St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

Posted by on Mar 6, 2012

St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, and it will be a premium day for entertaining. The theme and menu practically plan themselves! 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!)

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.

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.

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!

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More St. Pat’s & Easter Ideas

Posted by on Mar 9, 2010

shamrockListen to the Celebrations.com radio show at www.blogtalkradio.com/partyideas for great St. Patrick’s entertaining ideas from Rachel Hollis from Chic Events (www.mychiclife.com) and Easter ideas from yours truly. You’ll also learn about “Pi Day” on March 14th, which celebrates the mathematical function of pi (3.14 … get it?).

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Cocktail of the Month: Top Off the Morning

Posted by on Mar 3, 2010

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.

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Lucky Leftovers

Posted by on Mar 18, 2009

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.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Posted by on Mar 17, 2009

Most people know that St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, and he is widely credited with driving all the snakes from Ireland. (Which is a falsehood; there never were any snakes on the island at all.)

A stone carving of Saint Patrick on the lower door to the Chapel Royal of Dublin Castle in Dublin, Ireland. (c) searagen/Fotolia

But, did you know that before coming to Ireland on a mission to convert the Irish to Christianity, that the English-born Patrick was held captive in Ireland for six years as a young man? It is believed that during this time, Patrick formed his plan to convert Ireland. Eventually he escaped and returned some 15 years later as a Catholic bishop.

St. Patrick wisely incorporated ancient Celtic pagan symbols that were familiar to his converts into his teachings. He used the shamrock plant, revered by the Irish as a potent of spring renewal, for lessons about the Holy Trinity. Likewise, he incorporated the sun (another strong pagan symbol) into the Christian cross; today we call it the Celtic cross. St. Patrick is credited with founding 165 churches across Ireland. There is some debate over the actual date of his death, although March 17th is his official feast day. He died in the 5th century A.D. His feast day has been celebrated for more than a thousand years.

In Ireland, the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day is more of a religious holiday that the beer fest it has become in America. Stores are closed, workers have the day off, and until the 1970s, the law required that pubs be closed.

The idea of a St. Patrick’s Day parade is also an American creation, although the date of the first parade is of some debate. Some say the first St. Pat’s parade took place in Boston in 1737, while others believe it was 1762 in New York. In 1848, several “Irish aid” societies in New York banded together to produce one parade for the city; the result is the oldest civilian parade in the world with 150,000 participants.

One date is uncontroverted: the potato famine of 1845 that sent thousands of poor Irish Catholic immigrants to the U.S. Since then, the number Americans claiming Irish descent is now ten times the actual population of Ireland!

Finally, in preparation for fun and frivolity this evening, here are a couple of phrases to get you started. “Erin go bragh!” In Gaelic, that simply means, “Ireland forever.” And the Irish cheers, “Slainte!” (pronounced, slurred, “it’s a lawn chair”) means “to your health!”Slainte!

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7 “Lucky” Ways to Think Green for Spring

Posted by on Mar 16, 2009

(c) monamakela.com/Fotolia

Although the color green is associated with St. Patrick’s Day, it can be a wonderful addition to your home all year long. Green is known for a calming effect, reminding us of nature and the joy of being outside on a beautiful day. It represents tranquility, good luck, wealth, health and jealousy. And if you’ve ever wondered why we get “green with envy” it’s because Shakespeare called Jealousy the “green eyed monster” in Othello. He no doubt borrowed from the ancient Greeks who believed that jealousy brought on an overproduction of bile which caused a green pallor in the skin.

In Medieval times, green represented fertility: the popular choice for wedding gowns was reportedly green. Green can improve reading ability and eyesight, so try it in a library or child’s room. It can relieve stress and promote tranquility, which sounds like a perfect solution for a master bathroom. Ever wonder why spas are so often decorated in shades of green?

From a full room re-do to an inexpensive plant, bringing more green into your life is a breeze. If the emerald or Kelly green of St. Pat’s is too bold for you, try a more soothing shade such as sage or jade. Since green lies between yellow and blue on the color wheel, a variety of shades are available from warmer yellow-greens to deep, rich blue-green. It’s always a popular decorating color so if you find yourself wanting to “spruce” up a room this spring, think green! Here are some easy and economical ways to do it:

1.  Go through your Christmas accessories and see if anything can be repurposed. Table runners, votive cups, vases, glassware … instead of packing it all away, keep out a few pieces for the spring and summer. You might be amazed that mixing a “Christmas” green votive cup with yellows and blues instead of red will look totally different. Avoid things with obvious Christmas decorations.

2.  Mix in a few fluffy pale green towels in the bathroom.

3.  Add a fresh plant to any room. Be sure to ready the sun preferences on the information spike in the plant. If, like me, you have trouble keeping houseplants alive, invest in an Aquaglobe. I’ve had much success with these marvelous inventions. In a pinch, use a good silk plant.

4.  Pop a couple of green pillows on a neutral sofa or bed to liven it up for spring. Add a coordinating lightweight throw to keep you warm all year long.

5.  Wash and save green jars and bottles. Display them in a window and fill with Gerber daisies.

6. Paint a feature wall. Green goes so well with many colors, so why not add it to any room of the house? Be sure to get swatches from the paint store and tape those up; look at them in a variety of light. In my experience, green has the most tendency to change dramatically from the paint chip in the store to the wall in the house, so when you’ve narrowed your choices to two or three, buy a small sample pot and paint a test swatch.

7. Create an art display. Purchase four 8×10 canvases and four coordinating shades of green craft paint. Paint each canvas a different color with two good coats and allow to dry thoroughly. Then paint an image or geometric shape in one of the other colors, so each canvas uses two colors. Try a fern stencil and repeat the image on each canvas using a different color on each one. Each will be unique yet coordinate well together. Hang in a row on a long wall or two by two in a smaller space.

With one or more of these easy fixes, your neighbors and friends will no doubt be green with envy!

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