Cherry cardamom hot cross buns with a buttermilk icing.

SPRING!! YOU’RE FINALLY HERE! Oh, how we’ve missed you. You & your bright colors & beautiful flowers. All winter I’ve longed for a big bouquet of fresh buds on my table, and I can finally indulge. And indulge I have!

Besides after having such a rough few weeks I think we all deserve some brightness.

Ranunculus.

I think since early March, I’ve had a trillion vases & jars all over the house, filled with beautiful flowers. As soon as I started seeing blooms for sale, I bought ‘em. Those gorgeous ones pictured are ranunculus; some of my absolute favorites. But daffodils were a big one recently, and of course tulips. It’s so nice to have the snow be gone & the greenery back!

And now, a spring-y, Easter-y recipe to usher in the season of eggs, bunnies & flowers: hot cross buns!

Cherry cardamom hot cross buns.

I had to change ‘em around a bit, though. I made mine with cardamom and dried cherries, and the icing is a buttermilk icing. You, however, can use cinnamon instead of cardamom, and raisins instead of cherries, and milk or heavy cream instead of buttermilk for a  more traditional recipe.

Cherry cardamom hot cross buns!

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Amish baking at it’s best… Shoo-fly pie.

Amish Shoo-fly pie.

Shoo-fly pie is one of those extremely interesting pies that’s really nothing more than sugar. It’s a goo-pie, really. Made with sticky molasses & sugar. And a little flour, and baking soda. But mostly sugar.

Obviously, it’s one of my favorite things.

So back when Jay surprised me with a new cook book, I was pleased to find out that it was this one!

The Amish Cook's Baking Book (and a recipe for shoo-fly pie!)

It’s filled with amazing pies & cakes & cookies & Amish stories. The first thing I wanted to make was the shoo-fly pie.

However, truth be told, I was hesitant to try to make a shoo-fly pie. See, Dutch Haven in Lancaster, PA makes THE BEST shoo-fly pie, ever, and I’ve eaten enough of it to know. Most shoo-fly pies aren’t as sweet as theirs, and that’s what I love about it. It’s a lot to live up to. Trust me, I know this well. Jay & I once went in three times in one day to sample it (they offer everyone who enters a sample!). We bought three to take home. And ate them. In like a week. So yes, I know all too well the high standard of shoo-fly pie.

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Bacon fat brownies up in ya grill.

You know, last week’s recipe was light, tangy, crisp & springy. This one is definitely not. You probably read this title & thought “Seriously?” Well, yes, actually. It’s 100% serious. Quite serious.

When is bacon fat something to be taken lightly? Never.

Brownies made with bacon fat!

If you’re like me, you save your bacon fat. Every time I make bacon, I save the fat in a jar & when it’s cool… I pop that baby in the fridge & save it for later. It has so many possibilities! Add it to a skillet or pan before making cornbread, make pancakes in it, make candles with it, pop some popcorn in it, make grilled cheese in it, etc. It’s a magical substance that imparts a bacon-y flavor & scent into whatever you use it for. Of course, if you bake your bacon in the oven (or microwave it *cringe*) you won’t get as much of this magic, so if you’re looking for a lot of fat then just do it the old school way: in a skillet on your stovetop!

And NO TURKEY BACON. None of that fake stuff. You need real bacon. I know that seems self-explanatory but you never know.

Bacon fat brownies!

I know I said they weren’t light, but they’re not obscenely heavy either.

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Grandma Dotty’s recipes.

Grandma Dotty's recipes.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Jay’s grandma Dotty passed away last week. We’ve been incredibly sad, obviously. She was a wonderful woman. I consider myself lucky to have known her & spent time with her. I’m only sorry that it was a quick 10 almost 11 years & not longer. Yes, I’m sad. I felt the same way about her I did my own grandmother. We are all sad, heartbroken in fact. It still feels like a shock. But if there’s any small bright side to this sadness, it’s that we’ve enjoyed looking through old photos and reminiscing with family.

One of the things I was given of Dotty’s was this baking book. It was stuffed with cut-out recipes & handwritten recipes, as well as torn-out magazine clippings for Norge ranges & a manual/warranty for a Frigidaire appliance (the ’59 series electric range Super model, S-9-59). Knowing my love for all things vintage/retro, there should be no surprise that I have been reading these every night before bed.

