Tag Archives: holidays

Jar Lunch: Irish Shepherd’s Pie

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

Shepherd’s Pie is already Irish, but this vegetarian version adds bit of Guinness and is topped with colcannon instead of plain ol’ mashed potatoes. Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish with cabbage or kale in mashed potatoes. I’ve used kale here as we still have it in the garden and it adds a festive green touch for St. Patrick’s Day.

This recipe can easily be made vegan with non-dairy margarine and milk & forgoing the optional cheese.

Irish Shepherd’s Pie
Makes six jar lunches in wide-mouth pint jars.

colcannon topping ingredients:
3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (just under 1-1/4 lbs.)
3 (packed) cups chopped kale, tough ribs removed
1 leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
¾ cup milk
1-½ tablespoons butter
¾ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

filling ingredients:
14 ounces vegetarian sausage (such as Gimme Lean), crumbled
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 cup chopped cabbage
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup Guinness
½ cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons vegetarian Worcestershire
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

optional topping:
6 tablespoons shredded Dubliner cheese or sharp white cheddar

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Prepare the colcannon:
Peel the potatoes and chop into large cubes. Place in a medium-sized pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer over high heat, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer about 15 minutes, until the potatoes begin to break apart when poked with a fork. Drain the potatoes, return to the pot, mash thoroughly and cover.

While the potatoes are cooking, bring the kale, leek, milk, butter, salt, and nutmeg to a simmer in a small pot. Keep covered and stir occasionally until soft, 10-12 minutes. Add the kale mixture to the mashed potatoes and stir to combine. Keep covered while you prepare the filling.

Prepare the filling:
Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the vegetarian sausage crumbles. Cook until browned. Set sausage aside on a plate.

Put ½ tablespoon olive oil in the same pan used for the sausage. Add onion, garlic, celery, carrot, cabbage, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Saute for 10-12 minutes, until soft. Add flour and stir until veggies are evenly coated. Next add the Guinness, broth, and Worcestershire and cook until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Add the sausage, peas, and parsley and continue to cook until combined and warmed through. Remove the bay leaf.

Fill the jars:
Divide the filling evenly between six wide-mouth pint mason jars (a little over a cup in each jar). A jar funnel is very helpful for this step but not required. Next divide the colcannon topping evenly between the six jars (just over ½ cup in each jar).

Bake the filled jars:
Place jars on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 400° F for 20 minutes. Remove the sheet with jars from the oven, and switch setting to broil.

Add cheese as an optional topping. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon at the top of each jar. Return baking sheet and jars to the oven under the broiler. Watch closely while broiling. Allow the cheese (or colcannon if you didn’t add cheese) to turn golden, approximately 1-3 minutes.

Cool completely before putting lids on the jars and refrigerating.

Next time I make this, I’m doubling it and freezing half!

If you try this recipe or any of the other Jar Lunches, don’t forget to add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr Group. Flickr users, please join! Show off your own clever jar lunches.


Filed under food

Irish Coffee

Today may be my only day off, and my to do list a mile long.

That doesn’t mean I can’t have fun.

With green sprinkles.

And whiskey. Irish Coffee recipe here.


Filed under food, holidays

Are you ready for Pi Day?

We’ve got a house with both nerds and people of Irish ancestry, so I figure we need to celebrate Pi Day and St. Patrick’s Day this week. I have to admit, I’m most excited about eating pie. I may be working 60+ hours this week, but darnit, I’m going to make some pie. What kind of pie will you be eating?

Here’s a round-up of pie recipes I’m looking at:

Photo via CHOW

Photo via Epicurious

Photo via Serious Eats

Go forth and make pie!


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I Heart Eggnog

Perhaps you got an inkling as to my love of all things eggnog when I told you about eggnog popcorn balls. I know some hate it, but my love for eggnog runs deep. When I was a kid we thinned our eggnog with 7-Up. These days my family is all about the organic low-fat eggnog or delicious, vegan Silk Nog. There’s always a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg on top.

This morning Jess went out and got me my first eggnog latte of the year. I was inspired to round-up all the eggnog related recipes I’ve been dying to try.


Filed under food

homemade organic cane syrup

Oh, the sugar dilemma. I don’t want to use the stuff made of genetically-modified corn, but I also kind of resent recipes that use a cup of maple syrup for sweetener. Who can afford a cup of maple syrup? Agave, honey, and brown rice syrup are also pretty spendy, and often change the flavor of what you’re making. The solution? Make your own organic cane syrup at home.

I tested out this cane syrup recipe from The Kitchn. The organic cane sugar we buy in bulk has a little color to it, so our results were a gorgeous golden. There is a very subtle flavor. Upon first taste I immediately thought of cotton candy.

Ours turned out a little too thick, which I am certain was the result of me needing to calibrate my candy thermometer. Click here for a good set of instructions on how to calibrate yours.

We might just own two identical thermometers. Time to finally calibrate and mark which one is which. And yet still I’m dreaming of a perfect digital candy thermometer with a large display that you can set to beep when it reaches the temperature you need. I might still need to calibrate it, but perhaps I wouldn’t have to bend over and squint to read it so much.


