Two-Cheese Mac and Cheese

Two Cheese Mac and Cheese

It’s interesting to watch people change over time.  I look at my daughters now, and wonder how they will turn out 10, 20, 30 years from now.  When I was younger, I hated to write.  Stick me in front of a stack of numbers, and I was happy as a clam – but ask me to do any type of writing, and I would just panic.  To this day, I am still much more comfortable with numbers (or quantitative data), than I am with any other type of information – but there is a part of me that longs to write.  It is a way to let things out in a non-obtrusive sort of way – to let some of the stress out that builds up throughout the day.  Fortunately I have other healthy ways to deal with stress, but writing actually does allow me to cope in a way that I had never experienced before.

Jealousy is a horrible word.  It is horrible for so many reasons, but it has taken on a whole new meaning for me over the past several years.  I have watched it destroy people – and for no good reasons what so ever.  There is never any winning when jealousy is involved.  It only ends up hurting people.  And sometimes you can dig yourself into such a big hole, that there is no coming out unscathed.  It is at those times that you wish you could turn back the clock – and remind the person how this could end.  Maybe, just maybe that would resonate. Sometimes you just don’t know how good you have it.  It is not just a horrible word, it is a horrible state.

I have never been much of a jealous person, although I have definitely been guilty of food envy.  Going to a restaurant is a little bit like opening a box of chocolates. You can look at the menu and read about the dishes, but until you get a chance to taste – you don’t really know what you are going to get.  Macaroni and Cheese is a whole different story.  Seriously – when have you ever had a macaroni and cheese that you did not like?  Ok – so as I write that, I can remember over the years eating plenty of mac-n-cheese that looked amazing, but when you actually took a bite it either had no flavor, was dry, or just tasted like someone melted some cheese over pasta.  Now – just to keep it real, of course I have never turned away mac-n-cheese, even if it didn’t taste fantastic – but I will never give up finding that perfect mac-n-cheese recipe, and just when I think I have found it, I am sure there is another one out there that is even better.

The other week while my husband was travelling, I decided it was time to try out a new mac-n-cheese recipe.  One of my daughters is not a big fan of cream cheese, but I figured this might just change her mind.  And boy did it ever.  The girls thought this was hands down the best mac-n-cheese I have ever made.  It was super creamy, flavorful, and worth every single bite – and the best part of all, it came from Cooking Light.  So no need to ever have food envy with this recipe in your stash.  And don’t worry, it feeds a big crowd – so no one else will have food envy either.  It’s a win-win for everyone – and isn’t that the way life should be.


  • 10 ounce large elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3  garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 1/4 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson), divided
  • 1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 8 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)


Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Set aside.

Preheat broiler to high.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add garlic to pan; cook 3 minutes or until garlic is fragrant, stirring frequently (do not brown). Stir in 1 cup stock; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute. Combine remaining 1 1/4 cups stock, milk, and flour; stir with a whisk until flour dissolves. Add milk mixture to garlic mixture, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 5 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Remove milk mixture from heat; add cream cheese, stirring until smooth. Stir in salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta to milk mixture, tossing to coat. Let stand 5 minutes. Pour pasta mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle cheddar evenly over pasta mixture. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown. Let stand 5 minutes.

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Pigs in Sleeping Bags

Pigs in Sleeping Bags

I feel like pork is the new “in thing.”  For me, it has never lost it’s luster, but I really feel like it has been making a big comeback since this commercial: “Pork, the other white meat…”  When we were in NYC this summer we ate at Swine, definitely a place that was all about the Pig, and in Seattle they are hyping up another new restaurant focusing on that pink animal – Le Petit Cochon.  It always cracks me up when someone finds out that I am jewish, then assumes that I don’t eat pork.  I realize that my grandparents would probably not like this post very much – but I have to admit, it has a very fond place in my heart.  Come on, everything is better with bacon, even butter.

This recipe was in my pile for a very long time – after finding it in Bon Appetit.  It was one of those recipes that I knew I had to make, but I also had to find the right time to make it.  It called for Dufour puffed pastry, which just happens to be one of the most delicious puffed pastry that you can buy frozen.  I am sure that the ratio of butter to flour is ridiculous, but it is completely worth it.  So – how about some pig with that butter?  And that’s all she wrote.

