Sunday, December 28, 2014

Irish Soda Bread with Currants

It was a cold night and we were having beef stew.  Irish soda bread is practically required with beef stew.  It is easy to make and there is no yeast or waiting for it to rise.  The soda and buttermilk work together to make the bread rise.  I baked it in a cast iron pan, but you can use a baking sheet.


Irish Soda Bread with Currants

1/3 to 1 cup dried currants.  I used 1/3 but it could have used more.
2 Tablespoons hot water
4 cups flour, plus some for the counter top
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 Tablespoons butter, chopped
1 egg
1 3/4 cups buttermilk

2 Tablespoons butter


Heat the oven to 425°.

Place the currants in a small bowl.  Add the hot water and let them soak while you mix the rest of the ingredients. 


Place the flour, sugar, salt and soda in a large bowl.  Use a pastry blender to mix in the chopped butter.  Use a fork to remove the currants from the liquid and add them to the flour mixture. 

Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the buttermilk.  Break an egg in the measuring cup for the buttermilk and whip it around with a fork.  Add that to the buttermilk.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry.  Don't over mix.  Sprinkle some flour on your very clean counter and scrape the dough out on top of it.  Knead for two or three times to mix everything together.  You don't want to overwork it or it will be tough.

Place 2 Tablespoons butter in a large cast iron pan and place in the heated oven to melt.


Shape the bread into a circle.  Check the cast iron pan.  When the butter has melted, remove the pan and carefully place the circle of dough in the HOT pan.  Cut an X in the top of the dough.

Return the cast iron pan to the oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the bread is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let it cool a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack for ten minutes until slicing. 


Serve warm and with butter.  OK, the butter is optional.


This bread is better the day it is baked.

And those are not my hands.  Travis made the bread and I took the pictures.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Vegetable Barley Soup

Our daughter is a vegetarian, so I needed to quickly invent a vegetable soup while simultaneously making beef stew.  I just chopped extra veggies and used some barley.  Our English daughter said that it was now a vegetarian version of Scotch broth.  That sounds way more exotic than veggie soup!

Vegetable barley soup

1 can vegetable broth
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped potatoes
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped carrots
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 Tablespoons barley
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste


Heat some olive oil in a medium sauce pan. Sauté the onions until soft.  Stir in the tomato paste.  Add the broth, carrots and potatoes and bring to a boil.  Add the barley and the bay leaf and lower the heat to a simmer for 40 minutes.  Cover with the lid.  Stir occasionally.


Add the peas and continue cooking for 20 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf and serve immediately.


You may want to serve it with Irish soda bread.  We did!

I didn't eat any because this was for Tara and I had my stew.  She said it was great.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Beef Stew

It is cold, so that makes it soup and stew time.  I wanted to make some Guinness beef stew, but there was no Guinness to be found!  That's what I get for shopping  in Daleville.  But I didn't want to drive all the way in to Roanoke, so I decided to use some red wine in lieu of the dark beer.  It turned out marvelous, so I didn't miss the beer, but I still want to make it with stout beer and see if there is a difference.  Next time.

Beef Stew

4 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
2 /12 pounds chuck or top sirloin.  I used a London Broil.
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
pepper to taste
2 medium or one large onion chopped
4 cloves garlic minced, I used  a jar of minced garlic
1 can dark beer or 1 cup red wine  If you have both, drink one and use the other.
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup chopped carrots
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 cups beef broth
2 cups diced red potatoes
1/2 cup frozen peas


Trim the beef of fat and any gross bits.  


Cook the bacon in a Dutch oven until brown and crisp.  Remove from the pan and add the beef in batches.  Never cook more than a single layer.  Remove each batch when done and place on a clean plate.  Season the beef while cooking.


Cook the onions in the drippings from the bacon and the beef.  When they are softened add the garlic and cook for two more minutes.  Add the tomato paste.


Return all the beef and the bacon to the Dutch oven and pour in the wine.  Scrape up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan and reduce the wine (or beer) to half.  Add the beef stock, Worcestershire sauce,  carrots and celery,  Make sure everything is covered in broth.  Add the thyme and bay leaves and bring to a boil.   Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.


Add the diced red potatoes.  I peel the bad spots, but keep the peeling on for the most part.  Bring up to a boil, reduce to a simmer and  cook for 1 hour. 


Add the peas bring the heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes.  Leave the lid off so the liquid can reduce.  Remove the bay leaves.


Serve warm in a bowl.  Soda bread goes great with stew.

It was REALLY good.  Scrape the bowl good.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Chocolate Cherry Chip Cookies

Have you seen the commercials for the filled chocolate chips?  Well, I did and they sounded awesome.  I decided to start with the cherry filled ones and experiment from there.  My plan is to diet all January and February, so the other filled chips will just have to wait.  Let's start with these.

They work best when chilled for at least an hour, so keep that in mind when planning.


Chocolate Cherry Chip Cookies

1 cup (5 oz. package) dried cherries, chopped
1/3 cup hot water

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

2  1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup almond flour
2 Tablespoons ground flax seed
3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup chocolate cherry chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional


Don't preheat the oven yet.  You will want to chill these for at least an hour after mixing.



Chop the cherries and let them soak in the hot water while you mix the rest of the ingredients.


Place the butter in a stand mixer and beat until soft and fluffy.  Add the sugars and keep beating until fully incorporated.  Then add the eggs and vanilla and beat again.


