Irish-Inspired Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks

Okay, so I spent nearly the entire weekend researching my husband’s Irish roots, trying to figure out from which Irish city the Tobin’s hailed and seeking maybe a hint of the “why” they came to America.

I can trace his heritage for certain back as far as John’s great grandfather, Patrick Tobin, who came over on the boat either in 1851 or (more likely) in 1868, the same year he married Margaret Breen (I think!). It gets a little fuzzier after that, but I’m not done looking!

I’m prepping for our upcoming trip to Ireland where we’ll treck through Counties Waterford and Tipperary looking through tiny hamlets and Catholic church graveyards searching for Tobin (and Adair) headstones. I’m very excited about it and know that any Tobin we find (dead or alive) is at least a relative of some sort.

And, while we’re there (as we did last time), we’ll no doubt eat lamb, an offering much more common in Ireland than the States. Too bad, too, because lamb makes a wonderful dish and John and I both love it. Even our meat-picky daughter, Amie, is a fan of my slow-cooked lamb shanks. I fixed them Saturday.

Irish-Inspired Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks

  • 2-4 bone-in lamb shanks
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, finely chopped
  • 4 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced.
  • 2 (14 oz.) canned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can (14 oz) beef stock
  • 1 cup dry red wine (cabernet or chianti)
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 t. chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 T. dried)
  • 2-3 T tomato paste
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Brown lamb shanks in heavy dutch oven in a little olive oil. Remove lamb shanks and keep warm. Cook onions, celery and carrots until soft (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and cook 2 more minutes. Add tomatoes, stock, wine, bay leaves and rosemary. Cook until boiling. Lower to a simmer and add lamb shanks back into sauce. Simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally until meat is tender and ready to fall off of bone. Remove shanks and bay leaves, reserve sauce drained from vegetables. Discard vegetables and put sauce back on heat. Add tomato paste, stir over low heat until thick. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Alternatively, you can just put sauce and veggies in food processor and blend until smooth.) Serve lamb and sauce with garlic mashed potatoes and a green veggie.

Amazing Leftover Steak Sandwiches

The older I get, the more it seems I hate waste. Still, being the foodie that I am, I’m not that big on leftovers. So, after having friends over for dinner recently, I had a huge piece of sirloin steak left and was tempted to just throw it out. But it was a nice piece of steak and my husband had purchased it at a local butcher–which meant it was costly, too. Hmmm.

So I thought about making a great sandwich out of the steak. . . it was a fabulous hit! My husband declared it “restaurant quality.” Here’s the recipe.

Amazing Leftover Steak Sandwiches

  • Left over steak, rare, sliced thin
  • 2 T. Butter
  • Small yellow onion, sliced thin
  • Red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 4-6 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Garlic mayo
  • Provolone cheese slices
  • Ciabatta sandwich rolls

Preheat broiler. Melt butter in small skillet. Cook onion, garlic, red pepper and mushrooms until caramelized. Split sandwich rolls and toast under broiler. Remove from oven. Put garlic mayo on bottom half of roll and top with steak. Pile onion mixture on top bun and top with cheese. Put under broiler until cheese bubbles.

I served the sandwiches with Parmesan oven baked fries. Awesome!!

Lucky Enough

The sad truth is that I am only one of millions of Americans waking up today to find out that I didn’t win the lottery. It’s okay. I didn’t really expect it to happen, but it was fun to dream. Lying in bed this Saturday morning, enjoying the decadence of leisure, fresh cotton linens and songbirds outside our window, John and I discussed what we would do with the mega millions. We decided we wouldn’t move–we like our house–but that we might buy a vacation home in North Carolina that the kids could use too. I don’t need a new car; I love my little black coupe. John said he’d finish the basement. And we’d put a fireplace in the back yard (which we’re planning to do anyway). I would want to vacation in Europe, but we do that occasionally now–although I might fly business class. We really couldn’t think of much else beyond helping the kids and our families with whatever they wanted.

So we got up, fixed breakfast, and after an hour or so we remembered to check our ticket. No. We didn’t win. Not even close.

And so I look ahead to the day with plans for lunching with our son and his family, taking our oldest granddaughter to the movies, having dinner tonight with friends, our daughter and Baby Cakes and ending the day with a granddaughter sleep over.

How could I be any luckier than that?

Sunday Best Turkey Vegetable Soup

On a whim, I decided to roast a turkey breast last Saturday night. It was good (and fun to cook) but it’s really too much for just two people to eat. Once we were finished slicing the meat off the bone, I strained the pan juices, wrapped the bones in foil and put both the fridge.

Now, it’s time to make stock. Put the turkey breast (most meat removed), a couple of carrots, onions and some celery ribs in the pot. Fill the pot with water and toss in some chicken stock concentrate. Bring this to boil, turn down to simmer for an hour or two.

