Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's Pie (2)

This hearty entree features a few nice shortcuts like canned peas and corn, plus gets a nutrition boost from flaxseed!

Ingredients:

  • 3 large yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup plain soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, chopped
  • 1 (12-ounce) package meatless crumbles
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup canned green peas
  • 3/4 cup canned corn
  1. To prepare the potatoes, place in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then continue to cook for 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and return to the pan. Add the soy milk and butter; mash with a potato masher until smooth and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and carrots; saute for about 6 minutes.
  3. Add the meatless crumbles into the pan, breaking apart into small pieces. Add the flaxseed and cook for 5 minutes, until the crumbles begin to brown.
  4. Stir in the broth, peas, and corn; cook for a final 5 minutes.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes in an even layer on top and bake at 400 degrees F for 25 minutes.

St. Patrick’s Day Wreath

St. Patrick's Wreath (8)

Here’s a pretty front door decoration for St. Patrick’s Day, with steps that kids can help out with, too! This is a riff on a similar wreath we made for Valentine’s Day, and the inspiration for both is care of the ever-fabulous Hands on as We Grow.

To start, you’ll need a cardboard circle as the base. A pizza box would have been ideal, but I used poster board and hot glued two layers together for added durability, since we had no pizza in the house.

I then set out a plate of green paint along with squares of green and orange tissue paper (for the colors of the Irish flag). As I wadded up each tissue square into a little “flower”, I handed it to Veronika. Her job was to dip in the green paint!

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We made dollops of glue on the white wreath background and pressed down the flowers. She loved helping with the glue even more than the paint. I left a little of the white cardboard showing, too, as the third color of the Irish flag.

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While the glue and paint were drying, I also cut hearts from green construction paper. Three hearts taped together become a shamrock! These made a nice touch here and there on the wreath.

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Finally, I cut strands of orange and green ribbon and hot-glued onto the back of the wreath, then looped over the hook on our front door.

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Here’s wishing you the luck of the Irish this St. Patrick’s Day!

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Baster Play

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I’ve tried several projects with Veronika using pipettes, which is a great tool for preschool fine motor skills, but it’s become clear that Veronika’s two-year-old fingers aren’t ready for it quite yet. The perfect toddler alternative? A large kitchen baster! The large bulb and large tube are perfectly-sized for a two year old learning to squeeze and understand how a pipette works.

As an invitation to play, I put the baster on a tray with a plastic container filled with water. I then laid out smaller bowls for her to transfer the water back and forth, and tinted the water yellow and blue for added fun. (This meant she’d get a color mixing lesson, too, when they combined to make green).

Baster Play (1)

Just as with a pipette, the baster works by squeezing once to fill with water, then squeezing a second time to release it. I was glad I took the time to focus with Veronika on these steps, because her confusion was quite clear at first.

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Soon, she worked up to the idea of squeezing, lifting up, and then waiting a moment before squeezing again to see the liquid come out. She was delighted to realize the water had colors.

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And sure enough, we made a little green!

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After a few tries, her energy seemed to flag and she simply wanted to use the small dishes to pour water back and forth. I thought that might be it for the baster but then…

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…she picked it up gain! Now she had a knack for the tool, almost like her brain had been working on solving the problem in the background.

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She also discovered that if she squirted the baster into the container of water, it would make bubbles. Big ones, little ones, lots of them or a few; this final discovery kept her busy and happy for quite a while.

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I highly recommend baster play for your toddler, too!

Messy Potato Drop Painting

Messy Potato Drop Paint (10)

It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, which means cue the potato painting projects! Today, Veronika and I painted with potatoes in a way that made a delightful mess, plus it got us outside in a first burst of spring warmth.

To set up, you’ll need cooked and cooled potatoes cut into chunks of various sizes. You can use all one type of potato, but for novelty I used one sweet potato and two red ones. Next time I would add in tiny new potatoes, too!

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I unrolled a long piece of butcher paper on the grass and then set out plates with paint in the colors of the Irish flag: green, orange, and white. To make your artwork, pierce each soft piece of potato with a craft stick and dip in paint. Hold it up over the paper…

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…then drop!

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Veronika immediately needed a turn. She loved that she could dip the potatoes in the paint without getting messy thanks to the craft stick handles. The first time she held a potato aloft over our paper, she seemed unsure that she was really supposed to drop it.

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At first, she would bend down and use it more like a stamp. But then she grew braver, and…

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Drop! Each landing potato makes a great splattered print on the paper. Have fun experimenting and dropping the potatoes from different heights, as well as using them like stamps with the craft stick handles.

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We even covered one round red potato with paint and then rolled it along with a craft stick as a paddle, leaving a trail of green paint behind. As mentioned, I think small new potatoes would be fun dipped in paint and then scattered down onto the paper, so we’ll add those in next time.