st. patty’s day ideas!

Top o’ the morning, all!

With St. Patrick’s Day {and its collaborative foodie celebration} right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite recipes with y’all – both from a food & cocktail perspective. Some of them gear towards traditional, while some others are a bit of a…twist…but regardless, they are are equally delicious! I’d love to know – how do you like to celebrate this holiday,  if at all?

For the Table:

Boxty

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Smoky Cheese and Potato Soup

Smoky Cheese & Potato Soup

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Beef, Mushroom, and Onion Tart

Beef, Onion & Mushroom Tart

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Mussels in Irish Cider

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Apple & Bramble Cake with Bushmill’s Custard

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Irish Cream Bundt Cake

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For the Bar:

How to Make an Irish Martini - Steve Brown Photography / Photolibrary / Getty Images

Irish Martini

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Sweet Hospitality Group's Irish Farmhouse Cocktail - Photo Courtesy: © Sweet Hospitality Group

Irish Farmhouse

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Irish Coffee

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Blarney Stone

Blarney Stone

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Time for a Drink: the Emerald

The Emerald

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Milk Punch

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Slainte, everyone!

crock-pot split pea soup

Yes, yes – another crock-pot recipe.

c/o Whole Foods

c/o Whole Foods

Y’all, I honestly just can’t help myself!…we’re in the throes of winter, the sun is barely out, it’s gloomy and I JUST.WANT.TO.EAT.ALL.THE.SOUP. Forever and always.

Well maybe not for that long, but as long as this weather continues to be dreary, I find myself craving rich and hearty dishes. The kind that warm you from the inside out, and stick to your ribs so you don’t succumb to winter’s chill. Sure, I’ll give into the rich and luxurious dishes that winter is so well known for {like this and this and this}, but sometimes…sometimes, a girl wants that warm and fuzzy feeling without feeling weighed down, too!

So that’s where my split pea soup comes in. I would be lying if I said that this wasn’t one of the easiest dishes on the planet to prepare. It literally takes 10 minutes; from the time you pull out your crock-pot until you’re layering in the ingredients, this is a meal you could find the time to make, even if you slept through your alarm. And man oh man, is it worth it! Chock full of winter vegetable goodness, it’s easy on the wallet, too! One delicious bite in, and your taste buds will be in split pea heaven. Truth.

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Crock-Pot Split Pea Soup {recipe adapted, minimally, from Whole Foods}

Requiring no prep work other than layering all ingredients in the crock pot, this soup is an ideal weeknight meal. Low-fat and full of vitamins, why not do your future self a favor and make a double batch? It freezes beautifully!

Ingredients:

1 {16-ounce} package dried green split peas, rinsed

1 package of ham ribs {you can also use a ham bone, 2 ham hocks or 2 cups of diced ham}

1 cup sliced baby carrots

1 onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

8 cups low-sodium chicken stock

salt & pepper, to taste

optional: 2 ribs celery plus leaves, chopped

To Prepare:

Layer ingredients in your slow cooker, in the precise order given. Add in the stock last.

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Cover and cook on high {4-5 hours} or low {8-10 hours} until peas are very soft and the ham is falling off the bone. Serve with toasted baguettes.

homemade wonton soup

I have long strove to find and make a wonton soup worthy of sharing. And today, y’all, I’ve finally done it!

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Wonton soup and I go way back. As in, I can still remember the first time that I had it – the hubs and I had spent the weekend camping with friends, and after coming home cold, wet and famished, there was simply no time to cook dinner {gasp!}.We had to eat, and we had to eat NOW. I let him pick, and after settling on Chinese delivery, the doorbell rang not five minutes later with the traditional box full of goodness. When he passed me a tupperware of soup, I looked at it curiously. We didn’t do Chinese much when I was a child, but it was a cuisine that I enjoyed. So I ladled myself a bowl and dug it. And, y’all, I demolished the.entire.bowl. I couldn’t help myself; it was so good!

