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Celebrate St. Paddy’s Day with a different twist

Joey Jordan and Annie O'Dea Hestbeck

Everything changes once a leprechaun enters your life. Mine was named Patrick Joseph McKernan, and he joined our family when I was 12. He showed up on the sidewalk in front of our house with an armload of beer, as leprechauns will. He didn’t have the best eating habits, either.

Pat preferred corned beef to cabbage, and we spent many years introducing him to the pleasures of fresh, wholesome, naturally nutritious foods – like whole grains and vegetables. In the early years he would just push them around his plate and politely decline a second helping. As he became more accustomed to us he would simply reply, “not right now” when offered anything remotely healthful.

Just as it takes a fawn three nibbles to acquire a proper taste for roses, a leprechaun must actually chew and swallow three times – then magic happens and they, too, acquire a taste for foods once believed inedible. So was the case with Pat.

Once new foods were accepted, Pat ate with a vengeance. Nothing could escape his fearsome fork. He greeted each new culinary delight as if it were to be his last.

Pat left for greener, lusher hills three years ago, but his memory will never fade. Once a leprechaun has touched your life you are forever blessed, and we will fondly celebrate his spirit – not just on St. Patrick’s Day, but every day – as we prepare and enjoy healthful, nurturing food.

For St. Patrick’s Day, BriarPatch would like to move beyond corned beef and cabbage and highlight less-publicized Irish dishes that feature fresh vegetables and contain lesser amounts of fat. Each of these recipes is simple and quick to prepare. If you aren’t a baker don’t be daunted by the soda bread – this is one of the easiest breads to bake from scratch.

(Serves 4)

Beets are believed to be a blood tonic – good for anemia, the heart, and circulation. Paired in this recipe with lemon, this simple dish provides a burst of fresh spring flavor that is as good for you as it is just plain good!

1 pound beets, smaller and evenly sized if possible

Juice of one lemon

Grated grind of one lemon

2/3 cup extra virgin organic olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Chopped fresh chives (optional garnish)

Cook beets in large pan of salted boiling water for 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and allow to cool. Peel and slice into wedges.

Combine juice of lemon, lemon rind and olive oil. Toss sliced beets in lemon oil mixture. Sprinkle with chopped chives, if using.

(Serves 6)

In Ireland anything grown for its roots is common and cherished. With a texture similar to mashed potatoes, this side dish introduces parsnips, an often-forgotten vegetable in America today. Parsnip is high in silicon and insoluble fiber and contains vitamin A and C, calcium, and potassium.

3/4 pound carrots

1 pound parsnips

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon butter or non-hydrogenated butter substitute such as Earth Balance organic vegan spread

1 small bunch parsley leaves, chopped, plus extra to use as garnish


Freshly ground black pepper

Peel carrots and slice thinly. Peel parsnips and cut into bite size chunks. Boil separately in pots of salted water until tender.

Drain well and combine with nutmeg, butter or butter substitute, salt and pepper to taste. Mash or put through food mill. Add chopped parsley and stir to combine.

(Serves 6)

Jerusalem artichokes, known more commonly in America as sunchokes, are a sweet tuber purported to relieve asthmatic conditions, treat constipation, and nourish the lungs. They contain vitamins A and B complex, potassium, iron, calcium, and magnesium.

1 1/2 Jerusalem artichokes

1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar



1/4 cup unsalted butter or non-hydrogenated butter substitute such as Earth Balance organic vegan spread

Flour seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper, for dusting

Prepare a bowl of water containing the tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Peel the artichokes and cut to uniform size (a bit larger than bite size) then immediately drop pieces into bowl of water containing the lemon juice or vinegar – this will prevent discoloration.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, drain artichokes from acidulated water and boil for 5 minutes, or until just tender. Do not overcook.

Melt butter or butter substitute in a roasting pan. Coat artichokes by shaking them one at a time in a small paper bag containing seasoned flour, and then roll them around in the butter in the pan.

Bake the coated artichokes in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve immediately.

(Makes one loaf)

Making brown bread is something that comes from experience. Using the same recipe, it could be slightly different every day. In every Irish household the bread tastes different, no two cooks agreeing on the exact measurements. The bread should not be cut until it has set – about six hours after it comes from the oven.

2 cups stone ground whole wheat flour

1 cup white flour

1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Place all dry ingredients into mixing bowl and mix well. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk slowly while mixing to a soft dough. Mix well but do not knead. Form into a round and place on a greased baking sheet or in a round loaf pan. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

(Serves 6-8)

Colcannon is traditionally served on Hallow’s Eve, and is used to forecast futures. A miniature thimble and horseshoe, a button, a silver sixpence and a wedding ring, all wrapped in white paper, are dropped into the mixture. The person whose portion includes the ring will marry and live happily ever after. The six pence forecasts a person’s wealth, the horseshoe – good fortune, the thimble – a spinster, and the button predicts bachelorhood.

1 1/2 pounds potatoes

1 1/2 cups milk

6 scallions

1 1/2 cups boiled green cabbage

1 tablespoon butter (or non-hydrogenated butter substitute such as Earth Balance organic vegan spread)

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Salt & pepper

Peel the potatoes and soak in cold water for 1 hour. Drain. Cover the potatoes with cold water, add salt and boil until tender. Drain well and dry by laying a folded cloth on top and returning the pot to a low heat for 3 minutes. Mash the potatoes by hand.

While the potatoes are cooking, chop the scallions very finely, using the green tops and young bulbs. Put them into a bowl and scald by pouring boiling water over them. Drain well, add to the milk and bring to a boil. Pour the milk and scallions in to the mashed potatoes. Add pepper and salt to taste. Beat until fluffy. Toss the cooked cabbage, finely chopped, gently in the melted butter. Add the potatoes, together with the parsley, and fold well. Season generously with pepper and taste for salt.

The column will appear in The Union once a month, written by local cooks affiliated with BriarPatch. Among BriarPatch’s owner-members are many fine cooks specializing in fresh, whole ingredients. Joey Jordan (who has enjoyed a love/hate relationship with cooking since she was thrown out of her seventh grade Home Economics Class for eating all the M&Ms meant for cookies) and a crew of cooperative cooks are pleased to share their healthful recipes with the community.


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