Erin Go Bragh: Twists on Cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day

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Powerscourt House outside of Dublin.  Built in 1730 by the 1st Viscount Powerscourt, it stands on the grounds where a 13th-century castle once was.  Photo credit: Connie Abbott-Foster


I am Irish (and Scottish) on my mother’s side.  My maternal grandmother, Nell Marie Taylor’s (b. 1892 – d. 1990) Protestant parents migrated from Scotland to Northern Ireland and then to America and settled in Chillicothe, Ohio where she was born in 1892. She married Frank Cullen whose grandfather and uncles emigrated from Ireland during ‘the great hunger.’  Frank’s father owned a broom straw farm in southern Illinois and he and Nell met at church supper in 1922.

I grew up in St. Paul which has a large Irish contingent and I remember the St. Patrick’s Day Parade downtown was a big deal.  No where near as big as Chicago or NYC’s celebrations, but a big deal nonetheless.

Old men would wear the green top hats emblazoned with ‘Erin go Bragh’ in gold or silver glitter and I remember asking my mom what that meant.  She said it means “Ireland forever.”

Photo credit:  Connie Abbott-Foster

If I were a Celtic person 800 years ago standing on this same spot, I would be thinking of heaven and eternity too.
Photo credit: Connie Abbott-Foster


My sister recently honeymooned in Ireland, traveling all over the island, and she shared some of her favorite photos and places with me for this post.  She had a grand time and fell in love with the country, the scenery, the people, their history, and the food. Must be in the blood I say!

Lovely profusion of flowers. Photo credit:  Connie Abbott-Foster

Lovely profusion of flowers.
Photo credit: Connie Abbott-Foster


I don’t recall that we made a big deal of the holiday at home and don’t have any memories of Irish food in particular that my mother would make.  If she made cabbage, I’m sure I didn’t eat it because at the time I was very, very picky.

These days I like cabbage and this recipe from Food 52 for  Suspiciously Delicious Cabbage is wonderful.  Shredded green cabbage caramelizes slowly in butter and the grated fresh ginger melts into the creamy sauce.  Fabulous with a roast chicken or pork loin.  One of my favorite bloggers, Five and Spice, developed the recipe and her husband provided the moniker ‘suspiciously delicious’ because he couldn’t believe there was no meat involved, it had so much rich, umami flavor.

Try it!

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Kylemore Abbey, a Benedictine monastery founded on the grounds of Kylemore Castle in Connemara, County Galway.
Photo credit: Connie Abbott-Foster


A fun take on corned beef and cabbage is this recipe for Reuben Dip from Closet Cooking.  I have made this before for a catering gig (graduation party) and it was a big hit. Keep it hot in a chafing dish or small crock pot or fondue pot.

Many recipes will tell you to use bottled Thousand Island dressing which I find too sweet. Closet Cooking’s recipe above makes his own Russian Dressing.  I don’t bother to make the corned beef homemade as he does (it just makes too much), so I buy 1/4 – 1/2 pound sliced corned beef from our favorite deli depending on how much dip I need to make.



Tea and pastry shop in Ireland. Photo credit:  Connie Abbott-Foster

Tea and pastry shop in Ireland.
Photo credit: Connie Abbott-Foster


Thank you Connie Abbott-Foster for the pictures!

NOTE:  From Wikipedia on translation of ‘Erin go Bragh.’  “The term brách is equivalent to “eternity” or “end of time”, meaning the phrase may be translated literally as “Ireland until eternity” or “Ireland until the end (of time).”


Lovely shamrock plant from my good friend, Adrienne, who is from Ireland.  Photo credit:  Rebecca Penovich



Cemetery where my favorite Irish poet, W.B. Yeats, is buried. Photo credit:  Connie Abbott-Foster

Cemetery where my favorite Irish poet, W.B. Yeats, is buried.
Photo credit: Connie Abbott-Foster


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Now should I go make a green cake?

National Pi Day: My Aunt Jeanine’s Blue-Ribbon-Winning Pecan Pie


Pecan pie with caramel and chocolate smear
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Happy National Pi Day!

I can’t say that I completely understand pi.  I know it’s an infinite number and it holds the key to some of the magical, mathematical mysteries of our universe, but don’t ask me to explain it to our 11-year-old.

What I do know is pie!  The kind you eat with a fork and sometimes a la mode.

When the folks behind the book, Modernist Cuisine at Home invited me to celebrate National Pi Day with a post of my favorite pie, I knew exactly which one I would choose.


