Cooks Exchange

Cook's Exchange: Irish foods are delicious way to honor Emerald Isle

Everyone or nearly everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day, which is Tuesday, but festivities already are under way.

Favorite Irish foods play a large part in all of these festivities, snacks or sweets for parade tailgating or cabbage, potatoes and Irish soda bread for dinner. Partygoers and home cooks can enjoy traditional fare of corned beef and cabbage to the more modern "green-colored foods."

The "green" foods are great for young and old alike. These are dishes such as green cupcakes, pistachio salads and green drinks.

Readers and I share some of our favorite St. Paddy's dishes.

I love cabbage any time of year, so I always include a cabbage dish, and so does reader Carrol Fletcher.

"Here is a recipe I made up for my sister while she was doing the carb-free diet," Fletcher said. "But having cabbage as the main ingredient, it works well with corned beef."

SKILLET CABBAGE

1 head cabbage

3 slices bacon

12 ounces cubed ham

1 medium onion, chopped

4 tablespoons water

3 teaspoons lemon juice (I used the bottle kind with no fresh lemons on hand)

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut bacon into fourths and fry until crisp; remove from skillet and fry onion and ham in bacon grease until onions are soft. Chop up cabbage and add to skillet, mix lemon juice and water and add to cabbage (this helps keep the color of the cabbage as well as adding flavor). Cook until cabbage is done (I prefer a little al dente and not real soft or mushy). Add salt and pepper to taste. To serve, crumble bacon on top.

-- Submitted by Carrol Fletcher

Virginia Farrell of Bradenton has been making Irish soda bread for years and enjoys sharing it with her friends.

IRISH SODA BREAD

Pulse the 4 items below in food processor:

3- 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup shortening, cut into dry ingredients

Transfer dry ingredients mixed with shortening to a large bowl and add:

2 eggs beaten

1 cup buttermilk or sour milk

3/4 cup dried mixed fruit

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

Also, add currants if you want them

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir ingredients until flour is moistened. Bake in greased loaf pan 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.

-- Submitted by Virginia Farrell

I make a special treat for my granddaughter, green cupcakes with green frosting topped with an Airhead rainbow strip of candy and little puffy white clouds of icing on each end of the rainbow. These are so easy and great for school parties.

The cupcakes can be made with a boxed white cake mix tinted green or a boxed green velvet cake mix and icing also tinted green.

BUTTERCREAM ICING

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar, about 1 pound

2 tablespoons milk

Green food coloring

Place shortening and butter in mixer bowl. Beat until fluffy. Add vanilla extract. Add confectioners' sugar 1/2 cup at a time, making sure to scrape down sides of bowl. Add milk after all powdered sugar has been added.

If icing is too thick, add 2 more tablespoons of milk or 2 tablespoons of corn syrup or water. Add a couple of drops of food coloring to make colored icing.

After cupcakes are iced, top each one with an Airhead rainbow and pipe a fluffy bit of icing at the end of each side of rainbow. Edible gold glitter may be sprinkled on top.

PISTACHIO CAKE

1 box white cake mix

1 package pistachio instant pudding

3 eggs

3/4 cup oil

1 cup lemon-lime soda or ginger ale

1 cup nuts, pistachios, pecans, whatever you like

Mix ingredients, pour into pan or pans and bake in 350-degree oven. For 2 layers, bake 20-25 minutes; in 9-by-13-inch pan, 35-40 minutes.

ICING

1 box instant pistachio pudding

1 cup cold milk

1 small carton frozen whipped topping, thawed

Finely chopped nuts, any kind, if desired

Mix pudding and milk. When it thickens fold in Cool Whip and nuts if you like. Ice cooled cake and serve. Refrigerate after serving.

More lentils

"Some time ago, one of your readers requested lentil recipes," said Bernice Strickland of Bradenton. "The following is a hearty lentil casserole that I've used and enjoyed for more than 20 years. It's great with hot corn muffins and salad."

HEARTY LENTIL CASSEROLE

2 cups dried lentils

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 tablespoons olive oil

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 medium green pepper, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 cup milk, yogurt or light cream

1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Wash lentils; cook in about 3- 1/2 cups water in covered pan for about 30 minutes or until lentils absorb water.

In skillet, saute onion in oil until brown. Add tomato sauce, green pepper and spices; heat thoroughly.

Remove from heat; add milk, yogurt or light cream. Add lentils to sauce and blend well. Place mix in lightly oiled 1- 1/2-quart casserole and top with shredded cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.

-- Submitted by Bernice Strickland

What foods bring back memories?

"Today for breakfast I had French toast that made me think of my childhood and my mother. Of course, she did not called it French toast; she called it lost bread," Henrietta Kelty said. "She always used the leftover bread this way or for making stuffing.

"There are always some foods that bring back memories of our childhood," Kelty said. "Thanks for listening."

Readers, what foods trigger your memories? Send them my way to share these with your fellow readers.

Recipes wanted

Virginia Farrell wants recipes for green tomatoes. She also would like a strawberry jam that uses gelatin.

Mable Craig of Gulfport accidentally picked up a can of grated coconut in heavy syrup instead of Baker's flaked coconut.

"I have no idea what to use the coconut in syrup for," she said. "I hope some of your readers can give me a few ideas."

Readers, please search for recipes for these two women.

Coming next week

One Florida reader shares a kale smoothie recipe, while another Wiggins reader gives alternatives to kale for those who cannot eat purine-rich foods. Look for another vegetarian chili recipe, too.

Andrea Yeager, can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and takes requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

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