Hey, kids, it’s Saint Paddy’s day, so why not throw a mad-cap Irish party! Get out your top hats and Irish bowlers, invite Tiger and Firefox to join us, and set the table.
“But what should we serve?” ask Will and Isla.
“How about a tea party?” I say right back. “In Ireland people drink more tea than any other beverage. The only drink that comes close to tea there is Guinness, a stout Irish beer that is totally not on for kids!”
“Oh, Vinny! Kids can’t drink tea…,” say Will and Isla.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” I say right back. “Check out the power of the leaf!”
I have no problem with this idea. Tea is a wonderful drink for good health. It’s enjoying lots of praise these days as a super-food. It keeps you well-watered without adding too much of the demon sugar to your diet. Its nutrients keep the heart pumping and your brain sharp. And it doesn’t take much of a guru to see that teas are way ahead of colas for controlling your weight. Even diet colas can’t compare, as recent studies are showing that artificial sweeteners are adding to the sugar problem, not curing it.
“There are lots of caffeine-free teas around that kids at a tea party could have,” I say. “Herbal teas with a little spoonful of honey or maple syrup and a splash of low-fat milk would be good. I’m thinking Roibus, a red bush tea from South Africa, or mint tea, or rose hip tea, or even decaf green tea. Any tea will do for kids as long as it’s caffeine-free.”
“I’d like to have raspberry smoothy tea,” says Isla.
So that’s what we do.
As St. Paddy’s day is all about green, we talk about green pistachio ice cream and our famous green eggs (or they blue?).
I also tell them about Irish soda bread, which is like a giant tea biscuit and easy for kids to make.
And we think about Colcannon, another famous Irish dish made from mashed potatoes and cabbage. If the cabbage is boiled until it is soft, the whole thing can be pureed together, with a little butter and milk and a dash of salt and pepper, to make a traditional food that kids might eat even if they don’t want to try cabbage on its own.
But for this Irish tea party, we make some banana bread (recipe below). I throw in oat bran for extra fiber and add some ground almonds instead of walnut bits. This trick means kids get the added nutrition of nuts without the chunks. This quality is important, because Will picks anything out of his food that his agile fingers can pry loose.
We end the party with some music. Will loves Lord of the Dance, which I always think of as Irish. I learn with surprise it was composed by an American! And to top it off, it’s sung below by The Corries, a Scottish folk trio. You can tell my age went I confess how much I LIKE Ronnie Brown, the lead singer. See if this song doesn’t give you a few shivers too .
Isla loves bears and dancing, which Jacqui Lawson helps us out with.
We fill the rest of the afternoon drawing rainbows, clovers, snakes, and leprechauns and telling Irish stories, including the one about Saint Paddy’s day.
The luck ‘o the Irish to you!
Vinny’s fortified banana bread for superheroes and mad hares
- 1/3 cup margarine (without trans fats) or 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cup stone-ground whole-wheat or whole-grain flour
- 1/4 cup oat bran
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup mashed ripe banana (ripe, frozen ones work fine)
- 1/2 cup ground almonds
Grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan or spray with Pam. Preheat oven to 350F.
Cream together the margarine and sugar. Add eggs and beat well with a hand-mixer. Measure the dry ingredients into a food processor and give them a 30-second whir. This step adds air needed for a fluffy outcome (without having to sift). Add the nuts and pulse again for a few seconds to mix thoroughly.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet mix in batches, alternating with the mashed bananas. Blend well with the hand-mixer, but be careful not to overdo it. Stop as soon as you see the dry foods are wet.
Pour into the loaf pan and sprinkle some oats on top for decoration. Bake in a moderate oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the pan and cool on a rack. If it isn’t all eaten right away, wrap the rest and store overnight.