Shepherd’s Pie – and how I learned to Bloom

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I’ve spent the last two weeks perfecting this Sheperd’s Pie. I had a few ideas for it and the first one I tried out, only a fourth of it got eaten. I made some tweaks and tried again the very next night. My son said “Shepherd’s Pie again?” and looked a little leary. Two helpings later he was smiling and telling me how good it was. The dish was practically licked clean with not a crumb left. It had been an overcast day, though, so I wasn’t able to get the photos I needed. Two days later, I made it again. My son came in and said “Oh cool! Shepherd’s Pie!”

That is when I knew I had a winner! I’ll get to the recipe in a minute but first I wanted to share something with you. OH. P.S. I know this is more of a cottage pie since it has ground beef and traditional Shepherd’s Pie has lamb but where I live lamb doesn’t make an appearance too often and we always call this Shepherd’s pie. Just call it whatever cranks your tractor and we’ll both be happy farmers.

I’m excited today, not so much because it’s Halloween and everyone is dressing up tonight. I mean, that’ll be fun and all that. I’m not even so much excited because I’m about to bake my favorite apple pie to take to friend’s house later – although I’ll enjoy that, too.

Come to think of it, there are several reasons to be excited on any given day and that is probably the same for you, too. I actually get excited every time I cook supper – because I really do think of how blessed we are to be able to have food to feed our families. I truly do think that way – every time I cook. I get excited when my kids go to school in the morning, not that I like seeing them go but because I know they’re going to a school where people really do love them and they have an opportunity to learn.

I get excited whenever I get into my car. It’s not some kind of fancy overpriced vehicle, it’s a GMC that I saved up for a year to pay the down payment on. Even though I’ve had it over two years now, every time I get behind the wheel I think “This is my car. I love this car!” I get excited every time I drive anywhere because I have a car and I’m able to drive and I just love the freedom of being able to go where I want when I want for the most part. I get excited when I take a shower in the morning: hot water and shampoo are such luxuries and I’ve seldom had to go without either! I get excited when I go to sleep at night because I look forward to my soft bed with lots of warm covers.

Today, I’m even more excited because my kids have a fall festival this weekend and with fall festivals come cake walks and bake sales, so I get to cook for other people. That gets me really excited! Cooking is my thing, it is how I take care of folks. It is how I love on folks : I cook for them. It doesn’t matter if I have no idea who will be getting it in the end, my satisfaction is still the same: I’m cooking something other people are going to enjoy. I love that.

I’m excited each day when I wake up because I’ve found my passion and I am able to live it no matter where I am or what my circumstances are. That’s the great thing about finding what you are good at, what your purpose is, our gifts fulfill us and in turn make others happy  - and they can be used wherever we are, regardless of circumstance.

Some might say “But I’m stuck in an office, I can’t follow my passion because of my job.” Nonsense. Your job is just the fertile ground you’ve been planted in. You have everything you need to bloom. “But I work in such a stern place, no one there is happy” CONGRATULATIONS! Within those circumstances, think of how easy it will be to shine! (Trust me, I’ll circle back to this after the next paragraph)

You’re good at something. Whether it is teaching, encouraging others, being a positive spark amidst dark clouds, cooking for people, listening to others, leading, inspiring, solving problems,  being innovative: You’re good at something – and rather than wait for the ideal opportunity to show folks you are, look for the opportunities right where you are – because I truly believe we’re where we are for a reason and a purpose.

I used to work in this place where everyone was miserable. It was almost as if it was company policy to come to work grumpy and miserable. I felt as if they piped misery in through the air conditioning vents. Goodness forbid you should show up happy and act nice towards any of your coworkers because that got them even grumpier. It was almost too much to bear.  I used to pray and pray that I would get out of that place, that I’d get another job somewhere else.

Then, one day it occured to me that I hadn’t made the best of my situation yet  - and that was an effort that I owed to myself and my workplace.

Figuring out what to do next was the easy part. You know the neat thing about figuring out what others need around you? What they need to hear, or to see, or to be shown? It’s really easy.  Just think about what you need. What you’d like to hear, what you’d like to be shown. Do you want to hear that someone is proud of you? I can guarantee others want to hear that, too. Do you want to be shown kindness? You’re surrounded by others who want to be shown that as well. Do you need to see someone who has joy in their life? So many others are desperately searching for this, just to prove to themselves that it is possible.

So I needed to be shown kindness, I needed a smile, and I needed encouragement in this misery laden workplace. Please note: this was not a bad job at all. In fact, it was a very good job. There was no real reason for everyone to be miserable other than it was just the corporate culture of the company. I know a lot of y’all are probably in places like that, too. Makes no sense, but it is what it is.

