Irish Soda Bread

It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day and while I am not an ounce Irish I still enjoy Irish Soda Bread as much as the next girl. I have never been one for the green beer and bagels or for the ridiculousness that occurs on this holiday but I do look forward to this yummy baked good every year.

I went to college in Boston – with the lovely ladies I talked about in this post I shared many delicious baked goods. On Newbury Street (a picturesque shopping destination) there is a restaurant called Stephanie’s on Newbury. This is the type of place that you would go when your parents were in town – because it is not exactly college student budget friendly. It’s a cozy restaurant and one of my favorite parts about dining there is the soda bread that you get in the bread basket. They also serve the recipe with the bread on a small card. I love when people openly share recipes – I am obviously a fan of sharing recipes as evidenced by this blog and always feel that my special recipes shouldn’t be kept secret but shared for anyone who wants to enjoy. I also strongly believe that when different people follow the same recipe the food is never the same.

I stashed this little recipe card a long time ago and have been happily enjoying this soda bread in March ever since. At Stephanie’s they serve the bread in little rolls which could easily be made instead of the loaf that I chose to make.

Before baking

Stephanie’s on Newbury Irish Soda Bread: (makes one loaf)

4 cups flour

1 stick butter (1/4 cup) – cold

3/4 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 3/4 cups buttermilk

3/4 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it is crumbly and the consistency of cornmeal.

In a separate bowl whisk together buttermilk and egg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry until all of the liquid is incorporated but not smooth. Add the raisins into the dough and shape together into a loaf. Cut an x into the top of the loaf (or mini loaves) and bake on a baking sheet for 45-50 minutes.

Enjoy your soda bread and have a happy St. Patties Day!

Book Club Baking: Red Velvet Cake Balls

We weren't always all on the same page but we definitely agreed on cream cheese frosting

In college I had five awesome roommates – I can thank the freshman year housing lottery for some amazing bonds that remain incredibly strong today. We shared many things over our college years including clothes, books, and stories but most importantly we all shared a love of cream cheese frosting. If we were allowed we would have put it on anything! While digging through my inbox for today’s recipe I remembered the last time I shared my red velvet recipe and I stumbled across an e-mail chain with these girls from the weeks following our graduation that left me half crying and half laughing and mostly missing the dining room table in our apartment senior year (a place where lots of cream cheese frosting was consumed).

Fast forward to today and the reason that I was making red velvet cake balls in the first place – book club! It’s probably important to add that 4 out of 6 of the girls pictured above are book club members, the other two don’t reside in NYC otherwise they would be! Tonight book club is getting together to discuss our February book (we run a standard 1-2 weeks behind the rest of the world). In honor of Valentine’s Day our theme for the month was love and we read The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan. I felt it only fitting to provide some red velvet treats to fuel our love themed discussion, plus promising red velvet cake balls is a sure fire way to get the book club to show up regardless of whether they got around to reading the book this month.

The batter is supposed to be this red (and this is after adding the buttermilk and dry ingredients).

When I first shared this recipe with one of today’s featured girls I got a panicked phone call mid cake balomg that the batter was shockingly red – after much assuring that this was normal she continued baking but not before staining her hands (be careful the dye can take a while to come off!)

Red Velvet Cake Balls – cake recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes

Cake Recipe:

2 1/2 cups cake flour

1 1/2 tbsp Dutch process cocoa powder (I don’t usually say this but for this recipe I use the good stuff)

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp red gel dye (more if you are using liquid food coloring)

1 cup buttermilk

2 tsp white distilled vinegar

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees – prepare two 9 inch cake pans by spraying with cooking  oil.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat together sugar and vegetable oil until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time mixing and scraping down the bowl in between additions. Add the food coloring and vanilla and mix together.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt in a bowl. Add the flour and buttermilk in alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture while the mixture is on low.

In a separate bowl mix together vinegar and baking soda and let foam. Add to the mixing bowl and mix into batter for 10 seconds. Pour batter into cake pans and bake in the oven 20-30 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting: 

1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)

8 oz of room temperature cream cheese (important that it is soft)

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Cream together the cream cheese and butter than add the sugar and vanilla. If too soft add more sugar if too dry add cream cheese or butter dependent on flavor.

To create the cake balls combine two cups of frosting with crumbled cake in a big bowl. Make sure that the cake and frosting are completely combine then roll into balls. This recipe made a lot more cake balls than anticipated (about four dozen) I think next time I would consider halving the recipe but I tested freezing some of the cake/frosting mix- I will let you know if it works.

Let cake balls set for at least an hour on a cookie sheet in the freezer then dip into melted dipping chocolate or candy coating. Follow candy coating instructions dependent on the product that you use!

Enjoy and be careful these can be addicting!

NYC Vegetarian Festival

Walking into the festival - it was pretty busy so I didn't get the best pictures of the event

Yesterday I ventured to the NYC vegetarian festival to sample different vegetarian and vegan goods with a veggie friend of mine. About 15 years ago I gave up red meat and pork. I never really liked the taste of meat and I never looked back. I continue to eat chicken and turkey and I absolutely love fish. Given my diet I have always been curious about making vegetarian meals and incorporating protein into my diet to make sure I am fully replacing what I don’t eat.

