I bet you think this article is about your favorite corned beef and cabbage fare, a typical St. Patrick's Day feast. Don't you? I'm too vain, with respect to Carly Simon, to cook it up this year. Yep, I'm bucking tradition and going green the new Irish way for the health of it.
Back in the day when I was a kid in San Jose, I recall my mom, Patricia, aka Patty, who was Irish Catholic, would be as busy as a honey bee in the kitchen. That reddish beef, potatoes, and cabbage would be the entree. Chocolate cupcakes with fluffy vanilla frosting and green sprinkles were part of the celebration paired with Irish coffee for my parents. It was an event that brought a bit of Irish culture and religion into our home in the San Francisco Bay Area suburbs.
A few years ago, on the South Shore one Thanksgiving Day, I rebelled (like I am this Saturday) and didn't do the must-have dinner: turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, peas and pecan pie. After all, I was only cooking for two. So, I put together spicy lean ground turkey meatballs, whole-grain spaghetti and marinara sauce. When I dished up this main birdless course, I was greeted with my brother's words, "It doesn't feel like Turkey Day" and "We should have gone out to dinner or bought take-out "Turkey in a Box" with all the fixings." But the non-traditional meal was devoured. Later, there was family time to watch a film and cozy up with the four-leggers. And no unwanted weight gain.
Fast forward to present-day when hardworking folks, like you and me, living in the Sierra work and play hard during the seasonal change. So, instead of making my mother's high-maintenance St. Patrick's Irish cuisine for Saturday, I recommend taking Plan B: make it green the fast, easy and healthier way - and the way Irish eat these days - including adding tea in their diet regime.
Spinach Pasta with Irish Vegetable Medley
8-ounce package of spinach pasta (any shape)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons European-style butter
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, carrots and cauliflower)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Ground black pepper to taste (optional)
In a medium-size pan, cook pasta per directions, drain. In a large frying pan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add garlic and vegetables. Saute till tender. Keep about 1/3 of the pan water to keep the pasta moist. Toss in cheese. Makes 4 to 6 servings. Pair with fresh, warm potato bread (sliced vertically) spread lightly with butter and toasted in the oven till golden brown.
Greek Honey Yogurt and Pear Parfaits
2 cups yogurt vanilla honey Greek yogurt
2-3 fresh green pears, chopped (or green apples, fave fruits in Ireland)
Cinnamon to taste (an Irish spice)
Whipped cream (for topping and optional)
4 squares of dark mint chocolate
Gather 4 medium size parfait glasses. Layer 1/2 cup each of yogurt and pears. Top the last layer of yogurt with a few pear chunks. Top with a dollop of whipped cream. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Garnish with a square of mint chocolate. Serves 4. (Note: Greek yogurt is high in fat but low in sodium, high in protein and heart healthy potassium.)
Ah, spinach pasta and veggies, potato bread and honey yogurt dessert are something to write home about. While I'll be passing on the corned beef (it's high in sodium, fat, and cholesterol but does boast protein), enjoying it for St. Patrick's Day is fine because it's not a daily deal. And my light Irish brunch of the 21st century (yes, they do eat vegetables and fruit, not just meat and potatoes) is heart healthy and will get you through until dinnertime. Don't forget to savor a cup of hot Irish breakfast tea.
Motto: Traditional foods have perks but so does pleasing your palate, heart health and waistline, which can change through the years.
- Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include "The Healing Powers" series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. Her website is www.calorey.com.