“It’s Saint Paddy’s day tomorrow,” says Vinny, “Let’s throw an Irish tea party! Get out your top hats and Irish bowlers, invite Tiger and Firefox, and set the table.
“But what should we serve?” ask Will and Isla.
“How about tea?” Vinny offers. “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, either…,” say Will and Isla.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Vinny says right back. “Check out the power of the leaf!”
Vinny knew that tea is a wonderful drink for good health. It’s enjoying lots of praise these days as a super-food. Tea 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 weight. Even diet colas can’t compare, as recent studies are showing that artificial sweeteners in colas are adding to the sugar problem, not curing it.
“There are lots of caffeine-free teas that kids 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.
But a party needs more than just something to drink. As St. Paddy’s day is all about green, we talk about green pistachio ice cream and our famous green eggs.
We check out Irish soda bread, which is like a giant tea biscuit and easy for kids to make. My healthier version is made with whole-grain pastry flour, coconut sugar, and coconut oil.
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.
Irish Soda Bread
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 4 cups unsifted whole-grain pastry flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds (optional great flavor)
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or add a teaspoon of vinegar to 1 1/2 cups milk)
- Grease and flour (or line with parchment paper) two 8-inch round cast iron fry pans (best results) or two cake pans.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whir them for 30 seconds in a food processor (this adds air to make the bread light and airy).
- Cut the coconut oil into the flour mixture, using hands or a pastry cutter, until evenly distributed.
- Add raisins and caraway seeds to the flour mixture and toss them with your hands to distribute them evenly.
- Beat eggs with the buttermilk.
- Pour egg/buttermilk mixture into flour mixture. Blend well with a spoon. The dough should be heavy but not too wet. If it’s too dry, add a splash of buttermilk. If too tacky, add a little bit of flour.
- Divide the dough into two loaves, one for each pan. Dust hands generously with flour and mold dough into a round shape. Dust tops with flour. Using the wrong end of a fork cut a deep X into the dough. The traditional cross of St. Patrick prevents the bread from cracking.
- Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until well browned (knife comes clean). Cool on a rack.
We end the party with some music. Will loves Lord of the Dance, which we always think of as Irish. But we 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. Ronnie Brown, the lead singer, has a beautiful voice! See if this song doesn’t give you a few shivers.
Isla loves bears and dancing, which Jacquie 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.
Party on, dudes! The luck ‘o the Irish to you!