Tag: food

Irish Soda Bread

Irish cuisine may not be as widely recognizable or familiar across North America as Chinese, Italian or Mexican fare. But that doesn’t mean Irish food lacks fans and flavor. As the world prepares to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on or around March 17, individuals who want to include some popular Irish fare in their festivities won’t want to exclude this recipe for “Irish Soda Bread” from AllRecipes.com.

Irish Soda Bread

Yields 1 1/2 loaf (20 servings)

Ingredients:

4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup margarine, softened

4 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup buttermilk

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

2. Mix flour, softened margarine, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. 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 the prepared baking sheet.

3. Combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk in a small bowl; brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an ‘X’ into the top of the loaf.

4. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Check to see if it is done after 30 minutes. You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes.

Cherry Pie Bars

Tart, red cherries and Valentine’s Day seem to be the perfect pair. Not only do cherries align with a Valentine’s Day color scheme, they even resemble little hearts when hanging from their stems.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day involves many different traditions, and enjoying decadent desserts is among them. Purchasing ready-made treats from a local bakery is one way to indulge in a sugary confection, but crafting a recipe at home is another way to show that special someone how much you care.

“Cherry Pie Bars” are not exactly a pie, but a pound cake with a cherry pie filling swirl. They can be made for many different occasions, but make for something sweet on Valentine’s Day. Whip up this recipe from “Butter, Flour, Sugar, Joy” (Sourcebooks) by Danielle Kartes.

Cherry Pie Bars

Yield: One 9-by-13-inch pan

2 cups sugar

1 cup butter, softened

4 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 21-ounce can cherry pie filling

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper.

2. In a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream sugar and butter on low. Add the eggs one at a time. Beat until just combined.

3. Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Spread a little over half the cake batter into the pan. Evenly spread the pie filling over the top, and spoon the rest of the cake batter over the pie filling. It’s fine if the cherries show through.

4. Bake 35 minutes or until the top has turned slightly golden. Do not overbake. Allow to cool and slice into squares.

Enjoy!

Tasty Tidbits About Eggnog

Eggnog is a rich and delicious beverage that has become synonymous with the most festive time of year. This milk- and egg-based concoction is tasty on its own, or it can be dressed up with other flavors and spiked with a favorite spirit when celebrating the holiday season with other adult partygoers.

December is National Eggnog Month, and December 24 is National Eggnog Day. There is no more perfect time of year to learn everything you can about eggnog – all the while sipping a cup of this creamy concoction. Indulge in these festive facts about the beverage, courtesy of Mental Floss, The Fact Site and Tastemade.

Eggnog likely originated in the medieval period and was known as “posset,” a hot, milk-based drink made of spices and wine. Even though posset could be a cocktail, it also was used as a remedy for colds and flu for its soothing properties.

  • Milk, eggs and sherry used in the early recipes were difficult to come by, so when eggnog first appeared it was a drink only the wealthy could enjoy. That changed when eggnog was popularized in the American colonies, where dairy products and liquor were more readily available.
  • Entymologists believe “eggnog” stems from the word “noggin,” which refers to small wooden mugs often used to serve strong ale, known by the slang word “nog.”
  • In the Medieval period, it was risky to drink milk straight because it wasn’t pasteurized. Eggnog contained alcohol so that it would kill off any harmful bacteria in the milk.
  • A typical homemade version of eggnog has roughly one egg per serving. However, commercial eggnog is regulated by the FDA and can only contain 1 percent of the product’s final weight in egg yolk solids. That stems from fear of raw egg and salmonella.
  • President George Washington apparently enjoyed serving eggnog at Christmas, and even had his own special recipe, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
  • There is no right or wrong alcohol to use when preparing eggnog. Distilled spirits like rum, sherry, cognac, and whiskey all have produced suitable eggnogs.
  • Puerto Rican coquito is a traditional drink that is very similar to eggnog.
  • Individuals concerned about eggs or milk in eggnog can enjoy a vegan recipe made from nut milk instead. Commercially produced vegan eggnog offerings are now more widely available.
  • One of the more notable flavors in eggnog comes from the use of nutmeg. Nutmeg is a fragrant spice made from grinding the seed of the nutmeg tree.

Pepperoni Pizza Dip With Breadstick Dippers

No matter which teams fans support, they’re sure to get hungry watching the action play out. That’s why game day hosts need to plan foods to keep guests satiated as they follow the scores.

