Monday, April 16, 2018

SRC Reunion 2018- Vegetarian Shepard's Pie

Welcome to the 2018 reunion of the Secret Recipe Club. This is a recipe sharing group where each blogger was assigned a different blog each month, made a recipe, and posted on the reveal day. We have posted in over a year and decided it was time to have a reunion!

I received the blog, The Aspiring Home Cook. The mind behind the blog belongs to Trisha. She is a lover of travel and a collector of recipes. She currently lives in Sydney, Australia but is originally from India. Her blog is full of different  traditional Goan food recipes that she picked up from my mother. It was so difficult to decide what to make! Her recipe for Thai Chicken PattiesGoan Red (Beef) Kheema, and Goan Meatball Curry sounded amazing!  Ultimately, I decided to make Vegetarian Shepard's Pie. I love lentils, and loved the idea of a veggie packed dinner.  

My family loved this recipe and the only small change I made was to add a little red wine because you know my love of red wine and lentils! We are trying to add a meatless meal to our weekly dinners, and I was thrilled to get great feedback from not only my husband, but my 5 and 2 year old. I can't wait to make this recipe again! Thank you Trisha!


1 cup cooked lentils
1 Tbl olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
Handful of button mushrooms, sliced
Salt, to taste
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 Tbl tomato paste
1 Tbl flour
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
3/4 cup frozen peas
6-8 potatoes, depending on size (You need enough to make about 4 cups worth of mashed potatoes)
3 Tbl butter
2/3 cup milk


Heat olive oil in a large oven safe skillet over medium heat (I used my cast iron). Add the onions, carrots, and celery and saute till the veggie start to soften. Add garlic and cook an additional minute.

Next, add the mushrooms, salt, thyme, smoked paprika and pepper to the pan. Stir well and continue cooking till the mushrooms have softened.

Add the tomato paste and the flour to the skillet. Stir and continue to cook the veggies till they're coated and the mixture starts to coats the bottom of the pan. This should take about 2 minutes.

Add the vegetable broth and wine to the pan. Stir to dissolve the flour and tomato paste that has coated the bottom of the pan.

Bring the broth to a simmer. It will have started thickening. Add in the cooked lentils and peas and let them all heat through. Check to see if additional seasoning is needed. 

Preheat your oven to 350ºF.

Wash and peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes to cut down on cooking time.

Boil them in salted water till tender. Drain and mash, with a mixer or by hand, the potatoes with the butter and milk till no lumps are left. Taste and add more salt, if needed.

Smooth lentil mixture in the oven safe skillet and top with the mashed potatoes. It is easier to handle the mashed potato when it is still warm. You may not get the potatoes smoothed all across the potatoes, but use a spoon to wok towards the edges. 

Bake for around 15 minutes till everything has heated through. 

Sprinkle some more freshly cracked black pepper over the top and serve immediately.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Instapot Lentil and Sausage Soup

As you know I received an Instapot for Christmas and am enjoying trying out new recipes.  Prior to getting one I had not used a pressure cooker before, and have found an awesome appliance that makes weeknight cooking sooooooo much easier. We also got dumped on by snow earlier this week, and if you are like us soup is a perfect meal on a chilly day (it feels like January...what gives?????).

I love lentil soup and fund this recipe: Instapot Lentil and Sausage Soup  and decided to give it a try. I made a few adjustments to the recipe to fit my tastes. I added a cup of dry red wine to the soup because red wine in lentil soup is the bread to my butter. I think the flavors without the wine are not as rich and delicious. I also omitted the mushrooms because Ron is not a fan. I also added a little cheese on top because the Parmesan gives a nice layered nutty flavor with the wine. 

My family loved this recipe and I was pleasantly surprised to see the boys gobble it up. The flavors were perfect, and reminded me of a slow cooked stop top version. I already have this on our meal plan for next week. The recipe is easy to adapt to vegetarian by omitting the sausage and using vegetable broth. 

We are working diligently to get out house ready to put on the market! It is a disaster right now, but we are making a lot of progress. The market in our area is really hot right now, and homes are getting sold so quick! We looked at one that sold in the same day! It makes me nervous that we will have so little control, but we are ready and are working to get prepared to make sure that we end up with a home we are happy with. We are sad to leave our house, but we need more space for the boys and an extra bathroom! Anyone have tips on moving with kids I am all ears! 


