Cheesy Shepherd’s Pie

Last night I was going to make a very elaborate dinner but my day took a couple of wrong turns and I didn’t get home in time to do that. I was now left with a pound of defrosted locally grown lean veal and no clue what to make in 45 minutes.

I decided to cop-out and make a quick and delicious Shepherd’s Pie. My family loves this dish and it makes for delicious left-overs, which allows for me to have a cook free day the next day. Well not fully free but at least dinner is set.

PREP TIME: 10 mins

COOK TIME: 35 mins

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb ground beef or veal or lamb (preferably locally grown/organic)
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 – 3 large organic carrots, finely diced
  • 1 cup of organic frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 glass of red wine
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup of organic chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon of black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 8 medium potatoes
  • 100 grams of butter
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 200 grams of grated cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Peel the potatoes and set them on the oven to boil.
  3. Use a saucepan to saute the carrots in the grapeseed oil until they start to get tender.
  4. Add in the onions and saute for a minute or two then add the meat.
  5. Season with black pepper and salt.
  6. Cook until browned. If you would prefer for it to be extra lean you can opt to drain the fat before continuing to the next step.
  7. Add the butter and peas.
  8. Sprinkle with flour and stir through.
  9. Add tomato paste, wine and Worcestershire sauce.
  10. Let this reduce slightly then add the chicken stock. Allow to reduce down until you have a thick meaty gravy. Season to your taste.
  11. Remove from heat. Grease an oven proof dish with a teaspoon of butter and add the meat sauce.  *I like using my Corningware French White 4-QT  Oval Roaster
  12. Smash the potatoes with the leftover butter and milk. Sprinkle some salt for taste.
  13. Spoon the mashed potatoes over top. 
  14. Grate the cheddar cheese and sprinkle it over top of the mashed potatoes.
  15. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the potato is nice and browned on top.
  16. Let it cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Notes:

This dish serves 4-6 people comfortably.


This dish is not for the calorie counting folks but if you want to tweek it by making it a touch more nutritious, you can substitute the potatoes for sweet potatoes and remove the cheese.

I don’t advise this though, as it is so hearty and delicious as is.

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Surviving the “Threeteen’s”

So you are at your kids third birthday party with a stupid smile on your face thinking “I did it! I survived the terrible two’s and lived to tell the stories”.

Your kid is now verbal, active and maybe even potty trained. You’ve got the whole meal routine down to a science and you can finally reason with this mature child of yours.

EXHALE THE BULLSHIT BREATHE IN THE GOOD SHIT

Until…

“NO! I am not your baby anymore!”

What? Wait, what just happened?

Welcome to the threeteen’s. It’s a place where you can lose your mind, go grey and live in an absolute state of confusion.

What you thought was terrible at two was child’s play, no pun intended.

At two your kid threw a couple of tantrums in public, peed on the floor and refused to eat all of their food.

Now you are dealing with a child that is all over the place emotionally, physically and mentally.

It’s the stage where they are no longer toddlers but not quite school-aged, they are the infamous “pre-schoolers”. They are like a gang of bandits ready to jump off of a high ledge at any moment so you are constantly on edge. One moment they wanna cuddle and the next they smack you across the face. It’s terrifying!

Their favorite food is now something they despise. The books that you once read to them are now thrown around the house like dog toys. They don’t want you to dress them but don’t quite know how to dress themselves!

It’s a flipping nightmare.

You can’t even gauge their mood because it is in a constant state of change. It’s like dealing with a very hangry person, it isn’t pleasant at all!

So what do you do?

  1. Find time to yourself. By this I mean you need to find an hour a day where you are not around anything child related. Whether your thing is yoga or chugging a bottle of Pinot Grigio, find the time to do it. Otherwise you will lose your noodles.
  2. Learn to tune out. I know this sounds harsh but sometimes your threeteen is completely out of control and there is absolutely nothing that YOU can do. Remind yourself that “this too shall pass” and that you are that much closer to your bottle of Pinot, or yoga. I’m obviously not much of a yogi.
  3. Slow your roll. Be calm because the angrier you get the worse the situation becomes.  Your kid is angry because so much is changing so quickly. They have no idea how to react to things so they lash out. Who better to lash out on than you? Just keep reminding yourself that one day they will actually be a real teenager and that is when the real war begins, this is just one of the small battles that you have to win.
  4. Distract, distract, distract! This can really help to get your mini Hulk back to their sweet calm Bruce Banner selves. Make a funny face, a funny noise or bring out the big guns and turn on the TV! If you’re not into things like allowing your children to watch television than bring out the lego or whatever else it takes to keep your threeteen busy rather than fussy.
  5. Go outside! There is nothing like some fresh air and a public park to get your kid to forget whatever crazy thing it was that drove them to insanity in the first place.
  6. Call for backup! In my house I am the meany. So when Nate loses his mind I have to bring Adam into the picture. What better way to get your kid to calm down than to bring their favorite person onto the scene. If that person isn’t home just make a phone call, that usually helps.
  7. Speak calmly and try to figure out what is wrong. This one is hard but can work as long as you keep your voice and demeanor calm. Look them straight in the eye, as you would an adult, and speak to them as you would to an adult. They want to be treated like big kids and sometimes that’s what it takes to get them out of their little kid tantrum. Sometimes.
  8. Turn on the tunes. There is nothing that a little dance party can’t cure, right?
  9. Hit up the kitchen and get out a snack. Just make sure that it is something that they can’t say no to. This will get them chowing down on the snack and backing off of you. It’s like throwing a crazed dog a bone, it keeps them occupied for a bit.
  10. Accept defeat. Sometimes you can’t win so just give up, stand up and walk away. If you have tried everything you can and they are still in Rambo mode, you need to give them space. I know that they are three but sometimes they need to be alone to realize how silly they are being. Plus that will ensure that you won’t have a complete threeteen meltdown of your own. Just keep reminding yourself that that bottle of Pinot is right around the corner.

