Irish Soda Bread Loaf

I’ve been making Irish Soda Bread for years.  And I’ve certainly posted my fair share of soda bread recipes over the years.  However, this recipe is definitely the easiest of the bunch to assemble.  While the usual suspects appear in the ingredient list of this less than traditional recipe, the dough includes the addition of an egg so there is no need to knead.  Just combine the ingredients with a spatula or wooden spoon and drop the moist dough into a standard-sized loaf pan. The result… A less crumbly loaf that’s a bit more moist as compared to the traditional bread round or scone. This loaf slices beautifully.  

I hope you have a few spare moments  to “throw on the kettle” and assemble this delicious Irish Soda Bread Loaf. There’s nothing like a fresh pot of tea with a thick slice of this gorgeous bread slathered with butter and homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam.

Irish Soda Bread Loaf

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/3 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups raisins 

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

A handful of old fashioned oats for the topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, baking soda and raisins. Blend egg and buttermilk together, and add all at once to the flour mixture. Mix just until moistened. Stir in butter. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle old fashioned oats over the batter; press lightly. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the bread comes out clean. Cool completely before slicing.

Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Cookies



In my house, we often thank others with a small token of appreciation by sending along a special treat from the kitchen.  This week my daughter M whipped up this simple, yet scrumptious treat for a co-worker that had kindly obliged a special request from my husband.  This particular co-worker has a side business creating personalized signs.  My husband had placed a special order with the company but on completion of the project, the gentlemen would accept no payment for his handiwork.  Arriving home from work, my husband asked M to bake something delicious to thank the man for taking the time to finish the project at no charge.  M quickly rifled through a selection of recipes from our “go-to” cookbook.  She settled on a recipe for what seemed to be a delicious chocolate chip cookie. Her recipe is adapted from the original found in our Allrecipes Cookbook.  I’ve had the book for years and I just love the wonderful collection of recipes that sit between the well worn covers.

If you’re so inclined, look up the original recipe online.  Here’s the web link…  http://m.allrecipes.com/recipe/25037/best-big-fat-chewy-chocolate-chip-cookie/

M carefully followed the recipe with a few exceptions.  (Adding chopped nuts or dried fruit can kick things up a bit.) To our delight, the cookies turned out beautifully, chocked with lots of chocolate morsels and crisp around the edges.  We will definitely make this recipe again.

Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Cookies

 2 cups flour (can substitute 1 cup flour + 1 cup oat bran)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup margarine, melted

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped pecans, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.  In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the dry ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough with an ice cream scoop, one at a time, onto prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.  Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.



Here’s the thank you note sent a few days later…



Zucchini Breakfast Bread

This week, I had the opportunity to visit a produce auction in a neighboring community.  It’s a bit early in the season for an abundance of produce so the aisles were stocked with plants and flowering baskets of every variety.  Farmers also displayed an array of asparagus, rhubarb stalks, and freshly baked pastries.  I so enjoyed listening to the auctioneer as he rattled on at record speed, while the prices climbed to reasonable levels.

Looking over the tables of freshly baked breads, I was inspired to bake a few loaves of my own.  I had a few zucchini in the produce drawer that were close to expiration so I popped them into the food processor.  The grated zucchini certainly lends moisture and flavor to this scrumptious recipe.  

Zucchini Breakfast Bread

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups oat bran

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3 eggs, beaten 

1 cup vegetable oil

2 1/4 cups white sugar

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups grated zucchini

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup steel cut oatmeal mix (optional for topping)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray with cooking spray, two 8×4″ loaf pans. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl. In a separate bowl,  whisk eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Stir in zucchini.  Add dry ingredients to the zucchini mixture, and mix well. Stir in nuts just until combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.  Sprinkle with topping, if desired.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove loaves from pan, and cool completely before slicing.
Basketmaking…  I also had the pleasure of attending my first basket weaving class earlier this week.  I have shared  a few pictures at the end of this post.  I will spare you the details as I am not skilled enough yet to include a detailed tutorial.  I simply followed the instructors lead and made this adorable herb basket.


Step by step…











HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, to all of you wonderful moms out there!

Cranberry and Pecan Glazed Donuts



For the longest time, I’ve wanted to try making baked donuts. This past Christmas, I ordered two donut baking pans to put under the tree as a gift to myself.  (How many moms out there have done that before?)

I did my homework before ordering the pans…  I wanted something that was non-stick and had no seams in the donut bed so that the batter could lay evenly without getting trapped in the metal seam.  I found the perfect pans at Norpro.  

This past week, as my oldest daughter celebrated a birthday, I decided to make a tray of donuts in lieu of a traditional cake. She was scheduled to have back surgery the afternoon of her birthday and I wanted to bring a special bite-sized treat along so that she could nibble on a mini-birthday-donut the morning of the procedure.  

As I scoured my cookbooks and kitchen files for a suitable recipe, I spied a boxed muffin mix that carried a small picture of a basket of mini-donuts posted on the back of the package.  To my surprise, the recipe posted beside the picture was for baked donuts.  I thought…well, let’s give this a try.

So after a few alterations, I came up with this recipe adapted from Krusteaz Guilt Free Baked Donuts.