Once the stock has simmered, remove the turkey breast and pick any remaining meat off of the bone. Strain the stock, add the reserved roasting pan juices (fat skimmed off) and reserve to make the soup.
Sunday Best Turkey Vegetable Soup

  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 small head cabbage, chopped
  • 3-4 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 5-6 cloves garlic minced
  • 2-3 celery heart ribs chopped
  • 8 oz. mushrooms
  • 28-oz. can tomatoes (diced, crushed, whatever you have)
  • Handful frozen cut green beans
  • Couple handfuls each, frozen peas and corn
  • Leftover turkey bits picked from bones
  • Basil, salt, black pepper
  • Turkey stock
  • Small tomato paste (optional)

In large stock pot, heat a small amount of olive oil. Add cabbage, carrots, onion, celery, garlic and mushrooms. Cook 10-15 minutes or so until vegetables are soft. (Add a little water if it seems too dry.) Add tomatoes and  green beans and enough stock to cover all vegetables. Add salt, pepper and basil to taste. Bring soup to boil, and reduce heat to medium to simmer for an hour or so, adding more stock as needed. Once soup is thick and vegetables are cooked, add frozen carrots and peas and turkey. If you prefer your soup to be extra thick (and I do), add tomato paste and stir until paste is dissolved and soup is thick.

Ladle and enjoy!!

Continue reading

Skinny Breakfast on the Go

So in my never-ending quest to get thin and STAY thin, I’m redoubling my efforts. Along with my sister (who is supporting me long distance and has just lost 10+ herself), I re-joined Weight Watchers. Being the foodie that I am (not to mention the wino who lurks within), my attention now turns to finding really great things to eat that are low in Weight Watchers points.

I was moaning about my plight at work the other day, and my friend said that she had made fritatas in a muffin pan that were not only good, but low in calories and high in protein to keep hunger at bay. Hmmmm. Good, filling, low cal and easy to eat on the go?

So, this Sunday morning I googled “fritata muffins” and an interesting Giada recipe surfaced. I “skinnied it up” a bit. Guess what? They turned out great!! Even my non-Weight Watchers husband liked them.

1-Point Ham and Asparagus Fritata Muffins

  • 8-10 asparagus spears
  • 3.5 oz. (96% fat free) ham
  • 3 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese made with 2% milk
  • 2 cups egg substituted (egg whites)
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cup cake liners. Chop the ham and asparagus into small pieces, and saute in skillet with cooking spray.

Distribute the ham/asparagus mixture among the 12 muffin cups; top with cheese. Add 1 tsp. salt (if desired) to the egg whites, and pour equal amount into each of the muffin cups. Grind pepper over each cup.

Bake in oven until puffy and slightly brown on top (maybe 15 minutes?). They are done when a knife inserted into one of the muffins comes out clean. 53 calories or 1.3 Weight Watchers points plus per muffin!! (2g fat, 2g carbs, 8g protien, 0 fiber per muffin)


Heading to Paris!

Okay, so it’s been about five years since we’ve last seen our lovely lady. Here’s what we looked like then:

So we’re each five years older and weight at least five pounds more apiece, but we’re getting ready to go this week. And this time, we’re introducing our 29-year old daughter to the City of Lights!!

We’re renting an apartment that has its own name–the Pinot Noir–which is perfect for this wine-loving trio. It’s in the Marais and seems perfect for us! Check it out here.

We have our itinerary, our small suitcases and lots of excitement!!! We’re ready! Paris, here we come!!

White Castle Burgers on Super Bowl Sunday

Ahhh. Superbowl Sunday. Not that I care anything about football, and until I went to New York last week, I couldn’t have told you who was playing. But it was hard even for me to miss the giant “Giants” posters plastered all over LaGuardia. Hmmm. But there have to be two teams, no? Who, then, is the other team? Who cares? All I know it that it’s NOT the Colts. Nonetheless, Superbowl Sunday is an excuse to get together with friends, have a few beverages and eat crazy stuff you would ordinarily not allow yourself to have.

When I was in New York, I was lucky enough to visit the New York Stock Exchange. I had been there one other time around 10 years ago. It has changed a lot. It’s much quieter. And much neater. With most trades taking place online now, no need for the shouting and tearing up of tickets. On my previous visit, there was every kind of trash imaginable several inches deep on the trading floor. Not this time.image

But one thing I did notice was a big box of White Castle burgers to which the traders kept returning and taking out burgers two at a time. So, when deciding what my contribution to today’s menu would be, I thought of sliders–and began my search for the perfect White Castle copy cat recipe.

White Castle Copy Cat Burgers

  • 1lb. ground chuck (80/20)
  • 2/3 c. beef broth
  • 1 small jar beef baby food
  • 6oz. dehydrated chopped onions
  • salt & pepper
  • American cheese
  • dill pickles
  • slider buns

In a bowl, mix ground beef, beef broth and baby food (kinda gross) until smooth. Line a 10 x 14″ rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Place another piece of plastic wrap on top and use your hands to flatten the beef and spread it evenly across the baking sheet. Take a spatula and score the meat into approximately 3 x 3″ squares, then use the tip of a wooden spoon handle to make the classic 5 holes in each patty. Put baking sheet in freezer until the meat is frozen solid. Soak dried onions in a cup or two of hot water. Fry the frozen patties on top of some of the onion/water mixture. Steam buns on top of burgers in covered skillet. When ready, remove from skillet, top with pickle and cheese. Enjoy!!