Tag Archives: Easter

An Intentional, Quiet Easter

You may have gathered that life has been a bit hectic around the Hacienda lately. I am guessing that is really not surprising as life these days is hectic for most of us. We understand over-committed, over-taxed, way too busy, spread too thin, wearing way too many hats, just hangin’ on. And somehow, we just keep piling it on.

Doing, doing, doing, to the point of exhaustion.

Going, going, going to the point of gone.

The craziest part is, we do it to ourselves.

We do it with the best of intentions. We say yes before we even take a moment to think or breathe or be realistic. Before we sit quietly with the Lord and ask Him, “is this what you have for me?”

Yes.

Yes, I can do that. Yes, I’d love to help. Yes, I can write that, make that, bake that, decorate that, plant that, plan that, chair that. Give it to me, I’ll do it.

I have done it. And I have done it to myself. No one expects or demands it of me, it does not happen without my permission. It is all me and I just keep heaping commitment on top of commitment. All good, important, worthy things.

But at the expense of what?

Quiet, still time with my maker and savior and sustainer?

Peace of mind and rest and perspective.

Patience and focus and stillness.

He has given me a servants heart and that is a good thing. But I have weak boundaries and that is a bad thing.

And all of the “yeses” have left me undone or overdone – as in stick a fork in me ’cause I’m done.

So what does all of this have to do with Easter? Well, pretty much everything.

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Normally at Easter we have a house full of loved ones; those born to us and those gifted and chosen. We prepare for weeks and then we gather together, serve a huge meal, hide dozens of eggs for a dozen (or so) kids and I truly love it. Every bit of it.

But this year, I must be honest, this year I just wasn’t feelin’ it. And it kind of caught me off guard. All of the “yeses” finally caught up with me.

I’m weary and spent. So this year, I said to my husband “do you think it’s okay if it is just us”.

“Just us”, as if that were inconceivable, unthinkable, unimaginable. As if there were something wrong with “just us”. As if “just us” weren’t enough. He immediately said YES! But I had to give it some time to sink in. It is hard to let go of self-imposed expectations.

Easter is a celebration that matters deeply to me and while I am not feeling the big production, I am feeling something that means more. I am feeling the need to renew, reflect and be still. And I’m feeling okay with that.

So this year, it is going to be just us. Enjoying a very intentional, very quiet Easter.

The house is decorated, but it is just for us.

I have menus planned. But this year, they are just for us.

For Good Friday …

  • Rack of Lamb Persillade
  • Roasted Baby Red Potatoes
  • Greek Salad
  • Steamed Haricot Vert
  • Grandma Ibby’s French Strawberry Pie (I will share this recipe with you tomorrow)

And the “agenda” …

Well, this afternoon, Nathan and I will head to the market to pick up our groceries. And there will be no rush or stress, we will enjoy our time together. This evening, we will sit down to a wonderful meal together and bow our heads to thank our savior for the blessing of His sacrifice. This morning I asked Nathan what “Good Friday” means and his sweet simple answer was “God wants us.” And so He does. He wants us so much that He bore all of our sin on that cross that we would be washed clean, forgiven and redeemed.

And while Easter isn’t about baskets and bunnies and eggs, there is value in the joy of these family traditions.

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So, tomorrow, we will color eggs together and attend Easter Services (yes on Saturday – our church is big so we will save five seats Sunday for the many visitors we are sure to welcome). After the kids go to bed, Gary and I will sit together and stuff plastic eggs with scripture, hand written love notes, candy and coins for Sunday’s Easter Egg Hunt.

And Sunday, we will hide those eggs and breathe easy, relaxed and happy as our kids hunt excitedly for their tiny treasures. The day will come all too soon when their enthusiasm for such things wanes. We must put the bustle aside once in a while and take the time to enjoy it now. And so we will.

A bit later, we will sit down to brunch together at the picnic table under the Palo Verde tree. Just us. And we will linger, the rest of the day ahead to be still.

