Sunday, March 17, 2013

Easy Irish Soda Bread

Ummm, yum! That's all I have to say about this bread. I love making bread that doesn't require rising, or very much kneading. This and beer bread are my go-to's!

Easy Irish Soda Bread

Original recipe makes 1 1 1/2 pound loaf

 4 cups all-purpose flour
 4 tablespoons white sugar
 1 teaspoon baking soda
 1 tablespoon baking powder
 1/2 teaspoon salt
 1/2 cup margarine, softened
 1 cup buttermilk
 1 egg
 1/4 cup butter, melted
 1/4 cup buttermilk


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a large baking sheet.
In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and margarine. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round and place on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk; brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an 'X' into the top of the loaf.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 30 to 50 minutes. You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes.

This is awesome served with any kind of soup. I usually brush it once or twice while it's baking and that seems to work out just fine. Now go forth, my wee bairns, and cook to your Irish heart's content. :)

While it's not really Irish at all, and English making it all the worse, we are in fact catching up on Merlin this St. Patrick's Day. I'm enjoying it, though I've heard tale that it ends in not a manner that I would wish. I think each of the actors does a great job of capturing the essence of the character, which is a nice improvement over most American shows.

Irish Coddle

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I hope you are enjoying good food and green beer, if that's your thing. :) Irish Coddle is a typical Irish dish, of which there are many variations. This just happens to be mine.

Irish Coddle

6-8 medium potatoes, sliced thin
1 pound bacon (leaner is better), cut into small pieces
1 package Eckrich sausage, cut into bite sized pieces
2 medium onions, diced
1 cube beef bullion
1 cup water, plus more later
salt and pepper to taste


Saute bacon and onion together until mostly cooked. Add sausages and saute together for several minutes. Then add 1 cup of water and the beef bullion (you can use more if you like a stronger flavor), bring to a boil and simmer for ~5 minutes. In a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients, layer 1/3 of the potatoes in the bottom. Add half of the meat mixture, layer the potatoes, and repeat. Then add water enough to just cover the top layer of potatoes. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat medium low. Cover with a well-fitting lid and simmer for ~ 1 hour, occasionally pressing down the top layer so that the potatoes get cooked. Season to taste. 

I have made this recipe numerous times, and am still playing around with various cooking methods. I've tried it in the crockpot, and while I LOVE crockpotting, this recipe is best made stove top. It may take longer than an hour to cook - it just depends on how thick the potatoes are. Serve with Irish Soda Bread, and you'll have a meal fit for an Irish king. :) 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Best Steak Marinade

I love really flavorful steak (well done of course! I've had waiters tell me I'm "ruining" the meat...I'm sorry, I just don't want it mooing on my plate!). Tried this marinade, and was quite pleased with it. Definitely will be making it again!

Best Steak Marinade

Original recipe makes 1 1/3 cups
 1/3 cup soy sauce
 1/2 cup olive oil
 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
 3 tablespoons dried basil
 1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
 1 teaspoon dried minced garlic (optional)

I think for the first time in a long time, I actually followed this one as directed! I did use fresh minced garlic instead of dried, and forwent the hot pepper sauce. But since both of those were optional, I'm sticking with my original statement! ;)  Wasn't sure about the basil addition, but it turned out the perfect balance. I used some top sirloin steaks and pan seared them until done. It was delicious! Served with loaded mashed potatoes (cheese, chives, and bacon bits), and fresh salad.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Eggs Benedict Casserole

I love breakfast food. Breakfast for dinner is even better, as I actually get the time to enjoy it! This is a fun overnight casserole, though I think next time I might skip the overnight part in hopes that the bread will be less soggy. I like the option of having Eggs Benedict (which I love) for a larger group without the hassle of making individual eggs. :D

Eggs Benedict Casserole

cooking spray
 8 large eggs
 2 cups milk
 3 green onions, chopped
 1 teaspoon onion powder
 1 teaspoon salt
 3/4 pound Canadian bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
 6 English muffins, cut into 1/2-inch dice
 1/2 teaspoon paprika
 1 (.9 ounce) package hollandaise sauce mix
 1 cup milk
 1/4 cup margarine


Spray 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Whisk eggs, 2 cups milk, green onions, onion powder, and salt together in a large bowl until well mixed.
Layer half the Canadian bacon in the prepared baking dish. Spread English muffins over meat and top with remaining Canadian bacon. Pour egg mixture over casserole. Cover baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Sprinkle casserole with paprika; cover with aluminum foil.
Bake in preheated oven until eggs are nearly set, about 30 minutes; remove foil. Continue baking until eggs are completely set, about 15 more minutes.
Whisk hollandaise sauce mix with 1 cup milk in a saucepan. Add margarine and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low, simmer, and stir until thickened, about 1 minute. Drizzle sauce over casserole to serve.

Other than substituting regular ham for the Canadian Bacon, and not putting in green onions (which despite the fact that I keep leaving them out in recipes, I actually DO like!), follow as directed. I did use Bearnaise sauce instead of Hollandaise...personally, I like Bearnaise better. And I used TWO packages instead of one. I tend to like things saucy, so it was perfect for me, but for most people, one package would probably be fine. The English muffins got a little soggy, so next time I think I would mix everything together and bake it immediately in hopes that the bread would keep it's texture. It wasn't even as bad as leftovers the next couple days!