This recipe is not for everyone – there are multiple steps, and you really much have a very large spatula in which to transfer these babies onto the cookie sheet – otherwise, think ahead, and place the puffed pastry on the cookie sheet before placing the filling on top.  If you do attempt this though – you will certainly not be disappointed – this was outstanding.  The girls really loved them as well – even though they were both very afraid when they saw the sauerkraut.  I served them for dinner – by cutting them in half – but you could easily slice these unto small pieces and serve them as an appetizer, as the recipe says below.

Ok – off to get rid of this headache I have had all week.  In fact, rolling up into a sleeping bag sounds just about perfect right now – I promise to come out for bacon.


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 3/4 cup drained sauerkraut
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard plus more for serving
  • 3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted, lightly crushed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 1 14-ounce package Dufour Pastry Kitchens frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • All-purpose flour (for dusting)
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend


Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally and reducing heat if needed to prevent burning, until soft,  4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally,  until aromatic, about 1 minute. Transfer shallot mixture to a large bowl and let cool.

Combine panko and milk in  a small bowl; let stand until milk is absorbed, 2-3 minutes. Add to bowl with shallot mixture. Squeeze any excess liquid from sauerkraut; coarsely chop and add to bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and caraway seeds; season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Add pork; using a fork or your hands, gently mix until just combined (do not overmix).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 14×10-inch rectangle. Cut lengthwise into three 14×3 1/3-inch strips. Transfer strips to prepared baking sheet. Using one-third of sausage filling and leaving a 1-inch border at each end, pat sausage to form a thin log of filling down the center of 1 pastry strip. Fold pastry over sausage mixture to enclose, then press pastry together to seal. Fold seam under to ensure that sausage is tightly wrapped. Repeat with remaining pastry and sausage mixture.

Cut small diagonal slits at  1 inch intervals along top of pastries (to help release steam). Brush top and sides of pastry with beaten egg; chill in freezer for about 30 minutes. DO AHEAD: Pastries can be made 2 weeks ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, then foil, and keep frozen.

Preheat oven to 425°. Bake pastries (if frozen, no need  to thaw) until puffed and light brown, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°; continue baking until sausage is cooked through and pastry is golden and completely puffed, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly. Cut sausage rolls crosswise  into 1 inch pieces. Serve with a bowl of Dijon mustard for dipping.

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Chicken-Spinach Sliders

Chicken Sliders with Spinach

We are in the second week of school (the first full week), and I get a phone call from the nurse today.  My younger daughter is not feeling well and needs to be picked up.  Ugh.  There’s nothing like getting thrown right into the fire.  Fortunately our college babysitter hasn’t started back at school yet and was able to go get her, so my entire work day was not gone – but still.  Just the stress of knowing you have a sick child at school is not fun.  We are also just in the beginning of the after school activities, and trying to come up with a good rhythm for everything.  I basically come home frazzled every night not knowing where to turn.  There is still paperwork to be filled out, homework to help with, bills to pay, lunches to make – and oh, there is dinner…  Now more than ever I am looking for really healthy and delicious meals to serve and are quick and easy.

Once I get into the groove, I will get back to my recipe planning on the weekends, but I haven’t gotten there yet.  It is really funny how quickly you forget once you get out of the routine.  In August – I was determined to cook during my time off from work – and I definitely did just that.  I can’t wait to repeat some of the dishes I made, they would be perfect for a healthy weeknight dinner – like this one (which I adapted) from Bon Appetit.  My younger daughter has decided that she doesn’t like chicken.  Basically she is just sick of it – we make it so often – mostly because I love it – but it is easy, versatile, and very healthy.  So lately I have been looking for interesting chicken recipes that I can make, where she doesn’t really know it is chicken.  This was definitely a winner – for so many reasons.  Not only was the chicken a big hit – they both loved the spinach – in fact, they hardly knew it was in there.  I served these with the zucchini fritters, and actually used the soy dipping sauce with these as well – what an awesome meal.