Easter Brunch …

  • Ham with and Orange/Fig Glaze
  • Deviled Eggs
  • Asparagus with Hollandaise
  • Coffee Cake

Yes, this Easter, I hear him calling me to slow down and to proceed with intention.

There will always be big gatherings at the Hacienda, big Easter. We are encouraged to gather and it is wonderful. But there must also be “just us”.

And so it is of our relationship with the Savior who draws our hearts to seek Him. To find time with Him. To make time for Him. Just us. He and I.

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On this Good Friday, may you find that time with Him. May you be reminded of what has been done for you. May you hear Him whisper “it is done and you are worth it. Let us be, just us.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-16

 

 

 

 

 

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Easter, Friendship and Orange Sour Cream Cake!

So sorry I didn’t have a chance to wish everyone a Happy Easter yesterday but as you were hopefully enjoying a wonderful day with family and friends and not reading blogs, I’m thinking that even a day late it is still okay to say Happy Easter!

So, HaPpY EaSteR!

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We had a wonderful day, celebrating the Savior and enjoying friends old and new. A beautiful Spring day. Hunting eggs. Laughing. Breaking bread. Sharing life.

We do not have a lot of family close by but we are incredibly blessed to have friends who have become family.

Old friends. Friends who’s children have grow with ours. Friends we have cried with through the tough stuff (and there has been some tough stuff) and rejoiced with at the victories, the healing and the hope. Because there has been a lot of that too. They are moving to Texas this summer and I am reminded that life is filled with change. But they are family, that will never change, and distance doesn’t matter.

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Old friends we once lived next door to, shared a fence with. They are family too. I miss seeing them everyday; knowing they are right there, just over the fence. I promise, I do love them, I just didn’t get a picture of them yesterday. I’m still working on my “capturing the moment skills”.

New friends.  Isn’t it the best when your kid’s best friend has awesome parents?!  Not only are they good people but brave people, undeterred by the giant snake at the end of our driveway. At least it wasn’t poisonous.

Oh, how I wish I were kidding.

Easter-12One tiny tangent because I must forget about the snake and tell you what is in Eileen’s glass. Trust me, you want to know! It is simple but, wow; half lemonade, half Prosecco and a whole lotta delicious! Cold, bubbly, refreshing. Sooooo delicious! I see a few more of those in her an my future this summer.

One more guest and friend to tell you about. The Colonel. My husband’s former commander whom we love to visit with. His last name is Patton – if only he hadn’t retired and had become a general. I’d love to be able to say General Patton’s coming for dinner. Well, except that he’s Air Force. And nice.

So much and so many to be thankful for.

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We missed the family and friends we couldn’t be with and hope for many Easters to come where we can all be together.

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Oh, right, cake. I promised you cake. I’ll tell you about the cupcakes above some other time. The cake I promised is my Grandma Elizabeth’s Orange Sour Cream Cake. It was a big hit yesterday. I had to hide away one last little piece so that I could photograph it this morning.

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My plan was to photograph that last little morsel of cake with orange wedges but unaware of said plan, my husband ate my garnish. I plated one little slice of orange and stepped away for just  a moment; but around here, that’s all it takes. So instead, plan B, I threw in a few of the kid’s colored Easter eggs and I think it turned out pretty good. I’m not sure which is more fun, making the food or photographing it.

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Orange Sour Cream Cake

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar, extra fine *see note
  • 1 Tbsp. orange zest
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sour cream

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Separate the eggs and set the yolks aside to be used later. Beat the whites until you just have stiff peaks. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly (3-5 minutes). *Note: the recipe calls for super fine (also known as caster sugar). If you don’t have any, you can make your own by pulsing granular sugar in the food processor a few times.

Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, making sure to thoroughly incorporate each. To the creamed mixture, stir in the orange zest and chopped walnuts (I leave the nuts out).

