Entertaining on a Budget: St. Patrick’s Day

On St. Patrick’s Day a lot of people, either stay at home or go out to the bar. If you want to celebrate, but you aren’t sure you’ll have enough for the cab ride home, then consider hosting a small cheese and dessert party for St. Patrick’s Day.

Here is how you do it:
First, you need music. We love Black 47, an Irish rock bank that plays some pretty awesome music. Their revolutionary sensibilities, bagpipes, and electric guitars will definitely help you get your Irish on Listen here. And download “Funky Celi”, “Danny Boy”, and “James Connolly” from iTunes.

Show some fun Irish movies, like Michael Collins, The Commitments, or Circle of Friends (which is our personal favorite).

Ask each of your friends to bring their favorite Irish whiskey or beer. Alcohol can cost you quite a bit, so spreading around the costs saves you and your friends money. Also, if you provide the food, no one will complain. In the end, it will still cost less than a night out on the town. Our favorite budget-friendly Irish whiskey is Michael Collin’s. You can find it at your local liquor store for $40. If whiskey and beer aren’t quite your style, then go for Irish coffee. Again, ask your friends to bring the ingredients and have them help you mix up the drinks there. Getting them involved will set a fun collaborative tone for the night. See below for our favorite Irish coffee recipe.

Set out a platter of cheeses and summer sausage. The smokiness of the meat will go well with the whiskey and beer. Use dry sharp cheeses, like sharp yellow cheddar, medium white cheddar, and gouda.

Buying a lot of cheese can be a drain on the budget, so if you are having more than 10 friends over, skip the cheese tasting and make a cheese dip (see below for our favorite recipes). Buy a loaf of dark rye bread and cut the slices into quarters, fill a towel lined bowl with them and let the guests use them instead of crackers.

irish beef stew
If you must feed your guest a hearty Irish meal, then keep it simple with a crockpot stew. We love this beef-based recipe from Allrecipes.com and this one that uses lamb from Epicurious.com. Ask your guests to bring some rolls and you have all you need for a hearty meal.

Finish off the night with a rich dark chocolate cake. We recommend using your favorite box mix for the cake (we like whatever is on sale) and icing it with Martha Stewart’s Mocha Buttercream frosting. Despite the fact that it is Martha Stewart, the frosting is easy and cheap to make, and once its on your cake, your guests will never know the cake came from a box.

Irish Coffee

  • 1 shot of Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 shot of Irish whiskey
  • 1 cup hot brewed coffee
  • 1 tablespoon whipped cream
  • 1 dash ground nutmeg
  • Mix the liqueur, whiskey and coffee in a mug. Finish off with a dollop of whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg. For a chocolaty treat, you can skip the coffee and use hot chocolate instead. Also, you can use coffee liqueur instead of Irish cream. Don’t be afraid to use the less expensive brand when you are mixing drinks like this.

    Pimento cheese dip

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded processed American cheese food
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 (2 ounce) jar chopped pimento peppers
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 dash garlic powder
  • Mix together in a food processor until well combined. Cover and chill for an hour. Then serve and enjoy.

    Knorr Hot Cheesy Spinach Dip (from the Knorr’s web site)

  • 1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup Hellmann’s® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (about 6 oz.)
  • 1 package Knorr® Vegetable recipe mix
  • 1 can (8 oz.) water chestnuts, drained and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Preheat oven to 350°.
    In medium bowl, combine all ingredients except 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Spoon into 2-quart casserole, then top with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese.
    Bake 35 minutes or until heated through. Serve, if desired, with toasted french baguette rounds, sliced garlic bread, corn or tortilla chips or vegetable dippers.

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