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Irish Mocha Chip Ice Cream

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Well, hello there! Long time, no see.

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I hadn’t intended to abandon the blog for any length of time, but life sort of sucked me into its unpredictable time warp. Between the kids and appointments and work and all of the other business of being a family of five, the weeks just flew by. Oh, and I joined a local gym, which has a ‘Kids Korner’, that the kids actually love going to. Ninety bucks bought me up to two hours of time for myself, every day, forever. Best childcare deal out there, folks. I’ve rarely missed a day since I joined. The getting in shape aspect almost feels like the bonus of going, not the very purpose itself.

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But, it’s come to my attention that one of my favorite holidays is rapidly approaching. So, I’ve pulled myself out of life’s time warp in order to bring you an appropriately Irish themed recipe. This is one for the grown-ups, as it’s chock full of caffeine and festively spiked with a bit of Irish Cream. Interestingly, it was my five year who inspired the whole ice cream idea, while I was pondering aloud about some Baileys twist on panna cotta or chocolate mousse. “It should be an ice cream,” he insisted. And with the approaching spring season peppering our days with warmer weather, he was right-on with that suggestion. I may need to reward him with a decaf, alcohol-free version of this recipe soon.

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The look your child may make when you prepare an ice cream, just for grown-ups.

If you’re looking for some more traditional Irish ideas, like Corned Beef and Cabbage, Irish Soda Bread, Shepherd’s Pie or even a low-carb twist on Cottage Pie, check out last year’s St. Patty’s Day recipe round-up HERE.

Have fun and most importantly, be safe, in all of your St. Patty’s Day festivities!

Today’s Focus on Technique – The Difference Between Ice Cream and Frozen Custard

The main difference between ice cream and frozen custard (also known as French-style ice cream or French custard ice cream) is the addition of egg yolks. Technically, to be considered a frozen custard, it must contain at least 1.4% egg yolks by weight. The USDA has lengthy documents which define all of the characteristics of ice cream, frozen custard, gelato, sherbet and something called mellorine, but basically, the difference between ice cream and frozen custard comes down to the egg yolks. The egg yolks in a frozen custard add a rich, silky creaminess to the end result. When adding the egg yolks to the ice cream mixture, it is important to temper the eggs by very gradually adding the hot cream mixture to the yolks. This allows the temperature of the eggs to rise to meet the temperature of the hot cream mixture without scrambling the eggs. The egg mixture is then returned to the pan and gently heated until the eggs are cooked to a safe temperature. For more info on tempering eggs into hot liquids, click here. I haven’t calculated the percent weight of egg yolks in the following recipe, but I’d venture to say it falls technically in the family of frozen custards.

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Irish Mocha Chip Ice Cream

Adapted from Emeril’s Coffee Ice Cream 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3-4 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream*
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

*TIP – When cooking with liquors or liqueurs that you don’t frequently use, see if your liquor store carries the mini bottles (like they have on airplanes), to avoid having leftovers go to waste. 

Directions

Combine the cream, milk, sugar, coffee, and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar, coffee and cocoa are dissolved. Remove from the heat.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks with a fork. In a slow steady stream, gradually whisk about 1 cup of the hot mixture into the egg yolks. Then, gradually add the egg mixture to the remaining mixture in the pan. Cook the mixture over medium-low/low heat, stirring frequently, for 5-8 minutes, until it just begins to bubble. (You can use an instant read thermometer to check that the mixture is at least 170ºF.) Remove from the heat. Cool slightly at room temperature, then transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing down against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely chilled, about 2-3 hours. Stir in the Baileys Irish Cream and chocolate chips just before freezing in the ice cream maker.

Transfer the cooled mixture to your ice cream maker. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. The ice cream will still be semi-soft (and lusciously creamy) coming out of the ice cream maker. It will harden a bit further after a few hours in the freezer.

*This recipe would make a perfectly delicious mocha chip ice cream without the Bailey’s. You could also use decaf instant coffee grounds if you’d prefer to skip the caffeine.

