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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Veggie Shepherd's Pie and Memories of Ireland

My husband and I just recently visited Ireland.  We had an amazing experience there!  First of all, it's GORGEOUS.  Every direction you look, you see a magnificent, green-hued feast for the eyes.  Pictures don't do it must go there and see it for yourself to understand what I mean.  Also, Irish people are very friendly and fun.  

Cliffs, rolling clouds, ocean and beautiful green farmland.  Ireland is full of views like this one.

Oh to be walking down that road right now!

I'm not sure that Ireland is the first place that comes to mind when you think of culinary travels.  Italy is probably the place for that.  But we ate some wonderful food in Ireland!  The Irish breakfasts we had at B&Bs were divine.  Fish and Chips and Mushy Peas were also common and delicious.  Seafood is fresh and abundant.  

I remember a pub in Donegal where we had the best Shepherd's Pie.  That is what I am making for my family and friends to celebrate this St. Patrick's Day.  I wanted to make a healthy version of it, so I stuck to a blend of veggies with sweet potato topping.


4 small Sweet Potatoes (peeled and chopped)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 small Onion (diced)
1 clove Garlic (minced)
2 Parsnips (peeled and diced)
1 Zucchini (diced)
1 Squash (diced)
3/4 cup canned Diced Tomatos (juices drained)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
a sprinkling of Nutmeg
a sprinkling of Cayenne Pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup Cottage Cheese
1 cup shredded White Cheddar Cheese
handful of fresh Oregano
1.  Put Sweet Potatoes in a large microwaveable bowl with a little bit of water and cover with Cling Wrap.  Microwave for 8 minutes.
2.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees and heat the Olive Oil in a large pan over medium heat.
3.  Add Onions, Parsnips and Garlic.  Cook until tender (about 8 minutes), stirring often.
4.  Add Zucchini and Squash and cook stirring for a couple more minutes.
5.  Add the Diced Tomatoes, Worcestershire Sauce, Nutmeg, Cayenne, and Salt and Pepper.  Stir well and cover and cook for 20 minutes.  Turn heat down to medium-low halfway through.
6.  Meanwhile, pour any excess water off of the Sweet Potatoes.  Add the Cottage Cheese and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
7.  To assemble:  Grease a medium-sized casserole dish.  Add the Veggie mixture and spread evenly.  Spread the Sweet Potato mixture evenly across the veggies.  Top with the White Cheddar and place in the oven.
8.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes.  If the cheese does not bubble and brown, turn on low broil for about 8 minutes.
9.  Top with fresh Oregano leaves and serve.

*Note:  I used Parsnips in this recipe because I was thinking back to a roasted Parsnip bisque we had in Northern Ireland.  If you're not a parsnip fan or can't find them, use carrots instead.

Cliffs of Moher in Doolin, Ireland...Sigh!

No matter what part of the world you live in, St. Patrick's Day is the perfect time to try cooking Irish food.  It's even more fun to have some friends over and celebrate all things green and lucky!  I hope you'll try my Shepherd's Pie and have thoughts of Ireland.  Happy St. Paddy's Day, friends!