Pasta Fagioli

Moving on from bacon (as I realized the last 2 posts were about bacon), we'll throw in a recipe with no meat at all! I am a self-proclaimed carnivore. My dad was a meat cutter, so meat was a staple food source as I was growing up. Mom hid all sorts of veggies in regular food - I distinctly remember shredded carrots in lasagna, and tofu ending up in Lord knows what. I'm trying to branch out beyond meals that require meat, and this is definitely going to go into the keeper pile.

Pasta Fagioli

Original recipe makes 4 servings

 1 tablespoon olive oil
 2 stalks celery, chopped
 1 onion, chopped
 3 cloves garlic, minced
 2 teaspoons dried parsley
 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
 salt to taste
 1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
 1/2 cup uncooked spinach pasta
 1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, with liquid


Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook celery, onion, garlic, parsley, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, and salt in the hot oil until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, tomatoes and tomato sauce, and simmer on low for 15 to 20 minutes.
Add pasta and cook 10 minutes, until pasta is tender.
Add undrained beans and mix well. Heat through. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Followed this one as directed (mostly). I did use chicken bullion to make the broth instead of already made broth. I tend to be a bit over-enthusiastic when adding bullion, and as a result this was a bit overly salty. Made with the appropriate ratio of bullion to water, I think it would be perfect. I added crushed red pepper instead of pepper flakes, and used the Garden's Delight pasta, which is made from carrots, spinach, and tomatoes. I did forgo the actual tomatoes, increasing the water by 2 cups and the pasta by another 1/2 cup. The soup is richly flavored, and beyond being too salty (my fault), it was incredible. 

    I'm looking in to joining a CSA this summer. My special group read The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball, and I felt inspired. I want to try new veggies that I wouldn't on my own have picked up from Meijer. I want the freshness factor, and the knowledge of exactly where my food is coming from. By no means am I currently jumping on the organic bandwagon, or proclaiming from the rooftops that "this is how you should grocery shop!" I think everyone should make the choice for themselves, what works best for them and their budget. I am definitely excited though, and hoping that if it works out, it will be a growing (lol!) experience. 

World's Best Bacon Cheese Dip

I'm back! And there is a new addition to the blog - if you look in the upper right corner, there is a now a search bar! I was feeling like I didn't want to keep adding more recipes, because I could never remember what month I put what recipes, and I wasn't able to find recipes without looking through all the months. I will be adding tags to older recipes, and will try to add as much detail to the tags in order to make it easy for you to find recipes. Search by recipe or ingredient, and voila!
To start off the weekend of blogging (which is the plan...playing catch up!), I just made a bacon cheese dip that was fabulous for my special group. The recipe says it makes enough for lies. I would say maybe 6. It's yummy, so make lots!

World's Best Bacon Cheese Dip

4 slices bacon
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
8 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded
2 green onions, finely chopped
4 buttery round crackers, crushed


Place bacon in a large skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble, and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese with mayonnaise until smooth. Stir in Swiss cheese, onions, and bacon. Place bowl in microwave, and cook 2 minutes. Remove, and stir well. Return to microwave, and cook 2 to 4 minutes more. Sprinkle crushed crackers on top. Serve warm with crackers.

For something that is called "World's Best Bacon Cheese Dip", 4 pieces of bacon is really sub-par. I recommend using a package of bacon, minus the one that you eat. Cook bacon in whatever method suits you best - I did pan fry these, but my favorite method is baking. I don't really like mayonnaise that much, so I  eye-balled the Miracle Whip to about 1/2 cup, added a little over a cup of shredded Swiss, and about 1/2 cup of freshly shredded Parmesan cheese. I didn't have any green onions on hand, so I used my freeze-dried chives (which are super handy to have around for times like this!). To give it a little extra something, I also added a couple shakes of garlic powder and onion powder. I think it would be a little on the bland side without some kind of extra seasoning. I then crushed a little mini package of Ritz crackers (about 15 I think in the package) to sprinkle on top. You definitely can serve it at that point, but I then baked it uncovered  at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. It was DELICIOUS! The Miracle Whip gave a little sweetness, and all the cheese made it very hearty- it may break your dipping crackers! I may look for an additional ingredient next time I make it that would still give it a cheesy taste, but thin it out a little bit without make it too greasy (which is what I was worried about with adding the required amount of Mayo). 

    We are being commissioned at Stephen Minister's this weekend at church. I'm both excited and nervous (not really a big fan of standing in front of a bunch of people!). At least I only have to say my name...hopefully that won't be too challenging........... .......Anywho....... It's nice being done with the weekly commitment of training (hello 50+ hours of my life that I could have spent doing much less useful things). We still have bi-monthly meetings to attend, and me being me, my goal is to not miss any meetings, despite the fact that I have yet to acquire care receiver. 
     Stephen Ministry is great for teaching you how to effectively interact with people - if you don't know about it, I encourage you to check it out. It's all about being assertive, speaking the truth tempered with love, and how to really be there to help someone through a crisis. It's a process-oriented ministry - the goal is not to immediately jump to "do this, this, and that, your problems will be solved". It's about encouraging the care receiver to grow, and to process what they are going through, and to just listen. Even if I never got a care receiver  it would be worth it just for getting (hopefully!!) those skills.