a kid needs to eat gluten-free?

I read the most heartbreaking yet hopeful post on a blog the other day.  It was written by a gluten-free "mom" who was so upset because her child needed to eat gluten-free and couldn't enjoy all the regular fun other kids had in the food department...

...until the mom became "room mom". She took on the job so she could educate other kids (moms/dads/grandparents) about how GOOD gluten-free all wouldn't be scared of the label.

FYI, gluten-free tastes, pretty much, the same as normal food. The textures aren't always the same, but the flavors are. This mom embraced sweet rice flour (as I do). The only thing she found really difficult was making that dollar budget stretch for an entire class party when buying gluten-free items because they are more expensive. (Sigh.)

Back when my son was in school, I took on the role of "room mom" for the theater department. Though my son didn't have allergy issues, I did, so I paid attention whenever we had theater parties. I asked moms (dads/grandparents/kids) for allergy info before setting up parties. I made sure we had gluten-free pizza for those with gluten allergies, or corn pasta choices for those with corn allergies, or soy-free soy sauce for those with soy allergies. Dairy-free, nut-free, etc. Yes, accommodating everyone was a challenge but so appreciated. And many of the kids (parents/grandparents) got "educated" about what tasted good, despite its label.  Yay!

In A Cheese Shop Mystery series, Charlotte tends to her "niece" Clair's gluten-free allergy, making sure there are GF popovers if the rest are having popovers, GF cookies if the rest are having normal cookies,  and GF grilled get the idea. I've really worked hard to make sure Charlotte is attentive through this series.

So, for today's post, I'm posting gluten-free sugar cookies. By the way, these sugar cookies are a modified recipe of my grandmother's.

Enjoy your cookies and milk. And if you can't have dairy, your soy milk!

Gluten Free Sugar Cookies


1 stick butter
1/2 c. sugar plus 
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
1/2 c. sweet rice flour [*I love this flour choice!!!]
1/2 c. white rice flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum


Cream butter, sugar, add egg.  Add GF flours and other dry ingredients. Whip.

Drop by spoonfuls on cookie sheet. Press with the back of a spoon to a dollar-sized pancake shape.

Bake at 375 deg. 10-12 minutes maximum.  Should be lightly brown around edges when removed from oven. Let cool 1 minute, then remove from tray and set on paper towels to cool. These get very crisp.  May be decorated with colored sprinkles, powdered sugar, or nuts, if you like.

* Note: These might come out a little puffier than cookies using regular flour. 

* Second Note: Store in an airtight box or freeze. These are great freezer cookies!!!!

For other gluten-free cookie choices, here are a few that I've posted in the past:

Dulce d' Leche Cookies

Gluten-free Shortbread Cookies

To all the kids who might be reading this...yeah, right...Enjoy school!  Education is a gift we don't realize is a gift until we're older.

What is your favorite childhood "food" memory???


REMINDER: To save this recipe (and any that are posted on MLK,  click the Print Friendly button below 

(it looks like this but don't hit this one).  Choose PDF to print. 

* * * * *
The 4th in A Cheese Shop Mystery series: 

You can pre-order the book HERE. 

You can learn more about me, Avery, by clicking this link.

Chat with me on Facebook and Twitter.

And if you haven't done so, sign up for the mailing list
 so you can learn about upcoming events, releases, and contests!

Also, you probably know about my alter ego.
Daryl's new series: A COOKBOOK NOOK MYSTERY series
debuts July 2013

"Like" Daryl's page on Facebook and "follow" Daryl on Twitter.
"She" doesn't say all the same things "Avery" does. Promise.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST...okay, maybe least...:)

I'm pleased to announce that my short story, PALACE ON THE LAKE, 
in Fish Tales: A Guppy Anthology has been nominated for both
the Anthony Award and Macavity Award. 
Go Sisters in Crime Guppies! 
Without the Guppies, my career would not be on the right track.
The group support is invaluable!
You can read PALACE ON THE LAKE by clicking on the title above. :)

Say cheese!