Grandma Dotty's mother's book, All About Home Baking third edition 1935

The book was published in 1933, but this edition is the third edition from 1935, which makes me think it was actually originally Dotty’s mother Sadie’s book, not hers. Dotty’s mother Sadie Geller came in here in 1912 from Galicia, Poland (which is now a part of Ukraine but was at one point Austria). She married Joseph Mandel, who was born in Russia, when she came here to New York and they had five children: Ida, Sarah, Dorothy, Milton and Libby. Dorothy is our grandma Dotty.

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Sad news, pickled asparagus & such.

Before I start getting into recipes, I’m sorry to say it’s been a difficult few days for us- Jay’s grandma Dotty passed away on Saturday. We’re all really torn up, we adored her. She was an amazing cook & an amazing grandma. She wasn’t my grandma by blood but I couldn’t have loved her more if she was. What a beautiful soul, inside & out (as you can see). I’m sorry that I won’t be making her her much-requested apricot or strawberry sugar-free jam this year… she’ll be missed terribly.

My heart hurts.

Grandma Dorothy Liff October 2, 1923 - March 29, 2014.Dorothy Liff ¤ October 2, 1923 – March 29, 2014

 

This recipe was written up last week, ready to go, & Grandma Dotty was big into cooking (which I’ll be writing more about very soon). She’d have wanted to hear more about all my recipes, or what I was making, so here it is. There’s no segue into this… and I feel weird doing so… but away we go.

We’re all patiently waiting for spring, right? I mean it technically IS spring. But we’re all waiting for it to get more spring-y. So spring veggies are a good sign, no? Now, let me just say: I don’t like asparagus. Not one bit. That said, it’s everywhere in the springtime, rearing its weird little pointy kinda flowery little  heads all over the place.

Pickled asparagus recipe!

Meh.

I don’t even like the way it smells.

Makin' some pickled asparagus!

My mother & Jay LOVE asparagus. LOVE it. I don’t have the foggiest clue why really. It’s not attractive in the least. And like I said; the smell? No thanks.

Unlike broccoli… which I plan on pickling soon as well. Broccoli has a nice, fresh smell. And it’s delicious.

Did I get sidetracked?

An easy pickled asparagus recipe!

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Food find of the month: Irish apple cake from Kleinworth & Co.

OH WOW. WOW.

This is some good cake.

Irish apple cake!

I found it on Pinterest; I’m not ashamed to say. Irish apple cake is what it’s called. And it’s from a blog called Kleinworth & Co. I had to squeeze it in this month, so let’s extend the “Irish” stuff a while longer. ‘K?

The apple has a lot of history in Ireland:

Did you know that St. Patrick is said to have planted apple trees in Ireland? Apples have been grown in Ireland for at least 3000 years and legend has it that he planted an apple tree in Ulster County at the ancient settlement of Ceanoga near, what is today called, Armagh. While it is a lovely tale, it’s more likely that the Druids, who used apple trees in their rituals, were the ones who first tended apple orchards in Ireland. Prior to English rule, Ireland was governed by a system of law that was codified and administered by the Brehons, who were the successors to the Celtic druids. The Brehons were charged with the preservation and interpretation of laws that had been established by centuries of oral tradition.The Irish took their apple trees seriously. Brehon law stipulated that anyone cutting down an apple tree would be subject to a financial penalty that included the surrender of five cows. I’m not sure what happened to those who had no cows to surrender, but we can be sure they were fined or punished for their transgression. Desserts and beverages made from apples are very popular in Ireland.

-source

Granny Smith apples for Irish apple cake.

So there you have it.

I’ve made Dutch & German apple cakes before, and a hazelnut apple cake that’s much beloved, and the principle is basically the same with this one. But yet altogether different- because the creation is more like a pie crust than a cake.

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Tales from the thrift.

Well… it’s been a long time since I posted about my thrifty finds, hasn’t it? I think it was last June August when I posted that huge post about (almost) every awesome thing I had. But there’s a good reason for it: I haven’t really had time to go thrifting! Between everything that’s been going on with me & then the house reno stuff, it was impossible.

The other reason is that the few times I did happen to go, I didn’t find anything. Disappointment central. Then… I got lucky! Twice in a row.

So here’s a new TALES FROM THE THRIFT!*

Tales from the Thrift!