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Spicy Corn and Lentils

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So…I did it. I started Irish step dancing classes last Wednesday. This is very unlike me. I’m typically so self-conscious that I avoid doing anything which requires me to put my lack of skills on display. Heck, I even shy away from displays of things I’m good at. And dance?? Well, of any imaginable area of skill, I am the farthest from skilled in dance. I trip over my own feet while walking on a near-daily basis and my pinky toes are constantly throbbing from cornering too early and catching them on the edges of furniture and walls. I am a coordination mess. And yet, I’ve just signed myself up to display my unadulterated klutziness in front of fellow dance students and our skillful instructor. What in the world has come over me?? I’m becoming bold in my old age. 

But here’s the thing… For many years, I have watched Irish step dancers with an emotional mixture of admiration, awe, and regret. I stare at their coordinated feet, wishing I could go back in time to when I was about four years old and beg my parents to sign me up for lessons. I want to dance like those dancers with the very same heart-aching passion I felt just before I signed up for the culinary program at French Culinary Institute. That culinary program turned out to be one of the most soul-satisfying experiences of my entire life. It settled my urge. It took away my longing and replaced it with skills and knowledge to use and enjoy for the rest of my life.

And so, on a whim, I started this process of searching for an Irish dance school which offered classes for adult beginners. My first few inquiries came up dry. But then I got a hopeful response; an instructor who was considering starting an adult beginner class. It took a while before it became official. I was even a little relieved when I didn’t instantly hear back, since part of me would have been content to stay huddled in my turtle shell. And then I got the email. She was starting a class. Two of my lovely friends agreed to join me.

We fumbled our way through our first class. Our instructor gracefully modeled a few ‘simple’ steps and then we hurled ourselves across the room, tripping over our feet and each other. But we smiled and laughed the entire time. At one point, our instructor turned on the music as we skipped our way across the room, and with a smile plastered across my face, all I could think was We’re doing it! We’re Irish step dancing. I’m not sure anyone would have classified our movements at that point as ‘Irish step dancing’, but our instructor was generous in her praise of our clumsy maneuvers. I woke up delightfully sore the next morning. I spent the next week practicing my sweet new moves, much to the delight of my three boys who make a very eager, if not amused, audience. Last night was our second class. We fell over each other  and laughed to near tears as we put our new moves together into a dance. I already feel that satisfying calming feeling that culinary school gave me.

Another benefit to this grand adventure is that it’s reinvigorated my motivation for regaining my pre-three-babies-in four-years figure. I’ve watched myself practice my dance moves on video. It’s not pretty. I long to be lean, controlled, and lighter on my feet, rather than the bouncing, clobbering elephant I’m currently channeling. I’m refocused and ready. Summer weather certainly adds to the motivation too!

Recently, I ran across a slideshow of twenty weight loss super-foods. Foods were selected for their abilities to increase metabolism, satisfy hunger, build muscle, and decrease fat. Several of the foods were practically begging to be married together in a sort of miracle weight-loss dish. Inspired by this list of weight loss super-foods, I came up with these spicy lentils and corn served with grilled cedar-plank wild salmon. Now, I have no research to prove that this harmonious marriage of flavors will actually result in a thinner waistline, but at the very least, they will make your mouth and belly quite happy.

This tasty dish combines lentils, corn, olive oil, sardines, chipotle chile peppers, and wild salmon. Don’t be afraid of the sardines. There are just enough in this recipe to add a savory umami (the fifth taste) flavor that really complements the spicy chipotle and sweet corn. Their fine texture practically melts into the dish, adding a subtle layer of savory goodness. Be bold, give ’em a chance. And click on over to SELF’s slideshow for more info on each of these super-food’s super-slimming powers!

Do you have something you always wished you’d done? Why not give it a try? There’s no time like today!

Spicy Corn and Lentils (with Wild Salmon)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels (frozen or fresh), cooked
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/8 cup boneless sardines, shredded
  • 1/8 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1 chipotle pepper (from a can of chipotles in adobo), chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt (about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon)

For the Salmon:

  • 4 wild salmon fillets
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Chile Powder
  • Parsley

Directions

Cook lentils in water with a pinch of salt, according to package directions. (Cooking time will vary depending on the color/type of lentils. I used green lentils which simmered for 30-35 minutes. Other lentils may require more or less time. Cook until tender, but not mushy.) Toss the cooked corn kernels with the lentils.