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir into the creamed mixture, alternately with the sour cream; starting and ending with the flour. Beat well and then gently fold in the egg whites.

Pour the batter into a  well buttered and floured bundt pan and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack that has been placed on top of a sheet tray.

Orange Simple Syrup:

Bring to a boil 2/3 cup orange juice and 1/2 cup of sugar. Boil for 2-3 minutes. It will not reduce much and is not supposed to as it is a syrup to flavor and moisten the cake and not a glaze. Slowly spoon the syrup over the cake to let as much as possible absorb in.

Let it sit for at least 30 minutes and then gently move to the serving dish. Garnish with orange slices and a dusting of powdered sugar if you like.

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This would be a great brunch cake. Enjoy!

And finally, just a few more Easter Highlights from the Brew Crew …

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We always color eggs the night before Easter. My family did it that way growing up and I now have some of the best memories of the crazy eggs my dad would color and the fun we had together.

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I want my kids to have that too.

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Every year, I have taken a picture of my kid’s egg dye stained fingers. I love their hands.

 Every year, the hands are bigger and not quite as stained.

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They are getting so big. Older and more careful.

Pretty soon there will be no more messy little hands to photograph.

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This year, only Nathans.

Actually, I’m pretty sure this boy will be makin’ a mess for a long while to come.

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But wild messes or not, his still sleepy Easter morning face is what mommy will remember. Snuggles with his new friends left by the “Easter Bunny” and the calm before the “wild”…

Easter egg hunting. Big yard. Lots of eggs. TONS of fun!

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And thankfully, Easter egg hunting still seems to be cool; or at least not totally lame.

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A well deserved break. After all, those eggs don’t hide themselves.

I don’t know if you noticed it or not, but there is a silver bowl that sits as the centerpiece on my dining room table (in the very first picture of this post). It was a precious gift from my aunt; something she knew I really wanted but would never buy for myself. It is precious not because it is silver but because of what is engraved around it …

“Together with friends and family is always the happiest place to be.”

Not to Condemn but to Save

Good Friday. A Holy and reflective day for the followers of Christ.

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But why is it called Good Friday. What is good about the suffering, humiliation and death of the son of God? I remember my pastor from childhood posing that very question. A question that has undoubtedly been asked thousands and thousands of times.

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And the answer? Love. The answer is love.

“God so loved the world that He gave His only son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

Perhaps the most well-known verse in the bible and for good reason. But do you know what verse 17 says?

“God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” John 3:17

Not to condemn but to save.

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Forgiveness. Cleansing. Resurrection. Rebirth. Salvation. Life. Love.

For ALL of us. He came for us all. All broken. All hurting. All sinners. All stained.

Not one better than the next.

Not one clean enough to sit in judgement over another.

He came in love. He washed us clean and called us to follow Him and only Him.  And He called us to love.

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Why then do we claim condemnation as our own? Why? When even God Himself, did not. It breaks my heart and convicts me to live differently.

I recently read a post by Christian author and speaker Jen Hatmaker that was like a breath of fresh air. Nail on the head kind of stuff. I hope you will click the link above and read it too. I would love to know what you think – whatever you think.

I am blessed by those in the Christian faith who, like Jen, think outside the boundaries of convention. Who believe that Christ calls us out of the pews and our freshly ironed Sunday best to reach deeper, do more.

To LOVE. Not just to say it but to DO IT.

To get dirty. To stand up for the enslaved and oppressed. To embrace the hurting. To minister to the sick and impoverished. To care for the widow and the orphan. To love those who, in the eyes of the world, would be deemed unlovable. Not just to “add a little Jesus to our already awesome lives.” As my current pastor, Mark Connelly at Mission Community Church, has said.

That is what being a Christian means to me.

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Not to condemn but to save. No strings attached.