1 Tbl olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 large stalk of celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 cups beef broth
1 cup dry red wine 
3/4 lb Italian sausage, ground 
1 cup lentils, dry green or brown
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 (15 oz can) of diced tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup spinach, fresh chopped
Grated Parmesan for topping (optional)


Press saute button on the Instant Pot and add the oil to the pot. Next, add the onion, carrots and celery and saute for 5 minutes.

Add the sausage and brown for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir.

Put on the lid and lock . Adjust setting to manual pressure cook for 25 minutes.

After cook time is complete, let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes and finish with quick release. Ladle into bowls, top with cheese, and serve.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Oven Baked Curry Beef Stew

Well baby boy Rowan turned two today. How in the world is growing up so fast? I honestly feel like he was just born. It is mind-blowing how fast time goes with kids. Today we started Rowan's birthday with scramble eggs and a little duplo play. Rowan got a set from the Easter Bunny and his brother set it up before he got up so they would have a chance to play. Late morning we met friends for swimming and burgers.  I had class in the afternoon and then headed  to the store to get my little guy a batch of cupcakes and we headed to Happy Joe's for a pizza party for Rowan. Rowan loves Duplos and received a fun train and a batman set! He also received an Elmo hoodie, a fingerling play set (he loves them), play food, and a set of two baby dolls. Rowan loves babies and opened them immediately and gave them kisses. He also go a baby carrier (like an Ergo) designed for dolls so he can carry them around my sweet boy.

On to the food. This recipe isn't so pretty, but it tastes amazing. We really like beef stew and this recipe provided a yummy twist on one of out favorite meals.  The recipe calls for fire roasted tomatoes, ginger, and curry powder. The combo is delicious and I loved the unique twist on a traditional recipe. We opted to serve ours over rice, but potatoes or all on its own would be just as delicious. Ron and I felt the meal was even better as leftovers as the spices really got the soak into the meat and veggies. I am excited to make this one again! I am sure that you can make this is a slow cooker, but the oven baked version was delicious and very easy! 

So we are getting 5-8 inches of snow tonight..... I am so over this..... this better be ground work for a lush warm summer.....not that I am any threats to make if it is not.... but it better be. 


2 1/2 lb stew meat
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl curry powder
2 Tbl brown sugar
2 Tbl chopped garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
1 quart beef broth
1 can (14.5 ounces) fire roasted diced tomatoes (plain works too)
2 cups frozen pearl onions 
3 large peeled carrots cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 ribs celery cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbl fish sauce
2 pounds golden potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces


Preheat the oven to 325°F. 

In a medium mixing bowl, use a fork to combine the flour, salt, and pepper. Add beef and toss to coat evenly.

Place your  dutch oven (or other heavy bottomed oven safe dish) over medium high heat and add in about a tablespoon of the oil. Add the beef and brown on the first side, about 3 minutes, then flip the pieces to brown to other side. You may need to do this in two batches depending on the size of your dutch oven. 

 Add the curry powder, brown sugar, garlic, and ginger over the beef and stir to coat. Cook, stirring a couple of times, until the curry is fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes with their juices and the beef broth and raise the heat to high. Bring the contents of the pot to a boil, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan. 

Stir in the onions, carrots, celery, soy sauce, and, fish sauce. Cover the pot, and place on a rimmed baking sheet in the oven. Bake, covered, for 2 hours, stirring at the one hour mark. Stir in the potatoes, re-cover the pot, and bake for another 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until the beef and vegetables are all tender. 

Serve alone or over rice.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Italian Wedding Soup Skillet

Ron and I love Italian Wedding Soup and when I came across this recipe from Taste of Home I knew we had to give it a try. I made a few changes to the recipe as listed below. The original recipe called for chicken and meatballs, but I omitted the chicken. I also added a little more broth, and reduced the cheese and adjusted how it is added to the dish. 

Ron, the boys, and I loved how this recipe turned out. The flavors were very similar to the soup and I loved to ease of the recipe on a weeknight! Warning to all- this recipe makes a lot of food, and can easily serve several adults. However, lucky for us the leftovers are very tasty. 

This morning I am going to go sweat at a Pure Empower class at Pure Barre and continue our clutter sorting. We are getting ready to list out house (sad), and are de-cluttering..... not fun. We have looked at a few houses and they are flying off the market so fast! We originally thought we wanted the house to be move-in ready, but we have adjusted a bit and decided that we want to do some renovations and it has allowed us have more homes to choose from.  Tomorrow night we are headed to a friends house (and fellow mom to a group of boys) for tacos, playtime, and a few drinks. 

