We had our first snow of the season this weekend.
The temperature dropped from the 50's to the 30's within hours and big fluffy snowflakes drifted down all night long.
We could not have asked for a more perfect setting for our annual Christmas Tree cutting day.
Every year, ever since the kidadults were littles, we bundle up in coats, hats, scarves and gloves and drive up north to The Quick Family Farm to cut down our Christmas tree.
Then, as tradition mandates, we stop for lunch at Johnny's Hot Dog Stand in Butzville. Yes, that's right. Butzville. You can imagine the jokes my kids tell and how they have progressed over the years... actually, I should say digressed...
Looking for the perfect tree
Even Holly Bear got to go this year. She LOVED the snow!
This is it!! This is the one...
Finding and cutting the perfect tree is hungry work.
Johnny's Hot Dog Stand - Hot dogs, french fries and a drink are the only items on the menu. Notice they only serve two beverages - Birch Beer or Buttermilk, in big, heavy frosted mugs.
Guess we're not the only family who follow this tradition. See all the trees on top of the cars?
Because it is tradition I had a bite or two of my Johnny's Hot Dog and shared the rest with Holly Bear. This evening's dinner, after the tree decorating is done, will be something a little more healthful.
Do you and your family have a "tree" tradition in your house?
Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie (serves 5)
4 large potatoes (preferably Yukon Gold) peeled and diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
3 large carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cuts
2 stalks celery, diced into 1/2 inch
2 medium turnips, peeled and diced
1 overflowing cup of mushrooms (your choice) thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup soy protein or vegetable burgers, crumbled (optional)
1/3 cup (or more) half and half (or milk if preferred)
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place potatoes in large pot of salted water. Bring to boil, then lower heat to medium and cook until soft - about 10 minutes.
While potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, carrots, celery, mushrooms and turnips. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Saute until vegetables are soft and begin to color. Add garlic and continue to saute until fragrant and veggies are nicely browned. Add 1 1/2 cups of liquid from the cooked potatoes to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons of butter, chopped vegetable protein and parsley. Heat through.
Butter an oven proof casserole. Add vegetable mixture and spread evenly on bottom of casserole.
Mash the potatoes with the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and the half and half. Season with salt and pepper. Spread over vegetable mixture in casserole. Sprinkle with just a bit of smoked paprika.
Bake for 20 minutes until piping hot. If desired, run under broiler to crisp and brown the mash potato topping.
Enjoy on a snowy, winter's eve.
A Cook's Notes: You can use the vegetable or soy protein if you like - I have made this both with and without. If you want a beefy tasting pie, use baby portabella mushrooms.