Bacon and onions are mixed with chicken in a delicious meal that can be made ahead in the slow cooker. — CATHI LITZENBERGER PHOTO

Food is the star of any holiday

From St. Patrick’s Day to Purim, a holiday without food isn’t really a holiday

  • Sun Mar 19th, 2017 6:00am
  • Life

Cathi Litzenberger/Morning Star Columnist

I’m so looking forward to spring this year as it seems we’ve had a longer winter than usual and I’ve had enough of it! Lucky me though, because by the time this comes to print, my twin and I will be enjoying the warmth of an Australian early fall. By the time I arrive home March 23, spring will be here!

This month marks several significant special days. Beside Ash Wednesday, International Woman’s Day, and the Jewish celebration of Purim there’s March 15, when Julius Caesar didn’t heed the warning by soothsayers to “beware the Ides of March ” and subsequently was stabbed by Marcus Brutus on that day in 44 BC. ‎ Saint Patrick’s Day on the 17th is in honour of the Patron Saint of Ireland, who brought Christianity to the Emerald Isle. It is truly a day of celebrating Irish history, ancestry, traditions and customs. International Earth Day March 20 was initiated to make earth inhabitants aware of their responsibility to take care of the planet. This care includes environmental and natural resources. These are only a few of the more significant days but I found in excess of 33 others — everything for foods to ridiculous nonsense reasons for a special day.

Today I’m offering a wide range of recipes. A chicken dish in a slow cooker, an Irish brownie and cream for all those who missed doing something special on the 17th and a very nice spicy shrimp dish that any one can succeed at making.

Slow-Cooker Smothered Chicken with Bacon & Onions

8 slices reduced-sodium bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 onions, cut lengthwise in half, then sliced crosswise

1 clove garlic, minced

1/3 cup flour

1/2 tsp. pepper

1-1/2 cups 25% reduced sodium chicken broth, divided

8 bone-in skinless chicken thighs (3 lb./1.4 kg)

6 cups egg noodles, uncooked

1 cup cream cheese

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Cook and stir bacon in large skillet on medium heat until crisp. Remove from skillet with slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Discard all but 2 Tbsp. drippings from skillet. Add onions to drippings in skillet; cook 15 to 18 min. or until golden brown, stirring frequently and adding garlic, flour, pepper and half the bacon for the last minute. Whisk in 1-1/4 cups broth. (onion mixture will be thick). Add chicken to slow cooker; cover with onion mixture. Cook on LOW 4 to 5 hours (or on HIGH 2 to 3 hours). About 15 min. before ready to serve, cook noodles as directed on package, omitting salt.

Drain noodles; place on platter. Spoon chicken over noodles, reserving onion mixture in slow cooker. Mix cream cheese and remaining broth until blended. Add to onion mixture; mix well. Spoon over chicken; top with parsley and remaining bacon. Yummy

Bailey’s Irish Cream Brownie

2 (19.8 ounce) packages fudge brownie mix

1 cup Irish cream liqueur (commercial or below)

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

5 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter the bottom of a 10 1/2×15 1/2-inch jelly roll pan. Place fudge brownie mix into a large bowl; beat in 1 cup of Irish cream liqueur, vegetable oil and eggs until the mixture forms a smooth batter. Spread the batter into the prepared jelly roll pan. Bake in the preheated oven until the brownies are set and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and allow to cool completely.

Beat unsalted butter in a large bowl until smooth; beat in 5 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur until mixture is creamy. Slowly beat in confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, until frosting is desired stiffness; spread frosting on brownies to serve.

Homemade Irish Cream

1 cup heavy cream

1 tsp. instant coffee powder

1⁄2 tsp. cocoa powder

3⁄4 cup Irish whiskey

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

Combine 1 tbsp. cream and the coffee and cocoa powders to make a smooth paste. Slowly add remaining cream, whisking until smooth. Add whiskey, vanilla extract, and sweetened condensed milk; stir to combine. Pour into a 24-oz. jar and keep refrigerated until ready to serve, up to 2 weeks. To serve, pour into a tumbler filled with ice.

Shrimp Mozambique

4 tbsp. unsalted butter

2 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left intact

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. ground annatto

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. dried oregano

12 oz. beer, preferably lager

8 tbsp. hot sauce, preferably Frank’s Red Hot

Chopped parsley, for garnish

Lemon wedges, to serve

Cooked rice, to serve (optional)

Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Working in 2 batches, add shrimp and cook, turning once, until just pink, about 2 minutes; transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining butter in skillet. Add onions and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 6 minutes. Stir in annatto, coriander, cumin and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add beer and bring to a boil; cook, until reduced by half, 8-10 minutes. Stir in hot sauce and cook until sauce is slightly thick, about 4 minutes.

Add reserved shrimp and cook until warmed through, 2-3 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper; garnish with parsley and serve with lemon wedges over rice, if you like.

Cheesy Ham and Hash Brown Casserole

1 (32 ounce) package frozen hash brown potatoes

8 ounces cooked, diced ham

2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream of potato soup

1 (16 ounce) container sour cream

2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1-1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix hash browns, ham, cream of potato soup, sour cream and Cheddar cheese. Spread evenly into prepared dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until bubbly and lightly brown. Serve immediately.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.