Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes with Kale)

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I spent my first few years of school pursuing a degree in Computer Engineering—a seemingly odd choice for someone as artistically incline as me, but by the time I left for college I had already spent four years working in the computer industry. After that a degree in computer engineering seemed like the natural choice, but I quickly realized how much I hated it. No matter how hard I try I will never be mathematically inclined, so I dropped all of my classes and started researching art programs. This is how I finally landed at the University of Missouri  St. Louis (UMSL) pursuing degrees in both graphic design and photography.

Which, if you ask me, was a much better fit.

I don't regret my decision to jump ship mid-degree, even though it took me a few extra years to graduate since I only went back to school part-time. What I do regret is that I missed out on some really great parties, especially around St. Patrick's Day. You might not realize this, but St. Patrick is the patron Saint of Engineers. As a young college student I spent many a day drinking in St. Pats honor, a tradition that continued once I married a computer engineer. These days I try not to drink my weight in green beer, Guinness, and Bailey's (or whatever other God-awful green concoction someone would dream up as we ran out of "the good stuff") but I do still have a taste for more traditional Irish fare. My favorite dish is Colcannon, a potato-based dish consisting of fluffy mashed potatoes, butter, and kale or cabbage. It's perfect for St. Patrick's Day, but makes a pretty killer side-dish for Easter too. 

If you're looking for some other great ideas for your St. Patrick's Day celebration, don't forget to try our recipes for Reuben Salad with Rye Bread Croutons and Russian Dressing, it's a great way to use up your leftover corned beef!

Colcannon | Not Starving Yet

Colcannon
makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients

2.5lbs russet potatoes
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups kale, chopped
4 ounces Kerry Gold butter, salted
1/4 cup half and half
additional salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

  • Place potatoes in a saucepan, add sea salt, and cover with 1 - 2 inches of cold water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and allow the potatoes to simmer in an uncovered pan for 30 - 50 minutes or until they are fork tender. Larger potatoes will need to be boiled longer, so I prefer to check mine around the 30 minute mark.
  • Bring a second pot of water to a boil, add 3 cups of chopped kale (ribs removed, and blanch for 3 - 5 minutes until the leaves are tender and bright green. Transfer the blanched kale to a colander and allow to drain completely.
  • Once the potatoes have finished cooking place them in an ice bath to cool, then slip the skins off with your hands. They should peel off fairly easily, if not place the potatoes back in the ice bath to cool longer or use a potato peeler.
  • In a large bowl combine potatoes, Kerry Gold butter, and half & half. Mash the potatoes until they've reached the desired consistency (I prefer to leave mine a little chunky) then add the blanched kale and additional salt, to taste. 

Notes

If you've used the ice bath method mentioned above to easily peel your potatoes you may need to reheat this dish before serving. 

This recipe is incredibly flexible. If you aren't a fan of kale feel free to substitute another leafy green or go the more traditional route and use cabbage.

Spinach Caprese Salad with Sweet Vinaigrette

I've been doing quite well maintaining my healthier lifestyle the past few months—I've even managed to lose a little weight, or at least I had until cookie baking season rolled around. Having cookies in the house is more temptation than I can resist, so I've tried to make eating healthy as simple as possible. My current go-to meal comes in the form of these festive looking salads. I love that they can be made several days in advance and the ingredients kept on hand for those times when I'd rather stand over the kitchen sink and devour my most recent batch of cookies (and lets be honest, we've all been there.) With these salads on hand, no matter how busy I am with holiday preparations I have a healthy lunch at my fingertips and I can't make excuses for eating an entire tray full of cookies during a fit of hunger (or insanity.)  

Spinach Caprese Salad w/ Sweet Vinaigrette

Spinach Caprese Salad with Sweet Vinaigrette
makes 4 servings + extra vinaigrette

Ingredients

for the salad

6oz baby spinach
8oz fresh mozzarella pearls
10oz grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
fresh ground pepper, to taste

for the vinaigrette

¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon minced garlic, dried
¼ teaspoon parsley, dried
⅛ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 pinch red pepper flakes, crushed
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil or other oil of your choice

Directions

for the salad

  • Layer baby spinach with fresh mozzarella pearls and sliced grape tomatoes. Top with sweet vinaigrette and black pepper.

for the vinaigrette

  • In a small saucepan combine the cider vinegar and sugar, turn the heat to high and cook until the sugar has dissolved, about 2 - 3 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool slightly before continuing.
  • Add sea salt, dried minced garlic, parsley, fresh ground pepper, and red pepper flakes to the still-warm vinegar. Slowly add oil, then stir or shake until well combined. 
  • Vinaigrette can be stored in a covered container for approximately 2 weeks (I use a half-pint mason jar.) The ingredients will separate, so you'll need to shake the jar to combine the ingredients before serving.

