Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda BreadPandemic Patty’s Day
I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day over the weekend because I decided to corn my own beef this year. And, since the cooking time is measured in hours, there was no way I would be able to make it on a Wednesday night. Hence the Saturday night celebration.

We had all the fixin’s: Corned beef, Champ (a.k.a. mashed potatoes with fresh chives), Irish butter, cabbage, and of course, the Guinness—which was in the cake as well as a pint glass. I also made Irish soda bread. But, here’s where things got sideways.

Soda bread is probably the easiest bread product you could possibly make. And, warm out of the oven with a generous smear of Irish butter…it’s heaven. I feel compelled to say that the soda bread you often see with the currents and/or caraway is not authentic Irish soda bread. Neither is the sweeter scone-like version. Tasty? Yes. Authentic? No. Traditionally soda bread is made with half wheat flour and half all-purpose flour. Last Saturday, this is where everything went wrong.

Like thousands of other people, I stocked up last year with ingredients for my pantry that were rapidly disappearing. Because of the lockdown I used a lot of those items. But, there were some that I didn’t use as much as I thought I would. I still have a significant collection of dried beans. Another example? My White Whole Wheat flour from King Arthur.

I knew the bag I had in the cupboard was old and I even bought a new one and had it on the shelf ready to go. For the life of me I can’t explain why I didn’t throw the old one out. I didn’t and I used the old one by mistake. Needless to say, the soda bread tasted stale right out of the oven—not a good experience to be sure and a big disappointment for me personally. I was looking forward to the bread.

Tonight I will be making another batch, this time with fresh flour. I have also started what I call the Pandemic Purge and have been going through my canned goods and everything else I stocked up on to see what’s expired. Thankfully, the Guinness is just fine.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Yields 1 loaf Read more…

Spicy Veggie Hash

Spicy Veggie HashHash It Out
When I was in elementary school, I learned that the month of March was all about shamrocks and leprechauns. As an adult, I know that there are a number of other things to associate with the month—like Daylight Saving Time, the first day of spring, International Women’s Day, and, of course, spring training.

Old habits die hard. So, of course when the calendar flips to March things like potatoes and corned beef pop in my head. I have to admit I have only learned to like corned beef as an adult. Growing up I wouldn’t touch it. Now I love it. but, I am not a fan of corned beef for breakfast.

Any diner worth it’s salt will have corned beef hash on the menu either as a regular item or as a weekend special. Personally, I can’t do it. That’s too much meat for me in the morning but I like the idea of it. The idea of corned beef hash is comfort food at its finest. I just can’t handle the reality.

When I found this recipe for Spicy Veggie Hash I was thrilled. It has all of the elements of a traditional diner hash without the cardiologist on standby after-effects. And, it has chilies. In my book, you can never go wrong adding chilies to anything…

Spicy Veggie Hash
Yields 4 to 6 servings
Adapted from The Breakfast Bible by Kate McMillan Read more…

Peas, Pasta, and Pancetta

Peas, Pasta, and PancettaSpring Forward
Over the weekend we moved nine cubic yards (I may have over-ordered.) of vegetable potting soil into my raised beds in anticipation of having an actual vegetable garden for the first time in about 10 years. The arrival of the dirt is one of the last steps before the real magic starts.

All of the family has been involved in this project. And, surprisingly without a lot of moaning and groaning from the younger crowd. In fact, I think they are excited to have something to devote their attention to outside. The three of them even built a compost bin. Because of that, compost has been a frequent topic of conversation around the dinner table. My how times have changed!

I started seeds weeks ago and already have a thriving variety in my husband-built DIY greenhouse. There are plenty of tomatoes in a wide variety of options—from cherry to giant-sized. There are peppers both hot and sweet in regular and snack-sized. I have a large number of strawberries in anticipation of some good jam. And, the herbs are coming along nicely.

Some of my favorites are already in the ground. The carrots and potatoes have popped up in my experimental grow bags. I’ve never grown anything this way so I am cautiously optimistic. My green beans are in the ground too.

But, what I am most excited about are the peas.

I love peas but I almost never grow them because they like the cold and you have to start them early in your garden. I was on it this year because, well, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of other things going on. They’ve started growing up the trellis and every day I go out there to see how much more they have grown. There are three varieties: English, Purple, and Snow Peas for my daughter. I admit to being a bit impatient for them to start producing. But, I know we’ll get there and at that point I’ll have more than I can handle.

In the meantime I daydream about all the different ways we’re going to eat them. Three of my favorite recipes from our archives are Ragout of Fava Beans, Peas, and Asparagus with Pecorino and Crispy Prosciutto, Stir Fry with Baby Boy Choy, Snow Peas, and Shrimp, and Spring Pea Soup with Burrata. And, then there is this gem for an easy weeknight dinner.

Peas, Pasta, and Pancetta
Yields 4 servings

This quick and easy dish makes for a great weeknight dinner. Just get some help shelling the peas. When purchasing fresh peas, remember that 1 pound of peas in their pods yields about 6 ounces. So, you will need a little over a pound and a half for this recipe. Read more…

Amy’s Easy Alfredo Sauce

Amy’s Easy Alfredo SauceTake it Easy
Over the weekend I got my first vaccination shot along with a lot of my fellow employees. This is awesome. I was concerned about how I would feel after getting the shot. The good news is I didn’t get a fever or the chills but I did get the fatigue. Luckily, I had planned a simple dinner for just this reason…

I always have some frozen pasta on hand for those random nights when you have no idea what the schedule is going to be—or if you just don’t have the energy for something more complex. It also works well when you want to ditch the kids and have date night. I’m looking forward to being able to do that again. Hopefully soon…

It has been made very clear to me that my kids aren’t huge fans of red sauce on their pasta. Don’t get me wrong, they will eat it but given the choice, nine times out of ten they will go for a pesto, lemon garlic, or, their favorite, Alfredo Sauce.

I don’t make alfredo sauce very often because no one should consume that much heavy cream and cheese on a regular basis no matter how good it tastes. As a path of least resistance on a night where I just needed to put something on a plate it was by far my best option. So, I grabbed some tortellini from the freezer, grilled up some chicken breasts to slice and put on top, and made my Easy Alfredo Sauce.

Not gonna lie, I think it was the best dinner I have made in a long time…

Amy’s Easy Alfredo Sauce Recipe
Yields 6 servings

This sauce is fantastic on any pasta you have in the pantry or fridge. You can get creative by adding veggies and different meats and seafood. Read more…