Category: quick & easy

Vanilla cake with a twist of lime.

Vanilla cake with a twist of lime.

So I get married, Jay goes to Europe, and I get the urge to make a cake.

I never, ever make cakes. Mainly because I’m impatient, an you have to wait for cakes to cool before you take them out of the pans, then cool enough to frost them, etc. It’s a pain in the ass. I am not a cake person. Cupcakes, yes! Those are fun. And they cool fast. But cakes? No. Especially layer cakes. OH MY GOD HOW ANNOYING ARE LAYER CAKES?!

So I cheated with this one, and made it one layer. And added lime zest. And candied limes.

Zesting limes!

I had a lot of limes.

About three/four weeks before the wedding I got sick. Really sick. Bronchitis and sore-throat-like-swallowing-knives-sick. I was sick for well over a week, and my stubborn ass wouldn’t go to the doctor. Then, four days before the wedding, Jay got sick.  FOUR DAYS. He (thankfully) went and got super antibiotics and by the day of he felt fine. Then, the day of the wedding, my dad was sick. Two days after, my mother got sick. What the what? I’m telling you- people are dropping like flies around here. Stupid early spring sickness.

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Quick pickled giardiniera-style veggies.

IT’S SPRING! Oh man. Spring, how I’ve waited for you. Can we be best friends? Okay, maybe not, but can I at least try to jar you up and save you? Forever and ever and ever?! *siiiiiiigh* I don’t know, maybe winter just felt too long this year, maybe I’m just in an overly romantic mood since I’m only married for about, oh, 10 days… whatever it is, it feels so good to have SPRING here. It’s been an unseasonably cold spring so far, but this week it’s supposed to be in the high 60°’s F. Exciting!

Spring means summer is coming. Summer means sunshine, longer days, and veggies. Fresh from the garden.

Mixed vegetable giardiniera for spring.

A lot of people hear the word “giardiniera” and cringe. In Italian families, it’s often taken for granted and force-fed to you. It’s also most commonly found crammed flavorlessly into mass-produced jars in an aisle in the supermarket. But it doesn’t have to be that way! We can take it back!

Not to get all Norma Rae, but for real. Giardinera can be a delicious and wonderful way to preserve and make use of any extra veggies you may have, or just ones you want to use to create a beautiful looking jar. Giardiniera means pickled vegetables, or pickled “garden” (giardino). It’s also known as “sottaceti”; or “under vinegar,” which basically leaves it open to a lot of interpretation. So you can use really any mixture of vegetables that strike your fancy. It doesn’t even have to resemble a traditional giardiniera!

Mixed vegetable giardiniera- or pickled veggies!

Is that not beautiful?

There is no reason it has to be flavorless, or boring, either. But I’ll get to that in a second.

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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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