In case you didn’t know, I collect vintage stuff. Mostly housewares. And two of my favorite things to collect are vintage jars & Pyrex. I like the 1950′s/early 1960′s patterns and colors the most; the pinks, pale greens, turquoises, black & whites, etc. I love (& collect, or at least I’m attempting to in some cases) the Gooseberry, Pink Daisy, Balloons, DuchessMidnight Bloom, Flamingo, Pink Daisy, Golden Scroll, Starburst, Black Tulip, Butterprint, Medallion, Pink Scroll, Stems, Snowflake, New Dots & Barbed Wire patterns, among others. However a few of the green & bright blue patterns I like are from the late 60′s or 70′s, such as Spring Blossom.

And also like these blue snowflake/snowflake blue mixing bowls *:

1960's/1970's blue snowflake Pyrex Cinderella bowls.

The large bowl cost me around 5 bucks, the small one 3 bucks. The price on the large bowl was originally $9.00 at the thrift shop, but I got it on sale. I love my big vintage Pyrex mixing bowls. They’re actually the only vintage Pyrex pieces I use- the rest are display pieces (other than the fairly common clear pie plates, like you’ll see later in this post). I had never seen this pattern around in my travels (just on the internet), and I was amazed at the condition of these bowls! They’re practically perfect. And speaking of perfect…

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A REAL Irish soda bread.

Daffodils... does that mean spring is here??

It’s daffodil time. Daffodils are a sure sign of spring, right? I mean with a jar of beautiful perky yellow blooms on your table you can’t possibly be faced with more snow. Right? RIGHT?

*sigh* Probably not.

Anyway… it’s also time for Irish soda bread.

Authentic Irish soda bread.

And tons of different kinds of Irish soda bread. Everyone seems to have their own version of it, don’t they? I  do stand by the fact that it ought not to have raisins or caraway seeds in it (even though I really like experimenting & having fun with my recipes). Authentically it’s just straight up & basic. Don’t believe me? Here, read this:

Epicurious: What about the version with butter, raisins, and caraway?
Rory O’Connell: No. That would be regarded as being some sort of exotic bread that wasn’t Irish.

Epicurious: What is your personal opinion about soda bread variations?
Rory O’Connell: I think some are fine. I love plain white soda bread or brown soda bread, but [at Ballymaloe] we also do variations on the theme, using that simple, easy-to-prepare recipe as a vehicle for adding other ingredients—cheese, herbs, olives, roast cherry tomatoes, red onion, garlic. But then we don’t say, “This is an Irish soda bread with sun-dried tomatoes.” We say, “It’s a sun-dried tomato bread made on an Irish soda bread base.” But in a way I don’t mind too much what people are doing with it as long as they’re baking.

-Source

An authentic Irish soda bread, with 4 ingredients.

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Whiskey (or bourbon) caramel & a Guinness ice cream float.

Shamrocks on the windowsill.

God bless shamrocks that signal it’s spring. God bless Guinness. God bless whiskey. And… God bless the Irish.

I don’t believe in (a) God, per se. I’m more of an Agnostic myself. But if I did I’d ask him to bless the Irish- the people who make the best whiskey, make (some of) the best beer, have the best sense of humor, & who know how to have a good time. I mean… GUINNESS, PEOPLE. GUINNESS.

Oh what the hell. Hey, universe: bless the Irish.

And bless me, because I made this:

Guinness ice cream floats with vanilla ice cream & whiskey caramel.

Oh, what’s that, you ask? That’s just a Guinness ice cream float.

Just like it says. Yup. Oh and it’s topped with whiskey caramel. Mmm hmm. Yes. Ohhhh yes.

Guinness floats with whiskey caramel.

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Irish soda muffins with Jameson soaked raisins, take two!

Irish soda muffins with Jameson-soaked raisins.

Faith & begorrah! Again with the “recipe redux”? Yes. Except, not really.

Irish soda muffins with Jameson soaked raisins. This idea was one I had years ago and it was too good not to do over. However I decided to do it a different way. Last time, it was a different recipe & golden raisins (soaked in Jameson Irish whiskey) on top. This time it’s regular dark raisins mixed into the batter.

Irish soda muffins made with Jameson-soaked raisins!

Green cupcake liners make everything look so appropriate this time of year. It doesn’t even have to be St. Patrick’s Day related. Just put it in a green cupcake liner, and you’re done.

And for me, St. Patrick’s Day meals can be tricky.

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