Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with History, Home and the Best Irish Icing Ever!

Background of lush green clover leaves


Celebrate the start of springtime, the Irish in all of us and the color of the year all in one month!


March Madness may be about basketball for some, but for me, it’s about color and new beginnings and lots of good food and fun.

Here are my three favorite St. Patrick’s Day highlights for the history geek, the home decorator and the cook.

A Wee Bit of Irish History


Learn about the legend and lore of St. Patrick, how the City of Chicago uses 45 pounds of vegetable dye to go green for St. Pat’s Day, and some key Gaelic phrases to back up that “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” button.


Bring the Outside In: 7 Easy Ways to Go Green at Home

Home plant


Find out why green is one of the best colors to bring into your home, and 7 easy and inexpensive ways to take advantage of this multifaceted color, not just at St. Pat’s Day but the whole year through.


Spiked and Spiced: The Best St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

Spring 2012 043
Dig in to these delectable homemade cupcakes made with stout beer, or a cake mix version with added punch and spice. Both are topped with a scrumptious booze-laced icing that will make sure those Irish eyes are smiling!

(Shamrocks photo credit: © Swapan – Fotolia.com)

Read More

The Post-Pat Hangover Brunch

St. Patrick’s Day is on a Saturday this year, and that could mean a late — and painful — morning on Sunday. Here’s a hearty, but easy, brunch idea using the centerpiece of any St. Pat’s menu: corned beef.

Corned beef hash is an ideal way to use any leftover corned beef, and this year could be the highlight of a post-Patrick Sunday brunch. Serve it up with baked eggs and drop biscuits, add in some fruit or a simple salad and it’s a great way to welcome spring.

Corned Beef Hash

2 c. russet baking potato cubes (1/4 inch)
2 T. butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound cooked corned beef, diced small (1/4 inch)
1 T. horseradish mustard
¼ t. salt
¼ t. black pepper
2 T. chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the potatoes in a medium sauce and cover with water. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer for 1 minute. The potatoes should still be firm. Drain and set aside.

In a large oven-proof skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, cooking until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the corned beef, potatoes, mustard, salt, pepper and parsley and cook another 5 minutes. With the back of a spoon, pack the hash firmly into the skillet, then bake for 20 minutes.


Baked Eggs

This is a super easy way to get your protein on in the morning. What’s perfect about this corned beef-and-eggs pairing is that they can bake together!

For each serving, crack 2 eggs in a buttered 6 oz. ovenproof ramekin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a bit of shredded cheddar if you wish.

Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake in a 375 degree oven, 15 to 20 minutes depending on desired doneness.  Garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley if desired.


Parmesan Drop Biscuits

My grandmother and great-aunts could make a mean biscuit, my mother always said. My mom did not inherit that gene, and neither did I. When I discovered the drop biscuit, I felt I could redeem the family biscuit baking name a bit.  For this brunch, bake these first, and then pop them back in the oven during the last 5 minutes of the corned beef baking, just to reheat. Serve with butter and jam.

1 c. all-purpose flour
1 ½ t. double-acting baking powder
½ t. salt
Dash paprika
2 T. shortening
1 T. grated parmesan cheese
½ c. milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. With a pastry cutter or 2 knives used scissor-fashion, cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the milk with a fork until well blended. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Yield: 12




Read More

St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

Spring 2012 064


St. Patrick’s Day is one of those holidays where the theme and menu practically plan themselves! But, if corned beef and cabbage isn’t your style, how about a new twist – serve up corned beef sliders topped with cabbage slaw.

For music, tap into an online music service such as Pandora and call up a Celtic station to add some Irish ambiance.

And for dessert, try one (or both!) of these cupcake ideas, each topped with a decadent Irish Cream Cheese Frosting. (Note: these cupcakes are for grown ups only!)


Spring 2012 063


Irish Stout ‘n Chocolate Cupcakes

The addition of a stout beer adds a chewy texture to these deep, rich goodies.

2 c. all purpose flour
2 c. sugar
¾ c. cocoa powder
1 t. baking soda
½ t. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 12 oz. bottle stout Irish beer (such as Guinness)
1 t. vanilla extract
3 eggs
¾ c. sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the butter, beer and vanilla. Add eggs, 1 at a time, whisking after each addition. Whisk in the sour cream until smooth and well combined. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients a little at a time, stirring until completely combined. (Batter will be somewhat thin.) Fill the muffin tins ¾ full and bake for 24 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.