In a small pan, heat the olive oil over medium/medium-low heat. Add the sardines, onion, and chipotle. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender. Add the parsley. Toss the mixture with the lentils and corn. Taste and season with salt, as desired.

For the salmon: Rub the fillets with olive oil. Season with salt, chile powder, and parsley. Grill on a soaked cedar plank* over indirect heat or broil until cooked.

*Look for cedar planks near the grilling supplies at your local grocery store or Target. Soak the planks in water for at least an hour before using. Place the salmon on the planks. Preheat your grill at medium heat. Ideally, arrange the planks on your grill so they are not directly over the heat. Grill with the cover closed until cooked through.

Makes 4 Servings

St. Patty’s Day Round-up

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Parenthood has a way of constantly making you feel brand new. I mean, I’ve got three kids. We’ve been doing this whole parenting thing for almost five years now and in some ways, we feel like old hands at it. We know our kids and have a good enough understanding of child development to know what to anticipate as our children work through the daily challenges and joys of childhood. Our hearts pound with pride as they take those first steps, say that first sweet word, and cut that first little tooth. And we hold our breaths with anxiety when one of our little ones is not well. But, for the most part, we know what to expect and we know how to react.

And then something completely unexpected happens. Rationally, I know that parenthood is full of unexpected surprises, but sometimes they just sneak up on you. Like when I glanced over at my almost five-year-old and noticed that one of his bottom teeth was loose. And I panicked. Panicked as if blood were pouring from his ears. It’s just a loose tooth; a normal part of being a kid. But I never saw it coming. Not yet, at least.

So, I did what any mildly irrational parent would do and called the dentist to make an emergency appointment. Somebody do something! My kid has a slightly wiggly tooth! Of course, the trip to the dentist confirmed that it is totally normally for my little guy to have wiggly teeth. His adult teeth are just working their way up. Adult teeth??? But, he’s my baby! Guess it’s almost time for me to put on some tooth fairy wings.

And now we’re just waiting for that first tooth to come out. I stopped by the bank today and picked up a handful of gold dollar coins to leave under his pillow when the time comes. The tooth fairy always left me silver dollars, which I collected like treasure. But since the gold dollar coins are the best I can find, they’ll do the trick. In fact, I suspect the gold coins may be even more intriguing to my little men for their likeness to pirate treasure and a leprechaun’s pot of gold.

Speaking of leprechauns, we’re all very excited for St. Patty’s Day around here. My sister and brother-in-law will be visiting for the weekend and we’ll be spending the day with friends. To celebrate our bursting Irish spirit, I made a batch of my World’s Simplest Fudgey BrowniesThen, I spread a thick layer of dark chocolate frosting on top and decorated with a handful of Lucky Charms marshmallows. They definitely brought some smiles to my rowdy bunch of leprechauns, though I suspect they’ll be disappointed to discover the marshmallow shortage in their snack cereal.

If you’re looking for some other ideas for St. Patty’s Day fare, check out these previously posted Gourmand Mom recipes:

Traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage

Grasshopper Pie

Irish Soda Bread

Reuben Quesadillas

Corned Beef and Cabbage Egg Rolls

Classic Lamb Shepherd’s Pie

Guinness-Braised Beef

Low-Carb Cottage Pie

Split Pea Soup with Ham

Low Carb Cottage Pie

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Earlier in the week, my husband bemoaned the fact that daylight savings time was approaching and we would be losing an hour of sleep. I’m not sure what world he’s living in, but the time on the clock has little relevance for our children. Lose an hour, gain an hour…doesn’t really matter to me. I’m not in control of how long I sleep anyway. If anything, I look forward to this evening when I can put the kids to bed an hour ‘early’.

Springing forward brings other benefits as well, specifically a bit of daylight past the kids’ bedtime…which translates into not running in the dark. That, combined with the warming temperatures of spring approaching, bodes well for resuming my evening runs. I have to admit, I’ve been sorely off-track with my fitness goals during these past two weeks and the number on the scale has been creeping upwards. Wintery weather and the early sunset has made it hard to get myself out the door for my evening runs. And finally being able to fit into some of my clothes again has made me complacent about my diet. But I’m not done yet (far from it) and it’s time to get back on track, before I undo the results I’ve achieved so far.