My favorite vintage transferware pie plate with a recipe for pecan pie.  Very close to my Aunt's but not quite. Photo credit:   Rebecca Penovich

My favorite vintage transferware pie plate with a recipe for pecan pie. Very close to my Aunt Jeanine’s but not quite.
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich


My mother’s sister, Aunt Jeanine, was a fabulous Midwestern baker of pies, cakes, bars, fudge and sweets and she loved to share them.  She and my mom would often compete (informally and with sisterly love) with each other to see who could best each other on the flakiest crust, the most crowd-pleasing taste combination, the fluffiest meringue, the most tender crumb.  Sometimes my mom won, sometimes Jeanine.  And they kept up the competition until my mother died in 2001.

Aunt Jeanine’s pecan pie always was a hit.  She even entered it in the pie contest sponsored by the local bank in her town in southern Illinois and took home the blue ribbon.  Believe it when I tell you that Midwestern ladies and gents are SERIOUS about their baking.

I treasure this splattered index card with Aunt Jeanine's recipe in her handwriting.  It continues on the back. Photo credit:  Rebecca Penovich

I treasure this splattered index card with Aunt Jeanine’s recipe in her handwriting. It continues on the back.
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich


Every Christmas after my mom died, my Aunt Jeanine (in her late 70s and into her 80s) would make my husband 2 (count ’em, 2!) homemade pecan pies at Christmastime because he was crazy about them and pecan pie was his absolute favorite.  He lavished her with praise and honest gratitude and she just loved that.

She would package the pies in small pizza boxes that she made a special trip to the pizza parlor to get (yes, she still called it the pizza parlor).  Then she would carefully wrap the pies in newspaper, place the pies in the boxes with more paper, wrap the boxes in brown paper and ship them across the country to us via the U.S. Post Office.

This was an incredible effort for an elderly lady!  It would be an incredible effort for anybody (god, how I hate packing and shipping at Christmas; let Amazon Prime take care of it.)


Wish I had pictures to show you, but no, we gobbled up those pies all those years.  We always brought one to share with friends at parties and kept the other greedily for ourselves.  All of our friends who got a slice would wax poetic over ‘Aunt Jeanine’s Pecan Pie’ – not too sweet, not too thick, lots of pecans, and a damn good flaky crust, homemade.

Aunt Jeanine passed away this January.  I wrote about the pies for her eulogy and I thanked her for all the love and work she put into them and how grateful we were to receive them as a present.  It was her way of showing us how much she loved us and we knew it.

The funniest thing about her handwritten recipe for pecan pie is on the flip side of the index card for the crust, she writes on the top, “I don’t use a recipe!  Hope this is it, ha!”

She gives me approximations and feel – no measures.  Typical!  Okay, she and my mom are having a laugh.

For those of you who are searching for the perfect flaky pie crust and its many permutations, Modernist Cuisine at Home and their e-publisher, Inkling, have tested and re-tested classic pie crusts and custard fillings.

Their master pie crust is modernist in that it calls for the eggs to be cooked sous vide, a technique usually relegated to the kitchens of professional chefs.

I’m likely to try it, because I am in search of more pie crust instruction (since mom and Aunt Jeanine have left me wanting.)  But I must say that Aunt Jeanine swore her flaky, not-too-sweet-crust was due to vegetable shortening (i.e. Crisco in the blue can) and a light touch of the hand with your fingers dipped in ice water.

I loved what the Modernist Cuisine at Home had to say about National Pi Day: pie and filling possibilities are as “endless as pi’s digits.”


There is an end to pecan pie, as evidenced by this empty plate. But Pi (3.14…) is forever.
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich


Cheers!  The world needs pie don’t you think?!

NOTE:   I just love pie and wanted to tell you this story about my Aunt Jeanine (1928-2013). Modernist Cuisine at Home publishers reached out to remind me it was National Pi Day and provided me with a link to their perfect pie crust test results.

Handy Dandy Resource: Kitchen Cheat Sheet

Hello friends!  I found this handy dandy resource on the internet courtesy of Everest Kitchens and it was so chockful of cooking information I had to share it with you.

  • Ever wonder how to convert a recipe from metric (hello BBC Food, I’m talking to you).
  • Wonder the best way to cook different kinds of meat or which part of the animal they come from?
  • How about how long can something be frozen safely?

This infographic has your answer.  And much more.  Keep a copy handy in your Joy of Cooking (or other kitchen reference book.)

Thank you Everest Kitchens!

This is the  printable. 



Until Next Time: Downton Abbey


Presentation at the Palace.  "Presented, photographed, done." Says Lady Grantham with relief. Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

Presentation at the Palace. “Presented, photographed, done.” Says Lady Grantham with relief.
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

It’s hard to believe that Season 4 is over.  PBS decided to start and end the season with 120-minute episodes which in effect made the season only 8 episodes long.