Spring 2012 043


Spiked Irish Spice Cupcakes

1 box yellow cake mix (plus ingredients called for on the box)
1 ½ t. cinnamon
½ t. ground ginger
¼ t. ground nutmeg
¼ t. ground cloves
1 c. Irish whiskey, divided

Preheat oven directed on the cake mix package. Line 24 muffin tins with paper liners. Prepare the mix as directed on the package, except:

  • Stir the spices into the dry mix before adding the wet ingredients.
  • Substitute ½ c. whiskey for ½ c. of the liquid called for on the package.

Fill the muffin tins and bake as directed. Cool on a wire rack. With a bamboo skewer, make several holes in the top of each cupcake. Using a pastry brush, brush each cupcake generously with the remaining whiskey. Allow to set at least 15 minutes before icing with the Irish Cream Cheese Frosting.

Spring 2012 065

Irish Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
¾ c. Irish cream liqueur (such as Bailey’s)
5 to 6 c. powdered sugar

In a large mixing bowl, with a hand mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese until it’s fluffy. Add the liqueur and beat until well combined. On low speed, add the sugar one cup at a time until everything is incorporated and the frosting is fluffy and holds its shape. (The frosting will be soft.)

To ice the cupcakes, first allow the cupcakes to completely cool. Fit a gallon-size plastic zipper bag into a 2-cup measuring cup, folding the top of the bag over the sides of the cup. Fill the bag with frosting and gather the top of the bag, remove excess air, then zip it closed. Work the frosting down into one corner of the bag, then snip off the corner, about ¼ inch. Frost each cupcake with a swirl of frosting, keeping it away from the edge of the cupcake. This frosting will spread a bit on its own to the edge of the cupcake. (Frosts about 30 cupcakes.)

To decorate the cupcakes, make shamrocks from green melting chocolate (available at craft stores). Melt about ½ c. of disks in a microwave-safe dish according to the package directions. Fill a sandwich zipper bag with the melted chocolate; snip off the corner and pipe shamrocks on a piece of parchment paper. (Hint: Use my Shamrock template under the parchment paper to keep the shamrocks somewhat uniform.) Green decorating sugar may also be used as shown. Or, melt and swirl together green and white melting chocolates; allow to harden; and use a vegetable peeler to create chocolate shavings.

Use green melting chocolate, a plastic sandwich bag and some parchment to create professional-looking decorations!

Read More

Cocktail of the Month: Top Off the Morning

March brings signs of spring: a few more birds singing, tulips blooming, and longer days. This month’s cocktail features flavors that are just as fresh as spring. It goes great with breakfast on the weekend; for a more potent treat, omit the lemon lime soda and serve in a martini glass.097Top Off the Morning

  • 1/3 c. citron vodka
  • 1 shot (1.5 oz.) Grand Marnier liqueur
  • 2/3 c. pineapple juice
  • 1 can lemon lime soda

Shake the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice until nice and cold. Strain into 2 tall glasses; top with lemon lime soda and serve. As the Irish say, slainte!

For more holiday lore, tips and recipes, choose “St. Patrick’s Day” from the category drop-down menu on the right.

To check out my related sites and find more solutions for gift giving, entertaining and decorating, go to www.smartsolutionsforbusypeople.com.

Read More

Lucky Leftovers

If you made corned beef and cabbage yesterday, chances are you have some leftovers. Here are a couple of ways to use the cooked corned beef, and any remaining raw cabbage.

Easy Rueben Bake

This is a one-dish version of my favorite sandwich, and more carb-friendly. To lower the carb count, omit the croutons.

Drain and rinse a small jar of sauerkraut and transfer to a small bowl. Add 2 T. of finely chopped fresh onion, or 2 t. dried minced onion and ¼ c. of Thousand Island dressing (or Russian if you prefer). Transfer the mixture to an 8×8 baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Add a layer of chopped, cooked corned beef on top of the sauerkraut, then a layer of croutons, about ½ c. Finish with a layer of swiss cheese (preferably grated, but thin slices will do, too). Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees until heated through and the cheese is melted, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 5 minutes longer until the cheese is browned and bubbly.

Cabbage and Noodles

This is one of my comfort foods; my mom used to make it whenever she had leftover cabbage. It makes a great side dish, or can be enjoyed all on its own. The simple flavor reminds me of Polish pierogi dumplings, and it’s much easier to make!

Prepare half a package of wide egg noodles as directed on the package. (If you can find authentic Polish kluski noodles, use those.) While the noodles are cooking, heat 2 T. of olive oil and 1 T. of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Sauté half a sweet onion, thinly sliced, until it is translucent and soft. Slice half a head of fresh green cabbage, about ¼ inch slices. Add the cabbage to the onion and sauté, separating the cabbage with a spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook the cabbage until it is soft and just beginning to brown. Drain the noodles and add to the cabbage mixture and toss well to coat. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, if desired.

Read More