Irish Brown Soda Bread and Colcannon

I have a very slim Irish line in my ancestry, but I married a man who was was fiercely proud of his Irish lineage.  Frank used to take off work on St. Patrick’s Day so he could grab his green derby and head for the nearest pub to spend the day.  One St. Patrick’s Day, he showed up on the evening news coverage at Hap’s Irish Pub with his derby slightly askew,  surrounded by his cronies, waving a big mug of beer and bellowing out, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”.  His mother said, “Jesus, Joseph and Mary, I’m mortified to death” that her friends saw him in such a state, but this is the woman who was doing the Irish jig for her grandchildren well into her 80s and who said her grandmother washed her clothes on the banks of the river Shannon.

So, I raised four mostly-Irish children and celebrate St. Pat each year with some Irish food.  My oldest daughter was in an Irish dance group and I loved going to the competitions and the annual Feis.  In 1990, they had a food competition and I entered the Scone, Soda Bread and Brown Soda Bread contests.  I won a first-place gold medal in each of the divisions.  I was particularly pleased because the judges were some visitors from Ireland.

IRISH BROWN SODA BREAD

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tblsp. dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tblsp. softened butter
  • 3/4  cup raisins
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Lightly grease a flat baking pan

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Cut in the softened butter until mixture looks like fine crumbs.  Add raisins.

Add buttermilk, mixing with a fork until dry ingredients are absorbed.  Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently until smooth, adding flour as needed (about 1/2 cup).  Dough will still be slightly sticky.  Shape into a ball and place on the greased baking pan, forming  into a 7 x 1-1/2 inch circle.  Press a large floured knife into the center of the loaf almost through to the bottom.  Repeat at right angles to divide the loaf into quarters.

Bake @ 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until top is golden and loaf sounds hollow when tapped.  Remove to wire rack to cool.  Brush top with melted butter. 

Makes one loaf.  From a cookbook published by the Cincinnati Hoxworth Center called Adventures in a Culinary Vein.

The recipe for Colcannon comes from a cookbook my daughter brought back from Ireland, A Taste of Ireland by Theodora Fitzgibbon.  I adapted the recipe by using half of the butter and cream it called for.  Having tasted Ireland’s wonderful butter and cream, I can only imagine how rich the original dish is.  My family likes this version with a little less fat.

COLCANNON

  • Servings: 4-6 servings
  • Print

  • 4 cups shredded cabbage
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 green onions with tops
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 tsp. salt, divided
  • Grindings of black pepper
  • Pinch of mace
  • 1/4 cup butter, divided

Cook cabbage until tender.  I like to steam it for approximately 20 minutes.

Cover potatoes with cold water and cook on medium high heat for 20-30 minutes until potatoes are done, then drain.

While potatoes are cooking, cut up the green onions in small pieces.

Place in a small saucepan and cover with cream (about 1/4 cup).   Simmer on low until onion is soft.

Beat drained potatoes with 1/2 tsp. salt, grating of black pepper, mace, 2 Tblsp. butter and green onions with cream.  Add additional cream to get desired consistency (about 1/4 cup).

Place cooked cabbage in a large pot, add 1/2 tsp salt, grating of black pepper.   Add the mashed, seasoned potatoes.

Mix well and turn into a large serving bowl.  Make a well in the center and place 2 Tblsp. butter in the cavity. 

Serve piping hot.

I started making this dish in 1993.  The cookbook suggests frying leftovers like potato pancakes in bacon fat or butter.  I haven’t tried this because we never seem to have leftovers.

HAPPY ST PATRICK’S DAY.

P.S.  I came out to the kitchen this morning to find two handmade gifts from my daughter.

Easy Beef, Rice and Beans

This is an easy, satisfying dish that I first put together a few years ago, using a package of flavored rice mix.  This time I used Knorr Cajun Sides Garlic Butter Rice mix, but any kind would do.

EASY BEEF, RICE AND BEANS

  • 5-6 oz package of flavored rice mix
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 lb. round or chuck steak, baked, cut into cubes*
  • 1/2 cup hominy, drained
  • 1/2 cup black beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes with juice
  • Grating of black pepper
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground cumin

In a large skillet, cook the rice mix and water, bringing to a boil.  Lower heat, cover and simmer from 5-7 minutes according to package directions until rice is tender.

