Recipe redux: broccoli pies.

Broccoli pies.

When I started off blogging, I was totally into using shortcuts and mixes to amp up recipes. I saw nothing wrong with it. Then there became a sort of food blogger revolution where everyone HATED cake mix/pancake mix/anything pre-made and went insane to prove they never used it. There were actually little badges people put on their blogs to that effect. Seriously. So I guess I was guilted into thinking that every mix is bad, and that I should make everything from scratch.

Well, no. I’m sorry but… just no. Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.

I love, love, love, love making cakes and breads and cookies and pies from scratch. I’ll do it all day. However I am not above using a pancake mix or a frozen pie crust if I have to/choose to. And yeah- sometimes I make cakes with cake mix, since Jay loves it. So what?

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Irish soda cakes: this time, in little loaves!

Beautiful ranunculus. Hello, spring.

Wow, so St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow. Time flies. I can’t believe in less than a month I’ll be a Mrs. And springtime isn’t far away! Just a few days!

I think this is, like, the third or fourth time I’m posting this recipe. Each time I put a new little spin on it. Sometimes I add raisins that have been soaked in Jameson and make them into muffins. Other times, I make it the traditional way my mother always has. And then other times I want to do something else. Like little baby loaves.

Irish soda cake loaves.

Irish soda cake. You read that right.

These are not Irish soda bread loaves. No. These are a variation on Irish soda bread that we call ‘cake’ because of the sugar content and the texture. Like a thing you’d have with tea, not with soup and a Guinness. Let me explain.

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Jameson caramel popcorn.

Popcorn with a caramel sauce made from Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Dudes- I have a confession. Popcorn is my FAVORITE snack food. Ever. Those big tins of it at Christmas? With the three different kinds? Oh man. Those are great, even though they’re not the best quality popcorn. I just freakin’ love popcorn. Any kind, really. Movie theatre popcorn, too. Back in the day- many many years ago- I worked at a movie theatre. ‘Nuff said.

I usually make my own popcorn in a Whirley Pop, which is an authentic old timey stove top popcorn maker. Of course, you could use a regular pot with a lid, too, but I actually prefer this after much trial and error. I use Diamond Crystal extra fine salt, a decent amount of ghee (that’s my secret, folks), and a bit of coconut or vegetable oil. As far as the kernels go, I usually buy the Trader Joe’s kind, or a fancy colored kernel from Sur La Table, but any will do in reality. And with this method I get perfectly butter-flavored popcorn every time, without all the chemicals & grease of microwave or pre-made popcorn. Jay declared it the best popcorn he’s ever had, anywhere. It’s my favorite too.

And I make popcorn a lot.

But I don’t often make popcorn like this.

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Donegal oatcakes.

Donegal oatcakes.

I grew up my whole life thinking that my Irish family was from Sligo. That’s it. Just Sligo. I never grew up hearing about anywhere else. My one Irish ancestor who came direct from the Emerald Isle that I heard the most stories from/about passed away in 1936, she was my great-great-grandmother Winifred Macken (Mackin) née Mahon. She was poor, and came here and worked as a maid. Never learned to read or write. She was very secretive and didn’t like to talk about the past- this only adds to the air of mystery surrounding her in my mind. Including the fact that she was married twice and nobody was 100% sure of the names of either man. Anyway, it’s very possible that she was indeed from Sligo (I can’t find a trace of her anywhere either way), but the other Irish side that came here around the same time, the Kieran/Rooney’s, hailed directly from Louth. We have plenty of info on them, including the house that Jane Rooney (née Kieran) was born in, which is still standing.

Sufficient to say, however: I have no family (that I know of) from Donegal.

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Oui, oui: savory cheddar madeleines.

Savory madeleines with cheddar, dill & onion!

Have you ever had a genius idea and had to act on it immediately? Okay so maybe my idea for these madeleines wasn’t really genius, but either way I had to act on it immediately. I had just gotten inspired by flipping through the book Madeleines: Elegant Tea Cakes to Bake & Share by Barbara Feldman Morse.