I look back on this memory fondly, but now that I’ve got more experience with cooking {and recipe developing} I realize that this was probably not all as comforting as it could have been. As much as we all love it, a lot of delivery food is oftentimes high in sodium and other ingredients we may not want to enjoy. I’m in no means knocking it, because we still looooove a good Chinese takeout, but this recipe for wonton soup is going to knock your socks off. It’s unbelievably delicious, for real.

I kept the ingredients super simple, and used what I had on hand. Traditionally, wontons are filled with a mixture of pork and shrimp, but I personally like to use ground chicken instead. It’s super lean, so there’s less of a risk of fat/grease leaking out when you boil them. Paired with the minced shrimp, they make the perfect canvas for the spices we will be adding in. Low-sodium chicken stock lets us control the amount of salt we add in, making it easy for anyone to customize according to their taste. Ad the add-ins once the wontons are complete totally take this dish to the next level.

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Yes, preparing wontons at home is a bit of a process, but I promise you, it’s totally worth it. I like to make double or triple for what I need when making this soup, because they freeze beautifully. Simply prepare them as followed, them placed them on a sheet tray in the freezer for about 30 minutes. After that, transfer them to a baggie and they will last until you next need them! That way, whenever you have a hankering for wonton soup, you’ll be one step ahead of the game. Enjoy!

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Homemade Wonton Soup {recipe adapted from The Little Kitchen}

Deliciously warm and comforting, with the perfect amount of spice, this wonton soup is absolute perfection. 

Ingredients: Wonton Filling

1 lb. ground chicken

1 lb. shrimp {peeled, deveined and washed, finely diced}

1 cup of your favorite greens, finely shredded

3 green onions, finely diced

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

wonton wrappers

salt and pepper, to taste

Ingredients: Broth/Soup Base 

8 to 10 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 large onion, peeled and sliced in half

1 lime, washed and sliced in half

1 large clove of garlic, peeled

1 head baby broccoli, washed and cut into florets

sliced green onions

optional add-ins/toppings: soy sauce, sriracha, soft-boiled egg, sesame oil, kale, arugula

To Prepare:

Add wonton filling ingredients into a medium-sized mixing bowl and mix together, being sure to incorporate well. Everything should be smooth and well combined.

Add water to a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil.

In another {larger} pot, add chicken broth, onion, lime and garlic. Turn onto low heat.

To make the wontons: Add 1/2 Tbsp. filling into the middle of a wonton wrapper, and fold it so that forms a triangle. Flatten out to ensure that there are no air bubbles when boiling. Using your fingers and thumb, pinch the wrapper shut. I find it helpful to lay out an entire baking sheet, brush all edges with a big of egg white, and make an assembly line of sorts…scoop all filling out, then go back and triangle, then go back and pinch shut.

Boil wontons 6 to 8 at a time for about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to platter.

While cooking the wontons, increase the heat of the broth to high and allow to boil for about 5 minutes. 1 to 2 minutes before you are ready to serve, add in the baby broccoli florets and green onions.

To serve: place desired amount of wontons into a large soup bowl, and ladle broth over. Garnish with additional toppings.

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mediterranean kale & sausage soup

Creamy white beans, boldly flavored sausage and bright vibrant kale – have I captured your attention yet, dears?

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I kept promising myself that as the days became warmer and the sun stayed out longer, I would try to wean myself of my winter soup addiction {does anyone remember the “promise” I made from an earlier post about chicken pho? AHEM}. I guess that there is just one habit I will never kick, and that is my love for soup.

We have truly had the weirdest of winter and spring this year. With weeks ranging in temperatures from below freezing to 70+ degrees, it makes it almost impossible to successfully meal plan! I kid you not – days ago I was in shorts and a tank top walking the pup, then not 24 hours later am I bundled in my favorite college hoodie and Uggs, curled up on the couch in front of the fireplace.

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Enter this soup. It was one of those cold, dreary days that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be winter or spring, so after getting home from work I began rummaging around in my pantry. I had bookmarked this particular recipe some time ago {I love it so much because it’s reminiscent of a soup my mom used to make} and I thought that this would be the prime opportunity to prepare it.