*I had baked the chuck/round steak earlier in the day, covered, for about 2 hours in a 300 degree oven. I used half of the cooked beef in this dish and put the remainder in the freezer for another night’s supper.

Add remaining ingredients, mixing well, and let simmer for 20 minutes until everything is piping hot.

Yield:  4 servings 

I have a note in my recipe binder:  “2/18/03 – very good – David (my husband) took seconds.”

For dessert, I fixed an old favorite – Grandma Martha’s Banana Pudding.

It was a nice weekday supper.

Beef Stew and Orange Tapioca Pudding

One of my favorite busy-day recipes is Gone All Afternoon Stew.  I first found this recipe in 1994 in a cookbook binder distributed among my youngest son’s fellow engineers at McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) – Bits & Bytes. It is easy to throw together and bake in a slow oven for the afternoon.

GONE-ALL-AFTERNOON BEEF STEW

  • 1 lb. round or chuck steak, trimmed and cut into small pieces
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced (I use 9 baby carrots, sliced lengthwise)
  • 2 large potatoes, sliced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Grinding or two of black pepper
  • One 10-3/4 oz. can tomato soup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 10 oz. package frozen peas (add during last 15 minutes of baking)

Preheat oven @ 275 degrees F for 4 hours’ baking time or 250 degrees F for 5 hours’ baking time.

Put all ingredients except peas in a large casserole.  Mix well, cover and bake in preheated 275 degree F oven for 4 hours or 250 degree F for 5 hours.  Add peas during the last 15 minutes of baking.

Yield:  4-6 servings 

This makes a thick, delicious stew.  If the stew is too thick, it can be thinned with a little bit of water.  I like to serve a good homemade yeast roll with this dish.

After a hearty dinner, it’s nice to have something lighter for dessert.  I had come across a bargain on oranges this week.  They were super-large and I had way more than I would be able to eat out-of-hand, so I went looking for a dessert to use some of them.

I found this recipe for an easy tapioca pudding that sounded just right.

ORANGE TAPIOCA PUDDING

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tblsp. quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1-1/4 cups fresh orange juice
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • 1-1/4 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed (divided)

Mix sugar, tapioca and orange juice in a medium saucepan.  Let stand for 5 minutes.

Heat mixture to boiling over medium high heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and let cool for 20 minutes.

Stir the tapioca mixture, then fold in 1 cup of the whipped topping until smooth.  Divide mixture between 4 serving dishes and top each with one tablespoon of the reserved topping. 

This is such a pretty dessert with a bright, fresh flavor.

It was a good meal.

Apricot Nut Cookies with Amaretto Icing

My youngest daughter is a busy stay-at-home mom who always finds time to get together with me on Fridays for lunch.  I try to make meals that are tasty, quick and easy, and reduced in fat and calories.  Here is the meal we had this week.

This week, I fixed an “un-diet” type meal, but adjusted the portions so my daughter could still stick to her Weight Watchers points.

This past week, I had watched Giada de Laurentiis on Food Network make some intruiging cookies.  I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand and thought I would try to make small cookies with just a smidgen of icing as dessert for my Friday lunch with Shannon.  These cookies are so delicious and a little bit of Amaretto icing goes a long way, especially for someone who has been dieting all week.  The only change I made to the ingredients was to make a smaller amount of icing.

APRICOT AND NUT COOKIES WITH AMARETTO ICING

  • Servings: Approx. 48 small cookies
  • Print

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tblsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2 Tblsp. pine nuts, toasted

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg.  Stir in the flour until just blended.  Mix in the apricots…

…almonds and pine nuts.

Divide the dough in half and form each into a 12″ long log.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove one log from refrigerator and divide in half.  Cut each half-portion into quarters and then each quarter into three 1/2″ slices.  Place slices on ungreased cookie sheet, leaving 1-1/2″ to 2″ between each slice.

Bake @ 350 degrees F for about10-12 minutes, until cookies are golden brown.  Remove to rack to cool.  Then place a dab of Amaretto icing on each cookie.

AMARETTO ICING

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2-3 Tblsp. Amaretto

Add Amaretto to sugar gradually, stirring until mixture is of a drizzling consistency.