I am tried and am trying a few new thing this week. One of my good buddies let me observe macron making this week, and it was so fun. If you are a long time reader you know my love of macrons, and I was excited to watch the process. She makes it look so easy.... I got to fill them and of course taste test. Check out my Instragram @cheesecurdinparadise to see the delicious photos. I also ordered shampoo and conditioner from Function of Beauty. I have heard a few good reviews on the personalized hair products, and decided to give them a try. I will report back on my personalized picks and how I liked the products after I get a chance to use them. One of the steps is to name the product and it displays on the bottle as "function of ________". Mine says function of khaleesi.- just saying in the event it makes me channel the mother of dragons.  Finally, my baby turns 2 on did that happen....these kids need to understand their mother can't deal with how fast they are growing up....

Have a happy Easter friends! 


2 cups uncooked ditalini pasta
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 package (24 ounces) frozen fully cooked Italian meatballs, thawed
1 can (10-3/4 ounces) cream of chicken soup
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 1/3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2/3 cup shredded Asiago cheese, divided


Cook pasta according to package directions. 

In a large skillet, saute the onion, carrot and celery in oil until tender. Add the meatballs, soup, spinach, broth, thyme, salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Add pasta and 1/3 cup cheese, and stir. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Pan Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Creamy Roasted Garlic Sauce

Well March is certainly coming in to our area inconsistently- much like my posting. Last week we were running into the store without jackets, but today we had a snowstorm and schools closed! 

So what is new? I have been busy with school and have been working on lesson planning and starting to record my lessons for evaluation. I am honestly having a blast, and am enjoying the challenge of lesson planning. Right now I am working on a midterm to review different perspectives of abolition during the Civil War. I am focusing on original document comparisons between Union and Confederate soldiers, and am hoping it will be a success. 

At the end of February we were in the Wisconsin Dells. It is so fun going with the boys as they get older. Kellen is enjoying more independence in the water, and even tried a water slide (he hated it). Rowan loved floating around the wave pool in between wave cycles. We will go back again later in the summer, and I am already excited! I was happy the trip worked out because Rowan had battled the flu the week prior, and thankfully the rest of us did not get it.

This week I am finishing up prjects and looking forward to spring break next week. Gone are the days of boozy spring break trips with friends, but I am planning to take the boy for a short overnight at our cottage in Door County for a little R&R. 

Kellen and Rowan are enjoying school and doing well. Kellen gets a little distracted, as most 5 year olds do, and needs reminders to stay on task, but he really likes his friends and is enjoying learning new things.  Rowan is going to be 2 next month and can't believe my baby is growing so fast. I'm not ready for him to be a toddler, but I am excited that he is showing some interest in the potty. It took me about a year to fully train Kellen, and I am hoping Rowan is a little quicker- I hate potty training. 

So on to the food. My boys love pork tenderloin and my favorite method to cook it is a sear on all sides followed by a roast in the oven. Normally, I make some type of pan sauce with what dripping are left in the skillet. I like to use a little wine, broth, or maybe a little cream. This recipe combines one of our favorite things- roasted garlic. Roasting garlic is so easy and makes the flavors nutty and rich. Sometimes, I like to roast a lot and I freeze the cloves to use for a different recipe. I find that they freeze well and to do break down too much when thawing.  My boys loved this recipe and they really enjoyed dipping the pork into the sauce- don't be fooled because there was a pile of ketchup next to the garlic sauce!  I love using this method to cook pork because it cooked quickly and does not make a giant mess of the kitchen- important on a weeknight!

Have a great rest of the week everyone! 


1 Tbl olive oil
2 pork tenderloin (about 2 1/2 - 3 lbs)
Salt and Pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1/3 cup chopped roasted garlic
2/3 cup heavy cream


roasted garlic:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off  top of garlic heads. Drizzle olive oil into a small baking dish. Place garlic in baking dish. Drizzle garlic with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover baking dish with foil and roast until tender, 45 minutes-1 hour. Cool slightly and squeeze out garlic cloves. 

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in an oven safe skillet. Brown pork tenderloin on all sides.

Place the skillet in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the pork registers 155-160 degrees. Remove from the oven, tent with foil to keep warm, and rest for while you prepare the sauce (about 10 min).

Over medium-low heat add wine to skillet to deglaze. Scrape the cooked bits from the skillet and whisk the cream and chopped garlic. Allow the sauce to slightly simmer and thicken for about 5 minutes (the sauce should be thick enough to heavily coat a spoon). 

