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A St. Patrick’s Day dinner with a leprechaun garden, tiny vegetables and Irish Soda Bread

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A leprechaun garden doubles as a centerpiece and appetizer for your St. Patrick's Day dinner.

A leprechaun garden doubles as a centerpiece and appetizer for your St. Patrick’s Day dinner.

Pam McMurtry, Pam McMurtry Designs

Treat your family to a St. Patrick's Day dinner featuring a leprechaun garden, Irish Soda Bread and other tasty treats that might just magically disappear.


Leprechaun Garden

A St. Patrick’s Day dinner will be welcoming and nutritious for your young children when you include a leprechaun garden crudités that does double duty as an appetizer and a centerpiece. It’s easy to create; just set a leprechaun cottage on a tray or in a shallow basket. (See pammcmurtry.com for making the cottage using a small birdhouse.)

Trim off the stem ends of a four-pack of washed mini lettuce heads or a bunch of kale and place in a bowl of water to rinse and refresh like you do with a bouquet of cut fresh flowers. Shake off excess water and drain upside down for a few minutes, then place around the cottage for the garden base. Prepare small vegetables as directed and place them in the lettuce heads in rows or bunches. Serve with your favorite garden or ranch dip, tinted green, in a hollowed bell pepper.


Tiny Vegetables

For bite-sized potatoes, wash, lightly coat with canola or olive oil and bake for about 30 minutes at 425 degrees, or until soft.

Blanch the following vegetables for the leprechaun garden. To blanch, boil 3-4 quarts of water in a large pot. Add vegetables, blanch for the recommended time, remove with a slotted spoon, then immerse in cold water, drain on towels until you assemble the crudités.

Asparagus: Wash and break off stem ends, boil for 3–5 minutes, cool, cut in half

Broccoli: Wash and cut into individual branches, blanch for 3 minutes.

Brussels sprouts: Remove outer leaves, wash and boil for 8 minutes.

Snow peas: Trim off ends and remove strings, blanch for 30 seconds.

Wash and cut the following vegetables into bite-size servings: Mini carrots, mushrooms, cucumbers, celery, bell pepper.


Irish Soda Bread

This is a fun recipe that children who like to squish play dough can help make. It’s a mild-tasting bread that is delicious with butter and jam.

3½ cups all-purpose flour plus extra for rolling out the dough

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

½ to ¾ cup cream

½ cup dried cranberries or raisins (optional)

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, lightly butter and set aside. Sift together flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Make a crater in the center, then add buttermilk and cream. Using your fingers or a large fork, stir the dough until it just holds together.

Flour the work surface and gently mold the dough into a 6-inch round loaf. Dust the bread with flour and cut a cross into the top, then place on the baking pan. Bake for 42-45 minutes until hollow-sounding when tapped. Remove from pan and serve immediately with butter and strawberry or blueberry jam.

Pam McMurtry is a wife, parent of seven, artist and writer with a bachelor's degree in art teaching with a drawing and painting emphasis. She is the author of "A Harvest and Halloween Handbook," and her website is pammcmurtry.com