Friday, February 22, 2013

Combine St. Patrick’s Day Traditions with a Fun Picnic

Combine St. Patrick’s Day Traditions with a Fun Picnic

Fun St. Patrick’s Day Picnic Ideas

Okay, admit it. Even if you’re not Irish, you kind of like the idea of celebrating that holiday where it’s okay to drink green beer and consume large amounts of a fatty meat accompanied by plenty of cabbage and spuds. No doubt you’ve got that green outfit already picked out, just waiting until March 17th rolls around when you can wear it along with a silly hat or perhaps some sort of shamrock icon.

Seriously, Americans have fun with this holiday that’s designed to honor St. Patrick, the designated patron saint of Ireland, who is said to have banished all the snakes from that island country…along with a whole bunch of other legends. Truly, however, he was a great Christian missionary who did much to help the poor of Ireland and it’s fitting that not only Irish but others who believe in the spirit of giving honor him on the anniversary of the day of his death.

Happily, for many in the U.S., St. Patrick’s Day falls at that time of year when the weather is getting warmer, so many festivities include parades and other outdoor activities. That means it’s also a good time of year to consider a picnic, so instead of keeping the party indoors this year, bring it out into the pretty March sunshine and organize a picnic that’s worthy of this great man.

What’s on the Menu?

There are many traditional Irish or St. Patrick’s Day foods that are actually pretty easy to pack in your picnic basket or cooler and take along to your favorite green space.

Start with a great loaf of Irish soda bread. Around the time of this March holiday, it’s pretty easy to find this bread at supermarkets or other specialty stores, but it’s also quite easy to make. You can pair it with just about anything or simply enjoy it with some good, creamy butter slathered on top. (Calories don’t count on St. Patrick’s Day!)

Of course, a perennial main entrée favorite for this special day is corned beef, and the nice thing about this particular meat is that it can be enjoyed hot or cold. So, you can cook the roast ahead of time, refrigerate it, and then slice it up to bring along on the picnic. You can eat it as is or use it in a sandwich, perhaps putting it on some good hearty oatmeal bread and adorning it with mustard.

And then there’s the potatoes. You can go with the usual potato salad or even make some sort of potato casserole you can keep warm in an insulated container. Whether you choose hot or cold, be sure to keep this and other offerings at the right temperature for serving so as to avoid having anyone get sick.

Why not add a few more traditional Irish items to the menu? Cheeses go great with corned beef and are ideal for any picnic as they are easy to cart along and enjoyed by all ages. You can slice or cube them ahead of time or bring along a cheese board and knife. Types of cheese to consider include Ardrahan, a semi-soft with a salty, nutty flavor; Irish Porter Cheddar (who wouldn’t love a cheese made with beer!); Crozier Blue, a very intense cheese from Tipperary; and Gubbeen, a pink-and-white rind cheese from County Cork that often has a mushroom-like flavor.

Finally, end your meal with some tasty little morsels – Bourbon Fudge Balls, a wonderful blend of two great ingredients, chocolate and a little Irish bourbon. Here’s the recipe, which is easy to make as it requires no baking.

Bourbon Fudge Balls

  • 2 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (like chocolate wafer cookies)
  • 1 1/4 cups pecans
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus additional for rolling
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey

  1. In a food processor, pulse together the cookie crumbs and pecans until the nuts are finely ground.
  2. In a separate bowl, stir together the bourbon, 1 cup sugar, cocoa powder, and honey. Add to the mixture in the food processor and pulse until just combined.
  3. Let the dough rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 4 hours or, lightly covered, overnight. Dough will be drier after the rest period.
  4. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and then roll in the remaining confectioners' sugar. Store in an airtight container.

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