Slice pork tenderloin and spoon sauce over the top. Serve immediately. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tuscan White Bean Soup

It is soooooo cold in Wisconsin. We had this bump of "warm" weather, and now back to cold is not so fun. I actually like winter, but not when it is below zero....mainly because my kids are trapped in the house and start to go nuts. We have been avoid most child heavy public places because the flu is going strong so we have been feeling a little cooped up. I am not a person that is skiddish about germs, but I am really trying my best to keep the boys healthy. I saw a GIF yesterday that was a person snapping their head around and glaring at the sound of a person fingers are still crossed for a healthy family. I feel after the double hand foot and mouth plague in fall that we might get a pass. I am now knocking on anything wood in my house.... 

Today, I am sharing a delicious soup recipe from Carrie's Experimental Kitchen that will warm you, or comfort you if you are under the weather. I added bacon to our soup, but that is not in the original recipe. The recipe uses chicken broth and is not vegetarian, but you could easily sub in vegetable broth to make it a hearty vegetarian meal.  We also topped ours with a little additional cheese because...well.... we love cheese.  This recipe was so good 

Tomorrow is my birthday! I don't really have much planned aside from dinner with my family at one of my favorite restaurants. I am keeping my fingers crossed for some birthday cake as well! 


3 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
8 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed
5 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
1 cup dry ditalini pasta
1/4 cup Romano cheese, grated (plus extra for topping)
Salt and Pepper, to taste


Saute celery, onion, and garlic is a medium soup pot. When vegetables begin to soften, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add beans and pasta and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes and add the cheese and bacon. Continue cooking another 5 minutes until pasta is tender. Season with salt and pepper. 

Ladle into bowls and top with additional cheese if desired. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Instant Pot BBQ Ribs

So, I got an Instant Pot for Christmas and have been trying out all sorts of recipes.  In the event that you live in a cave and this is your first time to recipe-land on the internet, the Instant Pot has blown up all over the place. I was skeptical at first, but it turns out that it is getting rave reviews because it is pretty great! Ron and I loved how fast it cooked, and wanted to do an ultimate test and make ribs. Ribs are an all day thing normally, but with the Instant Pot they are done in under and hour- AN HOUR PEOPLE.  I opted to try out this recipe from I Wash You Dry because it received great reviews and seemed simple for a pressure cooker novice like myself.  I stayed pretty true to the recipe, but I halved the sugar in the rub because I like don't like my ribs too sweet and do not prefer a heavy coating. I also omitted the cayenne because the boys are hit and miss when there is a little kick in their bbq. The cooking time for our rack of ribs was perfect and they fell off the bone. I might use a little more liquid smoke next time because the one thing they miss by omitting the long smoke is the deep flavor in the meat. We made one rack but, per the author, you can double the meat and spices, but keep the liquid amount the same. Overall, we really liked this recipe and will certainly be making it again! 

This was the first time Kellen and Rowan tried ribs and it was a success. Rowan wasn't crazy about having sticky fingers, but Kellen loved it and asked me to make it again the following night. Kellen seems to be coming out of the a picky stage and is getting very brave about trying new foods. Rowan previously would try anything and is now getting a little skeptical. Rowan's benefit is that his mother has seen the cycle once before, and can rest assured that it is a phase. I enjoy the perks of having two crazy boys when I can get them! 

This weekend we are looking forward to Kellen's basketball and my sister-in-law's graduation! We are also starting house hunting and are going to check out a potential property in the next few days. The idea of moving seems a little overwhelming, but we are in desperate need of space for the four of us (well 7 if you include the cats).  


1 rack of baby back pork ribs
1/8 cup brown sugar
2 Tbl chili powder
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp each: salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 - 1/2 tsp liquid smoke, optional
2/3 cup bbq sauce


Remove the lining from the bottom side of the ribs by running a knife under the skin and then using a paper towel to grip and remove completely (you could ask the meat counter to do this for you). 

Combine the brown sugar, chili powder, parsley, salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small dish and rub all over the ribs.

Place the rack in your pressure cooker and curl the ribs inside the pot, standing on their side, wrapping around the inside of the pot. Pour in the water, apple cider and liquid smoke (if using), being careful to not to pour over ribs and wash off the seasonings.

Secure the lid, making sure the vent is closed. Press the Meat button and set to 25 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes, then quick release the rest of the way.

Carefully remove the ribs from the pressure cooker and set on a foil lined baking sheet. Brush down with  BBQ sauce, and broil in the oven for 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn't burn.