” … this world needs some Good News, but they can’t decode what is actually good about us. Good is finding a safe place to struggle, to doubt, to ask hard questions. Good is food when you’re hungry. Good is warm, kind, genuine love extended, no strings attached. Good is clean water, medicine for your sick baby, education, family. Good is community, even before ‘belief’ binds us tight. Good is sustainable work, dignity. Good is Jesus and His backwards, upside-down ways.”

Unafraid. Unthreatened. Unreserved. Arms wide open.

“The skeptic, the cynic, the doubter; my arms are wide open. Their questions and disbelief don’t scare me; I am unthreatened. The loosey-goosey, tambourine shaking, barefoot liberal who loves Jesus and the earth and votes straight-ticket Democrat? I love her. The young adult generation who is leaving the church but running to Jesus in unfamiliar, new ways – I gather them to me like a Mama because they are going to change the world.”

Perspective and compassion. Not judgement.

“I am not put off by creed or denomination or sexual orientation or terrifying doubt or outright anger or nationality or socioeconomic status or issues or weirdness or politics. I’m not going to make a deal out of a glass of wine when 25,000 people will die today of starvation.”

Renegades. Closer to the margins.

 “… we need some renegades closer to the margins, building bridges, creating safe spaces to question, wrestle, rethink.

He is everything good and gracious.

Bring me your doubts, your fear. My Jesus can handle it all and then some. He is all of our dreams come true. If you don’t believe me, start in Matthew and read until the end of John. Jesus is a hero, a brother, a Savior in every sense of the word. He is everything good and gracious. His love for us is embarrassing, boundless, without standards at all.”

He is ALL of our dreams come true.

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If you don’t know my Jesus, YOUR Jesus, if you think something like … Christianity wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the Christians;  I invite you to take another look. If reading up to this point you have determined “Oh man, she’s a Jesus freak, I thought she just blogged about food and her kids” … It’s true. You are correct. Jesus freak here. But perhaps that means something different than you might think. Something different than perceived notions or past experience has impressed upon you.

I hope that you will take another look.

What puts-off and offends is not Christianity or Christians it is legalism and judgement. That offends me too. And I promise you. That is not Jesus.

Take another look.

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I love the church and do not mean to sound as if I don’t. I believe we are called into community to live as a body of believers. To gather together, to do life together, to worship together, learn together, grow together. Community. One body. Inclusive. Even if we don’t always see eye to eye. Even if we don’t agree on everything. That is Grace.

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Because Jesus is our savior, not our religion. Because He died for us. For you and for me. Both sinners, both struggling, both redeemed in Him, both made new. Because He loves us. And He wants us to love each other, differences and all.

Be blessed today, this Good Friday. Share a little grace, show a little love. Remember what has been done for you.

If you would like to talk with me or prefer not to comment here publicly or if I can pray for you in any way, please e-mail me at welcomecompany@cox.net.

And, if by chance, you are a renegade, closer to the margins, Jesus freak too – I’d love to know it!

Lemon Yogurt Cookies

Here in Arizona, we have incredible citrus all around us.  The blossoms smell heavenly right now, perfuming the warming spring breeze.

On our little patch of ground, we have planted orange, Meyer lemon, Eureka lemon, Mandarin orange, and two lime trees but our trees are young because we have had to start from the ground up – literally. One of these days, I promise I will tell you all about the desert wasteland we purchased three years ago and have spent every moment since remodeling and cultivating into what is now pretty much my favorite place on earth.

Back to the trees; they are filled with blossoms and budding but not yet mature fruit. Soon. I just have to be patient. Sadly, patience is not my super power so I am grateful to our neighbors who are supplying me with more lemons than I know what to do with, presenting me with the challenge of coming up with all sorts of ways to use them.

The leaves are still looking a little rough from the cold but the lemons are incredible!

The leaves are still looking a little rough from the cold but the lemons are incredible!