Essentially a one-pot wonder {you can easily brown the sausage in the soup pot, thus allowing the brown bits to further enhance the soup broth} it comes together in a matter of minutes. Prepping the vegetables while the sausage cooks saves you time even further – you really can’t mess this soup up! And fear not, if you’re short an ingredient or two it is easy to adapt – throw in some fresh baby spinach {or even frozen!..just make sure it’s drained} instead of kale; shredded chicken is a fine replacement for the sausage if you don’t have any on hand, or just omit for a vegetarian option {assuming you use a vegetable and not chicken-based sauce}. I also love the addition of the briny cheese rind- if you keep these on hand in your freezer, it is a MUST in this soup!

I would not be upset if you choose to double this recipe for easy weeknight dinners; in fact, I would encourage it! It freezes beautifully, and you can always add in additional greens when reheating for dinner. A little extra sausage is never a bad thing, either. I will freely admit that I’ve had this straight out of the bowl from the refrigerator; it is just as delicious cold as it is warm. Enjoy, my dears!

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Mediterranean Kale & Sausage Soup

{recipe adapted from Fine Cooking}

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage, sliced (about 3 links)*
2 Tbs. olive oil
One-half small yellow onion, cut into small dice
1 medium carrot, cut into small dice
1 rib celery, cut into small dice
5 large cloves garlic, minced (about 2 Tbs.)
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups lower-salt chicken broth
1 lb. 3 oz. can cannellini or white kidney beans, rinsed and drained, or 2 cups cooked dried beans
1 lb. kale, rinsed, stems removed, leaves torn into bite-size pieces (8 cups firmly packed)
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest (optional)

*I added in a few pieces of parmesan rind during the cooking process – I always trim these off when I open a new block of cheese and toss them right into a freezer bag into the freezer. They add a wonderful depth of flavor to broth!

*I also added a few links of turkey sausage; a leaner option, the best of both worlds 

To Make:

Preheat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, and drizzle with olive oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add in the sliced Italian sausage {and turkey sausage if you’re using that as well}. Saute until cooked through, then transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain the excess fat. Set aside.

In a large stockpot, drizzle in a generous amount of olive oil. Bring up to temperature, and add the onion. Cook stirring frequently, until fragrant and beginning to soften, about two minutes. Add in the celery and carrot and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften and brown, about 2 more minutes. Be sure to scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan – that’s flavor right there! Stir in the garlic, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute more. Add in the stock and cheese rind and bring to a boil over high heat.

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When the broth reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium and stir in half the beans. Mash the other half with a fork {this helps to release the starch, a natural thickening agent} and fold into the soup.  Add in the kale and fold into the hot soup base, continuing to stir it in and the kale begins to wilt, about 10 to 15 minutes {I like my kale to stay slightly bitey, so I tend to err on the lower cooking time}. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty French bread for dipping.

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chicken pho

Yes, yes, I know – we’re halfway through April, and I have the audacity to post yet another soup recipe.

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But friends, I just couldn’t help myself. You see, there is something about pho {pronounced ‘fuh’} that keeps me coming back, time and time again. I love it. I would go as far to say that I would eat it once a week…because, frankly, I have been doing so for at least the past two months. I never tire of it.

Some of you may be asking yourself – “What is pho?”

Dating back to the early 20th century, pho is a noodle-based soup laced with meat and herbs, a popular street food in Vietnam. Often made to eat for breakfast, it’s typically made with rare-cooked strips of beef. A lesser common version replaces lean white chicken breast for the beef, a swap that I am more than happy with. Other meaty additions you might find in pho include tripe, meatballs, pork, and…innards. To each his own, right?

