My core girlfriends and I have a little activity we participate in every 8 weeks or so. We call it the supper swap.  We are all pretty busy mama’s and are constantly looking for ways to save time in the kitchen. We all also enjoy a good meal. So this past fall we came up with an idea to help each other out.

There 4 of us that participate on a regular basis. We occasionally have an extra friend that wants to get in on the action too, or from time to time, we have a friend that has had a baby, so we shower her with the blessings of this little ritual too.

The idea is that we each make enough dinner entrees plus one for each participant’s family, prepared to freeze.  That way we each go home with a nice assortment of meals that we can pull out any time we have a busy day, stress free to cook and serve. The plus one is for our self. We get to keep one too!

This past week my contribution was a quick and hearty comfort food casserole that mama use to make when I was a kid.  I love it! I’ll call it Carole Jean’s Quick Shepherds Pie.

Now for the supper swap,  the amount of ingredients are much greater. I’ll post the recipe for a single meal at the end. To be honest…I really just make it…I don’t have a true recipe, it’s in my head. Really, I just make it. I have several things I make like that.

Now, before I begin, I have to make sure I can do it with minimal distractions, so I make sure this distraction (don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love him!) is napping.

I make sure this one is busy…this day she was learning to sort and roll coins.  After rolling $43 bucks worth, she is getting a nice little trip to Target to go princess nightgown shopping.

And this one, well, I know exactly this one is for the next four months at least.

For the shepherds pie you need, frozen green beans, tomato soup, browned ground beef, mashed potatoes (never ever, ever instant, yucko!), and your favorite cheese.

The easiest thing to swap the dinners in is an aluminum 8×8 pan, so we will start there with the green beans. I bought two large bags of frozen green beans and divided them equally among four of the pans.

I like to use either frozen or fresh over canned. I like my beans to have a little snap to them. Canned ones always seem a little  on the mushy side to me.

Next you need the tomato soup! This time around I found some cartons of a great organic soup that I like.

It was actually cheaper to go with the cartons than to do one can per casserole, which is my usual method. I found that two cartons divided equally among the four pans was the perfect amount.

For the record, you can use any of the basic soups. Mushroom is really good in this as a change every now and then.

Now while I was doing all of this, I had a couple of things going on the stove. I was browning ground beef, a pound for each pan in fact.

And  I had been boiling red potatoes until they were easily pierced with a fork.

I then take the seasoned to taste meat and evenly distribute it over the green bean/soup mixture into each of the four pans.

The next layer takes just a little work, but it is the best layer! Homemade mashed potatoes!!!!

This, is a potato ricer. I love this little gadget. It makes mashing potatoes and utter breeze!

It’s like a giant garlic press only it presses potatoes. You can put the potato in there skin and all…

…and out comes a nicely mashed potato minus the skin. So then you do this to all the potatoes, until you have a nice hot bowl full.

Add a little butter, add a little milk, add a little sea salt…

Till it’s nice ans creamy. Then spread it on top of the ground beef in each pan, dividing equally.

Next comes the cheese! I love cheese! I buy my cheese every month in a 5lb block from Simply Cheese in Aurora, Indiana. (simplycheese.net) I prefer the marbled colby jack for most of my recipes. It’s always cheaper to grate your own!

Be generous with the cheese. It’s good stuff.

Finally, I just cover it with tin foil and write the directions (thaw for 24 hours in fridge and bake on 350 till bubbly) right on the foil. For good measure against freezer burn too, I like to wrap the whole thing once in cling wrap too.

The whole process of making 4 of them only took me about an hour of assembly time. A little extra for the browning of the meat and boiling of potatoes.

The key with these meals is to do something simple that every one will like. They have to be kid friendly too. One mama made manicotti for this swap! Can’t wait for that one!

All in all, this is a great way to save time, money, and also, just to really build a stronger bond with your friends. We all have each others back, it’s nice. When you share food like this, you are saying, you and your family are worth my time. To me, feeding folks always expresses love. I think it must be one of those love languages that Gary Chapman left out of his book. (okay, okay, I know it’s really an act of service)

My hope with this blog is that you are inspired to start something of your own like this. Get your girlfriends together and take care of each other!…and sometimes those around you too!

For a single casserole:

1 regular sized bag of frozen green beans

1 can of tomato soup

1 lb of browned ground beef seasoned to taste. (add an onion!)

5 or 6 boiled potatoes mashed with out skin. Add butter, milk, and salt until they are the desired fluffiness you like.

and a lot of grated yummy cheese!

Just layer as in the above steps and then bake on 350 for about 30 minutes, until it gets all bubbly and melty!

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