Books and Cooks

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


Lately, my work schedule has been crazy and it has been hard to fit chores, working out, and friends into my after work hours. And when I can fit it in, I just don’t want to. I usually want to veg out on the couch with some mindless tv or a quick mystery novel. Since I’m pretty much useless after work these days, I’ve gotten into the habit of making a nice big meal on Sundays, so that the hubby and I have leftovers for lunch or even dinner during the week. In summer months, we usually grill, but it’s harder during the winter. We end up with a lot of pasta, meatloaf, and other warm cozy meals. Shepherd’s pie recently earned itself a spot in our winter dinner rotation.

I came up with this recipe after some trial and error. I’ve never found a recipe out there that I loved completely. Some recipes called for ingredients that I didn’t normally have on hand. Others just didn’t appeal to me for one reason or another. The one I came up with uses ingredients I almost always have on hand. The filling is just a little bit thick, with most of the flavor coming from the Worcestershire sauce.

I like this recipe because it’s pretty forgiving. I use ground beef or turkey, depending on what I have on hand or what’s on sale. I might use more veggies to bulk up the mixture or simply change up the veggies I include (such as the extra carrots and no peas pictured above) depending on what’s in the fridge or in season. Even the mashed potatoes – sometimes I use leftovers, sometimes I make them from scratch with a little cheddar cheese thrown in for some extra flavor. Have fun with it – it’s hard to mess up!

Shepherd’s Pie

By Books n’ Cooks

Yields 8 servings


  • 2 Tbs. canola oil
  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef or turkey
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled & diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 3/4 c. water or beef broth (1 c. for a slightly more liquidy consistency)
  • 3 Tbs. flour
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 4 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • Black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/3 c. sour cream
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. cheddar (optional, for cheddar mashed potatoes)


  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. In a large skillet or oven-proof skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add ground beef/turkey, carrots, onion, and garlic. Cook, breaking up chunks of ground beef with a wooden spoon, until meat is browned and vegetables are softened.
  3. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes until soft. Drain and put back into pot with sour cream and milk. Mash to desired consistency, adding more sour cream/milk if desired. Season with salt, pepper, and cheddar cheese. Set aside.
  4. When the beef is browned and the veggies are soft, add water, flour, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce. Season with a little salt and pepper. Stir in peas. Allow to simmer another 5 minutes, until slightly thickened.
  5. Pour into a 9×13 oven-safe dish and top with mashed potatoes. Bake for 15 minutes until heated throughout.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Earlier this year, a friend and her husband hosted our regular book club meeting. They grilled a fabulous skirt steak with a Brazilian “vinaigrette,” what I would consider to be a chimichurri. After jokes about our “hunk of Brazilian meat” (referring both to our dinner as well as our chef) we dove in, leaving little leftover.

While I’ve yet to acquire the recipe for the Brazilian vinaigrette, this chimichurri will suffice for a substitute. The hubby and I loved the flavor it added to the grilled steak and enjoyed the leftovers with our beer bread. The best part? It took only a few minutes to throw together, making this a wonderful quick and easy weeknight meal.

Grilled Steak

By Books n’ Cooks


  • 1-1 1/2 lb. flank steak or skirt steak
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Generously sprinkle both sides of steak with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before grilling.

Preheat gas or charcoal grill.

Place steak on hot grill. Cook for about 5 minutes before flipping and cooking for another 3-5 minutes, until steak reaches 135°F for medium-rare, or 140-145°F for medium.

Let rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving with below chimichurri.

Cilantro Chimichurri

Adapted from

Makes 1/2 cup

Pulse the below ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

  • 3/4 c. finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper

May also add 1 jalapeño, with or without seeds, minced if you’d like a little spice.

Serve at room temperature.

According to Food and Wine, chimichurri may be made up to 4 hours ahead of time and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Barefoot Contessa is one of my go-to recipe sources when I’m looking for something new to try. Like Fine Cooking, Ina has never failed me. That’s why I  was so very excited to receive five of Ina’s cookbooks for Christmas (I now own her whole collection).

