Metro-East Living

Four almost green-free recipes for St. Patrick’s (or any) Day

Ground Beef Shepherd’s Pie is a traditional dinner anytime in Ireland.
Ground Beef Shepherd’s Pie is a traditional dinner anytime in Ireland.

St. Patrick’s Day is Friday. Here’s my food complaint about March 17: I can only handle so much green on my plate or table in one day.

I’m not talking about real green food, like a spinach salad or sauteed zucchini. No, I’m talking about the abundance of edible green in its many shades of food coloring: Think frosting and beer, for example.

So, I thought, why not come up with some recipes that you can use any time of year, but have the appearance of being the right color, or kind of food, for this so-called day of partying?

I went very light on the green in these St. Patrick’s Day dessert recipes, using pistachios in a bar and lime in a cookie. You won’t see any, thank goodness, in the very traditional Shepherd’s Pie or the corned beef appetizer!

Less green; better tasting.

Pistachio Bars


1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups finely crushed cinnamon graham crackers

1/2 cup finely chopped pistachio nuts


1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup pistachio instant pudding and pie filling mix

1/4 cup half-and-half, light cream, or milk

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar


6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pistachio nuts

Line a 9-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over edges of pan; set aside.

For the crust: In a medium saucepan combine egg, the 1/2 cup butter, cocoa powder, granulated sugar and vanilla. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until butter is melted and mixture just starts to bubble. Remove from heat. Stir in crushed graham crackers and the finely chopped pistachios. Press crumb mixture onto the bottom of the prepared baking pan.

For the filling: In a medium mixing bowl beat the 1/4 cup softened butter, dry pudding mix and half-and-half with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating well. Carefully spread filling over crust in pan. Cover and chill about 1 hour or until firm.

For the topping: In a small saucepan cook and stir chocolate and the 1/4 cup butter over low heat until melted. Spread topping over filling. Sprinkle with the coarsely chopped pistachios. Cover and chill about 2 hours, or until firm. Using the edges of the foil, lift uncut bars out of pan. Cut into bars. Makes 25.

To store: Layer bars between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Lime Lights

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons finely shredded lime peel

1/4 cup lime juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts

1 recipe Lime-Cream Cheese Icing (see below)

Finely shredded lime peel (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.

Beat in granulated sugar until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.

Beat in the 2 teaspoons lime peel, the lime juice and vanilla until combined.

Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour and the macadamia nuts. Divide dough in half.

On a lightly floured surface, roll one portion of dough at a time to 1/4-inch thick. Using a 2-inch cookie cutter, cut out dough. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 11 to 12 minutes, or until edges are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack; cool.

Spread or drizzle cookies with Lime-Cream Cheese Icing. If desired, sprinkle with lime peel.

Lime-Cream Cheese Icing: In a medium mixing bowl beat 3 ounces cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla until combined. Beat in enough lime juice to reach spreading or drizzling consistency.

To store cookies: Layer cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze unfrosted cookies for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw cookies, if frozen. Ice as directed.

Ground Beef Shepherd’s Pie

1 3/4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)

1/4 cup milk

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

Kosher salt

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1/2 cup beef or chicken broth

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup frozen petite peas

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan of cold salted water, bring to the boil over medium-high heat and boil until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain in a colander, return the potatoes to the saucepan, add 4 tablespoons of the butter and the milk, and mash with a potato masher until smooth and creamy. Season to taste with salt. Cover to keep warm until ready to use.

To make the filling, in a large frying pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion, carrots and celery and a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes.

Add the ground beef and cook, stirring, until browned. Pour off any fat, then add the broth, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the peas.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 2-quart shallow baking dish. Add the beef mixture in an even layer and then top with the mashed potatoes in an even layer. Use a fork to “ruffle” the top. Dot with the the remaining butter.

Bake until the filling is bubbling and the top is golden, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Skillet Reuben Dip

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup sauerkraut, drained

3/4 cup thousand island dressing

1/2 pound deli pastrami (or corned beef), chopped

8 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded

1 loaf rye cocktail bread

Olive oil for bread

Salt and pepper to taste

Begin by preheating your oven to 400 degrees.

Arrange the rye cocktail bread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Bake about 10 minutes, or until the bread starts to brown and become crisp. Set aside

In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese, sauerkraut, thousand island dressing, pastrami and Swiss cheese by hand or using a mixer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the mixture into a 10-inch skillet (or any oven safe baking dish). Bake 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir, then return the mixture to the oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until bubbly. For a little browning on top of the dip, set your oven to broil. Watch carefully and remove when browned to your liking. Serve warm with the toasted bread.