Dips, small bites and other finger foods are staples when the game is on because they can be eaten easily in front of the big screen. Utilizing one or more slow cookers to prepare such items creates more time to watch the game, stock the cooler with refreshments and ready the home theater. Slow cookers also can keep meals warm on the buffet table.

This recipe for “Pepperoni Pizza Dip with Breadstick Dippers” from the Crock*Pot Kitchens makes a great game day meal. Adjust as needed for the game day crowd.

Pepperoni Pizza Dip with Breadstick Dippers

Serves 8

1 jar or can (14 ounces) pizza sauce

3/4 cup chopped turkey pepperoni

4 green onions, chopped

1 can (21/4 ounces) sliced black olives, drained

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened

Dippers

1 package (8 ounces) refrigerated breadstick dough

2 teaspoons melted butter

2 teaspoons minced fresh Italian parsley

1. Combine pizza sauce, pepperoni, green onions, olives, and oregano in a 2-quart slow cooker. Cover; cook on low 2 hours or on high 1 to 1/2 hours or until mixture is hot.

2. Stir in mozzarella and cream cheese until melted and well blended. Serve with warm Breadstick Dippers.

3. For dippers, bake breadsticks according to package directions. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with parsley.

Key Components Of A Fun Picnic

Dining al fresco is often associated with securing outdoor seating at a local restaurant. However, anyone can enjoy al fresco dining at home, in a park or even on the beach.

Picnics make it easy to enjoy a meal in an idyllic setting. Though there’s no rules governing picnics other than those posted by local park officials, the following are some essential components of a fun picnic.

Food

The menu for a picnic need not be elaborate, but there’s also room for foods that are a little more fancy than sandwiches. Sandwiches are still acceptable picnic fare, but those who want to expand their horizons can prepare cheeseboards, salads, fresh fruit, and other items that are easily prepared and packed in a picnic basket. It’s best to avoid hot foods, as they can be difficult to keep warm. Small grills might be allowed in certain parks, but it’s best to keep in mind that others may not want to deal with smoke from burning coals. So individuals who plan to grill during a picnic should choose a remote spot that won’t affect those around them.

Beverages

Cold beverages, including water, can ensure no one is overcome by heat. Individuals who want to bring alcohol should only do so on private property, as many local laws do not allow consumption of alcoholic beverages in public spaces like parks and beaches. A cooler with cold beverages stored in ice can be a good idea if a lot of people will be attending the picnic.

Reusable Containers

Reusable containers decrease the chances of creating litter. All it takes is one stiff wind for single-use, resealable plastic bags to blow away, and it’s not always easy to track those bags down. Picnickers should aspire to take out everything that they take in, and reusable containers make that easier to accomplish.

Basket and Tablecloth

A tablecloth does more than just set the scene for a picnic. Tablecloths collect crumbs and keep them off the ground, which can decrease the likelihood that uninvited guests like ants will join the festivities. Tablecloths also ensure utensils can be set out and put down without getting dirty.

Comfortable Seating

Though it’s entirely possible some guests will want to sit on the ground throughout the picnic, some comfortable seating can provide the perfect respite when the hard ground begins to feel a little less accommodating. Instruct guests to bring their own foldable lounge chairs, and don’t forget to bring a picnic blanket or two so anyone who wants to nap can catch a few winks. When hosting a beach picnic, look for blankets that dry quickly. Some are even made of fabric that filters out sand to keep it off of food.

Miscellaneous Items

Bug spray, sunscreen, a bluetooth speaker, biodegradable waste bags, some sports equipment and other items to keep adults and kids occupied, and even a portable fan to keep guests cool and repel mosquitoes are some additional must-haves for a fun picnic.

A picnic in the park or on the beach can be a great way to dine outside and relax in the summer sun.

Fourth of July Cookie Cups

July 4th celebrations are much anticipated each year. Whether they include an intimate barbecue with a close-knit group of friends or a massive block party with everyone from the neighborhood, there’s a strong chance that food will be part of the party.

As various menu items will hit the grill, hosts and hostesses may wonder which desserts to serve to make their events complete. While there is seemingly nothing more American than apple pie, cookies also can be sweet ways to help wrap up the festivities. Sugar cookies are a universal favorite, and in this recipe for “Fourth of July Cookie Cups” they’re shaped into cups filled with a buttercream frosting.

Enjoy this star-spangled showcase, courtesy of “Live Well, Bake Cookies” (Rock Point) by Danielle Rye.