So I hope that everyone else is easing into the new school year – I know I will get there, I just need a little more time.  I guess I am still in denial – we finally had the nicest summer on record, and it is still going strong.  A real sunny and hot summer that is unlike anything I have seen in Seattle for 17 years.  The silver lining?  There will be a lot more grilling during the week, and maybe I don’t need to get organized so quickly…it is a perfect excuse to pass this off to my husband the grill master.  If he cooks, it is definitely quick and easy for me…


  • 1/2 bunch flat-leaf spinach, thick stems removed, leaves chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 slider buns or small dinner rolls, split, lightly toasted (for serving)
  • Mayonnaise, sliced red onion, and pickle slices (for serving)


Combine spinach, scallions, garlic, chicken, and cumin in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Using a fork, mix gently just to combine. Form chicken mixture into twelve 1/2-inch-thick patties.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, cook patties until golden brown and cooked through (resist the temptation to press down on patties with your spatula while cooking), about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Serve chicken -spinach patties on buns with mayonnaise, onion, and pickles.

DO AHEAD: Patties can be formed 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before cooking.

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Turkey Lettuce Wraps with Peanut Sauce

Turkey Lettuce Wraps 2

I am a little under the weather…it doesn’t happen very often, and when it does, it is almost impossible for me to slow down, but I am trying.  I am actually waiting for my kids to finish reading so I can go to bed – they hate it when I got to bed before them – and they don’t really understand the concept of their mom being “sick.”

In my last post, I lamented on making lunches…and now isn’t it ironic that my older daughter just entered a “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge” that Michele Obama and sponsored?  Our dear friend Arla won this last year – she was the representative from Washington State that got to fly to the White House and meet Michele Obama!!!  We are still so proud of her – and it inspired my daughter to enter this year.  I know her chances are not great, but I was proud that she tried.  I wish I saved the essay she wrote for the contest – but I will try and explain it the best I can.  Basically she used to buy hot lunch every once in a while – that was until she realized how horrible the lunches actually were.  One time she ordered Chicken Teriyaki, and she said it had no flavor, and no color – other than brown and white (rice).  She wanted to create something healthy and colorful, that would be fun to eat.

I made lettuce wraps a while ago for dinner one night – and the girls were both skeptic, but they tried them, and LOVED them!!  So that was her inspiration.  She changed the recipe to meet her flavor needs (nothing spicy), and made sure it was made with lean ground turkey and brown rice.  She also mentioned if her cafeteria could serve food like this everyday – she would be running to be first in line.

So – here’s to school lunch of the future…and I think the girls are done reading – so off to bed for me!



  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 4 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice


  • 1  pound of ground turkey breast
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 6  thinly sliced green onions (about 2/3 cup), divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup thin sliced red peppers
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 cups hot cooked brown rice
  • 8  Bibb lettuce leaves


To prepare sauce, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallot, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup water, peanut-butter and hoisin, and stir with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in lime juice.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 1/3 cup green onions; sauté 1 minute. Add ground turkey; sauté until browned, stirring occasionally. Add 2 tablespoons cilantro, soy sauce, ginger, sugar; sauté 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Spoon 1/4 cup rice into each lettuce leaf. Top with about 1/2 cup meat mixture; sprinkle with green onions, peppers and carrots. Serve with sauce.

Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto

Tomato Mozzerella Risotto

Did you ever feel just a little too comfortable for your own good?  For example, in cooking.  I do so much cooking and baking, every once in a while I let my guard down, and I have a failure that definitely could have been avoided, with a little more vigilance.  It is definitely a hard concept, and one that often needs constant reminding.  Then I think about my children…and how it is best to start young with that lesson.

My older daughter plays softball – and her team is really good this year.  They are actually undefeated, if you can believe it.  At this point, with their 8+ wins, I can see they are starting to be a little over-confident.  The other night they really got a scare – a team that they had beat 19 to 0, came back in their next game to tie it at 5 runs.  I could tell they were a little nervous – and it was a good thing.  I still cheer loudly at every game – but I worry about them heading to the play-offs if they stay undefeated.  Aside from the expectations they will have – the other teams will be playing their hearts out.

Obviously though, it is a hard lesson to learn.  The other weekend I made some more rhubarb jelly – and I had some pectin left over from last season.  I was feeling pretty confident with my jelly making abilities – and would you believe the jelly never really set?  It is fine if you stick it in the refrigerator, but it is not my normal product.  I should have known better than to use that pectin, and that if it failed the plate test at over 220 degrees, there was probably something wrong.