Notes

If you want to turn this into a mason jar salad to-go, wash and completely dry your jar. Put a tablespoon or more of vinaigrette in the bottom of the jar. Add enough tomatoes to completely cover the vinaigrette, add a layer of mozzarella, and finally spinach. Don't let your mozzarella sit in the vinaigrette, it will start to form a hard skin and turns somewhat rubbery.

Place a small square of paper towel at the top of the jar to soak up any condensation. This will work wonders to prolong the life of your salad. Seal the jar and refrigerate until you're ready to eat. Mason jar salads are best when consumed in 2-3 days, although a large batch of vinaigrette will stay fresh for at least two weeks.

Gingerbread Applesauce + @OXOTot Product Review #Sponsored

I don't know about you, but once the weather hits freezing I'm ready to hibernate. Even my son, who is usually a little ball of energy sleeps in later and wants to spend more time cuddled in bed where it's warm. Today he got up at 8, realized how chilly the tile floor was, then came straight back to my room toting his handmade blanket from grandma and three of his most favorite stuffed animals—we didn't get up again until after 11.

Saturday is the day I normally dedicate to getting things done, be it house cleaning or blogging, but today I shoved it all aside to spend a few precious hours cuddling with my son. He's 4 now, in a very short while he'll decide he's too old to spend his days cuddled up in bed giving me big hugs and sloppy puppy kisses, so I try to drop whatever I'm doing and take advantage of this time while I can.

I think it's important for all parents to remember that these precious moments are the ones we can never get back. From time-to-time we need to slow down, forget about the laundry list of things we "need" to do and focus on what's truly important—creating lasting memories with our children. Take a minute to read a book, draw in the condensation on the windows, make snow angels, decorate cookies, or make some applesauce. Memories like these will last a lifetime and five-ten-twenty or more years from now you won't remember that the house looked like a tornado went through it because you took the day off from cleaning.

Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the OXO Tot Big Kids, Big Appetites blogger outreach campaign. They have provided me with a set of tools from their OXO Tot line, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the OXO Tot Big Kids, Big Appetites blogger outreach campaign. They have provided me with a set of tools from their OXO Tot line, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

Gingerbread Applesauce
makes 2 - 3 pints

Ingredients

3lbs apples, any variety (I used Aurora Golden Gala)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground all spice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses 

Directions

  • Peel and slice apples, add spices, vanilla extract, and molasses, then cook on high in a crock-pot for 3 - 4 hours. The applesauce is done when it can easily be mashed with a fork or potato masher.

Notes

I prefer to serve my applesauce chunky, but you can puree it with a food mill, immersion blender, or food processor for a finer sauce. You'll want to let it cool down a little first to avoid any chance of burns.

I include canning instructions with most of my applesauce recipes, but because this recipe contains molasses I'm not positive that it's safe for water bath canning. That doesn't mean you can't can this recipe, but you'll want to leave out the molasses until you're ready to serve it. For water bath canning instructions check out our previous applesauce posts: Easy Crock-Pot ApplesauceStrawberry ApplesauceSpiced Blueberry Applesauce and Peach Applesauce.
 

Make sure to keep reading for our OXO Tot product review!

No shirt, no shoes, no service is clearly not a rule in our house! 

No shirt, no shoes, no service is clearly not a rule in our house! 

We've gone through quite a few plates in the past four years, but the divided plate from OXO is one of my favorites. The smaller size makes it easy for a child to grip while eating and the divided sections keep food mostly separated. I especially love the center dipping section, it's the perfect size for ketchup, syrup, or a dab of sour cream. The only thing this plate is missing is a lid, I'd love to have one so I can easily store leftovers.

Where to Purchase: Amazon or OXO

If you like this design, but prefer something with a lid there is a similar plate in the OXO Tot line, although it only has two sections. You can find it on Amazon.

Fork and Spoon Set

OXO sent me this set once before when my son was much smaller and it was all we used until he graduated to "big people" silverware. The large handles make the utensils easier for small hands to grip and the fork is slightly rounded to make scooping like a spoon possible as well. Now that my little man is older the blunt tines of the fork frustrate him, it makes stabbing larger pieces of meat difficult, but they're much safer for small ones just starting out with silverware.