My first experiences with tofu were as a camper at a sleep-away camp in Maine. The camp hippie run and the cook was amazing. At every meal there was a vegetarian and vegan option (not your typical salad bar option either real meals). I had never had the chance to eat tofu that was properly prepared and I gobbled it up. I looked forward to eating those vegetarian meals all year long and I can safely say I ate better than most sleep-away campers during the summer months. It was years before I started to make my own quality veggie meals and even longer before I started to make my own tofu that actually tasted good.

So when I heard the Vegetarian Festival was going to be in town this weekend I was excited! To add another level to my vegetable friendly diet, I developed lactose intolerance a couple of years ago and am always interested in learning about new dairy free products.

check out all that peanut butter - yum!

It was a lot of fun and I had some very tasty goodies – including my favorite treat of the day some vegan marshmallows. As someone who loves to bake I always find it interesting to see what substitutes are used to make cookies, brownies, etc vegan. My friend and I couldn’t help but find it strange that we didn’t see a vegetable the entire time we were there! There were a few tables that we didn’t make it to because of the lines like a smoothie station and vegan sushi bar, I would imagine they had some vegetables there. It seemed off to me that there weren’t more stands featuring fresh produce or resources to access these goods.

Do you have a favorite vegetarian meal or product?

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

As you know from this post I have a very chubby cat that eats pumpkin to curb her appetite. As a result I am left with a surplus of pumpkin! I baked with it, cooked with it and frankly am getting a little sick of the stuff. My lovely friend and Registered Dietician, Alex (check her out she is awesome) suggested I try incorporating pumpkin into my breakfast. I have been very happy with the results and I can only imagine that all the fiber in the pumpkin is doing its work to keep me feeling fuller longer as it is for my cat.

Like all delicious baked goods I love pumpkin pie. Of course I cannot eat it regularly because I would be as chubby as my kitty but this oatmeal has all the same flavors without the fat and sugar. Hope you enjoy (ps pumpkin is also great in greek or plain yogurt with spices too!)

This would also be a great time to note I love cows if you couldn't tell from the fine breakfast china!

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal:

1/4 cup Steel Cut Oats

1 cup water

1 tablespoon pumpkin

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

tiny pinch of ground cloves

(brown sugar or pure maple syrup if you like your oatmeal sweet)

I like to make my oatmeal the night before so its good and fluffy and cooks quickly the next morning. I start by boiling a cup of water and dropping the oatmeal in as soon as its boiling. Cover the pot and turn off the water immediately let the oats soak overnight.

In the morning turn the water on low heat and bring to a simmer. Let the oats simmer for about ten minutes until most of the water is evaporated (I usually let this happen while I am getting ready). Transfer to a bowl once the oatmeal is the consistency you like and add in the spices. I also like to add a sliced banana and some raisins to make my oatmeal a little heartier.

Baked Eggplant

pre-baking

Last week I made some ratatouille. I was inspired because while taking stock of my refrigerator I realized I had all the ingredients but the eggplant. When I went to the store to get the final necessity to make my dish all they had were massive eggplants. Even though I only needed half that was fine – when life give you eggplants what else can you do but make more things. This weekend as I was cleaning out the freezer I found a Tupperware full of tomato sauce. Clearly I did a total freezer overhaul this weekend. Not only did I discover the sauce, I used some bananas I found to make these muffins. This was all to make room for some new soup. Don’t worry too much the freezer is completely full once again. Left with half of a giant eggplant and a container of tomato sauce I decided baked eggplant it was. I didn’t really want to fry anything and I guess I was in the mood to get in touch with my Italian roots this week.

This dish was perfect for the grey weather we have been having. Its hearty and warm without being too heavy.

Baked Eggplant:

Thank you to Lidia’s Italy for the delicious recipe inspiration.

Half of a giant eggplant (sorry I am really bad about estimating pounds etc) I would equate this to one medium sized eggplant.

2 cups of chunky tomato sauce (my sauce has roasted red peppers in it which added flavor) if not you could add these to the dish

1/2 cup black olives chopped small

2 tablespoons fresh basil chopped

2/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Slice the eggplant into crosswise pieces about a 1/2 inch in width. My eggplant was already halved so I ended up with semi-circles instead of rounds this turned out to work better for overlapping in the baking dish anyway. Sweat the eggplant by salting both side of each pieces and placing in a colander in the sink. Weight down the eggplant by placing a bowl or plate of the vegetables and putting cans on top. Allow to drain for about 30-45 minutes then rinse and pat dry.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Stir together the olives tomato sauce and basil. In a square baking dish spread about 3/4 of a cup of sauce to cover the bottom. Layer half of the eggplant over the sauce – I had to overlap to get it all to fit. Spread about half of the remaining tomato sauce over the eggplant layer and then sprinkle half of the cheese over the sauce. Repeat this process to create the second layer.

Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil – arch the tin foil if necessary so that it does not touch the cheese. Bake for 45 minutes then uncover and continue baking for an additional 10-15 minutes. The sauce and cheese should be bubbly and golden brown on top. Let the eggplant rest for 20 minutes out of the oven then serve. This dish was very tasty warm but reheated well too.