IN THE KITCHEN: Flavors of fall

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PHOTOS: Matthew Gaulin

As the weather grows cooler, turn your attention to these appetizing, easy-to-make autumnal delights.

When cooler weather starts to phase out the sweltering days of Florida summer, it’s time to rejoice.

Fall is finally here, and while autumn in Florida may not be as colorful or spectacular as our Northern counterparts’, it beats preparing for their subsequent winter snowstorms.

We don’t need to bundle up as tightly as the rest of the nation, but fall nonetheless warrants curling up with a good book and a bowl of hearty vegetable soup or a fresh-out-of-the-oven casserole.

In Cheryl Bloom’s kitchen, it’s the season for shepherd’s pie, a fall favorite in many households across the country.

One of the great things about this common cold-weather casserole is its diversity.

“You can make it your own,” she says. “It’s all about making a shepherd’s pie that fits you and your family’s tastes.”

Cheryl uses soy sauce in her recipe to give it a unique flavor. People can also substitute everyday seasonings such as onion powder, celery salt and garlic powder for the real thing.

“You can chop up onions and celery and add some minced garlic to really make your dish hearty,” she says.

However, if mothers and fathers alike have to feed finicky young eaters, using chopped onions and celery may be out of the question.

“I have a few people in my family that don’t like chopped onions or celery in their food,” Cheryl says, “so instead of making two dishes I just changed out the onions for onion powder. No one noticed and it still had a very good flavor.”

Vegetables aren’t the only ingredients that can be experimented with when making shepherd’s pie.

“Instead of ground beef, you can use leftover chicken or turkey,” she says. “I think it could be amazing with turkey, vegetables and potatoes and then topped with stuffing. What a neat idea for after-Thanksgiving leftovers.”

As a complement to her shepherd’s pie, Cheryl likes to depart from making corn muffins, rolls or biscuits for her bread. Instead, she opts for bran muffins, another seasonal staple.

Though many may believe bran muffins are bland and dry, Cheryl’s 30-year-old recipe puts emphasis on flavor over healthy, especially if you go the extra mile to add diced apples, carrots or even raisins.


ITK_1114-003SHEPHERD’S PIE

Recipe courtesy of Cheryl Bloom

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped celery
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon garlic power
½ tablespoon soy sauce
1 can (approx. 1–2 cups) beef broth or consommé
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with ½ cup cold water
¼ cup corn (frozen)
¼ cup peas (frozen)
¼ cup carrots (frozen)
3 large potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
2–4 tablespoons milk for desired consistency

Directions:
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
• Sauté onion and celery in your choice of oil. Set aside.
• Brown and drain ground beef. Then add sautéed onion and celery, salt, pepper, garlic powder, soy sauce and beef broth or consommé to the pan.
• When the beef mixture is brought to a gentle boil, slowly add small amounts of the cornstarch mixture while stirring continuously.
• Continue to add the cornstarch mixture until you reach your desired thickness of gravy. Place ground beef mixture in a large baking dish.
• Peel and boil potatoes. When soft, mash and add butter, milk and salt for taste.
• Pour frozen vegetables over ground beef mixture, then place mashed potatoes over the vegetable layer.
• Sprinkle with any of your desired toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, diced green onions, chives, parsley, parmesan cheese or bits of real bacon.
• Cook in oven for 25 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!

NOTE: Use three teaspoons of onion power if you are not sautéing fresh onions and celery. Also, if you are using fresh vegetables, blanch them before putting them on the pie. However, do not overcook them because they will cook in the oven once the pie is put together.


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BETTER BRAN MUFFINS

Recipe courtesy of Cheryl Bloom

Ingredients:
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1¼ cup Nabisco 100 percent bran cereal
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/3 cup melted butter

Directions:
• Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
• Combine dry ingredients, except cereal.
• Mix bran with milk and let stand for five minutes.
• Add egg and butter to bran mixture. Mix well.
• Add dry mixture; mix until ingredients are all moistened.
• Fill 15 muffin cups lined with paper.
Bake for about 15 minutes.


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