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Over the weekend, our citrus supplying neighbors invited us over for cocktails and a tour of some recent renovations to their home. It is hard to get me out of the yard these days (just ask my son who was on a desperate hunt for a pair of clean socks this morning) so I needed to find something quick, easy and of course, “lemony” to take to them (after all it is their lemons I’m having so much fun with).

In my quest to use every last precious lemon, I have been looking for new recipes. I have a lot of good ones already but my curiosity led me to browse through the numerous “fundraising” cookbooks I have; you know the ones – spiral binders, put out by churches and booster clubs, lots of jello salad recipes.

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Those are the ones.

Just to be clear, I am not knocking Jello salad, I am simply using it as a descriptive example. The fact that Mrs. Mabel Johnson or Mrs. Thelma Thompson thought it was the best dish in her arsenal, worthy of immortality, preserved for all time between the color coded pages of the “Best of fill in the blank Church’s” cookbook is none of my concern.

All joking aside, these little books really do have some “best of” recipes. Good basic recipes that offer considerable opportunity to fine tune, tweak and make your own. In the “Favorite Recipes from St. James” cookbook circa 1984, which was my Great Aunt Helen’s Episcopal church in Tigard Oregon, I found this lovely little Lemon Yogurt Cookie recipe.

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After tweaking the recipe a bit, I baked up a batch of what turned out to be a soft and moist cookie that has a delightful cakey texture, more like a soft scone than a cookie.

I am IN LOVE with this recipe.

Because I am in love with this recipe, naturally, I just had to see which sweet church lady submitted it. I doesn’t matter that I would have no idea who she was, it would just be fun to imagine her, cheek dusted with flour, humming softly as she lovingly placed each cookie on a rack to cool and then turned her attention to one of the other four dishes she was working on for the church potluck the next day.

Scanning down the page, I found the lovely woman’s name at the bottom of the recipe. My great-aunt Helen. It was her recipe. What? Out of all of the recipes in the book, I chose hers. I kid you not. I was a little take aback.

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Helen LeFebre, age 20, circa 1936

The best part about this story is not the fact that up to this point I hadn’t noticed her name on the page, Helen LeFebre right there in front of me, and baked on oblivious to the fact that I was making a family recipe. No, the best part is that Helen LeFebre did not cook or bake. Never. Not ever. I have absolutely no memory of her doing anything in the kitchen beyond making tea.

Aunt Helen was more of the “let’s do lunch” type of lady and certainly never made five dishes for the church potluck. Actually, she would have been the lady who placed the tin of Danish Butter Cookies amid the Jello salads and countless hot dishes.

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In all honesty, this is probably the reaction you would have gotten from her had you asked “these are delicious, did you make them?”

Her life’s passion was not for the domestic. She was a teacher, studied at Berkley and spent nearly thirty years (1950-1978) in the Philipines as a missionary for the Episcopal Church, serving as a Medical Librarian for St. Luke’s hospital, training local women in her field.

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She never married or had children. Her heart was always in the Philipines and with the Filipino people.

I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have landed on this recipe. This little book was pretty much single-handedly created from the recipes of Alice Thornton and June Boone. Whoever they were. Sweet little 5 dishes for the potluck ladies I am sure. But I was led to one of the two recipes submitted by my great-aunt who didn’t cook. And it was fabulous. And I got to spend the morning thinking about her, writing about her, remembering her.

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I have no idea where she got this recipe. But I am most grateful that she submitted it and that 29 years later, it fell into my hands when I opened a small little paper cookbook looking for a lemon recipe.

Great Aunt Helen’s Lemon Yogurt Cookies

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Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup lemon yogurt – I used lemon flavored Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice (originally called for 1 tsp. lemon extract)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the sugar, butter and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Add the lemon yogurt and lemon juice and mix well. Add in the flour mixture in thirds, incorporating well after each addition.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls two inches apart on prepared cookie sheet (greased or covered with a Silpat matt or parchment paper).

