TAHOE/TRUCKEE — With the fun parades, cute symbols, and tasty food; everyone loves to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day! But the origin of this popular Irish holiday dates back 1,000 years to honor the death of St. Patrick, Ireland's patron saint. This religious holiday is celebrated on March 17 in Ireland and countries around the world with traditional festivities including Irish mass and celebrations of Irish culture.Since St. Patrick's Day celebrations center around feasting, take time to explore traditional Irish foods. Most of these foods are made with simple ingredients and are easy to cook. • Corned beef and cabbage is a popular meal enjoyed by many. Cabbage has long been a staple in Irish diets but this dish was traditionally served with Irish bacon and not corned beef. It was not until the turn of the century, when Irish immigrants fled to America, they learned to use corned beef as an inexpensive substitute.• Shepherd's pie is a historical Irish casserole traditionally made of lamb meat or mutton and topped with mashed potatoes. Depending on the region, this dish is also known as hunter's pie or cottage pie.• Irish soda bread is simple table bread that came about in the 1800s. It gave people the opportunity to make bread at home in a cast-iron pot cooked directly on coals. Soda bread uses baking soda to make the dough rise instead of yeast, which was popular because it is inexpensive and nonperishable. Today many American versions contain raisins, nuts, and seeds; but traditional Irish versions are plain and simply adorned with a cross-like shape. This shape is to help during the baking process as well as represent a religious cross in this predominately Catholic country. • Irish beer and St. Patrick's Day go together like milk and cereal. The Irish are known for rich, flavorful beers and brew three main types: lagers, ales, and stouts. Lagers are lighter and crisper; ales tend to be darker and slightly richer; and stouts are luscious, smoky and malty in flavor.To celebrate St. Patrick's Day and honor Irish traditions, make this hearty, kid-friendly version of shepherd's pie!— Chef Heather Hunsaker attended-and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, but has been developing family friendly meals since she was nine years old in her mother's kitchen. She is an avid crockpotter and knows how to get food on the table in a pinch. She currently serves as a writer and recipe developer for meal planning site www.foodonthetable.com.
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