Yield:  48 small cookies 

Nutrition per DietPower for one cookie:  58 calories, 2.71 gr fat, 10.2 mg cholesterol, 21.4 mg sodium, 27.2 mg potassium, 7.52 g carbohydrates, 0.243 g fiber, 0.806 g protein

Weight Watchers count for each cookie:  2 Points/Plus

Refrigerate or freeze remaining log and icing to make fresh cookies another time.  Diet-wise, it’s better not to have too many of these on hand at a time – they’re just too hard to resist.

For our entree, I chose an old favorite, (see my recipe here –  Impossibly Easy Seafood Pie and made individual portions equaling 1/6 of the recipe.

Nutrition per 1/6 of Impossibly Easy Seafood Pie, using low-fat Bisquick and 2% milk:  208 calories, 13.6 g fat, 134 mg cholesterol, 251 mg sodium, 71.9 mg potassium, 8.58 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 12.5 g protein

Weight Watchers count for 1/6 of Impossibly Easy Seafood Pie:  6 PointsPlus

This meal was a good example of how we can enjoy some of our favorite foods so long as we watch the portions.

Beans and Dumplings – A Depression-Era Meal

One of my earliest memories is of sitting at a table with my mother, father and little sister.  We are in a one-room, second-floor flat on Elm Street in downtown Cincinnati in the mid-1930s.  All day, Mother has watched over a simmering pot of beans with a pig hock added for flavor.  My father has come in from his timekeeper job on the WPA and we are having about the cheapest supper possible in the midst of the Great Depression.  I have a plateful of beans and a tiny bit of the small amount of meat that is on a pig hock (my father gets the biggest portion of meat and my mother claims to love chewing around on the bone).  The beans are steaming and the teaspoon or so of meat is flavorful – I love it!  It was said in my family that you weren’t an Applegate if you didn’t love beans, so I guess I qualified as a full-fledged member of my father’s side of the family.

As time went on and my father moved to better jobs with the City of Cincinnati and then Dayton Acme (a World War II defense plant), there was more money in my mother’s food budget and she stopped using the mostly-fat pig hocks and either threw in a pork chop or two to cook with the beans or had crisp bacon or fried ham on the side.  This was the only time my father ate pork … along with his beans topped with chopped onion and a lot of black pepper.

By the time my future husband started coming to the house for meals, Mother had added a big cast iron skillet full of fried potatoes to the menu.  It was his favorite supper.  After we were married, I continued to have this meal one night a week.  Every time I hear the John Denver song, “Back Home Again” and the line about “supper on the stove” and the wife who felt the baby move, I think about my young husband coming home to an expectant wife in our little apartment with the windows all steamed up and a big white and red graniteware pot of beans simmering on the range.

My four children didn’t inherit their parents’ love of a bean supper and I got out of the habit of making it.  But now that I’m alone, I crave the beans of my childhood, especially in the fall and winter.  I make a healthier, easier version with a slow cooker.

GREAT NORTHERN CROCKPOT BEANS

  • 1/2 lb. Great Northern dry beans
  • 6 cups cold water*
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ham flavored soup base (L. B. Jamison’s)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place the dry beans cold water in the slow cooker.  *I use this amount of water to insure that I’ll have enough broth to make dumplings.  Cook on low overnight – approximately 8 hours.  Add the ham flavoring, then taste before adding salt and pepper.

I was the only one in the family who liked dumplings with my beans and I used to make a one-person serving.  This works very well for me now when I want to make a meal just for myself.

DUMPLINGS FOR ONE

  • 1/4 cup of My Biscuit Mix**
  • 1-1/2 Tblsp. (approx.) of cold water

In a small bowl, stir the biscuit mix and water together to make a thick, moist dough.

Heat about 1 cup of bean broth and 1 cup of beans in a small pot to boiling.  Drop the dough into the boiling mixture by the tablespoonful, making three dumplings.

Lower the heat to simmering, cover the pot and continue simmering for 10 minutes without lifting the lid.  Note:  The white and red graniteware lid is from my original 1952 set.

Serve immediately with chopped onion and a grating of black pepper.  A small serving of meat is good, but not necessary (to me, at least).  Today, I happened to be browning hot sausage to freeze for my Thanksgiving stuffing and kept back enough to make myself a small grilled patty.  It tasted wonderful.  This is truly my soul food.

**MY BISCUIT MIX

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tblsp. baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco)

Mix together the flour, salt and baking powder.  Cut in the vegetable shortening.  Store in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

This is good for making individual servings of biscuits, pancakes … and dumplings. 


Recipe for Walt’s Polish Stuffing