Fortunately this risotto from Cooking Light is kind of dummy proof.  I made this for the girls after a long day, when my husband was away.  I was definitely not all there when I was making this, and it took me by surprise how good it actually was.  I had to run and grab my camera and take a shot of it – which I had no intention of doing.  It was also a big hit with the girls, even with the spinach – score.  So – the next time you are not feeling completely on top of your game – don’t worry about pulling this out for dinner.  Even if you are over-confident – the results will not disappoint.


  • 3 1/4 cups organic vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 1/4 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2 ounces chopped fresh mozzarella cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups torn fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided


Bring vegetable broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring frequently. Add rice to pan; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup broth to rice mixture; cook for 5 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Reserve 1/3 cup broth. Add remaining broth, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 22 minutes total). Stir in tomatoes; cook for 1 minute. Add cheese, pepper, and salt to rice mixture, stirring constantly until cheese melts. Remove from heat; stir in reserved 1/3 cup broth, spinach, and basil. Place 1 cup risotto in each of 4 shallow bowls. Drizzle 1 teaspoon oil over each serving.

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Frascatelli with Pecorino and Broccolini

Frascatelli with Pecorino and Broccolini

My husband has been away this week, which means we have been stuffing our faces with gluten and dairy.  I am so sick of pasta right now, I never thought I would see the day.  We had three nights of pasta dishes, and one night of pizza…boy could I use a big hunk of meat right about now.  I have to say, the meals have been delicious, but thank goodness he is coming home tonight.  So, what did I make?  Well, I definitely plan on sharing two recipes with you – with this one being the first.  Of course each night we had to discuss whether the dishes were “blogworthy” and this one got a resounding “YES,” which I really wasn’t expecting…

I used to make homemade pasta quite often – that was before I had children, and I could be in the kitchen for hours on end, with no interruptions.  My husband bought me this really awesome pasta machine – and drying rack.  It has all sorts of attachments, and I would try many different varieties.  This of course was before he realized that pasta was not his friend – although the strange thing is he actually does ok with homemade pasta, figure that?  The pasta making stopped years ago – and now when I am craving that delicious bite – I go to one of my favorite Italian restaurants, where they really do it right – Spinasse is definitely on top – and their pasta is to die for…seriously.  Months and months ago – I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and the cooking and hands-on time was only 30 minutes.  Basically the caption was – “the one homemade pasta suited for weeknight dinners.”  Well, that had me right there.  So, I finally tried it out – of course I made a few changes of my own – and it took me a little longer than 30 minutes – but not much.  The kids LOVED this – and I did too.  The dumplings were a little more all-dente than I would have wanted, but they had a wonderful taste and bite to them.  I thought they were perfect with the broccolini (since I didn’t have any mustard greens in the house that the original recipe called for).  Also – I added half the amount of butter (reflected below), and thought that was plenty – after all, it was a weeknight dinner.

So, if you are itching for some homemade pasta – but know you don’t have the time to do it justice – give this recipe a try.  It would be great with a delicate tomato sauce as well (that we had two nights ago with meatballs).  There is a lot you could do with these beauties.  It’s been a fun food week – but I can’t wait for tomorrow!!!


  • 2 cups  semolina flour (pasta flour)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch broccolini (baby broccoli)
  • Freshly ground black  pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino or Parmesan


Spread semolina flour in an even layer in an 8x8x2-inch baking dish. Fill a small bowl with 1 cup water and set next to dish. Working in 4-5  batches, gather your fingertips and thumb of 1 hand together and, working  quickly, dip into bowl of water, lift hand from bowl, and splatter water over  semolina. Repeat several times until surface of semolina is dotted with ragged  wet patches about the size of a nickel. Let stand until water is absorbed,  forming individual dumplings, about 5 seconds. Using a fish spatula or slotted  spoon, turn dumplings over to coat with semolina, then transfer to a sieve.  Shake gently over same baking dish to remove excess semolina; transfer dumplings  to a large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining semolina and water until  all of the water or all of the semolina has been used (there may be some water  or semolina left over).

Working in 3-4 batches, cook dumplings in a large pot of  slowly boiling salted water (if the water is boiling too rapidly, it may break  up the dumplings), gently swirling water once or twice to prevent sticking,  until al dente, about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer frascatelli to  another large rimmed baking sheet.

Steam the broccolini so it is crisp tender.  Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until  butter is foamy and browned bits form on the bottom of pan, about 2 minutes. Add  cooked frascatelli and toss gently to coat. Add broccolini and fold gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper  and divide among bowls. Top frascatelli with grated Pecorino.