So, starting tomorrow (today I’m going to eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner), I’m hopping back on the horse and refocusing on my fitness goals. With the warmer temps and later sunset, I’ve got no excuses for not heading out for my evening runs. And I’m going to refocus on reducing my refined carb intake (a la South Beach diet), since I know it helps me to feel more satisfied, make better food choices, and eat less overall.

With St. Patty’s Day just around the corner, comforting meat-and-potato type meals are on my mind. But potatoes fall firmly into that refined carb category which I’m aiming to avoid. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some comforting Irish cookin’ with just a few substitutions. You may remember a few weeks ago, when I shared a recipe for mashed cauliflower, which makes a wonderful substitution for mashed potatoes…a substitution which would also make the perfect topping for a low-carb, South Beach friendly cottage pie. Using lean ground beef and part-skim cheese helps lighten the meal even more, without sacrificing any flavor. Furthermore, making low-glycemic index choices for the veggie layer keeps this dish nicely in line with my diet plan.

If you’re looking to celebrate St. Patty’s Day without sacrificing your diet goals, this just might be the dish for you! Though, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I fully intend to make (and eat) more corned beef and cabbage egg rolls on St. Patty’s Day, with a few dark beers to wash them down. (All food and beer are zero calories on St. Patty’s Day…if you’re Irish, that is. I swear it…a little red-headed leprechaun told me so.)

Looking for a traditional lamb and potatoes Shepherd’s Pie recipe? Click HERE.

Low Carb Cottage Pie

Ingredients

For the beef layer:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt and pepper
For the veggie layer:
  • 2 cups green beans, steamed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
For the mashed cauliflower:
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped and steamed until tender
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup part-skim cheddar, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For the beef layer: Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring frequently, until fully cooked. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and stir, allowing it to cook for about a minute. Then, add the beef broth, worcestershire sauce, and onion powder. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for a few minutes until the liquid thickens into a gravy around the meat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the mixture into a baking dish.

For the veggies: Wipe out the pan used for the beef. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms. Cook for 7-10 minutes, until golden and tender. Scatter the mushrooms and the steamed green beans in an even layer over the meat.

For the mashed cauliflower: Using a food processor, blender, or immersion blender, combine the cauliflower, butter, milk, and garlic powder until smooth. Season with salt, to taste. Spread the mashed cauliflower in an even layer over the veggies.

Sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, until heated through and slightly browned. (Allow for longer cooking time if preparing ahead of time and refrigerating before baking.)

Corned Beef and Cabbage Egg Rolls

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Parenthood has strengthened my heart (both literally and figuratively) but it has seriously weakened my brain. Seriously, it’s like mashed potatoes in there. Between lack of sleep and the daily routine of chasing around three very young children, my brain is melting. I used to be smart. Honestly, I was. I used to do smart people stuff like earn a 4.0 GPA while completing my Master’s degree at Johns Hopkins and lead presentations at statewide teaching conferences about things like disaggregating and analyzing student assessment data to inform differentiated instruction and improve student learning. See? Smart people stuff.

Nowadays, a good deal of my time is spent trying to figure out what to do with the 500 tiny Legos, which the boys have amassed over the past few months, and retrieving bits of chewed paper from the baby’s mouth. (I’m certain he’s part hamster.) I fruitlessly clean messes while the boys are busy making even bigger messes. I watch shows like Diego and Bubble Guppies and count some children’s shows amongst my favorite television programs. I repeatedly chase the boys from floor to floor of the house, with the baby dangling off of one hip and a laundry basket balanced on the other. Good for the heart. Bad for the brain.