I decided to add some almond flour and ground flax seed to increase the healthy content.  OK.  Not increase, but add a bit of healthy to all the fat and sugar.  Then you can eat these with joy and no guilt.  Sort of.


If you don't want sort of healthy cookies, just use the 3 cups of flour.  For heaven's sake, don't use BOTH the plain flour and the flour with the flax seed and almond meal.  Pick one!


Add the flour or the flour mixture to the creamed butter mix in batches along with the baking soda and salt.  When all the flour is mixed in add the cherry filled chocolate chips, the walnuts and the dried cherries you have soaking.  Include the water you soaked them in.


Mix it all together and put it in the refrigerator.  I DID NOT do this.  I just went right ahead and made the cookies.   They turned out delicious but flatter than I would have liked.  Chilling the batter keeps the butter from melting so quickly and makes for a fatter cookie.  They do taste the same, however.


Heat the oven to 350°.  I used a Silpat, but parchment paper would work well, also. Both keep the cookies from sticking to the pan.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  Cool for two minutes on the cookie sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack.


Friday, December 19, 2014

We Torture Cats

We recently had the annual "Torture the Cats" festival at our house.  This involves tricking them into a guest room and stuffing them in a cat carrier.  By their behavior you would think that cat carriers are full of sharp objects and poisonous fumes. I'm pretty sure that's not true.


If there are any sharp objects involved, Ashley has them. And uses them to great effect.


Then they go for a car ride.  Car rides are stomach turning roller coaters, apparently.  For they emit piteous cries for the entire ride.  Cat treats, ordinarily the BEST thing in the world, are completely ignored.


Upon arrival at the veterinarian's office, they routinely refuse to leave the torture chamber cat carrier and have to be dumped and pulled out, respectively.


Of course, then they really ARE tortured by getting sharp pokes in two places.

At this time they happily return to the cat carriers and give us the silent treatment all the way home. Still refusing the cat treats.


When we return home they happily jump in any box or bag they find.  Particularly those we intend to use, or don't wish to have coated in fluffy white fur.

On the other hand, our daughter has to use leather gloves and sedation to get her cat a physical, so we should consider ourselves lucky.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Apple Pancake

We spend way to much time watching cooking shows.  At night.  After dinner.  When it makes me really hungry.  I don't remember the show we were watching, but I think it was Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  I seem to remember Guy Fieri leaning over the chef's shoulder and admiring an apple pancake.  It sounded good to me, so I decided to try my hand.

For my first effort, I decided to go the easy route and used a pancake mix.  I may branch out on a future effort and make the batter, but this is what I made and it was a hit.


Apple Pancake
2 large Granny Smith Apples, peeled and cored and sliced
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups pancake mix,  mixed according to the directions



You will need a pan that goes in the oven.  I used one 10 inch pan and two 6 inch pans.  I wanted to give everyone their own pancake, but Lee and I split the big one.  There are only so many cast irons pans you can collect!  Preheat the oven to 350°.


Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat.  Add the sliced apples and sauté until slightly softened.  Add the brown sugar and continue cooking until the apples start to caramelize.  They will continue cooking in the oven.


Pour the pancake batter over the apple mixture and place in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on it and remove it when it is golden brown and puffed.



Place a plate over the top of the pan, hold tightly and flip your wrists so the pancake can fall out on your plate.


Serve warm.   Some people may like a bit of syrup with their pancake.  Let them, if they wish.


They were pretty good and everyone liked them. I will use a lot more apples next time.  I would have preferred a higher apple to pancake ratio. 

You may have to adjust this recipe depending on how many you are serving.  I served four people.    Just use plenty of butter, lots of apples and enough brown sugar to make a sauce in the pan. Cover them with the batter and bake until golden. 

This recipe is good enough to go on the B&B menu.   Remember to ask for it!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Turkey Casserole

Kroger sends me recipes and coupons from time to time.  They had one for Thanksgiving leftovers that we decided to try.  I made extra stuffing and mashed potatoes just so I would have enough leftovers for the recipe.  We made one with turkey and one with leftover green beans for the vegetarian version.

Turkey Casserole

4 cups stuffing
4 cups chopped turkey, or a cup or two of green beans
1 cup Mayonnaise, divided use
1/4 to 1/2 cup cranberry sauce, the recipe called for 1/4, but I couldn't really taste the cranberry and may make it "pinker" next time.
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat the oven to 375°.  Spray a 8 inch baking dish with Pam and set aside.


Spoon half the stuffing in the dish and top with the turkey, or green beans if you are going vegetarian.

Mix 1/2 cup mayo with the cranberry sauce and spread over the turkey or green beans.

Combine the remaining 1/2 cup mayo with the potatoes and cheese in a bowl.  Spread on top of the cranberry mixture.

Top with the remaining stuffing.


Bake for 40 minutes.

The addition of the Mozzarella made for a cheesy, goosy casserole, but if you are trying to watch your weight, and who does that at Thanksgiving?, you could probably leave it out.


We served this with corn pudding.


I liked this dish, but to be honest, I don't have a problem with heating up the stuffing and potatoes and eating them for a few days, along with a bunch of turkey sandwiches.  I only make stuffing for Thanksgiving and we rarely have mashed potatoes.

If you tend to get bored with the same old, try this casserole.  But I kind of missed heating up the leftovers for several days of post Thanksgiving fare.