May the luck of the Irish…Happy St Patrick’s Day with a bit of lamb for dinner

St Patrick’s Day 2020 – what a memorable year thus far. We kicked off this decade with so many well wishes and never would I have thought that a mere 77 days after we watched the ball drop on New Year’s Eve that we would be here, Covid-19. However, here we are! With such uncertainty, I wanted to go back and relive all those Irish memories again. However, this time I am focusing a bit more on the west coast of Ireland. Particularly just over the river Shannon and after the Cliffs of Moher, where the ocean meets the sky, and I will be sailing (did you sing that, I know I did). So join me and my family as we celebrate our heritage and our resilience as Americans and as Irishmen. This too shall pass my friend.

The ring of Kerry will forever be my favorite. When I was a little girl, I bought a poster at Walmart. It was of a winding road and lined by stone fences. An old horse and cart was hauling a load lavender headed to the market. It was of Ireland and for some reason, I was captivated by it. I was 10 years old and I used my money from my piggy bank to buy the poster. The caption on the bottom of the poster was County Kerry, Ireland. I made a promise to myself that I would go there someday. Well for those that know me well, know that when I set my mind to something, I follow through.

When I did go, I loved every ounce of it. The charm, the accent, the whiskey, and the landscape. It was all that I had ever wanted and more from a trip. We left Kerry and headed across the river Shannon on a ferry boat. I witnessed dolphins splashing around in the cold waters near our ferry as we headed to County Clare. We had the amazing opportunity to walk the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs raise 702 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. The sheer force of the winds and the dramatic depths of the cliffs will make you speechless. To stand there is to stand in awe of the miraculousness of this earth. This area is known to over 20 native and protected seabird species. Falcons, razorbills, and puffins are just a few that call the Cliffs home. We were so lucky to have fair skies and good weather in November. We were able to walk the cliffs and explore so much of the area. County Clare, Galway, and County Mayo were so mesmerizing to me. Galway – if you don’t immediately think of Steve Earle, then we can’t be friends. When Steve Earle was living in Ireland and working with local musicians, he penned the famous Galway Girl song. If you are a bit younger than I am, Ed Sheeran, did a remake. You still get my point. There’s nothing like a Galway girl…..

When you look at the hotspots to go, these are not typically on the top of your list in Ireland with the exception of the Cliff’s. If you have the chance, slow down and enjoy the views and the slower pace of life (kind of like we are doing right now but in a non-forced way) while viewing the Irish landscape, do it.

In County Mayo, city of Cong, you will find a quaint area to relax and have a good drink while walking the streets of the town. I mentioned earlier in a blog about the movie with Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne called The Quiet Man, filmed in Cong, Ireland. We had so much fun touring the area and even recreating parts of the movie.

The colors are fascinating in the town of Cong, a statue of John Wayne and Maureen are near the production site, and then my husband, reenacted the priest who married a lovely couple (who were from Melbourne). Our trip with CIE tours was fascinating and the small number of folks traveling in November allowed our group to get to know each other a bit more. We still keep in touch with our friends from New Jersey and Australia. While traveling, you get to meet so many wonderful people from this beautiful planet and learn from them. I learned a ton of slang from our Aussie friends. Jumper for example is not to jump a person or to enact harm on someone but in fact a sweater. Yep, a sweater is a jumper. I know right! I am thinking back to standardized test: a baloo is a bear. No sense but hey when in Ireland do as an Aussie would do. We also learned that you cannot pump your own gas in New Jersey. Seriously? I thought that was for those rural gas stations and older people? Nope the entire state follows that logic, from what I am told. Our Irish bus driver talked to us about crack. Crack apparently is not an illegal substance but in fact a joke on the emerald isle. This is a bunch of crack (not illegal). I truly hope you travel. I pray that you have the opportunity to learn new slang from friends across the planet. I hope we will get to normalcy soon. So here are a few more pictures of our home away from home, Ireland.

For this St Patty’s Day 2020, with all that is happening in our neck of the woods, we went all out. I mean why not??? I have been quarantined for the last four days homeschooling my children. They have recently taken to not liking each other very much and it appears we still have 8-14 days of this isolation or more. Therefore, may the luck of the Irish be forever with us.

Grilled Lamb Chops

Lamb Chops

8-12 lamb chops

Montreal Steak Seasoning

Wok Oil

Drizzle oil over chops, sprinkle the Montreal Steak seasoning over the chops. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat your grill on high, place lamb chops down to sear, then reduce heat to low and slow cook them. 3-4 minutes each side. Super delicious and great with potatoes or rice.

Shepard’s Pie

1 lb ground lamb

1 12 oz bag of frozen peas and carrots or shredded carrots and canned peas

1 tbsp of minced garlic

1/2 red onion diced

1/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese or mixed cheese

2 beef bouillon cubes

3/4 cup of heavy cream

Salt/Pepper to taste

2 lbs of potatoes

1/2 cup of milk

1/4 cup of butter

1 tsp of chives

Salt/Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan of a 9 x 9 baking dish.

In a skillet on medium heat, brown the ground lamb and onions. Add garlic. Cook for an additional minute. Add to a greased loaf pan. Add other veggies (onions, peas and carrots), salt and pepper.

Boil potatoes, when softed, drain, add milk and butter, salt and pepper. Mash. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

With remaining grease from the lamb, add two bouillon cubes and the heavy cream. Stir until mixed, combined and thickened. Pour over the veggie and lamb mix, stir. Add 1/8 cup of shredded cheese to the mix.

Add mashed potatoes on top of the lamb mixture. Sprinkle remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Top with chives if desired.

