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MARCH - FINALLY! Spring is on the way (we hope!) and it's the month of good
   Welcome to Great Cooking Ideas, and top o'the mornin to ye lads & lassies! I've got some lip-smackin' recipes for ye! And below the recipes is a gold pot brim full o' fun ideas for the kids. Be sure to watch for leapin' leprechauns, lucky 4-leaf clovers, grumpy trolls and beautiful rainbows! 
We're ALL lucky, especially on St Patrick's Day; Irish or not!        

I'm Patti Saunders Mays (I like to think I'M the "Saint" in Saint Patti! Ha!). I'm so glad you're here. Happy MARCH to all of us!

We are in Boise, Idaho, and this winter has been cold and dreary (and lonnggg!), but I have to say it hasn't been as bad as some of our previous winters here, and not NEARLY as bad as other places in the USA!

But BY GUM, we've had a few sunny days with blue skies recently,  and yesterday I noticed the neighbor's tulips are starting to peak through!  I suppose it's still a bit early to plant tomatoes, though. DANG!! I can't wait to get planting. Waiting another 6-8 weeks is a killer.

As most of you know, I'm all about casual, affordable recipes that are kitchen tested (that's important!), family friendly and out-of-the-ordinary good. I have lots of terrific recipes and ideas to share, so enjoy! Use the recipes and feel free to copy and re-post (please, oh please give me credit!) and by all means - come back often!  - Patti Mays 

         HAVE TO BE A BIG DEAL...

These Saint Patrick's Day cupcakes are EASY! Use a chocolate cake mix and any favorite vanilla frosting. Pour the cake mix into muffin tins filled with cupcake papers. Bake as directed.
     Then make your favorite vanilla frosting (my fave is at the end of this recipe) and tint it with green food coloring. Add a few drops of peppermint flavoring. Sprinkle with store-bought sprinkles - green, rainbow or chocolate. Your family will LOVE 'em and they couldn't be easier!

My favorite butter cream frosting. . . 
Ingredients. . . 
 1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks)
 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
 2 tablespoons vanilla flavoring (or MINT for St Patrick's Day!)
 1 teasp green food coloring
Directions. . . 
Mix the powdered sugar and butter w/ electric mixer or
food processor.
Beat until fluffy.
Add the flavoring and food coloring 
Continue beating until light and fluffy.
Taste test... add more mint flavoring if you want.

               I'M TELLIN' YE LASSIES & LADDIES. . .  
            This is TOP O' THE MORNIN' GOOOOOD!!



            Click on the recipe title for the full recipe
            (or CLICK HERE for a list of all my recipes)

Corned Beef & Cabbage (5-star recipe!)
  Reuben Noodle Casserole (Gooey & Fab-o!)
   Reuben Sandwiches (Mmm!)
 Beer Cheese Soup (smooth,creamy,de-LISH!)
 Beer Bread  (easy and mighty fine!)
        (It's a pot o' gold!)
Best Beer Biscuits (just 5 ingredients!)
   Crunchy Cabbage-Pasta Salad   (yumm!)
Grandma McAndrews'

I wrote and published this article on a friend's blog a while back and it got lots of nice comments saying how helpful it was.  So I'm sharing it again this year for my sweet readers who have kids and/or grand kids. It's about that all-important, never-ending question. . .  
                                   Here are some ideas...
When our daughter Natalie was little I just couldn't wait to introduce her to all our traditional American "special days" hoping to instill in her a love and respect for them just as my mama did for us.
The small amount of effort required to celebrate these special occasions has paid off tenfold. The fun times we had (and continue to have) together as a family, making our own traditions and repeating them each year - creates memories for our daughter (and for us!) that we all cherish and talk about today.
For St Patrick's Day: I remember so clearly when Natalie was VERY young and I was an inexperienced mom, I couldn’t think of one thing to do for St Patrick's Day, other than to dress her in green. :>
She was adorable and looked so precious in all that green. But over the years I've come up with lots more creative ideas which I'll share with you now. These are easy; some easier than others, but they're all fun and believe me - they will create lasting, wonderful memories for your children and for you.
First off, celebrating St. Patrick's day is a perfect time to throw in a little history lesson. Who was St. Patrick and why do we celebrate this day? What is a shamrock, a leprechaun, and where on the world map is Ireland? (Here's some interesting info about it: St. Patrick's Day History & Stories).
More fun ideas. . .
 * By all means, get a pair of shamrock socks! They're available by the gazillions (check Target, Walmart and Old Navy) and kids adore them. They're inexpensive, too, especially considering the delight they give children. If
you get them out the night before, it sets the tone for the "big day" coming up; builds excitement.