Cinnabon Cinnamon Bun Recipe

Last night I had a crazy craving for a cinnamon bun. I happen to live in an area where getting a fresh cinnamon bun is out of the question, so I took to my recipe book and made them myself.

Now if I am making my own cinnamon buns they have to be a carbon copy of a Cinnabon and I found just the recipe.

I found Todd Wilbur’s recipe that came straight out of his book More Top Secret Recipes and went for it!

Before you take on this task, just remember that it will probably take you two hours from start to finish, so make sure you have a slot open in your agenda.

Nate wanted to bake with me so it took just a touch longer but it was well worth it! These cinnamon buns are as close to the real thing as they come!

Dough Prep

Rolling and cuttingBaked and Ready

CINNABON CINNAMON BUNS A LA REV

PREP TIME – 30 MINS

COOK TIME – 20 MINS

*TOTAL TIME UNTIL BAKED AND READY – 2 HOURS AS IT TAKES TIME FOR THE DOUGH TO RISE BOTH AFTER YOU PREPARE IT AND AFTER YOU HAVE ROLLED, CUT AND PLACED THE BUNS INTO THE PAN

Serves: 6

INGREDIENTS

Dough

  • 1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups flour

Filling

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup butter, softened

Cream cheese icing

  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup cream cheese
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ⅛ tsp salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. For the rolls, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl.
  2. Add sugar, butter, salt, eggs, and flour to the bowl of a mixer and mix well.
  3. Pour the milk/yeast mixture in the bowl and using the dough hook, mix well until well incorporated.
  4. Place dough into an oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
  5. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, until it is approx 16 inches long by 12 inches wide. It should be approx ¼ inch thick.
  6. To make filling, combine the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Make sure that it is extremely soft, borderline liquid like, or you will have a hard time spreading it properly.
  7. Use a soft brush to spread the mixture evenly over the surface of the dough. Alternatively you can melt the butter and spread it on the dough and then sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture on top. 
  8. Working carefully, from the long edge, roll the dough down to the bottom edge8 inches in length. Cut the roll into 2½ inch slices.
  9. Place the cut rolls in the prepared pan. Cover them with a damp towel. Let them rise again for another 30 minutes until they double in size.
  10. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.
  11. Bake for 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cooking time can vary depending on your oven so pay close attention to the cinnamon buns by checking on them every 5 minutes.
  12. While the rolls are baking make the icing but mixing all ingredients and beat well with an electric mixer until fluffy.
  13. When the rolls are done, spread generously with icing.

NOTES

Make sure that you have a good quality yeast on hand as this is the component that can make or break this recipe.

Stick a fork in me cause I’m done!

The finished product

The Worst Kind of Pain

I’ve dislocated my knee, given  birth twice and have gone through a couple of pretty intense car accidents.

Everything has been really hard on me but today things got even worse.

Today Nate went in for surgery. Nothing serious, just a tonsil and adenoid removal. This is such a regular procedure and only takes 20-30 minutes to do.

Or so I told myself.

I came into the hospital with my overly emotional mom in tow. Nate didn’t complain of hunger or thirst as we managed to keep him busy with a variety of activities. My mom, on the other hand, sobbed like a baby.

I didn’t react and went on with my positive thoughts.

“He’ll be just fine!”

“They do this all of the time!”

As we finally got called into the area where we met the anesthesiologist and they walked him into surgery, away from me, my thoughts took a turn for the worst.

“What if he’s allergic to the anesthetic and dies on the table?!?”

“What if he bleeds out and there is NOTHING they can do?!?”

I left the waiting area to get a coffee and ease my mind. My mom sobbing uncontrollably did NOT help but I rolled with it.

