Rhubarb Vanilla Jam

We recently spent two weeks in Ireland.

Ruins at InisoirrIreland is gorgeous, in case you were wondering. Wildflowers are absolutely everywhere, peeking through the cracks in ancient stone walls and clumping along the sides of the roads. There are rock-bordered, green fields for miles, thanks to the soft, misty rain that falls almost every day.

Ring of KerryWe loved exploring traditional Irish farms and learning about the simplicity and resourcefulness of country life 100 years ago. We loved trying to pronounce the Irish language signs posted all around. We loved that a typical playground in Ireland has ziplines for kids and exercise equipment for parents. We loved the stunning, hazy mountains and cliffs that loomed over the Atlantic ocean. And don’t even get me started on how cool it is to find crumbling stone ruins everywhere you look.

The Best PhotoTraveling with two preschoolers was basically the worst, and that’s all I’ll say about that. (Check out my oldest throwing a tantrum instead of looking at the camera. This is literally the best family photo from the whole trip. Just so you get a clear idea. I’m not exaggerating.) But if you are ever going to travel abroad with preschoolers, you should definitely do it in Ireland, because the people there are so kind and understanding and friendly. They actually love kids. And they do not give you irritated, patronizing looks when yours are screaming and losing their minds in public places.

Rhubarb Vanilla JamAnother great thing about Irish people is that they are unflinchingly generous. For example, when we were staying in Killarney, they served this rhubarb jam with breakfast, and Dave basically ate a pint of it over four days. (He must have genetically inherited his love of rhubarb, because rhubarb desserts were on almost every menu and in every bakery in Ireland. He tried all of them.) When I asked for the recipe, the kind proprietors of the inn immediately wrote down a copy for me!

So here we are. Thank you, Ireland, for your kindness and generosity, and thank you for the rhubarb jam.

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It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day! So I made you colcannon.

Normally, I am not a huge fan of potatoes, but I definitely must make an exception for colcannon. This was incredibly easy to make, and with the addition of leafy greens I actually felt like I was giving my body something nutritious along with all that starch and butter. Mmmm.

Apparently I unwittingly made a more “traditional” version of colcannon (which is one of the many Irish variations on mashed potatoes) when I decided that kale was a better choice than cabbage.

At least, that’s what Darina Allen tells me.

I had never seen colcannon with anything other than green cabbage mixed in, but when I stumbled across a recipe that used kale, I knew it was the one for me. Later, after gobbling down a huge mountain of buttery mashed potatoes speckled with dark green kale, I looked up colcannon in my Irish cooking bible and discovered that I had not, as I feared, completely abandoned the spirit of the Irish dish.

So. Happy St. Patty’s day! Make some potatoes. Make them with kale. Your mouth and your stomach will thank you.

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Irish Brown Soda Bread

Soda Bread and Dubliner

It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day! My husband is Irish, so this is really a day I can’t overlook. Of course, he always wants just one thing in celebration of his heritage: corned beef and cabbage. (Actually, he wants that all year long.)

Since I don’t eat meat, I struggled a bit with figuring out how to celebrate Ireland on the blog. I really wanted to make soda bread, but Dave’s idea of soda bread is dry and unpalatable. I decided to go for it anyway, just to prove him wrong.

So here we are. I searched the interwebs for a recipe that would impress him. I considered white or dark bread, dried fruits or plain, seeds or no seeds…I even pondered totally untraditional offerings, such as minced herbs and browned butter.

Then it suddenly occurred to me that I have a fantastic cookbook by a revered Irish chef, Darina Allen (and thanks to my brother-in-law, for giving it)! She is all about history and tradition, but at the same time she is willing to update the classics to reflect modern access and changing tastes. I figured that her recipe for soda bread was the best place to start!

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Baby Guinness Cupcakes

Baby Guinness Cupcakes

I have never been one to celebrate or otherwise observe St. Patrick’s Day. I was always the kid who forgot and wore blue and got pinched all day long, while exclaiming that no one had the right to pinch me, regardless of what color I was or was not wearing.

But! I married an Irishman. And he appreciates the opportunity to celebrate his heritage…though I admit he is more interested in the landscape and history of Ireland than anything else. He likes to try to convince me that we are going to move to Ireland. He hasn’t gotten much further than me freaking out about the traditional cuisine of the country: what is a vegetarian potato-hater supposed to do in a country where meat and potatoes reign supreme?

But let me tell you, one thing I do enjoy celebrating on St. Patrick’s Day is the drink many Americans know as an Irish Car Bomb. (Though, of course, the Irish prefer to call it a Baby Guinness!) Have you ever tried it? Drop a shot full of Baileys Irish Cream into a mug full of Guinness and drink up before the cream curdles!

Okay, okay, I admit that I’ve never done this. Drinking fizzy things quickly is not my strong suit. Also I do not enjoy drinking beer.

But what do I love? Turning this classic bar drink into a cupcake. Chocolate cake full of dark, rich Guinness, topped by a mountain of Irish cream–infused frosting. Yum!

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