Thursday, March 17, 2016

On the Homefront: Irish Spring Table

Says Lucky, the Irish Dalmatian,
"I've come to a realization!
St. Patrick's Day's here,
And spring is quite near,
So it's time for a green celebration!"

St. Patrick's Day has arrived, and the first day of spring is just around the corner, so I decided to combine the two events into an Irish Spring celebration table!  Shades of green are suitable for both days, with cream and brown serving as accent colors.  My inspiration was the set of four Pasture Bunnies Salad Plates from Pottery Barn, which comes in four different cute bunny designs in brown and green on a cream background.

 Dark brown wooden bead placemat (from Target ages ago); green round woven placemat (from Walmart); BHG Amity Dinner Plate (from Walmart); Pasture Bunny Salad/Dessert Plate (from Pottery Barn); Martha Stewart green fern/floral napkin (from Kmart many moons ago); Pioneer Woman Cowgirl Lace Pearlized Handle Flatware in Green (from Walmart); stainless steel dessert fork; pale green goblet; dark green mug (from Target eons ago); dark brown wooden coaster (probably from Pier 1); shamrock votive holder (from Hobby Lobby years ago); shamrock napkin ring.

Bunnies (even a Dalmatian-spotted bunny!) seemed right for the season,
along with my little sheeple family and a small but brilliant green shamrock
plant (which is actually an Oxalis species, or false shamrock, and not really
a shamrock, which is a clover, or Trifolium species, if you want to get picky,
but at least the leaves are the right shape!).

A closer look at the shamrock plant.

Two pretty little shamrock plates sit in the center of the table to hold
slices of Irish soda bread.

Each place setting has its own green shamrock votive candle holder, plus
a shamrock-shaped napkin ring that I used as a decoration instead of
placing it around the napkin.

A closer look at my new green-handled flatware (plus one of my old
stainless steel dessert forks, because for some odd reason the new set
does not come with dessert forks), Martha Stewart green fern/floral
napkin from long ago, and new shamrock napkin ring.

The candle centerpiece arrangement includes Cadbury caramel eggs
in mini-cupcake liner "nests".

My new shamrock bunnies salt and pepper shakers!

A simple meal of shepherd's pie, Irish soda bread, and apple cake should be hearty enough for all appetites!  My shepherd's pie recipe is vegetarian, but it is easy enough to add ground beef, lamb, or even poultry if you like.  I linked to my favorite Irish soda bread recipe, but if you prefer yours without raisins and caraway seeds try my other recipe here.  Irish butter for the bread is surprisingly easy to find at most grocery stores, especially around St. Patrick's Day.

The Irish Apple Cake is a new recipe for me, but is apparently authentically Irish.  The original version is served with a homemade custard sauce, but I did not feel we needed the extra calories, and I have an aversion to recipes that only use part of the eggs (either whites or yolks).  I can never figure out what to do with the rest, and I hate throwing food out!  If you have no such problem, by all means make the custard sauce (it looks delicious).  I only changed the cake recipe slightly, omitting the cloves (which I dislike) and substituting double cinnamon (which I adore).  I also left off the 2 T. of sugar sprinkled on the top before baking.  Serve this cake with Irish Coffee or Irish Breakfast Tea (the latter is good at any time of the day, not just for breakfast).  I don't drink or make coffee, so I have linked to an Irish Coffee recipe but cannot tell you if it is any good!

Irish Spring Menu:

Irish Soda Bread/Irish Butter
Irish Apple Cake*
Irish Coffee or Irish Breakfast Tea

*Irish Apple Cake

3 C. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
12 T. (1 1/2 sticks) butter
3/4 C. sugar
4 large Yellow Delicious apples
2 eggs
3/4 C. milk

Grease and flour a deep 8- or 9-inch round cake pan (or use a springform pan of similar diameter).  Sift the first five ingredients together in an extra-large bowl (use one bigger than you usually use for mixing cakes to accommodate the apples).  Rub in the butter using your fingers or cut it in with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles crumbs.  Stir in the sugar.

Peel, core, and quarter the apples.  Cut them into 1/4-inch slices and then cut the slices into thirds.  Toss the apple pieces into the flour mixture and combine them thoroughly.

In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs and milk.  Pour the wet mixture into the apple mixture and stir until just combined.  The batter will be thick and chunky because of the apples.

Transfer the batter into the prepared cake pan.  Smooth the surface with a spatula.  Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean (the top of the cake should be golden brown).  Remove from the oven and cool for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from the pan and cool completely.  Serves 12.

Note: My cake took a little over an hour to bake.  I used a uniquely shaped pan, which probably affected the baking time.


In addition to the Cadbury caramel eggs, the candy on the table includes Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Squares with White Mint Filling:

A few more bunnies are scattered about the dining room:

This little cream-colored bunny (there is also a brown version) was a
Walmart find -- he smells like chocolate!

Meet Zelda!  This little plush bunny is the likeness of a Dutch rabbit.
We had a black and white Dutch rabbit just like this when I was a child,
and we named her Zelda, for some reason, which is where I got the name.

These bunnies will hop us past St. Patrick's Day and on to Easter Sunday, where I will change this table only slightly for the new holiday.  Meanwhile, why not have a look at an Irish Spring greeting from days gone by:


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