No matter what your child is wearing that day, special-occasion socks are a hoot, and kids just love 'em. Get a pair for yourself too! They're so fun with jeans or slacks, and your children love to see you doing what they're doing.                      
* Get some gold-wrapped chocolate coins "from the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."  Put several in clear cellophane "packets" or bags and tie with green ribbon. Then place at each place setting, in school lunches, under a pillow, or slip into a coat pocket.  
        Coins are also TERRIFIC when placed together on
                a big silver tray or large platter

I did this for one of Natalie's birthday parties and what a hit!  I took the tray around and let each party guest pick one of the "gold packets." They were all the same, of course, but the impact of a large amount all together made a big splash, and the kids really thought they were getting something. :>

Gold chocolate coins in clear cellophane look especially enchanting because they're so sparkly. I use them for lots of celebrations, not just St. Patrick's Day, because they're inexpensive, easy to find (check party stores) and kids just love 'em.  If you can't get gold chocolate coins, use green jelly beans or all-green M&Ms.
* You can do a lot with good ol'green food coloring. Make green scrambled eggs for breakfast and serve with bagels and green cream cheese.  Kids think specially-colored foods are the neatest thing ever, and it couldn't be easier to do. Other foods that take well to food coloring are rice, pizza or bread dough, mayonnaise, applesauce, frosting, milk and mashed potatoes!
                     Green Mashed Potatoes. Kids LOVE these!

But, word of warning - don’t try tinting butter.   It does not
work, trust me (I speak from experience . . . gooey mess).
* Serve pistachio pudding, lime or rainbow sherbet or green-frosted cupcakes. And don't forget dear ol' green jello jigglers. (or use yellow jello jigglers for a "pot o gold"! Kids love those even if we adults think the idea is a little tired...  (the "pot" is made from a hollowed-out lime but any hollowed-out fruit would do, or a hollowed-out green pepper looks like a shamrock!)
* For cakes, cupcakes or sugar cookies, frost with white or light-colored frosting and then make a St.Patrick's design for the top. To do this, draw or download a shamrock, rainbow, top hat or even your child's initials - then cut out the center to make a stencil.  Hold it over the frosted cupcake and sprinkle green candy sprinkles to form the design. Kids love this!
* Make a traditional Irish dinner of corned beef & cabbage! (this is my recipe and it ROCKS, if I do say so myself...) If you make CB&C the right way, it's absolutely delicious - moist, juicy and very hearty.There are never any leftovers!
Serve with Authentic Irish Soda bread, a very Irish tradition, or try my super simple Beer Bread or Beer Biscuits.  

St Patrick's Ideas for Kids
* Sprinkle a few (just a few!) sparkly shamrocks on the tablecloth, in school lunches, or on your child's pillow. These can be a total pain to clean up, so don't go overboard, but kids are delighted with them. To make things especially magical, be excited over the fact that a leprechaun or Irish Fairy must have come to visit and left some "pixie dust."

*Make a "Lucky Leprechaun Snack Tray"
Cut the top off a large green pepper and hollow it out. This makes a shamrock-shaped "bowl". Then fill it with your favorite creamy dip, (tint it green!) put it on a large platter surrounded by GREEN ONLY vegies: celery, cucumbers, cabbage, snap peas, frozen green peas (thawed), broccoli ("tiny trees") and asparagus spears.
(Tip: It helps a ton if you parboil the tough veggies like broccoli, asparagus & fresh green beans for 2-3 minutes so they won't be so hard to chew. Plunge in cold water after parboiling to stop the cooking process. This makes them crisp-tender and also turns veggies a beautiful bright green color). Add a little sparkle to the plate with some gold-wrapped chocolate coins tucked among the vegies
. With this kind of a display you'll be surprised at how much your kids like eating veggies!

*Make chocolate-chip-mint milkshakes or green punch (combine 7-UP and softened lime sherbet). Serve in fun glasses with a chunky green straw or green umbrella.  Or for an extra-special treat, serve them in champagne glasses (party stores have them in plastic!) and top with a sprig of mint. Kids think this is SUPER special!

The whole point is to just do something different. It doesn't have to be expensive! It does take a little time, but that time will be remembered all your child's life. These things are what create a "happy childhood" in kids' memories. And isn't that what we all want as parents and grandparents?

                  HAVE FUN! - Love, P