Cottage Pie with Parsnip Mash

Finally the sun is shinning and we are getting the much needed spring weather that we have so needed. I have been desperate to get cracking on my neglected gardening. This weekend I pretty much stayed covered in dirt and loved every minute of it. I just finished putting in broccoli, curly kale, beets, cauliflower, french beans, peas, 3 types of tomatoes and peppers. So far my tomatillo, courgette (zucchini) and squash seedlings haven’t sprouted like but I am hoping this weather will help encourage them.

Do you do much gardening? I remember for years thinking I had a black thumb because I just seemed to kill everything I tried to grow. But I know understand that I just didn’t know what I was doing. Learning more about growing and taking care of plants has shown me that I can do it. And I love it so much. I would spend every day out in my garden if I could. Feeling the warmth of the sun on my back and my hands in the soil is so therapeutic.

The one thing that I struggle growing are parsnips and carrots. My soil is very rocky and things like carrots and parsnips really do better in less rocky conditions. I made an attempt last year but I have decided to hold off on trying again until I can either build an above ground garden with soil without rocks or we finally sift out some of the rocks. So until then when I want to enjoy amazing dishes like this cottage pie with parsnip mash I am going to have to sick to the parsnips I get from the market.

If you do garden what is the one thing that you struggle to grow in your garden?

Cottage Pie with Parsnip Mash

250g (1/2 lb) lean minced beef
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic, minced
4 carrots (about 450g/1lb), peeled and coarsely grated
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp tomato purée
2 beef stock, cubes dissolved in 425ml/ 3/4 pint boiling water
1 tsp cornflour
350g (3/4 lb) potatoes peeled and cubed
350g (3/4 lb) parsnips, peeled and chopped
2-3 Tbsp skimmed milk
Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food

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Enjoying our Meat-Free Month Challenge with a bowl of Winter Vegetable Soup

For the month of January hubby and I have gone meat-free. I haven’t talked about it yet, I think part of me didn’t want to talk about it because I was worried that if I talked about it too much I might build it up and then not have the follow through that I needed. I already knew that I had two meat posts that were scheduled for this month so I wondered if it wouldn’t make sense to say I am going meat-free this month. But those meat dishes were cooked and eaten before this month so I guess I can let it slide.

Why meat free?

Well there are two parts to that answer. Hubby and I put on some weight last year and we have been wanting to eat healthier. It isn’t that I feel meat is unhealthy although too much of it is. But I have found that giving myself a challenge like this has forced me to get creative with our meals. And having to pay more attention with coming up with this many meals that are meat-free has helped me focus on keeping it healthier.

The second part is to do with Small Wallet, Big Appetite. You see I talk a lot about cutting down your food budget but I feel like I don’t do enough to show examples of how to do that. One thing that helps immensely is to not include meat for every meal. Normally we try to keep our meat dishes to only 3 times a week. Making this change a few years ago made a huge impact to our food budget. But I noticed as I started working on a better recipe archive, my current one is terrible I know, I noticed how few meat free dishes I really had. I feel that in order to encourage you to cut down on your meat dishes that I needed to do a better job of actually giving you recipes in order to do so.

I have to say I am really glad I took on this challenge because, while it has been harder than I thought it would be, it has brought back my creativity. And we are feeling a lot healthier, especially after all the heavy meals we are during the Holidays. Giving up meat won’t be a permanent change for us but it is inspiring us to go meat-free during the week more often. At the end of the month I will talk more about the financial aspect of the challenge.

This soup is perfect for this cold weather, filling, yet not too heavy and very healthy. Perfect for a cold winter day.

Winter Vegetable Soup

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large leek, rinsed and sliced
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large swede (rutabaga), peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
900ml (12fl oz) vegetable stock
4-5 tablespoons milk
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried parsley
Salt, black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to taste

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