In the book, there are recipes for both sweet & savory madeleines, as well as ones with fruit & nut and other unexpected varieties. I was sent the book to review back in October, but then I got sick, so I kind of put it back on the shelf (literally). But I saw it on my shelf and decided to get crackin’ on something delicious.

Savory cheddar, dill and onion madeleine recipe!

This recipe is not in the book; instead its an adaptation of one of the recipes plus ideas from my head and from another recipe in the book. I wanted to make a savory madeleine, one that you could eat with soup or as a snack. And one of my favorite types of biscuit or scone is a cheddar/dill kind. Jay always has fresh dill around- he not only makes homemade chicken soup from scratch, but also likes to eat it on sandwiches (seriously). And the onion? Well I just thought that it’d be a great addition.

And as far as the book goes… it’s great. While I didn’t use an exact recipe from it this time, I’m sure I will be in the future. A lot.

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Hearty black pumpernickel bread for a freezing winter’s day.

It was so cold, that there was ice caked on the storm windows. It hadn’t snowed (although there was plenty of snow on the ground already), there was just ice. So cold that the heating system couldn’t keep up and the house temperature was about 10 degrees lower than what we set it on. In other words, IT SUCKS.

And here’s the deal: I know cold. I’ve gotten up and gone to school in knee socks and a skirt in cold weather (for 6 years). I’ve walked in cold weather (and in snow) with a portfolio and box of paints, from the train to school and back. I’ve dealt with it. I’ve waited in it. I’ve stood in it. I’ve shoveled snow in it. I know I live in NY and cold weather is part of the deal. But -8° is NOT normal NY weather. That’s some Minnesota/Wisconsi/ mid-western shit. So before anyone says, “OMG Northerner stop bitching, it gets cold up there” just remember that. This is abnormal. We haven’t had temps this low since 1994. Usually we have 30° temps, sometimes 20°, and occasionally- maybe a few days every winter- in the teens. But in the negatives? Uh, no. Understand? Good. Moving on…

Delicious pumpernickel bread.

Anyway Jay had to get up at 5:30 a.m. and be at work by 7, so I of course was awake early. No matter how quiet you are, you will always disturb your significant other when you wake up before them. So despite my efforts to go back to sleep in my warm, cozy bed piled with down comforters and Irish wool blankets with the blinds tightly shut, by 6:45 a.m. I was up, browsing Facebook on my phone, thinking about warming the place up. And by 7:30 I had opened the blinds to see… ice. Remember when I said that sometimes all I did was creep out of bed to bake (or eat) and then I crawled back in? Uh huh.

But I don’t give up easily and so I stayed in bed until almost 9, when I realized I was not falling back to sleep and it hadn’t gotten any warmer out. That’s when I decided to bake.

Baking is awesome in this weather because you can “preheat” your oven a long time in advance. Leave that shit on and have some coffee, watch TV, lazily make your way in to get the flour, the eggs, etc, etc. No rush. And because I have a gas oven, it gets so hot so quick it can warm pretty much the kitchen, dining room and living room (and some of the hallway) immediately. Which is a blessing now, in the summer it’s a different story.

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Baby bundts.

A gift! (side note: look at the baby whisk!)

 

This post has nothing to do with babies. Not human ones. It has to do with another kind of baby: bundt cakes.

Did I mention I was getting married? Yep. No, no… really. Seriously. I’m actually actively planning a wedding. CRAZY, right? For someone who never wanted or thought she’d get married and who’s been engaged for almost two years it seems strange. But it’s true. And when you announce this fact, similar to when you announce the engagement, you end up with a few surprises showing up at your door, gift wrapped very sweetly from gorgeous houseware stores. The other day I got another one of these beautiful boxes, and I almost hated to even open it. Almost.

Pistachio mini bundt cakes.

Inside were a set of bakeware from Williams-Sonoma, and two Silpats. Right off of our registry. From my lovely Matron of Honor & her husband. So sweet! We’re spoiled. One of the baking pans was a Nordic-Ware mini bundt pan, which I had wanted forever. No really. ForEVER.

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