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What really makes this bowl of awesome stand apart from its more traditional “chicken noodle soup” brothers and sisters is the rich and complex broth. Marrying flavors together – we’re talking charred onions and roasted ginger, star anise and coriander, fennel and cloves – is truly what makes this stand far off and superior from any other soup that I have yet to taste. Slowly cooked and steeped together for hours, the flavor is truly unmatched. Please, I beseech you, please take the time to make the broth from scratch. Even if you just do it one time, you will not regret it {if you’re really planning ahead, make the broth one day and the soup the next – I often find it helpful to batch cook and spread the workload out}.

A savory “toppings bar”, if you’ll humor me, is the crowning glory to the chicken pho. As you finalize your broth and finish cooking off the noodles, you’l want to lay out your fresh herbs, citrus wedges, sauces {both spicy and sweet!}, and your tender pieces of cooked chicken. For me, the perfect bowl is a heaping mound of ramen noodles, a generous handful of the meaty chicken, then almost gluttonous amounts of snap peas, bean sprouts, slivered onion, and two or three large wedges of ripe lime. If I’m feeling particularly edgy, I may even thrown in a squirt or two of that silly red rooster, the infamous Sriracha sauce that we all know and love.

This soup is fully customize-able, so go to town when you build your bowl! Just make sure to enjoy the aromatics when cooking and eating, because it is honestly unlike anything else you’ll ever experience. I promise.

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Chicken Pho

{adapted, minimally, from Smitten Kitchen – previously adapted from Vietnamese Home Cooking}

{serves 6}

IngredientsBroth
2 unpeeled yellow onions, quartered
Three 1/2-inch-thick slices of unpeeled fresh ginger, smashed
4 quarts cold water
3 pounds chicken bones or chicken wings {Iused a mix of chicken legs and chicken breasts, it was what I had on hand}
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound dried ramen noodles

*I added in a large bag, probably about 1 lb., of dried shiitake mushrooms*

Additional spices include coriander, cinnamon, star anise, fennel, black cardamoms,and cloves

Garnishes
1 large scallion, thinly sliced
1 pound mung bean sprouts {my grocery store hasn’t stocked these over the winter, so I used sugar snap peas}
1/2 cup torn basil leaves, Thai basil if you can find it
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2 limes, cut into wedges
2 jalapeños, thinly sliced
Asian chili-garlic sauce {I set out Sriracha}
Hoisin sauce {I set out soy sauce}

Char onions and ginger:

Heat the oven to 400°F. Put the onions and ginger on a lightly oiled baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned. {If you have a gas range, just char them a bit over a flame. It would save a lot of time.}

Cook the chicken:

Fill a large stockpot with the water and bring to a boil. Add the roasted onions and ginger, dried shiitake mushrooms, and the chicken bones or wings, salt, and sugar and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to moderate and simmer until the chicken is cooked, about 30 minutes.

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Remove the chicken and finish the broth: Using tongs, transfer the chicken legs and breasts to a plate and let cool slightly. Remove the meat from the bones and refrigerate. Return the skin and bones to the stockpot and simmer for 2 hours longer. Strain the chicken broth into a large soup pot and cook over high heat until reduced to 12 cups, about 15 minutes.

Prepare noodles:

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add in the noodles, then add them to the saucepan and boil over high heat until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well. Divide the noodles between 6 large bowls and sprinkle with the scallion.

Finish and serve the soup:

Add the reserved chicken to the broth and simmer until heated through. Ladle the broth and chicken over the noodles. Serve with the bean sprouts, basil, lime wedges, jalapeños, chili-garlic sauce, hoisin sauce and crispy shallots.

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* Note: Phan has you cook the noodles separately in water, so they can be drained and used as needed (this is what I did). I believe he’s concerned about them overcooking in the soup pot. Theoretically, you could of course save time by cooking the noodles in the broth pot while the chicken reheats, however, the noodles are likely to make the broth cloudy, when ideal pho usually has a pristine, clear broth.

