Growing up in a large family, dinner was always an important topic of discussion.
Every week, each of us four kids would give a meal suggestion. My brother’s pick was typically overruled because he always wanted steak. The oldest sibling asked for spaghetti every week. The youngest was easily pleased with macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets. I fall somewhere in the middle, and tried hard to come up with new suggestions every week. Tuna casserole and home made Salisbury steak were my favorites, but I also loved manicotti (huge pasta shells stuffed with spinach and cheese) and veggies with pork chops.
As we grew up, our dinner selections expanded, as did our veggie plot. Meals were often influenced by what was ready in the garden. Spring dinners were typically a stir fry or big salads. In summer we loved to help dad use the barbecue, grilling our veggies alongside burgers. Root veggies sprinkled with pumpkin seeds were a treat in fall. Winter meals includes lots of pasta and meat from the half cow that our parents bought every year. Once, one of the kids did not shut the basement freezer door tight. We lost a lot of meat that year. My parents still have not let us forget that.
Learning to can and preserve foods as a young adult helped me understand what exactly was going in the food that we ate… and what did not need to be in them. Jars of pasta sauces, jams, jellies, pickles and fruits were perfectly lined up like little soldiers on the basement shelves. Dad had to reinforce it due to the weight of all the glass. A few of us kids developed food allergies somehow, but knowing exactly what ingredients were in each jar made planning a large family dinner easy.
Leftovers were often disregarded until the busy weekends. Mom called them “Musgo,” which is actually must-go. We would ask what was for dinner and the parents would reply “Musgo.” I didn’t understand until I was older that Musgo was not a specific dish, rather a smorgasbord of whatever had to go before it went bad. We did not throw food out in our household. As an adult, I still try not to.
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 stalks celery, diced small
1 cup chopped onion
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb,beef or venison
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons rosemary, chopped up
1 teaspoon thyme
Big handful frozen corn kernels
Big handful frozen peas
A big batch of cooked mashed potatoes, made from 4 large potatoes, or potato flakes (I won’t tell.)
Sauté the celery, onion and carrots about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, meat, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and stir, cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.
Add the corn and peas to the meat mixture and spread evenly into a pie dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with the back of a spoon.
Bake at 350 ° for 30 minutes. I place a cookie sheet under because it often bubbles over.