This recipe was from Ina’s newest cookbook, How Easy Is That? This weeknight bolognese was certainly quick and easy, and a nice change from my hubby’s favorite meat sauce. The bolognese sauce was a little sweeter than we’re used to (perhaps because I used shiraz I had on hand, instead of a drier red wine) but still really good.

Weeknight Bolognese

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa’s How Easy Is That? (p. 154)

Serves 5


  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 lb. lean ground sirloin
  • 4 tsp. minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1 Tbs. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 c. dry red wine, divided
  • 1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1/4 chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 3/4 lb. dried whole grain pasta, such as small shells

Make the Bolognese Sauce: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add ground sirloin, breaking up with a spoon and cooking until browned. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes – stirring and heating for just a minute. Add 1 c. of the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 Tbs. kosher salt, and 1 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Stir and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Start the Pasta: At this point,  start boiling water with a bit of kosher salt for pasta. Cook per directions on the box.

Finish the Bolognese: At the same time, add remaining 1/4 c. red wine, nutmeg, and basil to sauce. Stir and continue simmering until pasta is finished, about 10 minutes. (Sauce should thicken slightly).

Drain pasta. Toss pasta, bolognese, and Parmesan together.

Serve hot, with extra Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Nutrition: I eliminated the 1/4 c. heavy cream called for in the recipe (if you want to use it, add it with the nutmeg and basil) and whole grain pasta to make this dish a bit healthier. The above recipe, with 5 servings, was 560 calories per serving.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

When I told my hubby meatloaf was on the menu for the week, he wouldn’t leave me along until I made it. I’ve made meatloaf for him a couple times now – with my mom’s “recipe” (the list of ingredients with “to taste” after each one – love you Mom!), and most recently, I tried Ellie Kreiger’s turkey meatloaf.

Both my hubby and I agreed that while the meatloaves were great, we wished there had been a little more glaze or sauce on top. In the future, I’ll probably play with the glazed topping – either more ketchup as Ina recommends for a sweeter glaze, a can of tomato sauce like Ellie Kreiger recommends, or I’ll go back to my mom’s style: a can of tomato soup with a bit of water over top and around the meatloaves, for a more savory sauce.

So, without further ado, I give you the Barefoot Contessa’s Individual Meatloaves.

PS. I clearly need to work on my photos here. Any suggestions for photo-taking or styling would be much appreciated!

Barefoot Contessa’s Individual Meatloaves

Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa

Serves 3 (half the original recipe)


  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp.  kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/6 c. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 1/4 lb. ground beef (90% lean)
  • 1/4 c. plain bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 c. ketchup

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a small pan over medium heat, heat olive oil. When hot, add onions, thyme, salt and pepper, cooking until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Cool slightly.

Combine all ingredients, including the onion mixture, in a medium mixing bowl, mixing lightly with a fork. Don’t mash otherwise the meatloaf will be dense.

Divide mixture into 3 portions, shaping each into a small loaf on a baking sheet.

Spread 1 Tbs. ketchup on the top of each meatloaf. Feel free to add a little more if you’d prefer more glaze.

Make 40-45 minutes, until internal temperature is 155-160F.

Serve hot with mashed potatoes or your favorite side.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

This beef tenderloin was perfectly cooked and incredibly easy to make. We served the beef with a Creamy Mustard Sauce from the original recipe, as well as a homemade Horseradish Sauce. I was not all that impressed with the mustard sauce but loved the kick that the horseradish sauce gave to the meat.

Because of a picky sibling, only half the tenderloin was seasoned like this (the other half was salt, pepper, and garlic) so if I were to make it again, I’d probably double the rosemary-fennel mixture for some extra flavor.

Fennel & Rosemary Crusted Beef

Adapted from: Fine Cooking No. 89


  • 2 1/3 – 3 lb. beef tenderloin roast, with excess fat removed
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground fennel seed
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Make sure a rack is positioned in the center of the oven. Place a rack in a shallow roasting pan.