 

Do ahead: The broth can be made ahead and refrigerated for two days, a great way to divide up this recipe.

cioppino {san francisco’s famous seafood stew}

At this point in my life, I’m about 6 hours (in all directions) from the nearest ocean. Virginia Beach, Ocean City, the Outer Banks – you name it, they are all far away. The hubs and I try to make it out to the beach at least once a year. Usually in those trips…and especially when family is involved, a big old seafood dinner is always on the books weeks in advance. Because let’s face it, there’s nothing better than a fresh piece of seafood, caught that day, and not far at all from where you’re dining. I wish I was fortunate enough to enjoy that luxury year round, but for now, special seafood dinners at the beach will have to do

…that is, until I started making cioppino.

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By no means am I trying to compare grocery store seafood to the fresh caught bounty of the shore, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, amiright? Sometimes, and I’ll be the first to admit it happens more often than not, I will get a craving for seafood so big I just have to do something about it. This is where cioppino comes into play, my dears. Easy to throw together, a one pot wonder, and the best part is that you can use whatever seafood you might like.

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I can remember the first time that I made this dish. I had just returned home from visiting my parents, and was lucky enough to hit up the wonder that is Trader Joe’s. A bag labelled “seafood medley” had caught my eye so I quickly snatched it up, not exactly knowing what I would do with it, but I knew it would be delicious. I ended up tossing it with some tomatoes, broth and veggies, and called it a night. It was tasty, to be sure, but certainly not spectacular.

The recipe I want to share with you all today is one that I happened upon when I was planning a date night menu for the hubs and I not too long ago. We always like to have one weekend night ‘in’ so to speak – we experiment with cocktails, and I whip up a few quick and easy dishes for dinner. Date night in comfy clothes…can I get an AMEN! I know you ladies are with me on this one.

But getting back on track. As I said, I was perusing different sites and this particular recipe caught my eye. Brimming with a variety of seafood, spices, and other wonderful flavors, I immediately knew that this would be it.

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This dish is truly easy to prepare; don’t be fooled by the long list of ingredients and steps. The majority of the time you’ll dedicate to it is watching it on the stovetop, and the longer you let the tomatoes and broth merry with the wine and herbs, the better it will be. And you know how I mentioned this is perfect date night food? I’m not even kidding. It’s a wonderfully light dish, and won’t leave you feeling heavy afterward. So pour yourself a glass of white wine, settle in for the evening, and get to cooking. :)

Bon appetit!

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Cioppino

{adapted slightly from American Food}

Note: Please, please, please make sure you use fresh and not frozen seafood when preparing this dish! It is going to make a difference in the final flavors of the cioppino. It’s worth the slight splurge. And by no means do you have to use the fish listed below – feel free to swap out whatever you may like! Shrimp would be wonderful, as would halibut, or any other thick white fish. 

Makes 6 large portions

Ingredients:

1/4 C. olive oil

1 rib celery, diced

1 onion, diced

2 (14 ounce) cans of tomatoes, one diced and one crushed

1 small can of canned clams, with the liquid

1 C. good chicken stock

6 cloves of garlic, minced

juice of half a lemon

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp.red pepper flakes, or to taste

salt and pepper, to taste

3/4 lb. cod, cut into 1″ strips

24 fresh scallops (I used a smaller scallop)

8-12 fresh clams

1/2 bunch fresh Italian parsley, chopped

In a large pot (I used my favorite Le Creuset braising pan), on medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. Add in the carrots, onion, and garlic, and saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Add in the rest of the above ingredients, except the chicken stock, seafood and fresh parsley. Simmer on low, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes. Add the chicken stock in every 10 minutes or so, stirring to combine. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper as needed.

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Add in the cod and cover, cooking for about 7 minutes. Add in the canned clams with their liquid, the scallops, and the clams. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the clams open.  Serve in large bowls and top with parsley. Make sure to serve lots of crusty bread on the side (I love a good French or sourdough loaf) and a good white wine!

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The cioppino, less the seafood, also freezes amazingly well. I like to scoop out half the broth before cooking the seafood, letting it cool in a freezer-safe container, and then storing it for a later meal. Simply thaw it in the refrigerator, and when you are ready to cook it, simply add it into your pot, bring to temperature and proceed to cook the fish in it as directed above. Two meals, one prep – it’s fabulous!