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Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's Pie

Babies, babies, babies!!  Years ago when I was in my 20s, I remember when my friends starting getting married.  It was viral – one friend started, then everyone was dropping like flies.   It was a similar experience a few years later, when the babies started.  Even though I was right in there with the whole marriage thing, we waited a while to have kids.  I was definitely one of the last of my friends to have a baby, but I was glad I waited.  I was so ready when she finally came.  It has been many years since the baby boom, and our children are now starting to grow up – in fact, a few will be in high school starting next year.  Wow!

About a year ago, something happened.  In this day, when women are waiting longer and longer to have children, it is not a surprise that many have trouble getting pregnant.  This was not a rare occurrence with my circle of friends, in fact I was one of the few that was lucky enough not to have to deal with that.  It had been a while since any of my friends were pregnant, and I really thought we were done with that phase…not so quick.  When I got the first call, I was extremely surprised.  The doctor told her she would never have more children, and she believed it.  All of a sudden, her world was turned upside down – she had a 10-year-old, and a baby on the way.  A few months later, I found out about another good friend (and neighbor down the street) – same story, but this time with two kids – 9 and 6.  Again, she was told she would never have any more children.  The last one was quite a surprise – even though I had suspected – she has 2-year old twins.  It was amazing she got pregnant the first time, there was no way she would ever get pregnant again – at least that’s what the doctor told her.  Ok, so there has got to be something in the water now right?  I have stopped drinking it, this is just crazy.

Well – as it turns out, another good friend (our neighbor from behind) announced she was pregnant in the midst of all this craziness – she was my only pregnant friend with three kids already, but she is young with tons of energy, and always wanted four.  Both of the neighbor’s babies came last week, and the street is a very happy place.  Their babies are just perfect – I have never been much of a baby person (until I met my own), but these babies are something else.  They are just little magical beings.

I wanted to make them both some food – the only way I can really help them right now.  I wanted something comforting, and something that their other kids would like as well.  I went to the pantry where I store the recipes, and this is what I found – I knew that Cook’s Illustrated wouldn’t steer me wrong.  I thought it would be perfect – they could keep it in the refrigerator or freezer until they needed something to eat – as it turns out, this never made it to the freezer for either of them, and from what they tell me, it was the right choice.  I doubled the recipe below, and made enough for both their families, with some leftover for the girls and I – and it was the best shepherd’s pie I have ever made.

So – here’s to the new babies – but especially to their mommies…who are not getting a lot of sleep right now.  Don’t worry…if you read this blog, you know they grow up quickly!


  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef no less than 93% lean
  • 2 TB  plus 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • olive oil for sautéing
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Marsala wine
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 c beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons water


Prep the ground beef by adding the water, salt, pepper and baking soda.  Mix well!  Let rest 20 minutes.

Place the potatoes into a pot with water to cover.  Salt the water.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until tender.  Drain and place pot back on the stove over low heat to evaporate excess water.  Off heat, add the melted butter and mash well.  Beat the egg yolk and milk together and mix into the potatoes.  Season to taste, then cover and set aside.

In a sauté pan, cook olive oil over medium high heat.  When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions and mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sauté until vegetables are soft, and beginning to leave brown bits on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and tomato paste and continue cooking until paste turns brown and covers the bottom of the pan.  Add the Marsala, scraping up bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the flour and cook briefly, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the broth, Worcestershire, thyme and bay leaf.  Continue to scrape up bottom of the pan and then add the carrots.  Bring to a boil, scraping up any remaining bits on the bottom.  Reduce the heat and add beef in 2-inch chunks over the sauce.  Bring to a gentle simmer, then cover the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.  About half-way through, break up the beef chunks with two forks.  When meat is cooked through, mix 2 teaspoons water with the cornstarch and stir into the pan to thicken, about 1 minute.  Remove pan from heat.

Pour the meat into a casserole dish and spread the mashed potatoes over the top, using an off-set spatula.  Using a dinner fork, create ridges across the potatoes.  At this point you can either wrap with foil and refrigerate for another day or put right into the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the pan on a rimmed cooking sheet to catch any spillover and 30-60 minutes until juices are bubbling. If you would like the top to get brown and crusty, broil for a few minutes before serving.

Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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