Pat beef dry and set aside.

Combine all ingredients (except beef tenderloin) in a small bowl, stirring into a paste.

Rub paste all over the meat and place on rack.

Roast 35-50 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the center reads 120°F for rare, 125° to 130°F for medium rare, or 135°F for medium.

When ready, transfer roast to a cutting board and let rest, uncovered, or 10-15 minutes before carving into 1/3 – 1/2 inch thick slices.

Serve with a Horseradish Sauce or a Creamy Mustard Sauce.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Albondigas (aka Spanish-Style Meatballs)

Ingredients for the Sauce (An Esmeralda Original; inspired by this Food Network Recipe and this recipe from Spain Recipes)

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2-28 oz. cans whole tomato, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. red wine
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
  • salt & pepper

Ingredients for the Meatballs (Adapted from this recipe from Spain Recipes)

  • 1 lb. ground beef or meatloaf mix
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. plain breadcrumbs
  • 3 cloves garlic

I had used up all my manchego cheese before making this, but would like to add the recommended 2 Tbs. of grated manchego next time.

Make the Sauce

Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions & garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

While the onions are cooking, open the cans of tomatoes and roughly chop the tomatoes (save the juice!). This step is in here because I got ahead of myself and forgot to chop the tomatoes. 🙂

    Add tomatoes, and remaining ingredients to the onions & garlic. Lower heat and let simmer.

    Make the Meatballs

    In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients with your hands.

    Roll mixture into small balls and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet.

    Bake for 10 minutes, until browned (I forgot mine in the oven, hence why they’re a bit crispy looking!)

    Meatballs 1-1

    Add meatballs to sauce. If you’re serving them within the hour, let everything simmer together. Otherwise, turn off heat and reheat on low at least 20 minute before serving.

    Meatballs 2-1

    Print Friendly, PDF & Email

    This was a surprise for the hubby, a romantic dinner for two after a long week. Even used the good China!

    Bracoile 3-1

    A bracoile is an Italian dish — essentially flank steak rolled up and pan-seared with a tomato sauce. Bracoile can be served over pasta, with a good piece of bread as a sandwich, or even as an appetizer if sliced thin. My bracoile was served as a main dish.

    Before you start this, make sure that your dutch oven is ready to go (mine was rusty and I had to re-season it before using… my fault, I’m a slacker and had been procrastinating on that).  Secondly, be aware, that you probably want at least 2 hours to make this — you have the prep work (minimal), searing the meat, browning the onions, and then cooking for 1 1/2 hours.

    Braised Beef Bracoile Stuffed with Basil and Fresh Mozzarella

    Source: Fine Cooking, Big Buy 2009 (p. 34)


    • 1 2-lb flank steak
    • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 3/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
    • 1 c. shredded low-moisture mozzarella cheese
    • 1/3 c. bread crumbs (I used Italian breadcrumbs)
    • 12 large basil leaves, torn into pieces (I used pre-chopped basil I had frozen in water from my summer garden)
    • 1/4 c. olive oil
    • 1/2 c. red wine
    • 1 – 28 oz. can (3 cups) whole tomatoes and their juices, pureed (see note below)
    • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    • 8 oz. white mushrooms, quartered
    • 1 onion, sliced in slivers
    • Orzo (optional, see note below and step #6)

    Note: I forgot to puree the whole tomatoes, so I just broke them up in the pan after cooking for a little while minutes. Next time, I’ll probably just use crushed tomatoes.


    1. On a large cutting board, slice the steak lengthwise along one side. It’ll look like you are opening up a book. Season all sides with salt and pepper.

    2. In a small bowl, combine Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, bread crumbs, and basil. You may want to use a mini-food processor to combine mixture. Place stuffing inside beef and roll it up, lengthwise, jelly-roll style, with the mixture inside. Secure roll with cooking twine or toothpicks.