So kindness, a smile, and encouragement. Got it. One evening at home (I still lived with my parents at this time) I typed up an entire sheet of inspirational and encouraging quotes. Then I cut them into tiny little slips of paper (I made a sheet like that for you if you’d like one, just click here to print it). I went out and bought a smiley face stamp and a red ink pad. The next day, I was loaded for bear. Grumpy bears, that is :)

I went in happy but kept it low key. Goodness forbid I smile at my supervisor or appear happy to be there, you know. But my inteaction with the customers was different. I stopped imitating those around me and smiled my biggest smile as I helped each one in turn. Before they left, I handed them a little slip of paper and stamped their receipt with a smiley face.

After day one, I certainly felt better. The next day, I repeated this. I went on this way for several weeks and then one day I became disheartened as we’re all prone to do. I woke up and decided it was useless, my coworkers were still grumpy and the workplace was still miserable and my efforts hadn’t even made a dent. I didn’t print off my slips of paper that day.

Early in the workday that very same day, I noticed the line was being held up even though there were people available to wait on customers. It was a humbling experience to realize that people were waiting in line so that they could have me wait on them. I waited on the first man who came to my counter. As I handed him his receipt, he started to walk off but then stopped and came back, placing the receipt down in front of me. ‘Hey, where’s my smiley face? ” He then added  ”..and where’s my verse?”

I was stunned for a moment. I wanted to shout “You noticed that!? You actually noticed that I did that!?” I quickly scrambled in my desk drawers to try to find slips of paper leftover from previous days. I pulled out my stamp and handed him a slip and he smiled and thanked me and left. This same scene repeated itself whenever I’d neglect to add in a slip or a smiley stamp that day so I quickly got back into my habit, but this time with a smile that reached a little deeper into my soul than it had before.

I had managed to bloom where I was planted.

The next few weeks were spent with a sense of fulfillment which I never thought I’d be able to find at that place where misery was breathed in and out as company policy. I resigned myself to truly be happy working there, not because the environment was any better, but because I had defined a purpose for myself in being there.

Months later, I ran into the vice president of another company in the same line of work. I’d interviewed with him a few years earlier but they’d only had a part itme position and I’d needed full time. He greeted me with a smile and told me that he was still hoping I’d change my mind and come to work for him. I was confused as all get out and asked him what he meant. Turns out, he’d been telling my dad that he wanted me to come work for him for months, but my dad had never passed on the message because he thought I was happy where I was.

I called the vice president the next day and he offered me a job making almost 50% more than what I was currently being paid. It was closer to home, a happy environment with really kind coworkers, and my desk was located right in front of a window, where sunshine streamed in on my smiley face stamp and little basket of snips of paper with quotes and verses. The first day I was there my dad came in and gave me a peace lily to sit on my desk. It was the perfect addition.

I’d found peace long before this though. We’re not always planted where we want to be, but that is no excuse for not blooming.

I’ve found my passion, something that makes me feel as if I’m contributing, doing something worthwhile for others, and it has made all the difference in the world in my life. You have a passion too, whether you know it or not. You have at least one gift, most likely many more. So make sure you’re not waiting for the perfect situation or timing to start living and thriving. You’re planted in fertile ground right now. All you have to do is bloom.

You’ll need: cooked ground beef, french onion soup, sour cream, dry Italian seasoning, shredded cheddar cheese, leftover mashed potatoes, frozen mixed veggies, and one pack of brown gravy mix.

This brown gravy mix is important so don’t try to substitute canned gravy or actual gravy, because this mix is going to act as a thickener for us and also lend a lot of great flavor to boot!

When it comes to veggies, get the mixed ones with itty bitty cubed carrots :) Some of them have big sliced carrots and these take ten forevers to cook so we want to avoid those.

Potatoes: Instant potatoes will technically work. I don’t ever use instant potatoes to make actual potatoes. I use them as soup thickeners and crusts in casseroles but that is because my mother always made homemade mashed potatoes so instant potatoes taste off to me. HOWEVER, if you like ‘em, go for it and I’ll stand on the sidelines and cheer you all the way. Your kitchen = your rules, and don’t let anyone else tell you different! Another option for this, if you don’t want to do mashed potatoes, is to get a box of stovetop stuffing mix. Mix that up according to the package directions and just use it as a topping. I’d leave out the cheese but you can certainly include that if you like.

Place veggies in a medium sauce pot and cover with water.

Put over medium high heat. Bring just to a boil.

Remove from heat and drain. Place veggies in a bowl to the side.

In that same pot, because there is no reason to dirty up another one, place french onion soup, gravy mix…

and dry Italian seasoning.

Stir that together well and cook over medium high heat until well blended and heated through, about 5 minutes or so.

Or until you get tired of fooling with it :)

A lot of things in my kitchen are done on that kind of timescale “Until I get tired of fooling with it…” 

Stir in your veggies and beef and mix that up good.

In a large mixing bowl, place leftover mashed potatoes, cheese, and sour cream.

Stir well to combine.

Spread ground beef/veggie mixture into bottom of an 8×8 baking dish. Top with mashed potatoes.

Sprinkle remaining cheese over.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 for thirty minutes.