After the longest forty minutes of my life, I got called into the post-op room. I walked into the room and all I could hear were his heavy sobs as the nurse was rocking him gently. He was bleeding out of his mouth and nose. I became overcome with anxiety but buckled down and kept my shit together cause there was no other choice.

As I tended to him I realized that he was inconsolable and my heart instantly shattered into ten thousand pieces. His pain is far more painful to me than any pain that I have ever experienced myself.

I wish I could take his pain and put it on myself but I can’t. The only thing I can do is hold him, kiss him, console him and be there for him. 

These moments make my heart bleed for the parents out there that are in and out of hospitals with their littles. There is nothing settling about these visits as you truly don’t know the outcome. It is as though you have been skinned and are walking into walls. It is agonizingly painful. 

I hope that this is the worst that it ever gets but if today’s events have taught me anything, I will stay strong for him no matter how weakened I am inside.

Four Leaf Clover

Eight months ago I was scrolling through the “Discover People” feed when I came across a picture of a little baby in green headphones. I thought that it was just the sweetest thing I had seen in awhile.Flash forward about a month and that same little baby came up in that feed, weird.

My instinctual curiosity had me clicking on the photo and I read the caption.

I was devastated to see that this three month old baby had just been diagnosed with liver cancer.

Immediately afterwards I began to follow @keeley_ruth through her journey into a very hard and dark place that I could never imagine going to myself.

There were times that I sobbed for Clover, this courageous baby girl.

I would pray for her, I told people her story and I kept posting heart felt comments for her family to see in hopes that it would somehow help.

There must be a thousand degrees of separation between us but I felt as though I knew Clover and her family personally.

After a very difficult time, serious treatment and surgery Clover is now in remission.

This past Friday I received this letter and photo in the mail.

There are no words to express my gratitude for this gesture.

It truly makes me appreciate this bond and sense of community amongst mothers everywhere.

It is nice to know that there are still good people out there and it proves that it truly takes a village to raise a child.

Amen to this beautiful village that we are so lucky to be a part of.

Cheers to you @keeley_ruth for your strength, honesty and kindness it’s truly a beautiful thing. 

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

Silence.

It’s a word that can’t be used too often in my life.

From morning cries to evening bedtime battles, there is always so much noise.

Nate is the initiator of a lot of the noise.

He’s resilient and doesn’t let go of the things he wants, so more times than not there is a long conversation or even an argument about pretty much everything.

At this particular moment he is still and silent.

Rather than basking in the glory of this rare silence I sit behind him and wonder what he’s thinking about.

Is it that fight we had this morning or is he disappointed about the toy that I took away from him, forcefully making him share it.

I begin to wonder how I will survive this silence in the future when he is older.

When the silence comes from a feeling of resentment and lasts longer.

It instantly makes me miss the “noise”.

One day he will live his own life and I’ll be calling him off the hook just to hear the sound of his voice and I will be elated if I get to experience that “noise” again.

At his young age the silence is very short lived and we go back to the silly loud noise within minutes.

The truth is that it’s nice to have some peace and quiet from time to time but silence is too loud for me.

Mommy Brain

Once upon a time I used to remember things.

Little things, like where I leave my keys, what I ate for breakfast and how to match my shoes to my shirt.

These days I am lucky to be dressed, at all!

There is nothing that can prepare you for this severe memory lapse, not even the world’s best organizer.

It’s no joke people. It’s the truth!

When your friend that has kids doesn’t call you back, it’s probably because she forgot due to one of the million things that are going on in her mind, so try and give her some slack.

In fact, I just started writing this article and have almost forgotten what it’s about!

Mommy brain is a condition that develops in the first few months of pregnancy and continues throughout the rest of your life.

The sheer idea of carrying a child in ones body can be quite overwhelming and thought consuming.

Here is a list of things that you have to think about when pregnant and when raising children:

  • what you can and cannot eat
  • what you can and cannot do
  • the products you need to avoid
  • the activities you need to temper
  • all of the new things you need to purchase
  • learning how to take care of a child!!!
  • how to raise a normal human being
  • what is safe to feed my kids
  • what are the most stimulating activities out there
  • when is that dentist appointment
  • how do I get this one to dance and that one to soccer practice at the same time when they are 10 miles away from each other
  • what’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • is this poisonous
  • is this organic, locally grown, and healthy

This list can go on for a very long time but you get the drift.

Now imagine trying to keep up with this demanding list everyday for the rest of your life.

Remembering trivial things takes a backseat in your mind because you simply don’t have the mental ability to keep up with it all.

Don’t feel bad about it though.

It’s lifes way of forcing you to forget about inconcequential things in order to focus on the more important things, like when to feed your baby.

Sure, you may forget to pick Joey up at soccer practice from time to time but it’s natural and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it too much.

Consider yourself a MOMBIE; a mom plus zombie. It’s all worth it when you get to cuddle up to this little person who has stripped you of your short term memory for the rest of your life.