Fourth of July Cookie Cups

Makes 24

Nonstick cooking spray, for greasing the pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Red, white and blue sprinkles, for topping

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream or milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. To make the cookie cups: preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 24-count mini muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar together for 1 to 2 minutes, or until well combined.

4. Mix in the egg and vanilla extract until fully combined, making sure to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

5. Mix in the dry ingredients until just combined.

6. Evenly distribute the cookie dough among all 24 cups in the mini muffin pan, a little more than 1 tablespoon of cookie dough per cup. Press each ball of cookie dough into the cups and smooth it out.

7. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, or until the edges of the cookie cups are lightly browned and the tops are set.

8. Remove from the oven, and make an indentation in each cookie using the back of a measuring spoon. Allow to cool in the muffin pan, then carefully remove from the pan and set aside.

9. To make the vanilla buttercream frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the butter for 1 to 2 minutes until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing in each addition until well combined.

10. Add the heavy whipping cream and vanilla extract, and continue mixing until fully combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Pipe the frosting into the cooled cookie cups and top with the sprinkles.

12. Store the cookie cups in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Dish Up A Classic Comfort Food This St. Patrick’s Day

Everyone has “corned beef and cabbage” on the brain come St. Patrick’s Day. But another flavorful dish might appeal to a greater number of people with Irish roots.

Shepherd’s Pie is a savory dish made of minced lamb that originated in England but also made the jump to Ireland, where it became a popular comfort food. While Shepherd’s Pie can be made with freshly cooked ground meat, it also is a fine way to use leftovers from a previous meal. Shepherd’s Pie is commonly mistaken for Cottage Pie, which is very similar, yet tends to use beef as the meat of choice.

Many families have their own ancestral recipes for Shepherd’s Pie, but for those looking to cook the dish for the first time, try “Shepherd’s Pie,” courtesy of Alton Brown, which appeared in Season 12 of his hit show “Good Eats.”

Shepherd’s Pie

Yield: 8 servings

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 cup chopped onion

2 carrots, peeled and finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 pounds ground lamb

1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons tomato paste

1 cup chicken broth

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup half-and-half

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large egg yolk

1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup English peas, fresh or frozen

1. Heat oven to 400 F.

2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch dice. Put them in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set said pan over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, drop the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Heat the oil in an 11-inch saute pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the meat, salt and pepper, and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the meat with the flour, toss to coat, and continue to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, broth, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, and thyme and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer slowly until the sauce is thickened slightly, 10 to 12 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, combine the half-and-half and butter in a microwave-safe container and nuke until warmed through, about 35 seconds.

6. Drain the potatoes and return them to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes (a masher is an excellent tool for this, though a hand mixer will do), then add the hot half-and-half mixture, as well as the salt and pepper. Mash to smoothness, then stir in the egg yolk.

7. Add the corn and peas to the meat mixture and spread evenly in a 7-by-11-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling over, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Place on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooking rack and let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

A Perfect Dish For A New Year’s Day Brunch

The late-night revelry of New Year’s Eve has made New Year’s Day brunch a go-to tradition for millions of people. Staying up until the calendar officially turns from one year to the next at the stroke of midnight can make it harder to get out of bed on the morning of January 1, so there may be no better day to plan a brunch than the first day of the calendar year.

Many restaurants offer brunch specials on New Year’s Day, but people need not leave home to ensure their first meal of the new year is delicious. This recipe for “Pan-Fried Eggs and Mixed Mushroom Sauté on Toasted Sourdough Slices” from “Sunday Brunch” (Chronicle Books) by Betty Rosbottom can be just the dish to begin a new year.

Pan-Fried Eggs and Mixed Mushroom Sauté on Toasted Sourdough Slices

Serves 4

Mushroom Sauté

11/4 ounces mixed dried mushrooms

11/2 cups boiling water

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces sliced brown mushrooms

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary (see tip)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Toast and Eggs

4 1/2-inch thick sourdough slices

Olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 eggs

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Rosemary sprigs for garnish (optional)

1. For the Mushroom Sauté: Place the dried mushrooms in a medium bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let stand until softened, 20 minutes. Strain in a sieve lined with a double thickness of paper towels and reserve the soaking liquid. Coarsely chop the mushrooms.

