Saturday, March 23, 2013


Chili Mac

Rats. It is snowing here this morning, and while we need the moisture, it is a winter snow--small, icy flakes pushed hard by cold wind and made just plain mean. I much prefer the spring snows we get in Colorado--big, fat flakes, hitting your face like wet kisses. Typically, these snows occur at or slightly above freezing so the flakes don't last once they hit the ground.

While the calendar says it is spring, this kind of day sends me right to the kitchen to cook something toasty and to warm up our house. Today, I think it will be my special Chili Mac, with skillet corn bread (I will post this recipe later) and carrot and celery sticks. This recipe makes a lot, and will reheat beautifully for meals later in the week.

Note: The chili mac can be made spicier with the addition of hot sauce. I love El Pato's Hot Sauce, which is available in my grocery store's Latin American section. Typically I use only about 1/2 can because Dan gets an itchy scalp if food is too hot :) You can add more if your family can take it, or none at all. (See picture of the can below.)

Chili-Mac8-10 servings

1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano--preferrably Mexican-style
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
El Pato Hot Tomato Sauce (optional--see note above)
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can beef broth
2 (16 ounce each) cans beans--your choice: pinto, black, kidney, etc., drained and rinsed
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 pound cellentani or elbow macaroni (Barilla is the very best!)
Shredded cheddar, sour cream, chopped green onion for garnish, if desired

In a large pot, brown beef, onion and garlic about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spices and stir for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, hot tomato sauce, and beef broth. Fill broth can with water and add that as well. Stir in beans and brown sugar. Lower heat and simmer with lid askew for about 30 minutes.

While chili is simmering, fill another large pot with cold water; when boiling add salt and pasta of your choice. Cook according to package instructions. Drain and stir in a little olive oil.

When pasta is cooked and chili is done, serve the chili over the pasta and garnish, if desired. And, yes, I do! This dish tastes great with the addition of the garnishes.

I usually serve the chili over the mac for the first meal and then add the leftovers together and refrigerate. It is simple to scoop out and reheat a bowl anytime you want one!

Add as little or as much as you like!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Oh those naughty leprechauns!

St. Patrick’s Day is one of my family’s favorite holidays; after all  Dan and I both have Irish roots. When our kiddos were little, the leprechauns came every St. Paddy’s Day eve to play tricks and leave candy gold coins. One year, the leprechauns put all the chairs on top of the kitchen table. Another year, the kids found their underwear hanging from the chandelier above our table. Always, the leprechauns dyed the milk green. I remember my kids just shaking their heads and saying, "Oh, those naughty leprechauns...."

My kiddos are now 18 and 16. Last year, I was thinking the leprechaun pranks finally might be too childish, when my oldest asked nonchalantly, "So, are the leprechauns coming again this year?" And, so, they did.

I happened upon some great leprechaun tricks on pinterest and have included them in this post. Such clever people out there! And, you can search for treasure hunt ideas and for food ideas, too. (Love the glasses of Sprite with green ice cubes!) There are some great ideas for leprechaun traps, too. See my favorite at the bottom of this post! Good luck and happy leprechaun hunting!

Éirinn go Brách!

Leprechaun Tricks

A Differentiated Kindergarten

Coolest Family on the Block
Green water trick (make all the faucets dispense green water - pesky leprechauns! The secret is nothing more than a few coloring tablets secretly hidden in the screen of the faucet. The tablets are called Fizzy Tablets or True Color Tablets. You can find them on-line or occasionally at a department store.Don't use Easter egg dye tablets because they stain!)
The Muddy Princess

Happy Home Fairy

Happy Home Fairy

And, here's my favorite for a leprechaun trap! What fun this would be to make:

Recipe by Photo

Friday, March 8, 2013

Irish Cottage Pie

We are due for another snowstorm tomorrow and we hope it's a good one! Here in Colorado we count on March and April to bring us the lion's share of our moisture for the year. Besides, spring snowstorms aren't like those in the winter. Flakes are giant and wet and generally don't stick around long. They make the air smell wonderful and green up our yards, making me dream of that lovely little Emerald Isle.

Here is a wonderful, warming casserole, perfect for this time of year. It is similar to a Shepard's pie but uses ground beef rather than ground lamb. Traditional Irish pies don't include cheese as an ingredient. However, if you wish, you can shred a handful of cheddar and stir in or sprinkle it over the top of the potatoes before baking. I understand that these pies are served with spring green peas traditionally.


Irish Cottage Pie

Serves 6 to 8

for the potato topping (and the creamiest potatoes ever!):
4 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper
fresh, minced parsley for garnish, if desired

for the filling:
2 pounds, ground beef
1 tablespoon oil
2 onions, finely chopped
4 carrots, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) beef broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon sage
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
3 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper

Boil potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and place potatoes back in pan. Turn the burner underneath potatoes on to low and stir constantly for a few minutes to slightly dry the potatoes. They will begin to smell like baked potatoes. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, heat milk, 2 tablespoons butter and thyme together, just until butter is melted. Mash potatoes or, for the creamiest potatoes use a potato ricer. Whisk in the milk mixture and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick spray and set aside.

Brown beef, sprinkling with a little salt and pepper, and remove from pan and set aside on a few layers of paper towel to drain.

Drain fat from pan and wipe clean with a paper towel. Heat oil in pan and add onion, carrot and celery. Saute until onions are tender. Add tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together broth, Worcestershire sauce, seasonings and flour. Stir into vegetables and return hamburger to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until sauce thickens.

Transfer to the prepared baking dish and top with mashed potatoes. Score the potatoes with a fork or make peaks on the potatoes with a spoon; dot with remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and mashed potatoes begin to brown on the peaks. Sprinkle with fresh parsley, if desired.