Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Little St. Patrick's Day Fun

In attempts to get settled around here (and also get through our boxes while we still have a dumpster in our front yard), I had decided my Spring Break would consist of all work and no play this year.  That was the plan, anyway, until Cruz started talking about Spring Break the week prior, just as the weather started turning the corner.  One afternoon, he discovered his collection of sunglasses in a box in his room and spent the next half hour trying them on, asking me how he looked and informing me these would be perfect to wear on Spring Break.  At first I laughed, wondering how he seemed to know so much about Spring Break, picturing him watching old episodes of MTV's Spring Break Live, but then I started feeling guilty for not planning something to match the apparent picture he had of this week behind those cool man shades he had on.  Once again, my child forced me to hit the reset button, reconfigure my goals and include a few more opportunities for play sprinkled throughout this Spring Break week.  And with St. Patrick's Day and March Madness falling right in the middle of this week at home, it was the perfect opportunity to have some fun amidst the boxes and dirty windows in this house.  

We celebrated St. Patrick's Day simply, with the only green outfits that hung in their closets, a paint project while we waited for Daddy to get home, an Irish inspired meal that has become one of our favorite comfort dishes to prepare, and a special dessert I will definitely be adding into our lives more than once a year.  It all just seemed a little more special this time around - perhaps because it was the first holiday-ish event spent in our new house, or the first full-course meal shared around our new table, but it was just what we needed to give us a little more hope that a more settled life exists ahead.  I knew it would take time, but sometimes, you just have go make time.  

Some pictures (and a favorite recipe) from our St. Patrick's Day...

We painted four-leaf clovers with one of Cruz's absolute favorite things.  He, unlike his sister, exhibited restraint and only used his marshmallows for stamping, making a pageful of colorful green clovers he proudly displayed on the fridge.     

We are going through a bit of a challenging phase with this one, as she insists on being a part of everything, yet isn't exactly ready for a lot of it.  She yelled until I gave her exactly what her brother had, and as you can tell from the pictures, the paint tool didn't last too long. :)

Finished product!  Next time, we'll save craft time for nap time. :)

I baked a cake.  A Guinness cake, to be exact.  I haven't baked a lot of cakes from scratch, but this one may have started a newfound interest to explore in my kitchen.  This was seriously one of the best cakes I have ever had, and only a few steps beyond the boxed cake mixes I'm used to preparing.  More on this cake later.

New discoveries of old toys make for pretty content kids lately.  Every box unpacked is like Christmas for the Jorgensen kids...

We celebrated when Daddy got home from work, with green-tinted milk and leftover Guinness. 

And one of our family favorite meals, shepherd's pie.  This is a no-fail, comfort food classic around here, a dressed up tater tot casserole that you can adapt to your liking.  The recipe for this gem follows.

And last but not least, what's a celebration without cake and ice cream.  Mila got a scoop of green mint-chip ice cream, a dollop of whipped cream, and a bright red cherry on her tray, and it occupied her for a good twenty minutes while the rest of us sunk our teeth into our chocolate cake. 

Somebody's a fan of St. Patty's Day!

 Last but not least, my recipe for Irish Shepherd's Pie.  It can be made ahead, frozen and cooked later, and adapted based on what you like or what you have available in your fridge.  It's a go-to after I have a lot of leftover mashed potatoes in the fridge (am I the only one who always makes too many mashed potatoes???)     

What you need...

-5-8 potatoes, depending on size (think of enough mashed potatoes to spread and cover a 9x13 pan)
-1 1/2 pounds of ground beef
-1/2 pound of fresh sliced mushrooms, sauteed in oil and butter mixture
-1 can cut green beans
-1 cup frozen green peas
-1 can cream of mushroom soup
-1/2 can cream of celery soup
-salt and pepper
-milk and butter for mashed potatoes (or however you prefer your mashed potatoes prepared)

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.
2.  If you do not have leftover mashed potatoes already prepared, peel, quarter, and boil potatoes until soft.  Drain, mash with milk and butter, and set aside.
3.  In a large skillet over medium heat, cook ground beef until brown.  At the same time, saute mushrooms in a few tablespoons of oil and/or butter (I use a little of both), until soft.  When hamburger is brown, drain and stir in mushrooms.
4.  Add in green beans, frozen peas, and soup.  Mix together and season with salt and pepper.
5.  Pour into prepared baking dish.  Spread a layer of prepared mashed potatoes over top, and bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.  

Variations:  Feel free to play around with the vegetables according to your likings.  You can use canned mushrooms instead of fresh, fresh green beans instead of canned, or add in diced carrots, corn, or onion.  The key is the potatoes, and while many traditional shepherd's pies use potato flakes, I love the rich and buttery addition of my own fresh mashers.  It's filling enough to be a whole meal, and delicious as leftovers in the fridge.    

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