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Joni Woolf: Simple suppers for easy evening meals

Recently my daughter who lives up the hill brought me a nice serving of Shepherd’s Pie for dinner. It was delicious. “Give me this recipe,” I said. “I’d like to write about it.” Her response was quick and easy. “You just make beef stew and top it with mashed potatoes,” she said. Well. That’s basically what makes a Shepherd’s Pie. But a few instructions might help the inexperienced cook decide he or she has the confidence to pursue, so here’s a brief description of how it’s done.


Shepherd’s Pie

2 ½ to 3 cups mashed potatoes

½ cup cooked carrots

1/3 cup cooked green peas

½ to ¾ cup gravy from leftover roast

Salt and pepper to taste

2 eggs

2 cups chopped leftover beef roast (or slightly browned ground beef)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons butter

Mix the mashed potatoes with the salt and pepper. Add the eggs and beat thoroughly. Taste for salt. Spread one cup of potatoes in bottom of a buttered casserole dish. Cover the potatoes with the meat, carrots, green peas, and gravy. Sprinkle with parsley. Spread the remaining potatoes on top of the mixture and dot with butter. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F. until the potatoes are puffed and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. This is a complete meal, though a side of green beans, turnips, kale, or cabbage adds a nice touch of green.


Remembering casseroles that we served often in years past, the following one came up in the discussion about simple suppers. This one was remembered by a friend of ours, who remarked that we had it “all the time” when she visited our home, and she loved it. We may not have had it “all the time,” but it was one of those that everyone liked and the ingredients were often available without having to make a trip to the grocery store. I still have the original recipe given by a friend, typewritten, on a plain sheet of paper. It later appeared in the Macon Junior League’s Gracious Goodness cookbook, so it grew in popularity. But when I prepare it, I return to the original copy, remembering my friend, long gone, who passed it on in one of those simple acts of sharing.


Sausage Rice Casserole

1 pound bulk pork sausage (I use Jimmy Dean, hot)

1 large green pepper, chopped

3 ribs celery, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

2 packages (1 box) Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup (dry mix)

1 cup white rice

4 ½ cups water

1 can sliced water chestnuts (or almonds)

Brown sausage in skillet, stirring with fork. Pour off grease. Set sausage aside. Tenderize in skillet that sausage was cooked in the pepper, celery, and onion. Meanwhile, cook noodle soup, rice, and water together for seven minutes. Mix all together, add water chestnuts (or almonds) and bake in covered Pyrex casserole for one hour at 350 degrees F. Serves 8-10.


A healthy contemporary recipe for a simple supper omits meat, but is a meal in itself. Add a green salad, and perhaps a good bread, and you have a complete meal. Try this one.


Wild Rice and Cider Cranberry Pilaf

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 small cinnamon stick

2 large cloves garlic, 1 smashed and 1 chopped

2 cups wild rice blend

½ cup fresh apple cider

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup dried cranberries

2 onions, chopped

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

4 scallions, chopped

Heat one tablespoon oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cinnamon and smashed garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add rice and toss to coat. Add cider and 2 ½ cups water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until rice is tender, 15 to 17 minutes, adding cranberries during last 10 minutes of cooking. Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and beginning to brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Add chopped garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in vinegar and parsley. Add scallions and onion mixture to rice, and toss to combine.


Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at




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