So, some things have started to slip my attention. It’s become more of a challenge just to keep on top of life’s little responsibilities. Take my car, for example. I’ve been staring at the little sticker in the windshield which had an expiration date of 2/25 on it. So, I told my husband we needed to get the car inspected. He made the appointment and spent last Saturday morning at the auto service shop. Job completed. Or at least we’d thought. Until I noticed that the expired sticker was still in our window the next day. That’s when I’d realized that I hadn’t been looking at the inspection sticker at all. I’d been looking at our (expired) car registration. I panicked. How in the world did I mess this up? We’ve got systems in place to stay on top of this stuff! The registration renewal comes in the mail. It gets filed with the bills. I pay it. They send a new sticker. It’s a system which has never failed us, no matter how distracted my brain has become. I tore through the house trying to find the misplaced registration renewal notice, yet it was nowhere to be found.

So, I hopped online to determine my next steps. That’s where I read that you can not operate an unregistered vehicle. I had been unknowingly operating an unregistered vehicle all week. My heart started pounding. I am not a rule-breaker… I cross in the cross walk and I wait for the little blinking man to tell me when it’s time to go. I always come to a complete stop at stop signs, even when no one is around. I return my library books on time. I follow the rules. It’s just part of who I am. So, this discovery that I had been a rule-breaker all week long was distressing. I immediately tried to renew the registration online. When that failed, I gathered all of the necessary paperwork and cautiously drove my unregistered vehicle to our local Department of Motor Vehicles, heart-pounding over my reckless rule-breaking.

I arrived before the office opened and barely sat for a second before they called my number. At that point, I was feeling pretty impressed at how efficient the DMV was…not at all like the dreadful stories you hear. I approached the window, children swarming around me like flies on a horse, and shamefully admitted that I’d been driving an unregistered vehicle for the past week. I mumbled a few excuses about mushy brains and unnecessary inspections, then handed over my paperwork. She made the necessary photocopies, then sat down to process my registration. Things were going smoothly and I wasn’t even scolded for breaking the rules. Relief.

Then she turns to me and says “Who is Jose Sanchez?” At that point I’m wondering if this is some sort of trick question. Like years ago when my husband and I went to open some bank accounts and the bank associate suddenly asks, “Do you like the Bills or the Ravens?” right after gathering our names, address, and all of the other normal info required to set up a bank account. Umm…What??? Neither? Being a grown-up can be confusing.

So, I explain to the DMV lady that I do not know a Jose Sanchez, but was curious as to what he had to do with my car registration. Well, your car is registered to a Jose Sanchez. Well, this was a twist I never expected. And again, my heart started to pound as my brain struggled to process the situation at hand. A moment later she determined that Jose’s plate number was off by one digit from ours and that someone had made a clerical error…an error which explains why I never received a registration renewal notice. My car was in fact already registered, just not to me. Nice work, DMV. Thankfully, after a lengthy phone call, she returned and was able to process my registration. I left with my newly renewed sticker for my windshield and the reassurance that my brain isn’t total mush, at least not yet.

Saint Patrick’s Day is just around the corner…hands-down my favorite holiday for eating corned beef, wearing green, and celebrating my Irish heritage. Having already shared some delicious recipes for traditional corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and shepherd’s pie with you, I wracked my (semi-functional) brain for some interesting twist on a corned beef and cabbage meal. And I’ve got just the thing…corned beef and cabbage egg rolls! My Irish ancestors are probably rolling over in their graves. But this is quite possibly fusion cooking at its best. A simple filling of leftover corned beef, sauteed with very thinly sliced cabbage and carrot, gets rolled up in egg roll wraps and fried until crispy! Dip them in Thousand Island dressing or your favorite mustard for a fantastic day-after St. Patty’s Day treat!

Corned Beef and Cabbage Egg Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup leftover corned beef, chopped
  • 2 cups cabbage and carrots, very thinly sliced (prepackaged cole slaw mix works well)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Vegetable oil
  • 4-8 egg roll wraps (My grocery store sells them in the refrigerated produce section.)
  • Thousand Island dressing or mustard, for dipping

Directions

To prepare the filling: Heat about 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the corned beef, cabbage, and carrots. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is tender. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To assemble the egg rolls: Arrange an egg roll wrap with one of the points facing you. (If desired, you can layer two egg roll wraps, for a chewier egg roll.) Place a mound of the corned beef filling in the center of the wrap. Grab the point closest to you and wrap it up and around the filling. Then, grab each of the side points and fold them in towards the center. Brush the points with a bit of water to help them stick. Brush the top point with a little water, then continue rolling up towards the top point.