Sweet Cranberry and Pecan Glazed Donuts

Donuts:

1 package Krusteaz Cranberry Orange Fat Free Muffin Mix

1 can cranberries (enclosed in the box), drained and liquid reserved

3/4 cup orange juice

1 teaspoon almond extract

Icing:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Reserved cranberry liquid

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray with cooking spray, the donut baking pans.  For the donuts:  In a medium bowl, carefully stir together the muffin mix, cranberries, orange juice and extract.  Combine just until blended.  Place the batter in a gallon-sized sealable bag (or a pastry bag). Snip the plastic bag 1/8″ from the corner.  Evenly pipe the batter into the mini-donut baking pans.  Bake 8-12 minutes or until donuts spring back when touched.  Cool and remove to wire rack.  

For icing:  Place all icing ingredients (except nuts) in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.  Drizzle or dip donuts into the icing then sprinkle with chopped nuts.  

Note:  I also used the regular sized donut baking pan for this recipe.  Alter baking time by adding 10 minutes or until light golden brown and donuts spring back when touched.









Wholesome Granola Bars

This week I had to head out of town for a business trip. When I travel, I’m often thrown off balance by the pre-selected conference meals provided as I can’t always follow my regular routine. Meal times are usually less than ideal and the meal selection is often standard fare and can be limited in variety.  

So, before leaving for my trip this week, I made sure to pack quite a few of these Wholesome Granola Bars.  It’s always good to travel with a stash of wholesome snacks when you’re away from the comforts of home.   

On Thursday, these babies really came in handy. We had eaten an early lunch and our dinner was scheduled for 6:30 pm.  Just before heading out to an evening meeting, I shared a few of the bars with my colleagues and they were thrilled to have a healthy snack on hand to tide them over until dinner.  The best part… This flavorful, grainy bar provided a healthy choice over other tempting  fast food favorites.  The whole grains in the recipe deliver long lasting energy that really helps when you need a little something to give you a boost. Make sure to individually wrap the bars to lock in moisture and freshness.


Wholesome Granola Bars

3 1/4 cups old fashioned oats

3/4 cup crispy rice cereal

2/3 cup whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

2/3 cup honey

1/3 cup canola oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray a 13×9″ baking pan with cooking spray.  In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.  Stir in the honey, oil, and vanilla; mix thoroughly until all ingredients are combined.  Evenly press mixture into prepared pan.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown.



Drying Your Own Fruit



One of my favorite ways to preserve fruits and vegetables is to thinly slice them and dry them in my dehydrator.  Drying is one of the oldest methods for preserving foods. This makes for a nutritious and convenient snack that needs little space for storage. There are two ways in which I dry fruits… I often purée fresh fruit in the blender, spread the purée on a dehydrating sheet and dry the product according to the manufacturer’s instructions. I then wrap long strands of the dried leather in cellophane and store it in a mason jar.  Other times, I simply slice ripe fruit, process it in the dehydrator overnight, condition the fruit and package for a nutritious and high-energy snack.  Drying your own fruit at home is far less expensive than purchasing packaged dried fruits and can insure that there are no extra preservatives added to the fruit.















Some fruits suitable for drying include apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, and berries.  To process, carefully follow the directions that accompany your dehydrator or use a recipe from a reputable source.  These recipes  have been tested to reduce any food safety issues and boost nutritional impact.  If you are interested in making your own jams or jellies, pickles, salsa, fruit leather or dried fruit, here are a few sites that will provide you with an abundance of carefully tested recipes. 

The National Center for Home Food Preservation – http://nchfp.uga.edu

Drying Fruits and Vegetables Penn State Extension – http://extension.psu.edu/food/preservation/safe-methods/drying-vegetables

Ohio State Extension Food Preservation – http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/food-preservation





Everyday Mini Muffin Omelets

This past weekend, local farmers took advantage of the rush to fill Easter baskets by posting signs on country roads advertising “farm fresh eggs”. These eggs seem to have the most beautiful deep, golden colored yolks and their smooth, creamy texture just can’t be beat. 

I’m certainly looking forward to seeing more roadside stands and local farmer’s markets as the weather begins to warm and an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables fill our Midwestern fields.  The idea of buying local takes me back to simpler times and reminds me of the wholesome goodness that can be found right around the corner. 

If you’re looking for a protein packed snack that’s quick and easy to assemble, then this recipe is for you.  I often make a double batch, pop them into an air-tight container, and park them in the fridge for a quick lunch or afternoon snack.  If you’re looking for a convenient breakfast idea, the pre-cooked mini omelets can be quickly reheated in the microwave.  We often slip the mini omelet between two mini bagel halves to make a delicious breakfast sandwich. 

Change up the ingredients, if you’d like…  Substituting bacon, sausage, potatoes, or red peppers are all great options. 

Mini Muffin Omelets

8 eggs

8 ounces cooked Canadian bacon, diced

1/2 cup green pepper, diced

1/2 cup onion, diced 

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper, optional

2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease mini muffin cups or line with paper liners.

Beat eggs in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients to the beaten eggs; mix well.  Pour egg mixture evenly into prepared muffin cups.

Bake in the preheated oven until muffins are set in the middle, 12-18 minutes.  Remove from the oven; top with a little extra cheese, if desired.