    3. Heat half the oil in the dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add rolled steak, searing on all sides. Transfer to plate.

    4. Add rest of the olive oil and onions. Season with a bit of salt. Cook until slightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and red wine, cooking until wine reduces (about 2 minutes). Add pureed tomatoes and red pepper flakes; bring to a boil.

    5. Nestle steak in the pan, among the sauce. Add mushrooms. Reduce heat and cover, cooking until meat is tender and can be easily cut with a pearing knife, about and hour and a half. Stir and rotate meat occasionally.

    Bracoile 1-1

    6. Since I forgot to puree the tomatoes, my sauce was much more liquidy than the thick tomato sauce that was supposed to go with this recipe. In the last few minutes of cooking, I added orzo pasta to the sauce as my accompaniment.

    7. Let rest 10-15 minutes before serving.

    Bracoile 2-1

    Print Friendly, PDF & Email

    The original Barefoot Contessa recipe was meant to serve 8, with a 4-5 lb. beef chuck roast. Since I made this for just me and the hubby, I tried to half the recipe, which is reflected below.

    The meat was wonderfully tender, the fall-apart kind that I never seem to be able to get. The sauce was slightly sweet and a wonderful compliment to the beef. I think in the future, I’ll probably puree the sauce part way through cooking, so that I can add some potatoes to the pot.

    Barefoot Contessa’s Company Pot Roast

    Source: Ina Garten, published in Back to Basics and on the Food Network

    Prep Time: 30 minutes    Cook Time: 2 1/2 hours

    Serves 4


    • 1 (2-3-lb) prime boneless beef chuck roast, tied
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • All-purpose flour, for dredging and 2 Tbs. for finishing the sauce
    • 4 Tbs. olive oil
    • 1 c. chopped carrots (2 carrots)
    • 1 c.  chopped yellow onions (1 onion)
    • 1 c. chopped celery (2 stalks)
    • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
    • 1 c. good red wine, such as Burgundy
    • 1 Tbs. brandy
    • 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes in puree
    • 1/2 c. chicken stock, preferably homemade
    • 1/2 chicken bouillon cube (cut it with a very sharp knife!)
    • 2 branches fresh thyme
    • 1 branches fresh rosemary
    • 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature


    Preheat the oven to 325 F and heat a Dutch oven on the stove, medium heat.

    Dry beef and season generously with salt and pepper. Dredge the roast in flour, so that the entire roast is completely covered.

    When Dutch oven is hot, add 2 Tbs. olive oil and heat. Add roast and sear on all sides (including the ends) until browned, 4-5 minutes per side. Transfer to a large plate.

    Add 2 more Tbs. of olive oil to the Dutch oven and heat. Add the carrots, onions, celery, garlic, 1/2 Tbs. salt, and 1 tsp. of pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender, 10-15 minutes. Add the wine and brandy and bring to a boil. Then add tomatoes, chicken stock, bouillon cube, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper.

    Tie the thyme and rosemary branches together with kitchen twine. Add to the pot.

    Put beef back into pot and bring to a boil.

    Move Dutch oven, covered, to the oven. Cook for 1 hour.

    Lower temperature to 250 and cook for another hour and a half, until meat is tender and a meat thermometer reads 160.

    Transfer roast to a cutting board.

    Remove herb bundle. Careful not to scrap the bottom of the Dutch oven, use an immersion blender to puree the sauce until smooth.

    On the stove, heat sauce on medium-low heat. Add the butter and 2 Tbs. flour, stirring until the sauce has thickened, about 2 minutes.

    Cut string from roast; slice roast and serve with sauce on top.

    Print Friendly, PDF & Email


    Books n’ Cooks is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. Some links on Books n’ Cooks may be affiliate links – links books and kitchen supplies that I love and would recommend. If you click on the link and purchase, I make a very small percentage (at no additional cost to you!) which goes towards maintenance of this blog. Thanks for your support!

    Sunday Supper Movement