Where to Purchase: Amazon or OXO

Perch Booster Seat

Because I travel so much I decided to purchase a booster seat for my son instead of a high chair, it made life so much easier when eating out at restaurants or while visiting homes not accustomed to hosting small children. The Perch Booster Seat wasn't available back then, so I ended up with one from Fisher-Price instead.

There are pros and cons to both models, but I like that the OXO Tot Perch Booster Seat weighs a mere 3lbs and has a slim profile—it makes traveling with it much more convenient. The Fisher-Price booster weighs a full pound more, which is a lot if you're already loaded down with a diaper bag and other odds and ends. Both models clean up easily, but you can actually remove the seat from the Perch Booster to get at any nooks and crannies food may have slipped into.

My son outgrew his last booster seat around age 2, so this is a great choice for older kids who are still too small to comfortably sit at the table. It's considered safe for children up to 70lbs, so should fit your needs though early elementary school.

Where to Purchase: Amazon or OXO

Disclosure

OXO sent me their Perch Booster Seat, Fork and Spoon Set, and Divided Plate with Removable Training Ring as part of this campaign. As always all opinions are my own.

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.

 

 

Whole Grain Freekeh Risotto with Mushrooms and Asparagus #Unprocessed

Several weeks ago I spent the entire week snuggled in to bed with a sick child and two dozen of his favorite stuffed animals. No amount of coaxing could get him to move from my lap, so I gave in and took the week off from writing. On the first day I caught up on reading some of my favorite blogs while he slept, but eventually boredom set in. I'm not the type of person who can sit still for long and little man only woke up when I the thought crossed my mind that I may want to get out of bed at some point. A distraction was in order, so I started entering some of the great giveaways my fellow food bloggers had going on that week. I ended up winning a lovely cake stand from Clayton Family Kitchen and a bag of freekeh, a type of roasted green wheat, from Lisa Living Well.

The giveaway Gods were definitely smiling on me that week.

The timing couldn't have been better; one of my goals for October #Unprocessed has been to continue my education on alternative grains. Freekeh is new to me, but it looks very similar to other grains I've played with recently like einkorn, kamut, and farro. The flavor is a little nutty, almost like wild rice. It apparently tastes enough like wild rice that my husband assumed I'd run out of arborio, the traditional short-grain rice used in risotto, and switched things up so we could still have my favorite dinner.

It's never been easy to switch out my husband's favorite ingredients for something a little more healthy, but freekeh tastes enough like something he's already familiar with that it went unnoticed until I said something. In fact, he made me go get the package just to prove I wasn't messing with him when I said his risotto was made with roasted green wheat. It almost reminded me of the time I told him I was pregnant and he didn't believe me. He won't ever live that one down (but in his defense the doctor did say it was unlikely I'd ever be able to have children.)

So much has changed in our lives since that day nearly five years ago. We've made a lot of progress on living a healthier lifestyle and both my guys are fans of freekeh, the grain I'm still not sure how to pronounce. If you would have asked me five years ago if I thought we'd be enjoying a meal meal like this I would have laughed and said probably not, then picked up the phone to order a pizza (our traditional don't want to cook tonight meal.) Boy how times have changed!

Whole Grain Freekeh Risotto with Mushrooms and Asparagus - a quick and healthy weeknight meal  | Not Starving Yet

Whole Grain Freekeh Risotto with Mushrooms and Asparagus
makes 2 - 3 servings

Ingredients

2 cups cold water
1 cup dry freekeh
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, stems removed & sliced thin
1 cup asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 - 3 Tablespoons whipping cream
salt and pepper, to taste
grated parmesan cheese

Directions

  • Bring a saucepan of water to a boil before adding dry freekeh. Turn the temperature down to low, cover the saucepan, and allow the freekeh to cook until most of the water has been absorbed, or approximately 20 minutes.
  • In a skillet melt salted butter, add garlic, mushrooms, and asparagus. Cook until the onions are translucent and the asparagus has softened. This should take approximately 10 - 15 minutes.
  • Combine the sautéed veggies and freekeh. Add whipping cream, salt and pepper (to taste), then top with grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Notes

When it comes to salt everyone has different tastes, so I've left the decision on how much to add in your hands. I find that I use roughly ¼ teaspoon of sea salt per cup of freekeh, but you may want to add half that amount, taste, and add more as necessary. 

Having trouble tracking down freekeh? Visit the Freekeh Foods website to find which stores near you stock it.