Monday, March 17, 2014

Corned Beef and Cabbage for Saint Patrick's Day!

For some odd reason, Matthew has had a fascination with leprechauns for a little over a year now. I think it might have something to do with the discovery that leprechauns leave pots of gold laying around for little boys to find - my son is already a bit of a miser. I'm a little afraid that when those April showers show up, I might find him packing his backpack with provisions in preparation for a trek to find what is at the end of all the rainbows painting the sky.

Matthew also likes leprechauns because they are affiliated with the color green, which, as he will enthusiastically tell you, is his second favorite color (blue takes the prize for top color only because it is the color of Thomas). Every time something is green, Matthew points out: "Look! That leaf is green like a leprechaun!" All his green polos and sweatshirts are his "leprechaun shirts." When Paul wore a greet button down for work the other day, Matthew pointed out: "LOOK! Daddy is a leprechaun today!" You get the idea.

He also loves visiting our family doctor because he was the Notre Dame leprechaun for the class of 1988 and thus has his office and patient rooms completely decked out in Notre Dame gear. Matthew calls him "Doctor the Leprechaun." Well, he might not love visiting the doctor so much anymore. He just had his booster shots at his 4-year-old checkup and made such a fuss, complete with tears and wails, that I'm pretty positive he is not too keen on going back anytime soon.

So for Saint Patrick's Day this year, I thought it would be fun to do a couple crafts and activities with Matthew while he is still on his leprechaun kick. First up, Matthew wanted to make green cookies. I had already helped him make sugar cookie cutouts over Christmas, so this time I let him make a complete batch all by himself. He did all the measuring (with my guidance), mixing, rolling, and cutting into shamrock shapes. I was so proud of him - he was very meticulous. I only got a little peeved at him at one point because he dumped half a bag of flour on the countertop because the dough was too sticky. I had to explain that a small palm full of flour is more than enough to adequately dust the surface. At least flour is cheap.

The entire batch took about 2 hours to make because he was so meticulous, but I think he did a fantastic job! The cookies looked great! Next, per Matthew's request, we made a green-tinted buttercream frosting to spread onto the cookies. At this stage, Matthew, completely exhausted from his cookie baking, decided to eat half the batch of frosting before decorating any of the cookies. However, turns out he knew what he was doing because there was plenty of frosting for each cookie. This little boy could not have been more proud of his very first batch of cookies completely made on his own. I am not going to include a picture of my kitchen following his little project - I don't think it has ever been messier!

Even though Paul and I gave up sweets for Lent, we had to at least try one of Matthew's cookies since he was so proud and wanted to share. They were pretty good! He did a great job! Baby Emma especially liked them. She voraciously devoured the cookie Matthew selected for her and probably would have finished off the whole batch if we let her. That girl likes to eat.

The second activity I planned for Matthew was to decorate our dining room with shamrocks. We just made a bunch of looped paper strip hearts and then formed them together to make shamrock shapes. We then attached them to string and hung them from the ceiling. Both kids have enjoyed dining beneath the floating shamrocks. Again, this project was a little tedious because Matthew is not too great with scissors, but we were stuck inside anyway thanks to the arctic air that has once again returned to these parts.

This morning, Matthew awoke to find his milk green and pancakes green. He was not nearly as surprised as we thought he would be when we told him a leprechaun had snuck into the house and colored our food green! He just demanded: "Where did the pot of gold go?"

Lucky for him, I bought some gold coins and made a little "pot of gold" for him to find tonight after he finishes all his corned beef and cabbage.

Speaking of corned beef and cabbage, it is one of my favorite meals ever. I am honestly sad that we do not make it more than once each year. I remember trying to convince my brother Raymond that we should request it for our birthday dinner when we were little (he never complied...but at least I could normally get him to agree to German Chocolate Cake!). This version of corned beef and cabbage is my favorite - it is so comforting, homey, and just plain delicious. The leftovers are awesome to have too for corned beef hash, reubens, or simply old-fashioned corned beef sandwiches on rye with pickles and mustard.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Corned Beef and Cabbage
adapted slightly from Beantown Baker, originally from Cook's Country

4-5 pound corned beef brisket (preferably flat cut), rinsed, fat trimmed to 1/4 inch thick
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups water
12 carrots, peeled (3 chopped, 9 halved crosswise)
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 onion, peeled and quartered
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme
1 tsp whole allspice
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes
1 head green cabbage, cut into 8 wedges
Freshly ground pepper
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine beef, broth, water, chopped carrots, celery, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, allspice and the spice packet that comes with the brisket in Dutch oven. Cover and bake until fork slips easily in and out of meat, 4 1/2 to 5 hours.

Transfer meat to 9x13 inch baking dish. Strain cooking liquid through fine-mesh strainer into large bowl, discard solids, and skim fat from liquid. Pour 1 cup cooking liquid over meat. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and let rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, return remaining cooking liquid to Dutch oven, add butter, and bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Add potatoes and simmer until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add carrot halves and cabbage wedges, cover, and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer vegetables to serving platter and season with pepper to taste.

Transfer beef to carving board and slice against grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Serve with vegetables.


  1. Those cookies look will have to send the recipe along sometime. The leprechauns colored our milk too...and mashed potatoes(for shepherd's pie). He even brought some green ice cream (chocolate chip mint).
    Happy Feast Day too!

  2. Matthew can be very proud of himself; the cookies look delicious. The decorations are pretty and very different. I marvel at your patience. Since our kids are grown and it's just my husband and I, his tradition, since he's part Irish, is to take out his Irish CD's several days before the big day and sing along to them at the top of his lungs. I try to be as far away from his singing as possible. Enjoy evey minute doing these things with your kids because it goes by mighty fast.

  3. He is the cutest! What a good little helper you have :) looks like your day was simply lovely!

  4. That's seriously impressive that he was able to make cookies almost entirely by himself as a 4-year-old, and he did a really great job decorating them too. You've got one smart little boy on your hands! :)

    Also, how cool that you guys get to have "leprechaun doctor." That ND connection is always so fun to find!

  5. Matthew, I hung the picture of you holding the plate of cookies on my fridge. I love and miss you! Grandma/Oma

  6. Thank you all for the sweet comments! When Matthew concentrates, he is incredibly dexterous and precise. He's a perfectionist, for sure. I have really enjoyed having him by my side whenever I bake - he never tires of it! As soon as he sees me get the stand mixer out, he wants to help out or at the very least watch! He's made enough cookies with me that I thought he was ready to strike out on his own. I'm proud of him!