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lucy Burdette's Back to School Hot Dog Casserole

LUCY BURDETTEWe writers at Mystery Lovers Kitchen decided we should have a "Back to school" week and it fell to me to kick things off. I should say first that I loved going back to school as a kid. I loved picking out the new clothes and the school supplies and finding out who my teachers would be and seeing my friends...I loved school, period.

    The only time I remember dreading going back was the year our school was renovated. The administration decided the only way to juggle all the middle school classes was holding split sessions. Which meant my sister and I had to get on the bus by six am. My mom, who hated mornings and didn't love cooking, could not face getting up at five to make us breakfast. But she did prepare sloppy Joes the night before (I'll spare you that recipe-think ground beef and tomato soup) so we could heat them up before heading out in the morning.

Over the years, between school days and becoming an adult, I learned to bake bread and cakes from scratch and canned my garden veggies and prepared elaborate soups and stews. But a lot of this flew out the window when I married my husband, who came equipped with two young school-aged kids. I was working, he was working, everyone was stressed; and the kids couldn't have been less interested in fancy food. So I punted in favor of anything they might eat. In fact my husband points out that my stepchildren will always remember me for my hot dog casserole recipe. Sigh. 

With some regret, I share it here:


1 medium onion, chopped

1 small green pepper, chopped
6-8 best quality hot dogs, sliced into rounds*
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons barbeque sauce
2 tablespoons molasses or brown sugar
1 very large can B&M baked beans
Worcestershire sauce

   Saute onions and peppers in small amount of olive oil. Set aside. Sauté hot dog slices until brown. Mix these ingredients with the baked beans, pork fat removed and discarded. Add mustard, barbeque sauce, molasses or brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce to taste. Mix and pour into a greased 9x11 casserole. Bake at 350 until bubbly.

 You should probably serve this with something green:)

*Use your judgment on "best quality hot dogs"

 Here's hoping that back to school for your kids and grandkids means more time to read! Because I happen to have a brand new book out this week-the second in the Key West food critic mystery series, called DEATH IN FOUR COURSES. It's the perfect thing to pick up when the kids aren't home yet and the hot dog casserole is ready to pop in the oven...

Here are some ways to order:

An Independent Bookstore 

Barnes and Noble



And for a signed copy, call RJ Julia Booksellers 203-245-3959

You can follow Lucy on Twitter, or Facebook, or Pinterest

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back to School Biscuits!

Why is it when the calendar read
"summer break" the hooligans were
up before the sun and hard at play,
but now that the calendar reads
"back to school" they refuse to budge
from their beds and I've had to train
our dog Otto to jump on them and lick
their faces until they finally rise?

Thank goodness the puppy is persistent
or they'd never get up! Some days, they do
try to escape the dog and pull the covers
over their heads. Good thing I have
more than one trick up my sleeve.
Nothing says "get out of bed" more
effectively than fresh from the
oven apple cinnamon biscuits.


1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 wheat bran
2 tbspns sugar
1 tbspn baking powder
1/2 tspn cinnamon
1/4 tspn salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup finely chopped apples,
peeled and cored
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tspns orange juice


Combine flour, bran, sugar, baking
powder,cinnamon and salt. Cut in
the butter. Make a well in the center
of dry mixture. Add the
apples and milk and stir until moist.
Turn dough onto a floured surface
and knead 10-12 strokes or until
smooth. Pat or roll dough to 1/2 inch
thickness. Cut dough with floured
biscuit cutter (I used a glass -- just
like Mom taught me). Place biscuits
on an ungreased cookie sheet and
bake in a 400 degree oven
for 10-12 minutes. Remove biscuits
and cool slightly.
Meanwhile, stir together powdered
sugar and orange juice for a simple
glaze. Drizzle over biscuits and serve
warm. Makes 12 (and it will get
those sleepy zombie children out of bed
and ready for school)!!!

Jenn McKinlay ~
Sprinkle With Murder ~
Buttercream Bump Off
also writing as:
Lucy Lawrence ~ Stuck on Murder ~ Cut to the CorpseDon't miss this sweet contest

This book lovers' site is giving away
10 autographed copies of Cleo's new
Coffeehouse Mystery, Roast Mortem.So click on over and enter. It's free!

If you'd like to know more about her
new culinary mystery, click here to read
Roast Mortem's
prologue and first