To cook: Heat about 1/2″-3/4″ vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Give it a few minutes to get good and hot. Carefully place a few of the egg rolls into the hot oil. They should sizzle when placed in the oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes on all sides, until golden brown and crispy. Drain on a paper towel before serving.

Makes 4 Egg Rolls

Nutella and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast with Raspberry Coulis

I’m going to become an Irish step-dancer. Stop laughing… I’m serious. Well, that’s assuming I can find a dance teacher to take on this 35-year-old mess of incoordination, with zero dance experience, but a whole lot of passion.

It’s just always been one of those things for me. I regret never having done it as a child. Years ago, I told my husband that if we ever had a girl, I’d be signing her up for lessons as soon as she could walk, so I could live vicariously through her. He was smart enough not to argue with me on that plan. But since it seems we’re destined to create a big brood of boys (and they’re much more interested in busting ghosts than dancing), it looks like I’m gonna need to live this dream for myself. Probably best that I fulfill my own dreams anyway, rather than pushing them on my kids, huh?

I’ve contacted a few local Irish dance schools and have yet to find anyone offering adult beginners classes at a time and location I can get to, but I’ve not given up hope yet. This middle age mom is ready to show Michael Flatley who the real lord (rather, lady) of the dance is. Stay tuned…

We had a lovely Valentine’s Day around here, filled with enough delicious goodies to throw me off my diet for at least the rest of this week. Oh, but it was worth it. So worth it. I surprised my loves with this special breakfast, which had everyone oohing and ahhing with each bite. For a weekday breakfast, it’s surprisingly easy to pull off. Simply prepare the ‘sandwiches’ the night before, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate. This will actually help firm up the Nutella, which will make the sandwiches easier to dip in the morn. You can cut the sandwiches into any shape or not cut them at all…though the scraps make a really nice snack with a glass of red wine…just sayin’.

Nutella and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast with Raspberry Coulis

Ingredients

For the French Toast:

  • 8 slices white bread
  • 1/2 cup Nutella
  • 4-6 large strawberries, sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
For the Raspberry Coulis:
  • 3/4 cup raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions

Spread each slice of bread with a thin layer of nutella. (Fight the urge to spread it too thick.) Place the sliced strawberries on four slices of the bread, then place each of the remaining four bread slices on top to make four nutella-strawberry sandwiches. If desired, use a cookie cutter to cut the sandwiches into creative shapes. If preparing ahead of time, wrap the sandwiches in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Eat the scraps.

Lightly beat the eggs with the milk and salt. Melt a bit of the butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Dip both sides of each sandwich into the egg mixture. Place the dipped sandwiches in the hot pan and cook for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown. The nutella will become warm and melty. (It’s easier to carefully flip the sandwiches using a fork and your hands, rather than a spatula.) Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

For the raspberry coulis, puree the raspberries with the sugar. If desired, pass the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the seeds.

Diet  Update: Avoiding the scale like the plague this week and enjoying my valentine’s day chocolates. Will be back on track next week…promise!

Split Pea Soup with Ham

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Still looking for something festive to make for St. Patrick’s Day, but corned beef and cabbage isn’t your thing? How about some smooth, green pea soup, slow-cooked with smokey ham hocks, and served with homemade croutons? Might that be your thing?

Split Pea Soup with Ham

Ingredients

  • 4 cups dried split peas, rinsed and picked through
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped
  • 10 cups chicken broth, water or vegetable broth
  • 2 smoked ham hocks
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until they begin to get tender. Add the carrots. Cook for a couple more minutes. Add the peas, liquid, and ham hocks. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent the peas from sticking on the bottom. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 2 1/2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. The peas should almost completely break down as the soup simmers. Remove the ham hocks and set aside. Allow the soup to cool for a few minutes. Then, carefully use a blender, food processor, or immersion blender to puree the soup to your desired texture. If the soup is thicker than you prefer, add a bit more broth or water. If the soup is too thin, simmer uncovered to reduce the liquid. Season with a generous amount of salt (a few teaspoons should be about right) and pepper. Remove the skin, bone, and fat from the ham hocks. Pull apart or chop the meat and add it to the soup.

