Stepping Out

Spring ahead with a bit of green

Get your Irish on for St. Patrick's Day

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With the arrival of St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday, March 17, spring can’t be far behind (or so we hope!). So throw on some green, enjoy a parade or two if that’s your thing, or take in one of the many Celtic-themed concerts now at our local venues and salute the Old Country.

And be sure to bring some Patrick’s Day into your home. The traditional favorites, such as corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew and soda bread, are, of course, always welcome. Or change your approach to Irish cuisine with a reboot of an old standby.

Among these quintessential foods, Irish soda b read is a tasty quick bread that everyone enjoys and is quite easy to make. It gets its name from the baking soda used as a leavener, instead of yeast. While the traditional version is made with only flour, buttermilk, salt and baking soda, there are all sorts of modern takes on this delectable bread that are worth trying.

Irish Soda Bread

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup cold butter, cut into chunks

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup currants or raisins

Heat oven to 375° F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Combine all ingredients except buttermilk and currants in bowl; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk and currants just until moistened.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead gently 10 times. Shape into ball. Place onto prepared baking sheet. Pat into 6-inch circle. Cut 1/2 inch deep “X” in top of dough with sharp knife.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm — with hot tea and organic jam, Irish stew, traditional Irish cabbage dishes, or enjoy on its own.

Tip: Make muffins instead of bread. Prepare dough as directed and divide among 12 greased muffin cups. Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Savory Irish Cheese Soda Bread

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons caraway seed

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon red pepper, ground

1/2 cup shredded Irish cheddar cheese

2 eggs

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350° F. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and seasonings in large bowl. Stir in cheese. Set aside. Mix eggs and buttermilk in medium bowl. Add to dry ingredients; stir until well blended. Spread in lightly grease 9-inch round cake pan.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

American Irish Stew

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 ¼ pounds beef, top round, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

2 medium parsnips, cut into large chunks (optional)

3 cups low-fat, reduced-sodium beef broth

4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 leek, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

In large pot over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add beef and garlic. Cook, gently stirring until meat is evenly browned. Season with salt and pepper.

Add onion, carrots and parsnips. Cook 3-4 minutes. Stir in broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 75 minutes, or until meat is tender.

Stir in potatoes and simmer another 30 minutes. Add rosemary and leeks. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender. To avoid potatoes falling apart, do not overcook.

Serve hot and garnish with parsley, if desired.

Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

4 cups chicken broth (or beef broth or ham broth)

1 pound raw corned beef in pickling juices, diced

2 potatoes, peeled and diced

2 cups cabbage, shredded

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat, add the onions, carrots and celery and cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes, before adding the garlic and cooking until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the broth, corned beef, potatoes and cabbage, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the beef is tender, about 1-2 hours.

If using a slow cooker, optionally implement Step 1 before throwing everything into the slow cooker and cooking on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 2-4 hours.

Options: Replace the potatoes with celeriac or cauliflower or add 1/2 cup barley.