2. Heat the olive oil in a medium, heavy frying pan set over medium heat. When hot, add the brown mushrooms and sauté, stirring often, for 6 minutes. Add the reserved mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir for 1 minute. Add the mushroom liquid and cook, stirring, until it has evaporated, 4 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and several grinds of pepper. Remove the frying pan from the heat and cover with foil to keep warm. (The mushrooms can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring, over medium heat.)

3. For the toast and eggs: Brush both sides of the bread slices generously with olive oil. Set a 10- to 11-inch nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat, and, when hot, add the bread and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the toast and cover loosely with foil. When pan is cool enough to handle, wipe it out with clean paper towels.

4. Add the butter to the frying pan and set it over medium heat. When the butter starts to foam, break an egg into a saucer, being careful to remove any shell fragments., and gently slide it into the frying pan. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Immediately reduce the heat to low and cook, basting the eggs with some of the butter in the pan frequently, until the whites are firm and the yolks are still soft and runny, 3 minutes.

5. While the eggs are cooking, arrange a toasted bread slice on each of four plates. Mound the mushrooms evenly over the toast.

6. Remove each egg with a spatula and arrange on top of the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and, if desired, garnish each serving with a rosemary sprig. Serve immediately.

Chocolate Cookies Are A Sweet Finale To Thanksgiving Dinners

Holiday entertaining season begins on Thanksgiving. Anyone who has been tasked with hosting Thanksgiving understands the commitment required to prepare a delicious meal for guests, which often encompasses appetizers, several side dishes and, of course, turkey as the centerpiece. Guests attending a Thanksgiving dinner can give holiday hosts and hostesses a break by providing dessert.

Cookies are a popular treat. Thanks to their flavor, portability and relatively short preparation and cooking times, cookies are a smart choice when bringing dessert to a holiday gathering. This recipe for “Flourless Chocolate Cookies” from Danielle Rye’s “Live Well Bake Cookies: 75 Classic Cookie Recipes for Every Occasion” (Rock Point) offers the added benefit of being flourless. That means that even those with gluten allergies or intolerances can indulge.

Flourless Chocolate Cookies

Makes 24 to 36 cookies

3 cups powdered sugar

3/4 natural unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift the powdered sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder together, then whisk in the instant espresso powder (if using) and salt until well combined. Set aside.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites, egg, and vanilla extract until fully combined.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until the mixture is fully combined and smooth.
  5. Using a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets, making sure to leave a little room between each one.
  6. Bake for 11 to 14 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are set. Remove from the oven, and allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheets.

Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Helpful Tips for Picking and Cutting Watermelon

Watermelon is a summertime staple. Each summer, stores, and farm stands have an abundance of watermelons on display, and many people feel no picnic or barbecue is complete without watermelon.

Watermelon is a refreshing option on hot days. It’s ideal sliced and served, or can be included in fruit salads, smoothies or even “spiked” cocktails. The key to a tasty watermelon is knowing how to pick one that is ripe while serving watermelon comes down to understanding some easy-cutting strategies.

Choose a watermelon that has a firm, symmetrical shape

Avoid melons with bumps, dents or cuts.

Watermelons should be relatively heavy

They’re 92 percent water, and that juiciness should be reflected in a substantial weight for the melon’s size.

Watermelon.org advises looking for a creamy yellow spot on the underside of the watermelon

This is called the “ground spot.” It indicates where the melon sat on the ground and ripened in the sun. Once cut from the vine, a watermelon has about three to four weeks to be consumed.

All parts of the watermelon are edible, including the seeds and rind

The rind can be pickled or cut up to use in stir-fry dishes.

When bringing watermelon to an event, it is a courtesy to bring it already sliced or cut up. This ensures the host or hostess does not have to tackle what can sometimes be a chore. Here are three techniques to cut a watermelon easily.

Cubes

1. Cut both ends off of the watermelon.

2. Stand the watermelon on one sliced end. Use the knife to slice down and cut off the rind.

3. After removing the rind from all sides of the melon, cut into discs about 1/2-inch in thickness.

4. Then cut those discs into cubes.

Slices

1. Cut the watermelon in half lengthwise.

2. Take one cut half and place it cut-side down.

3. Cut the watermelon into slices.

4. Repeat for the other cut half.

Strips

1. Cut the watermelon as you would with the slices. Rather than leaving it in large slices, turn the watermelon and cut the same size slices in the opposite direction. This creates strips that are easy for kids to grab and maneuver.

2. Repeat with the other half of the watermelon in the same manner.