 

 

Southern Plate Shepherd’s Pie

Southern Plate Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cooked ground beef (Can use more if you like)
  • 1 tablespoon dry Italian seasoning
  • 2-3 cups leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 + 1/2 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 12 ounce bag frozen vegetable mix (small carrots, not big)
  • 10 ounce can french onion soup
  • 1 packet beef gravy mix (.87 ounces)

Instructions

  1. In large saucepot, place frozen vegetables. Cover with water and place over medium high heat until they just come to a boil. Drain veggies and set aside.
  2. In the same sauce pot, combine french onion soup, dry gravy mix, and Italian seasoning. Stir well and place over medium high heat, stirring often, until just heated through. Remove from heat and stir in cooked ground beef and drained vegetables.
  3. In large mixing bowl combine mashed potatoes, sour cream, and 1 cup of cheese. Stir well to combine.
  4. Pour ground beef filling into bottom of an 8x8 baking dish. Top with mashed potatoes and spread to cover. Top with remaining cheddar cheese.
  5. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 30 minutes.
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The happiest people don’t worry too much about whether life is fair or not,

they just get on with it.”

~A. Matthews

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Comments

  1. Karie Dalton says

    My mother shared this recipe with me through facebook because she know I am always looking for new recipes. You had a wonderful story before the recipe and I wanted you to know that it touched my soul. I have in fact decided to follow your actions and I have printed out some quotes and versus and set them on my desk in a basket for people to take as needed. Instead of a fortune cookie they will receive a quote or bible verse or “Portable Smile”. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story for those of us who would like to make a change and don’t know how.

  2. Kim says

    Crying buckets of tears! Boy, did I ever need this today! THANK YOU Christy!! Don’t know how I haven’t read this before? I’ve been following you for awhile now, hmm… God breeze I guess ;) have a very blessed day!!

  3. Kathy M says

    I saw this first thing this morning and I am “fixing” it for supper right now. I had a bunch of leftover mashed potatoes and this seemed like just the right recipe to use them up. Thanks!

  4. Patsy says

    That sounds like a yummy way to make shepherd’s pie. The way I learned is a little different. In a cast iron Dutch oven pan I saute hamburger with sliced onion, add a little salt and pepper. Then add about a cup of flour , mix that in and add enough milk to make a nice hamburger gravy, maybe a cup or two. Sometimes I add drained green beans to the hamburger. I then cover the burger with about 3-4 cups shredded cheddar. Then top with homemade mashed potatoes…spread the potatoes to seal the top. Bake for about 40 minutes on 350′ serve with big spoon and flip the spoon so the meat is on top. We like Ortega salsa suprema served with it too.

  5. Laura says

    This recipe was delicious. I made it tonight for our dinner. My 22 year old son had 2 plates…(he is a very fussy eater!) Christy your recipes are amazing! Thank you for publishing them. By the way I used instant potatoes and they tasted wonderful mixed with the cheese and sour cream. I didn’t have any leftover mashed and I was “too lazy” to make real ones. :)

  6. susan moore says

    Christy,

    You made my day with what you shared above about being planted on fertile ground and just needing to bloom. I am out of work right now and have not been able to find a job for months. I try to be positive however I am mostly discouraged. I needed to see what you posted so I thank you for helping me feel better today.

  7. Holly says

    Thank you, Christy! Your sheppard’s pie, infused with your heart’s message above, was shared w/ my family last night (after i web-searched for recipes w/ ground beef & veggies). Both were inspiring and set the stage for a connecting, positive meal together. Thank you!

  8. Cathy Deskins says

    Hi Christy,

    Saw your recipe for Shepard’s Pie. Mine is pretty similar, but I put my meat & potato mixture in a pie shell. Top with lots of cheese and heat up in the oven long enough to heat through and melt all the cheese on top. Then I just slice it like a piece of pie.

    If you haven’t tried it without pastry, you’re missing out !

  9. Jan H says

    I just really like your site. Have a question on the shepards pie, it calls for french onion soup, I am allergic to onions ( and a lot of other things so can’t do mushroom either). Can you recommend a good substitute.

  10. Kasey says

    Christy,
    Do you think this would still be good substituting tomato sauce for the French onion soup? I’ve had Shepherd’s pie before that had a tomatoe-y sauce and I really liked it. I’ll probably try it that way anyway, but just wondered if you thought it would work. :)
    Thanks!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Ok, so we all know that there are a million recipes for making Shepherd’s Pie.  I used to make a basic one, hamburger meat, corn, potatoes, cheese, and I don’t remember ever making it with a sauce.  What is wrong with me?  It was still good, maybe there was a sauce and I just don’t remember.  Either way Shepherd’s Pie was a once a month, fall, winter, spring and even during the heat of the summer meal, because the hubby requested it.  It was simply one of his favorite meals.  However after eating it, even just once a month I was getting burnt out on it, him nope not even close.  Well since I make the dinners, I took it off the menu for a while, and by a while I mean for over 6 months.  He would suggest it but I would just blow it off.  Well without him knowing it, I put it back on the menu after finding this recipe. [...]

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