For the croutons: Cut French bread into chunks. (Slightly stale bread works best.) Toss in a bit of olive oil. Season as desired. Salt, pepper, and garlic powder work well. Bake in a 375 degrees oven for about 15 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. I prefer my croutons to be crispy on the outside and slightly tender in the center!

A couple other St. Patty’s Day dinner ideas:

Guinness-Braised Beef over Buttered Noodles

In Like a Lamb Shepherd’s Pie


Boiled Irish Dinner and Irish Soda Bread

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We’re just days away from St. Patrick’s Day now! Our green clothing has been starched and ironed and my iPod is loaded with my favorite bagpipe tunes. Ok… so, I admit there are no bagpipe tunes on my iPod and I’ve never actually starched a shirt. But, we are ready for our day o’ green! Everyone’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day, so polish your step-dancing shoes, tuck a shamrock behind your ear, and celebrate in Irish style!

When it comes to selecting an Irish meal for St. Patty’s Day, it doesn’t get any more traditional than a boiled corned beef and cabbage dinner. Corned beef seems to be one of those divisive meals. People tend to fall into one of two corned beef camps; the lovers and the haters. You can call me president of the club for corned beef lovers! I love it prepared as a classic corned beef and cabbage meal and I love every possible incarnation of corned beef leftovers that follows.

Over the years, I’ve prepared corned beef in a number of different ways. I’ve tried the slow-cooker method. I’ve baked it. I’ve braised it. I love it no matter how you prepare it, but in my stubborn Irish opinion, I firmly believe that boiled is best. On top of producing an incredibly tender brisket, the added bonus is that it couldn’t be any simpler to prepare. It’s a full meal, boiled in a pot.

Enjoy your boiled Irish dinner with a fresh slice of Irish soda bread and a tall glass of your favorite Irish libation. Have one for me while you’re at it!

Boiled Irish Dinner

Corned Beef with Cabbage, Potatoes, and Carrots

Ingredients

  • 1 Corned Beef Brisket
  • Carrots, peeled and chopped (or substitute baby carrots)
  • Red potatoes, chopped
  • 1 head of cabbage, cut into wedges

Directions

Place the corned beef brisket in a large pot. Sprinkle with the packet of seasoning included with the brisket. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the brisket. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 3-4 hours, until fork tender. Add the cut potatoes and carrots to the pot during the last 20 minutes of cooking time and the cabbage during the last 15 minutes. Remove the corned beef from the water and cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting against the grain. Remove the cabbage, potatoes, and carrots to serve on the side.

Corned Beef Tip #1 – Remove excess exterior fat before slicing and serving for a more appetizing presentation.

Corned Beef Tip #2 – Your tender corned beef is likely to fall apart while you slice it. This works fine when served as a corned beef dinner, but if you’d prefer to thinly slice the brisket for sandwiches, allow the corned beef to cool in the refrigerator before slicing and reheating. Cooled corned beef slices easier than hot corned beef.

Irish soda bread makes the perfect accompaniment to a boiled Irish dinner. Soda bread is in the family of breads known as quick breads. It’s a no-yeast-required bread, which gets its rise from the reaction between baking soda and acidic buttermilk. It can be prepared with or without caraway seeds, raisins, or other dried fruits. My personal preference is seed-free, but loaded with raisins, served slightly warm with a generous smear of butter.

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients

  • 4 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2″ chunks
  • 1 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter. Stir in the raisins. Stir in the buttermilk and egg until a sticky dough begins to form. Once the dough becomes too thick to stir, use your hands to knead the dough until well blended. If the dough is still too sticky to handle, add up to 1/4 cup additional flour. Form the dough into a round loaf and place on the prepared baking sheet. Use a knife to cut an ‘X’ in the top of the loaf. Bake for about an hour, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Serve warm or at room temperature with butter.

*Recipe adapted from a combination and modification of the Food Network Irish Soda Bread recipes found here and here.

St. Patty’s Day Grasshopper Pie

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Saint Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and boy are we excited!

I couldn’t be more proud of my Irish heritage. As a child, I remember interrogating my young classmates about their Kiss Me, I’m Irish pins, demanding to know if they were really Irish and then triumphantly proclaiming that I, in fact, was really Irish. Top that, second grader!