Filed under food

DIY holiday gift round-up

It’s that time of year. Time to bust out some of those precious canned goods for holiday gifts, or better yet, make some homemade goods especially for gift giving. As we prepare for a food swap next week and plan for the holidays, I have DIY gifts on the mind. Here are some of the links I’ve been looking at:


Filed under holidays, traditions

Thanksgiving for busy people

I love nothing more than cooking an elaborate Thanksgiving meal with the works. That won’t be happening this year, though. The 911 center doesn’t close on holidays, so I will be working my usual 10 hour shift. It’s okay, I love holiday pay, and even though we won’t make it up north to visit the extended family, I will be home early enough to make a few dishes and join some friends for dinner.

Here’s what we’ll be making:

We’ll be the only vegetarians in attendance, so we’re bringing our own Tofurky. We like the simple roast, without the extras. It’s much better with homemade gravy.

Here’s an old picture of my homemade vegan gravy. This recipe has evolved over the years, and I might just have a few tricks up my sleeve. True story: the day Jess and I met I cooked my vegan biscuits and gravy. It’s on my list to write a recipe zine next year that includes this recipe.

Photo via Real Simple

Of course we will also need to bring meat-free stuffing. Last year we tried Real Simple’s Cheddar and Jalapeño Stuffing, and I suspect we’ll be making every year going forward. Italian bread, jalapeños, cheddar cheese, and lager beer – need I say more?

Photo via BHG

I’m dying to try this recipe for Creamy Green Beans with Crispy Shallots from Better Homes and Gardens. Due to time limitations, we’ll be going for the all-American green bean casserole from the recipe on the french fried onion can. I’m hoping we can try the crispy shallot recipe sometime over the holidays. I love a good green bean casserole. It has to be even better from scratch, right?

Photo via Epicurious

And of course I have to bring some pecan pie. I’ll probably be making three of these, one for work and two for Thanksgiving dinner. I’m going to try this recipe from Epicurious, although I’m omitting the orange zest. I already messed up one dessert with orange zest earlier this year.

A few Thanksgiving links

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving full of incredible food. Now I better get to the store before they sell out of pecans!


Filed under food, holidays, traditions

Turkey Day for vegetarians

When Levi was little, we had a Thanksgiving tradition. In honor of Turkey Day, we would adopt a turkey from Farm Sanctuary. We didn’t bring home an actual turkey. In exchange for a donation you get a picture of the turkey in the mail. It’s just a clever fundraiser for a good organization. Farm Sanctuary rescues animals and shelters them at its farms in California and New York. They also educate and advocate for animal welfare.

Somehow we fell out of the habit of our annual adoption/donation, and then the other day I mentioned it to Jess. It turns out her aunt used to “adopt a turkey” in her honor every year, too. So we decided this would be a good year to start the tradition again.

This is Payton, our Adopt-a-Turkey of choice. RIDICULOUS.

Speaking of little vegetarians, a great book to read with them is Dav Pilkey’s ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving.

Set to the familiar Christmas poem, it’s a story about a group of kids who go on a field trip to a turkey farm. They become so enamored with the turkeys they are horrified to realize their fate as Thanksgiving dinner. They decide to try to save the turkeys, and well… I won’t spoil the ending.

The rest of our traditions are pretty standard: gorging ourselves on delicious food, suffering from carb overload, and spending time with friends and family. I can’t wait to eat some mashed potatoes and gravy, the cheddar and jalapeño stuffing we loved so much last year, and some pecan pie!

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Halloween in Astoria

We just got home from an incredible weekend away in Astoria, Oregon. I swear, everytime we go there I fall in love with that place a little more. One of the highlights was Talking Tombstones, an event put on for the last 8 years by the Clatsop County Historical Society. We showed up at the Astoria Pioneer Cemetery near Coxcomb Hill to check it out.

First we met the ghost of Susan Pitkin. She cried real tears as she told the tragic tale of becoming the town recluse after two of her sons drowned in the Columbia River.

The stories didn’t get any happier as we met Lillian Hendrickson, who talked of being the first woman to work at the cannery only to be shot to death at age 17 by a guy she turned down.

Laura Ferrell sat next to her family plot and talked of the booming 1870s in Astoria, losing her first husband to an accidental shooting, three marriages, fifteen pregnancies, and thirteen kids.

I had no idea that cable TV was invented in Astoria, but the ghost of Ed Parsons and his wife, Grace, showed us how he put an antenna on the top of the Astoria Hotel and ran coaxial cable to his home. Soon after he had to set up the first cable TV system to keep all his neighbors out of his living room.

Henry Sidlinger seemed like a happy fella and talked of being a tinsmith, but he still holds a grudge against the newspaper for making it sounds like he had been hiding his past and ended his own life.

A young Emma Burke died alongside her father by a fallen tree.

The last three ghosts’ stories managed to tie together. There was Gabriel Franchère, who came to Astoria with John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company.

Donald McTavish also worked in the fur trade, and brought the first European woman to Oregon, Jane Barnes. He complained of his remains and tombstone being moved too many times, though apparently the tombstone ended up in a museum downtown.

Jane Barnes became known as the “First Lady of Astoria”. Though she was brought by McTavish for companionship, she ended up on the arm of another sometime during the 13 month journey. Eventually both men died on another boat when it capsized.

We kept our distance from the other spirit we saw lurking around.

Happy Halloween, y’all!


Filed under family