The OMG I Forgot to Start Dinner Shepherd’s Pie

Has this ever happened to you? You opened your WIP, but soon your progress toward the day’s writing goal slowed. so you took a break and opened your email, read your messages, and replied to a few, or several. Then, afraid you were missing something important, you checked in on Twitter for a few minutes. Or longer. You went back to your Word doc, typed a few sentences, deleted a couple, stared into space for a while, and then you opened your blog reader. An hour later—okay, it was longer—you returned to your writing, but, only a few paragraphs on, your friend, or your sister, or your mom phoned.

When the call ended you played a few games of Bejeweled Blitz, or Solitaire, or whatever game you’re addicted to, until it occurred to you a whole new shift of Tweeters had come online. Of course, you needed to check out what they were saying. Oh, yeah … you were supposed to be writing. You checked your word count. Then you checked the clock.

OMG, how did it get to be that late?! You haven’t even started anything for dinner.

Relax, I can help. I cook most of my dinners from scratch—well, more than half—but sometimes I need a hot meal that’s simple and quick, so here’s the recipe for one of my standbys, a quick Shepherd’s Pie. (Unfortunately, the dishing up started before I had time to take the photo.)

1 pound lean ground beef*

Dried minced onion

Celery seed

Worcestershire sauce

1 can mixed vegetables (14-15 oz.)

1 jar of beef gravy (12 oz.)

1 package (24 oz.) prepared mashed potatoes*

Grated romano and parmesan cheese

Grated sharp cheddar cheese (6 oz.)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Brown the ground beef. While it’s cooking, drain the mixed vegetables, pour into a 2 qt. casserole, and heat in microwave. When the beef is cooked, drain and add to vegetables. Sprinkle mixture with celery seed, minced onion, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in about 10 oz. of the gravy. Keep mixture warm. Heat mashed potatoes in microwave and mix in 3-4 tablespoons of parmesan or mixed romano/parmesan cheese. Spread mashed potatoes over beef mixture. Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle cheddar over the mashed potatoes and return dish to the oven for 12-15 minutes longer. (Serves 4 adults as main dish.)

* If the meat is frozen, you’ll have to add the time it takes to partially defrost in the microwave and then fry as it continues thawing in the pan.

**Simply Potatoes is the best brand I’ve found.

I can’t match Rachel Ray’s time, but 40 minutes is close, and maybe no one will know you almost forgot to cook dinner.

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Eat, read, remember

When my sons were young, we had a rule that dinner was served at the table and all family members were required to participate, unless they had a good excuse … like traipsing through Africa or being plague ridden. (“But Mommm, I’m about to break my high score!” garnered only a short delay.) Then, one by one, they grew into sports or band practice, jobs, or girlfriends. Now, it’s just me and my husband and we eat most of our dinners in front of the TV.

If you read the title of this post, (I’ll wait) right about now you’re saying, “Nice walk down memory lane, Linda, but what does that have to do with “the nourishment of reading”? Well, of course, reading nourishes your soul, feeds your mind, builds strong bodies twelve ways, but yesterday morning as I sat trying to recall the names of all the books I’ve ever read, I had an epiphany!

As book titles and author’s names rose in memory, so did thoughts of food. It took me a minute to realize why. Awhile back, I wrote about how certain songs bring back vivid memories, but guess what? So do certain books. For me, oddly enough, some of those memories involve food or drink.

I read J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit while sitting at my kitchen table, eating hard salami and cream cheese on thin rye bread. Cups of Constant Comfort tea was my accompaniment as I sat at my dining room table reading C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. (A more serious book requires a more serious table?)

While reading Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot, I consumed copious amounts of sea-salted wheat berries. I drank bottle after bottle of Faygo Rock ‘n’ Rye soda as I read Communion by Whitley Strieber. Chips and salsa may be my last book-related snack. I was addicted to that the first time I read Breathing Lesson’s by Anne Tyler.

I realize that I no longer eat something consistently while reading a book, not so much because I no longer go through food phases, but more that I rarely sit reading for more than fifteen minutes at a time. I’m too busy writing. I don’t snack as I read; I read as a snack!

What about you? I suspect I’m the only one who associates food with books, but what memory does a certain book evoke for you?

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