The existence of a holiday devoted to celebrating all things Irish has surely contributed to my bloated sense of Irish pride. I may be somewhat delusional, but I have a sneaking suspicion that all people wish they were at least a little Irish. My husband, who can not count Ireland amongst his countries of origin, tries to argue that he must be Irish, since he has Irish children. His persistence about inheriting an Irish background from our children, is further proof of my theory that all people wish they were Irish…at least on St. Patty’s Day!

We’ve got a few yummy things lined up for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. There will be corned beef and cabbage, of course, with boiled potatoes and carrots. The kids and I will also be baking fresh Irish soda bread with raisins, which we’ll lather with Irish butter. And for dessert, we’re having perfectly minty Grasshopper Pie! We’ll start with a chocolate cookie crust, which we’ll fill with a rich layer of dark chocolate peppermint pudding. Bright green whipped cream and crushed Grasshopper cookies will add the finishing touches.

Grasshopper Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 chocolate cookie pie crust
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 cups whipped cream or Cool Whip
  • Green food coloring
  • 5-6 Grasshopper or Thin Mint cookies, crushed

Directions

In a saucepan, mix together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt. Whisk in 1 cup of milk, stirring until combined. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of cream. Continue whisking over medium heat until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes. Whisking constantly, continue cooking for another minute or two. Be careful to whisk into the corners and along the sides of the pan. Remove from heat. Whisk in the chocolate chips and peppermint extract, stirring until fully melted. Pour the pudding into the pie shell. Refrigerate until cooled completely. Add a few drops of green food coloring to the whipped cream. Spread the whipped cream over the cooled pudding. Garnish with crushed cookies.

In Like a Lamb Shepherd’s Pie

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They say that March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. This year, March came in like a lamb…a very chilly lamb, but a lamb all the same. The thermometer may have registered a cool 23 degrees and the ground is still covered in white, but the sun was shining and the air was calm; a rare occurrence ’round here during the winter. I sense that spring is just around the corner. But that might just be wishful thinking!

In honor of our lamb of a first day of March, it seemed appropriate to make a nice shepherd’s pie for dinner; a perfect comfort meal for a sunny, late winter day. Traditionally, shepherd’s pie is made by layering ground lamb, in a seasoned sauce, with vegetables and a layer of mashed potatoes; a well-balanced meal in a baking dish! This Irish-inspired dish makes a perfect one-dish meal any night of the week or would make a fantastic substitute for corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day!

Many variations of shepherd’s pie call for ground beef as a substitute for lamb. Technically, that wouldn’t be a shepherd’s pie at all, but rather a cottage pie. Shepherd’s herd sheep; not cattle. And shepherd’s pie is made with lamb; not beef. If your grocery store does not regularly carry ground lamb, you have a few options. First, try asking at the butcher counter to see if they would grind a lamb shoulder for you. Many accommodating butchers would be happy to do this for you. If you’ve got a KitchenAid mixer with a food grinder attachment, another alternative is to grind your own lamb. Finally, I’ve read that you can grind meat by pulsing it in a standard food processor, though I’ve never actually tried this particular strategy. If all else fails, substitute ground beef and call it cottage pie instead! It will still be delicious!

Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup onions, finely diced
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more, if desired)
  • Pepper
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas, warmed
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn, warmed
  • 2 cups creamy mashed potatoes*
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Additional cheddar cheese and parsley, for garnish

*Prepared using your favorite mashed potatoes recipe or boil 4-5 Russet potatoes until fork-tender. Blend with butter and milk until creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add carrots and onions. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Add the ground lamb. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until fully cooked. Sprinkle the flour over the meat. Stir to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a simmer. Cook for about 2 minutes, until a sauce thickens around the meat. Season with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, combine the mashed potatoes with the cheddar cheese.

To assemble the pie, spread the meat and sauce into a baking dish. Top with a layer of peas and corn. Spread a layer of mashed potatoes on the top. Garnish with a sprinkle of cheddar and fresh parsley. Bake for about 15 minutes, until it bubbles around the edges and the top is lightly browned.

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