The finale offered us plenty of the eye candy that we love about Downton Abbey:

  • Gorgeous 1920s costumes, replete with feathers, furs, beading, elaborate embroidery, fanciful hats, gloves, beaded bags, diamond tiaras, diamond headbands

Lady Dudley-Ward is absolutely gorgeous and naughty (by not-so-secretly dating the Prince of Wales.)
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

  • New interiors and London locations, including our first look at the Grantham’s London town home
Sumptious interiors at Grantham House in London (actually Blynford..) Photo credit:  Vanity Fair

Sumptuous interiors at Grantham House in London (actual location: Basildon Park.)
Photo credit: Vanity Fair


The interiors for Grantham House were actually shot one hour outside of London at Basildon Park, a Georgian mansion surrounded by acres of parkland in Berkshire. The house was built from 1776-83 and was rescued by Lord and Lady Iliffe in the mid 1950s. The house today is a re-creation and restoration of the 18th-century mansion.

Aunt Rosamund’s London town house interiors were shot at West Wycombe Park, a country house near the village of West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England, built between 1740 and 1800. It was conceived as a pleasure palace for the 18th-century Sir Francis Dashwood, 2nd Baronet.

West Wycombe Park

Many conversations take place in Aunt Rosamund’s London drawing room (actual location: West Wycombe Park)


Exteriors were shot in London and much care was taken by the production company to choose locations that didn’t show any signs of modernity (paved streets, advertisements, modern lighting etc.)  Read this excellent article from behind the scenes at the London locations “Downton Abbey: London is the Star of the Show” for some more scoop.

  •  And let’s not forget the pomp and circumstance!  The debutante ball at the palace, Lord Grantham in court uniform, the processional, the King and Queen, and all of Rose’s parties, dances, balls, and club outings.
Rose, whatever you do, don't trip! Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

Darling, this is costing us a fortune.  You should be kind to marry very well.
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE


Hello your Royal Highnesses.  Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE


Read more about the London debutante season in this great article by Dawn Aiello. Young aristocratic ladies were brought into London from their country estates and presented to society at court.  The season lasted for months and the girls were feted all about town with luncheons, dances, balls, parties, formal dinners, and approved cultural outings so they might meet marriageable young men.

Mrs. Patmore would have been tasked with keeping up a long stream of goodies for guest breakfasts, luncheons, teas, formal dinners, and the ‘at homes’ where the presiding lady of the house would entertain guests with late-night buffet suppers, music and dancing.


Here are some of our Downton-inspired Corks & Cakes posts for your review:



And some heartier fare:

When you talk like that, I'm tempted to ring for Nanny and put you to bed with no supper. Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

“When you talk like that, I’m tempted to ring for Nanny and put you to bed with no supper.”
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE


I’ve enjoyed chronicling the season and the era for you.  In fact, I might just keep up these Sunday Downton posts because there’s so much more to write about.

Let me ask you:  which character will you miss the most until next season?  (The Dowager Countess is everyone’s favorite, my guess!)

You can follow her on Twitter @theLady Grantham

Here’s a fun You Tube video:  Sh!t the Dowager Countess Says

What other Downton Abbey-related posts would you be interested in reading on Corks & Cake?

Happy birthday, Oreo!


Cookies and milk, anyone?
Photo credit:  Allison Beuker Photography


Today is Oreos 102nd birthday!

Now before you get all food-preachy on me, I know they are commercial cookies and have all kinds of  processed *stuff* in them, but my house likes Oreos and I buy them as a treat.

Plus, they are great with milk!  Milk is healthy!

Some fun facts about America’s favorite cookie:

  • Nabisco came up with the cookie on March 6, 1912, the same year the South Pole was discovered and the Titanic sank.
  • The first Oreo cookie looked very similar to the Oreo cookie of today, with only a slight difference in the design on the chocolate disks.
  • It would become the largest selling cookie of all time.
  • The origin of the name Oreo is unknown, but there are many theories, including derivations from the French word ‘Or’, meaning gold (as early packaging was gold), or the Greek word ‘Oreo’, meaning beautiful, nice or well done.
  • In January 2006, Nabisco replaced the trans fat in the Oreo cookie with non-hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Source:  Foodimentary

garnished cake 3


So go get some Oreos and some organic milk and have a cookie that a happy kid first enjoyed 102 years ago.

Or say Happy Birthday, Oreo by making someone you love this delicious Oreo Cookie Ice Cream Cake.




P.S.  No one compensated me for this post and all thoughts and opinions about Oreo cookies are my own.  We just like Oreos!


Artful drizzle. Photo by Rebecca Penovich.

Artful drizzle.
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich