Here’s to a Magically Delicious St. Paddy’s Day

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Faith and Begorrah, March 17th is a mere two weeks away and soon people across the country will be parading around in shiny green bowler hats and “Kiss Me I’m Irish” t-shirts, consuming mass quantities of green beer or shots of Jameson whiskey, and engaging in various festivities (or shenanigans) to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland. My good friend Kathy is three-quarters Irish, my daughter Meghan almost half and I know a slew of others whose ancestors hailed from the Emerald Isle. But, on St. Patrick’s Day it doesn’t really matter what nationality you are because everyone is a Murphy, Doyle or Sullivan.

If you’d rather skip the pubs and observe the holiday at home, consider inviting a few friends over for a traditional Irish meal of Corned Beef & Cabbage with Soda Bread, along with a pint of ale or a glass of limeade. You’ll want to save room for dessert, of course, and what could be more fitting than a Guinness Cake! You may not be a fan of the bold stout, but this moist, mouthwatering chocolate confection with heavenly cream cheese frosting is sure to win you over!

Give these recipes a try and who knows? They may become a St. Patrick’s Day tradition.

Corned Beef Cabbage

Why eat out when you can enjoy a traditional Irish meal of Corned Beef & Cabbage at home!

Corned Beef & Cabbage
Ingredients:
3 lbs. corned beef brisket
Water, to cover meat
2 tbsp. pickling spices
3 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. peppercorns
1 head cabbage
Directions: Place corned beef with all the seasonings in a large stockpot. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 2 hours. If not tender after 2 hours, keep checking at 15 minute intervals. Remove corned beef, save broth for cabbage. Cut cabbage into wedges, place in a large pan, cover with broth from the beef and simmer until tender. Keep cabbage warm in broth until needed. Serve corned beef and cabbage together with some boiled potatoes and carrots. Don’t forget the mustard!
Recipe courtesy of Food.com

If you don’t care for corned beef, check out this recipe for Irish Beef Stew

Irish Soda Bread
Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted
Directions: Preheat oven to 325º F. Grease 9×5 inch loaf pan. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda. Blend egg and buttermilk together, and add all at once to flour mixture. Mix until moistened. Stir in butter. Pour in prepared pan. Bake for 65-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in bread comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Note: for better flavor, wrap in foil for several hours or overnight.  
Recipe from epicurious.com

Chocolate Guinness Cake
Ingredients:
1 cup Guinness (stout beer)
10 tbsp. (1 stick + 2 tbsp.) unsalted butter, cubed
2 cups superfine (granulated) sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup sour cream
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 tsp. baking soda
Topping:
1-1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Directions: Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9-inch spring form pan and line the bottom with parchment paper; set aside. In a large saucepan, heat Guinness and butter on medium-low heat until butter melts. Remove from the heat; whisk in sugar and cocoa until well blended. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, sour cream and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture. Combine flour and baking soda; whisk into beer mixture until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until risen and firm, about 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Place pan on a wire rack and cool completely in pan. Remove sides of pan. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar and cream; beat until smooth and spreadable (do not over-beat). Remove cake from the pan and place on a platter or cake stand. Spread icing on top of cake so it resembles a frothy pint of beer. Refrigerate leftovers, if there are any.
Nigella Lawson’s recipe from NYTimes.com

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Blogger Catherine B., a Smart Perks employee, is a wee bit Scotch-Irish and although she’s not sure what that means, you can bet your Blarney Stone she’ll be wearing green on March 17th.

Mallo Nut Fudge Cake = True Love

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Sunday is Valentine’s Day. You’ll have the whole day to work on this masterpiece. Because nothing says I love you like a rich and gooey chocolate cake!

Mallo-Nut Fudge Cake
3 oz. chocolate, cut very fine
¾ cup boiling water
1 ¾ cup sifted cake flour
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp soda
½ cup butter or shortening
½ cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, unbeaten
18 marshmallows, cut in half
½ cup chopped walnuts

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Put chocolate in mixing bowl. Pour boiling water over chocolate and stir until melted. Cool. Sift flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda into chocolate mixture. Drop in butter. Beat 2 minutes in mixer at low speed. Scrape bowl and spoon. Add buttermilk, vanilla and eggs. Beat 2 minutes on mixer at low speed. Bake in 2 two square 8 x 8 x 2-inch coated pans, 30-40 minutes.
While cake is warm, press marshmallows on one layer, turned bottom-side up. Spread with Minute-Boil Fudge Frosting; put other layer on top. Add nuts to remaining frosting, spread on top of cake. Decorate each corner with a quartered marshmallow.

Minute-Boil Fudge Frosting
2 oz. chocolate finely cut
4 tbs. butter
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tbs corn syrup
7 tbs milk
¼ tsp sale
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 tbs water

Directions:
Place chocolate, sugar, milk, butter, corn syrup and salt in saucepan. Bring slowly to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly, and boil briskly 1 full minute. Cool to lukewarm. Add vanilla and beat until thick enough to spread.

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Recipe Notes
For the chocolate in the cake portion of the recipe I used 3 ounces of a fine dark chocolate bar (70% cacao Lindt). It was not very chocolatey so I added 2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate.
For the chocolate in the frosting portion, I tried using the same chocolate as above and again it was not enough chocolate so I added an ounce of bittersweet chocolate.
There are some errors with the frosting portion of this recipe. Water is listed as an ingredient, however it is not mentioned in the instructions. I added it in the beginning with all of the other ingredients.
Bring the frosting to a boil very slowly to allow the sugar to melt properly and mingle with the rest of the ingredients. As it nears boiling, stir constantly and briskly. The frosting will look very liquid-y as it cools. I gave it a brisk stir every few minutes to help it thicken.

Guest Blogger,  Joanne M., a Smart Perks employee,  has a daughter interning as a pastry chef! The apple pie doesn’t fall far from the family tree.

 

From Garden to Table: Time to Get Your Zucchini On!

I love vegetables, especially if they’re fresh from the garden. This year, I can actually say we’ll be enjoying zucchini, cucumbers, green peppers, tomatoes, and sweet corn from our very own garden!

After 20 some years without one, it’s about time.

I have to give my husband all the credit as he did the tilling, planting and tending. In my defense, he’s semi-retired so he has the time to do it. I don’t.

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San Marzano tomatoes from blogger Mel B.’s garden last summer. She blanched, peeled, and froze these in Zip-Loc freezer bags to use in sauces throughout the fall and winter.

The tomatoes aren’t quite ripe yet (I can’t wait for BLTs! I also like them sliced with a bit of salt & pepper – my mouth is watering just thinking about it!)

The zucchini and cucumbers, on the other hand, are growing like crazy! In fact, my husband brought in a giant, blimp of a zucchini the other day. My first thought was, what the heck am I going to do with this?! Since I couldn’t exactly use it as a door stopper, I had to come up with other uses for this humongous summer squash. So, I searched online for recipes featuring zucchini as one of the main ingredients, and found the perfect recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bread on allrecipes.com (see recipe below). I figured as long as there’s chocolate in it, my husband and son will eat it (make that devour it!).

Because I had a surplus of the green stuff, I made a double batch. I kept one cake-size pan of it at home and brought a loaf in to work to share. I must admit I’m not much of a baker (I don’t have the patience and usually make a huge mess in the kitchen), but I’m proud to say my zucchini bread was a big hit with both my family and co-workers.

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Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Ingredients
2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
3 eggs
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated zucchini
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate until melted. Stir occasionally until chocolate is smooth.
2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil, grated zucchini, vanilla and chocolate; beat well. Stir in the flour baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2015 Allrecipes.com

This is my own recipe for a super-easy side dish you can whip up using fresh zucchini and tomatoes.

Zucchini & Tomato Parmesan

Ingredients:
3 medium-size zucchini, sliced
2 large tomatoes, chopped or 2 cans stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup diced onions
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. olive oil
Italian seasoning (basil & oregano) to taste

Directions: In large skillet, sauté zucchini, tomatoes and onions in hot olive oil for 5 minutes. Add Parmesan cheese and seasoning. Stir to coat well. Serve hot.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

This is a recipe that Smart Perks blogger Mel B. has been enjoying since she was a little girl. It was her grandmother’s recipe.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk (milk w/lemon juice or vinegar 1/2 tbsp for 1/2 cup milk)
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups grated zucchini

Topping: 1/3 cup chocolate chips, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Directions: Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients. Pour into 13 x 9 greased and floured cake pan. Sprinkle topping over all. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.

Even if you don’t have a garden of your own, you can find fresh zucchini and other healthy, delicious and home-grown produce at your local farmer’s market.

Whether your veggies are the fruits of your labor, or your local grower, enjoy the fresh taste of summer!

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Little dog, big zucchini. Home office dog, Beanie.

Smart Perks Blogger, Catherine B, a Smart Perks employee.