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Tag: celebrating St. Patrick’s Day

Pot of Gold Cookies and Cake Make Decorative Centerpiece for St. Patrick’s Day Party Table

We love celebrating St. Patrick’s Day because it’s the first holiday of spring! And in Wisconsin, spring is definitely worthy of grand celebration! St. Patrick’s Day and the Irish lore of “the little people” give the kids and me lots of magical themes for creative cooking. We also have a large, cast-iron cooking pot that invites play. pot-o-gold-1This year we’re testing out table centerpieces for our St. Patrick’s Day party by creating a pot of gold cake and cookies.    

Our edible centerpiece was super-easy to make and looks fun, but the very best part is the cookies. I got this Scotch scone recipe from Mrs. Sweeney. I don’t know why they’re called Scotch scones; they don’t look like scones and there’s no scotch in them. But Mrs. Sweeney isn’t Irish either, – her husband is the Chicago Irishman. But some of my very best Irish recipes have come from Mrs. Sweeney. It’s Mrs. Sweeney’s corned beef recipe that I make every St. Patrick”s Day. It’s the very best! But keep reading for her Scotch scone cookie recipe.

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Prayer for the Cook on St. Patrick’s Day, adapted from the old Irish Blessing

prayer-for-cook-1To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I looked up the old Irish Blessing I’d so often read at our local Irish tavern. It goes:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

and rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

I guess not enough Irish people pray for me because here in Wisconsin the sun shines on my face only half the year, wind blows from every direction, and I’m usually climbing up the road, not down. Thus, this Irish image of perfect days seems contrary to my experience in the kitchen.

True, all kitchens sparkle from time to time, but rarely when work’s being done in them. The working kitchen’s floor is spattered and sticky. Counters are disheveled with spilled ingredients and the clutter of dripping utensils, dirty bowls, pots, pans, and plates. Creation is happening in the working kitchen, and it’s never pretty. But through the stirring, beating, and blasting with heat, foods are transformed. They become something wonderful, nourishing, and savory, – in the same way as does their cook.

The seasoned chef may produce foods that look and taste perfect, but not because they were perfectly prepared. Recovery is the master chef’s silent skill. Through practice, s/he learns how to make do with what’s on hand, extinguish fires, and salvage swill. And the cook’s secret? – It’s not technique, just calm twists of attention. Tilt the head and things look different.

So, here’s my St. Patrick’s Day prayer for all cooks, whether they work in a kitchen or elsewhere:

May you discard the spoiled food in the ‘fridge before it starts to ooze.

When the pot on the stove boils over, may the spilt broth loosen the grime beneath the burner.

May the coat grow shiny on the faithful dog that licks up the egg that dropped on the floor.

May you smile and cheer ‘How invigorating the fresh, cold air!’ when you open windows in winter to clear smoke from the oven.

And when the meal is an irreparable disaster and no sweet flavors in the food can be detected, may you serve it anyway to good friends with honesty and hearty helpings of humor.

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So in keeping with today’s St. Patrick’s Day theme of recovery, below I’m posting this recipe for Shepherd’s Pie that I discovered in the Cancer Survival Cookbook.   

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Foods for Celebrating Wisconsin’s Heroes; Honoring Wisconsin’s Irish Pioneers by eating corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day!

We commemorate every thing around here with food. Wednesday, I didn’t have time to make Green Bay Packer Potatoes to honor Brett Favre’s career. Nonetheless, we ate buttered, yellow corn (previously frozen), and Stouffer’s green Spinach Souffle with our leftover ham as we discussed Favre’s retirement. Our verbs shifted to past tense, and our minds added him to the legion of heroes in Wisconsin’s past.

foods for heros-1In 10 days, we will celebrate another great page in history. It will be St. Patrick’s Day. I only know that St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland. I’ve never been to Ireland, I’m only 1/4 Irish, and not much of a drinker, so this saint’s feast day could slip by unnoticed. But, not in our house. We will feast on corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes and commemorate the hearty Irish who, enduring extreme hardship, settled in the foreign land that would become Wisconsin, our home.

And why did they come? They were hungry. The great potato famines, first in 1831, then 1841, then again in 1845, drove thousands of Irish immigrants from Ireland to the Wisconsin wilderness where they set to work transforming forests into thriving farms, business, towns, and cities. Land purchased in 1841 by Michael Lynch and Eleazor Rowley with subsequent purchases by the Quinns, Daleys, Fitzgeralds, Welches, and Murphys, became one of the first towns in Wisconsin, the town of Erin.

Milwaukee grew and prospered with Irish immigration in the mid-1800’s. The Milwaukee Sentinel, on March 19, 1933, described the city’s dependence on the hard-working, hard-living Irish in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. 

foods for heros 2Our St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are a perfect time to honor the Irish heroes of Wisconsin’s past. We’ll eat Irish food, drink Irish beer, and play Irish music. And in honoring them, we’ll recall and honor all of our immigrant ancestors who built Wisconsin.

So, it’s fitting that the following recipe for corned beef, while perhaps originating in Ireland, came to me by way of a mostly German woman who got it from her friend’s Jewish grandmother who immigrated to Chicago from Russia after WWI. The special spices added to the boiling water and the sweet-mustard glaze baked on during the last half hour of cooking sets this corned beef apart from the rest. With the recipe, I’ll pass along the grandmother’s caution to my now 70-something friend who, at that time, was a young new bride, “Don’t corn your own beef now.”

“Why?” I asked my friend. She replied that in the 1800’s salt peter (coarse salt in the form of pellets) was used to corn (preserve) beef, and it was also given to soldiers to keep their thoughts chaste. Thus, salt peter should not be handled by a young bride.

But beef brisket already corned is easily purchased in the grocery store. My friend and I agree that cheap corned beef is mostly fat, and the few extra dollars for lean, delicious brisket is money well spent. And when you get it home, still make the effort to trim off the strip of fat on the brisket’s top. Otherwise, the glaze will flavor the fat, not the meat.

Corned Beef  – (If this recipe wasn’t easy to make and tasty, it wouldn’t have survived over a century.)

  • About 1/2 of a mild cure, corned beef brisket (most packaged corned beef is roughly a half of a full brisket and therefore just a few pounds)

Put the brisket in a BIG pot and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a full boil, then dump all the water out, rinse the beef, and do the same thing all over again.

Except, the second time, to the water and beef add:

  • 4 garlic cloves (I crush them)
  • 1/2 stalk celery
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 or 5 peppercorns
  • 4 or 5 whole cloves
  • 1 or 2 whole all spice
  • pinch of red pepper
  • pinch of black pepper
  • dash of dried parsley flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • (1 teaspoon of any other dried seasoning you like, optional)

Bring the beef and spices to a hard boil, then turn down the heat to low and simmer about 3 hours – slow and easy.

When the meat is tender, remove it from the pot and put it in a roasting pan. Stir together:

  • 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard (liquid, not powdered)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Spread this mustard glaze over the brisket and bake uncovered for 1/2 hour at 350 degrees.

To make the potatoes and cabbage that traditionally accompany corned beef, you can…

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