This March 17th keep all the leprechauns happy by inviting them to a St. Patrick's Day party that'll make naysayers green with envy.

This March 17th keep all the leprechauns happy by inviting them to a St. Patrick's Day party that'll make naysayers green with envy.

Start with the right attitude — one of fun-loving inclusiveness; after all, St. Patrick's Day has historically been about taking a break during the Lenten season to dance, drink and feast in honor of one of Ireland's most beloved patron saints.

"It's a very happy holiday and people love it because it's cheerful and there are a lot of fun traditions," says Linda Goldfarb, owner of Paddy Brannan's Irish Pub in Ashland. "The Irish are a hard-working people and when they get a holiday they love to celebrate."

The party begins outside.

"It's easy to take a wreath and decorate it with floral picks," suggests Laura Miranda, head coordinator at Medford's Event Palace. Hang it on the front door, adding more color with a shamrock flag.

Kids will giggle while searching for leprechaun figurines and gold rocks painted with good luck wishes hidden among foliage.

Inside, avoid the usual St. Patrick's Day decorations, setting the tone instead with lighting, music and green fabrics and food.

Illuminate interior windows with green and white twinkle lights that have been twisted together. "Green tulle over lampshades or wrapped around the lower part of votive holders can also have a nice appearance," Miranda says.

Dress up doorknobs and backs of chairs with rainbow-hued or green scarves and bows.

For tabletops, keep the look sophisticated with dark green table linens. Set a buffet with silver and white serving dishes; for a seated meal, lay out white china and silverware. Try tying green satin ribbon around wine glass stems and add silver-lined, shamrock-shaped placards at each place setting.

A pretty centerpiece could be a white runner set with a black pot overflowing with gold tissue and gold-wrapped chocolate coins. Line the length of the runner with tiny pots of greenery or spiky, fresh wheat grass. Sprinkle tabletops and windowsills with metallic green confetti.

If Irish humor tickles your funny bone, find small plaques (or make your own) featuring Irish sayings and stash them on end tables. Cue up a mix of traditional Irish tunes intermingled with lively dance music.

Create or have catered a special Irish meal. Seafood, corned beef and potato dishes are always welcome entrees. Spice up things with appetizers like shrimp toast and miniature Reubens. An all-green vegetable platter (cucumbers, broccoli florets, green peppers sliced width-wise and zucchini sticks) with green goddess dressing is a crisp addition while green-tinted deviled eggs will surely make guests smile. Desserts might include iced, shamrock-shaped cookies and white cake frosted in white and dusted with green-tinted coconut.

For a fancy affair, pass on the green beer and serve whimsical cocktails like green grasshoppers and the Nutty Irishman Shooter (half a shot of Irish cream and half a shot of hazelnut liqueur, shaken with ice and poured into a shot glass). Don't forget to offer Irish coffees (See recipe). Make sparkling punch for kids, adding a few drops of green food coloring for fun.

All good leprechauns dress the part on St. Patrick's Day. Lady leprechauns can wow with green tights and a green skirt or dress cinched at the waist with a wide black belt and big gold buckle. Gents turn on the charm in green hats, ties and vests. Black boots and loafers make perfect party footwear.

Now practice your pinch and share a little luck o' the Irish with your party guests.

Eating green

Going green doesn't always mean solar panels and electric cars. For your St. Patrick's Day party, tempt guests with a buffet and bar featuring these popular items from across the sea.

Cabbage and Green Apple Slaw
Serves 8-12

"This is so pretty and fresh, with at least three different shades of green, from the dark green pepper to the green cast of the onion to the bright green of the apple peel," says Linda Goldfarb, owner of Paddy Brannan's Irish Pub in Ashland. "If you're going to do a buffet, this would be a really nice thing to put with slices of corned beef, warm or hot or cold." Goldfarb inherited the recipe from her grandfather and mother and loves to serve it at her own St. Patrick's Day parties.

Dressing
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2; teaspoon celery salt
1/2; teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Place all ingredients in a container and shake well until dissolved and mixed. Pretty green color comes from apple peels.

Salad
5 cups green cabbage, washed and chopped
2-3 tart green apples such as Granny Smith, coarsely chopped
1 cup green pepper, chopped (about 1 large pepper)
1/2; cup sweet white onion, finely chopped (about 1 small pepper)
1/3 cup real bacon bits

Toss salad ingredients together. Pour the dressing over salad, mixing well. Can be prepared one day ahead and left to marinate.

Brigit's Dubliner, Fig and Walnut Focaccia
1 pound loaf frozen bread dough, thawed thoroughly according to package instructions
Olive oil
4 plump dried figs, each cut into 8 wedges
3 1/2; ounces coarsely grated Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese
1/2; cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 450° F. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a smooth ball. Cover with a towel and let rest 10 minutes. Roll out the dough into a rough oval shape (about 15 X 10 inches) and a little less than 1/2;-inch thick. If the dough resists your efforts to roll it out nice and large, cover with a towel and let rest about 5 minutes longer, then roll again. Transfer dough to lightly oiled baking sheet and cover dough for 15 to 20 minutes, until slightly risen. Dimple with your fingers every inch or so and brush all over with olive oil. Scatter evenly with figs, cheese and walnuts. Bake about 8 minutes, until edges are golden and cheese has melted. Season with black pepper, cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6.

To make dough from scratch: Combine 3 1/2; cups all-purpose flour, 1 package rapid-rising dry yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon salt in a food processor and pulse to blend. With motor running, add 1 1/4 cups warm water (110° F.) and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a steady stream and pulse until the dough comes together in a rough mass. Process for about 40 seconds more, then remove from the processor and knead into a smooth ball on a lightly floured surface. Place in a large, oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place for about 1 1/2; hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch down and refrigerate until ready to roll out, up to 3 hours.

Recipe created by Brigit Binns. Brigit Binns is the author of six cookbooks and co-author and editor of countless more.


4 Daughters Irish Coffee
Makes one drink

The bartenders at Medford's 4 Daughters Irish Pub start with a dark quality brew. They add chocolate liqueur to meld the whisky and coffee flavors without overpowering either. "To finish it off, we make our own whipped cream with Maker's Mark Whisky and lemon zest," says general manager Trevor Rogers. "This gives it an American touch and a delicious sweetness." For a crowd, whip up a bowlful and drop a dollop on each drink. Serve with a green bar straw or swizzle stick.

1 cup strong, dark, hot coffee, poured into a glass coffee mug
1 shot (1.5 ounces) Jameson's Irish whisky
1/4 ounce Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur
2-3 tablespoons whipped cream to which 1/2 teaspoon of Maker's Mark Whisky and 1/8 teaspoon lemon zest have been added

Pour liquors into hot coffee. Top with whipped cream. Serve immediately.