P.S. if you want to cheat, you can buy mashed potatoes ready to go and you will cut your time down significantly. with these ready made items.

Yum, this was so delicious – kids had a second helping!!!

Keto Shepard’s Pie friendly version

1 lb ground lamb

2 12 oz bags of frozen cauliflower steamed according to package directions

8 oz of diced green beans

1/2 red onion, diced

1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese

2 beef bouillon cubes

3/4 cup of heavy cream

Salt/Pepper to taste

2 beef bouillon cubes

3/4 cup of heavy cream

Salt/Pepper to taste

1/4 cup of butter

1 tsp of chives

Salt/Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan of a 9 x 9 baking dish.

In a skillet on medium heat, brown the ground lamb and onions. Add garlic. Cook for an additional minute. Add to a greased loaf pan. Add other veggies, salt and pepper.

Steam cauliflower, when softed, drain, add heavy cream and butter, salt and pepper. Mash. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

With remaining grease from the lamb, add two bouillon cubes and the heavy cream. Stir until mixed, combined and thickened. Pour over the veggie and lamb mix, stir. Add 1/8 cup of shredded cheese to the mix.

Add mashed cauliflower on top of the lamb mixture. Sprinkle remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Top with chives if desired.

P.S. if you want to cheat, you can buy mashed cauliflower ready to go and you will cut your time down significantly. with these ready made items.

So we have had all kinds of fun things happening since my last blog, Upward Basketball for both girls, a new semester, husband going on the KETO diet (which has been good but a learning curve for me), two new programs to speed through the approval process at my university, and now COVID -19. I had hoped that our spring break would allow me to slow down and catch up but like anything in life, you never truly catch up. I hope you enjoy these dishes, our pictures of Ireland and a little bit of our quarantined time.

May the road rise to meet you, may the wind always be at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields, And, until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of his hands.

Slainte means health in Gaelic, what better time than now… Slainte to us all.

Ireland, I am coming home

County Kerry

For our tenth anniversary, we traveled to Ireland and did a CIE tour. As a little girl, I was fascinated with Ireland. I had posters of Ireland scattered across my walls. I am not sure where the fascination came from but my love of green, the accents or the movie Circle of Friends, were the key ingredients. I knew my maternal grandmother was a Dunn and came from Ireland. She died of cancer when my mom was 12. When I turned 9, my mom gave me her class ring. She graduated high school in 1944 and I have worn her ring on my right hand since I was nine.

Johnnie Elizabeth Dunn and James Hoyt Meredith’s wedding photo

When Jamie and I started dating, I told him how I saved changed for years to fund my travels. Ireland was the icing on the cake for me, so for our tenth anniversary we booked a southern Ireland tour in November. The 10 day trip was nothing short of amazing and life changing. Have you ever gone to a brand new place and yet it felt familiar as if you had been there before? Well Ireland was like seeing the new and the old, watching pieces of the quilt bind together from childhood dreams to reality. We started in Dublin. We flew in a day early to explore. We soon realized that was a brilliant idea as we watched others came in the day of the trip.

We were just down from Phoenix park, so we grabbed a quick breakfast and headed to the park. It was lovely even in November. We explored the park, went to Jameson’s distillery and Jamie volunteered, uhm begged, to be a taste tester. We walked for what seemed like miles trying to find the entrance to the Guinness factory. They have 60 kilometers fenced in the city. It took us a while to find the main tourist entrance. We drank and we ate. The first night we had, leg of lamb with roast potatoes and carrots. We were tired and worn out from touring and walking but the mouthwatering lamb was just what I had envisioned for my first sit down meal in Ireland.

We travel down the coast to Waterford, Cork and onto Kerry. From there we traveled over the river Shannon into County Mayo. We visited the house and town where the movie The Quiet Man, with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. If you haven’t watched this movie, you should. We stayed in Galway and had the best Thai food, crazy right? Then made our way back to yet another distillery, Tullamore Dew before heading back to Dublin. We kissed the Blarney Stone, walked the Cliffs of Moor, saw dolphins in the river Shannon, and touched the Emerald Isle. If you have yet to go, here area few pictures from our trip.

When we have a rare night to ourselves, I like to relive our favorite stops. Ireland is always on our mind so I pop in The Quiet Man dvd, grab the dutch oven, and make leg of lamb with roast carrots and potatoes. With a glass of Jameson, ginger ale, and a twist of lime, we are back to our first night and our first meal in Dublin.

Hope you enjoy!

2 tbsp of olive oil

1 4lb boneless leg of lamb

3-4 medium potatoes – cubed

1 cup of carrots – diced or use the chips and no cutting

1/2 cup of diced celery

1 medium onion diced

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

2 cloves of garlic

1 tbps of Thyme or 1 fresh spring of Thyme

1 cup of Red Wine/Pinot Noir

1 cup of water or enough to fill the dutch oven half way

Salt and Pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In your dutch oven, pour the oil in the pot and turn heat on high. Take your boneless leg of lamb (leave the strings on to hold it together) and coat with salt, pepper, one clove of garlic, thyme, and a bit of the rosemary.

When the dutch oven is hot, place the leg of lamb fat side down and cook to sear the meat. Flip the lamb over to sear the other side. Once it has been seared on both sides, add the potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, rosemary and the remaining garlic and thyme. Add the cup of red wine and water to reach half way in the dutch oven.

Now, place your lid on your dutch oven and place in the oven. The rule of thumb is 15 -18 minutes per pound of meat. I cooked this leg of lamb for 1:10 minutes.

Once you check the temperature of 130 degrees, allow the leg to rest for a least five minutes prior to slicing. I roasted some asparagus as well to accompany our meal.

Hope you enjoy a little taste of Ireland.