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until just a light golden brown around edges.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

The recipe did not originally call for a glaze but I decided to add one, which turned out to be a really good decision. It added a lot to the flavor to the cookies, upped the intensity of the lemon flavor and made them just a little bit more finished and special.

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For the glaze …

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest

Mix until smooth and drizzle over cookies.

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I feel like I have discovered treasure with these little cookies and I am so happy to share them and my great-aunt Helen with you.

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I hope you will try them. They would be a wonderful Easter treat and will be on my Easter buffet. Alas, there will be no Jello salad.

Enjoy!

Irish Side Dishes, Not Just for St. Patrick’s Day

So sorry I didn’t get this published yesterday but the masses of weeds in my front yard, nurtured by the spring rains and then gorgeous sunshine we’ve had, were demanding my attention and the day just got away from me.

So, continuing on with the results of my culinary “St. Patrick’s Day Project”, today I am sharing with you the side dishes. Sides don’t often get the attention they deserve. They are the back-up singers. The best supporting actor and actress. Humbly taking a back-seat to the entrée. Both of these sides, however, deserve their moment in the spotlight.

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage and Colcannon.

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Both are traditional Irish dishes, which many of us seek out only when preparing a St. Patrick’s Day feast. After selecting these dishes from the Irish Pub Cooking cookbook that inspired me and preparing them on St. Patty’s Day, I am here to tell you I will be making them again soon. These are not just for St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, I will be making the cabbage for Easter dinner and can hardly wait to share it with the friends and family who will join us. It is fresh and bright and the color is beautiful. This cabbage was one of my absolute favorite dishes of the St. Patrick’s Day meal. Sweet with apples, brown sugar and spices and just a little bit tart and tangy with a touch of vinegar, it will be a most welcome addition to Easter dinner.

Here’s how you make it …

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Sweet & Sour Red Cabbage from “Irish Pub Cooking”, Parragon Books

Modifications I made will be in italics.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium head of red cabbage
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 small baking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp crushed juniper berries – I left these out
  • whole nutmeg, for grating
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • grated rind and juice of 1 orange
  • 2 Tbsp cranberry jelly – I used jellied cranberry sauce
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Directions

Cut the cabbage into quarters, remove and discard the central stalk, and shred finely. I just thinly sliced it.

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the cabbage, onions, garlic, and apples (I used Granny Smith). Sprinkle over the sugar, cinnamon, and juniper berries and grate a quarter of the nutmeg into the pan.

Pour over the vinegar (I was out of red wine vinegar and used apple cider vinegar) and orange juice and add the orange rind (zest). Stir well and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is just tender but still has “bite”. This will take 10-15 minutes, depending on how finely the cabbage is sliced.

Stir in the cranberry jelly and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve hot.

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Colcannon

What in the world is colcannon? It is simply mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale and leeks or scallions mixed in. I did mine with kale and scallions and it was delicious.

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You may have noticed that I served the colcannon with a plain mashed potatoes option. My husband may be of Irish descent but he is a mid-western American boy who doesn’t want anything green in his mashed potatoes.

Colcannon is simple and a nice twist on plain old (albeit much-loved) mashed potatoes. First, make a standard batch of mashed potatoes, the amount depending on the number of people you will be feeding. This particular recipe recommends the following for 1 pound of potatoes, which will serve 4, …

  • 1/2 small head of cabbage (about 2 cups of chopped kale)
  • 6 scallions, cut into 1/4 inch slices

Remove and discard the central stalk from the cabbage or kale and shred finely. Cook in a large pot of boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes (blanching) until it is soft. Drain thoroughly.

Mix the cabbage or kale and mashed potatoes together, then stir in the scallions. Season well with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. I recommend eyeballing it and adding in as much or as little kale and onions as you like. You really can’t go wrong.

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Both of these dishes were delicious and added wonderful color to the plate.

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I hope you’ll try them and as always, I’d love to know what you think. Enjoy!

Tomorrow, the main dish – Beef in Stout. Heavenly.