Irish Soda Bread Story #SOL 28/31 2021

There’s only a few more days to publicly celebrate my Irish heritage, so I thought I’d bake some Irish soda bread. Now, I’ve not ever baked Irish soda bread before. It’s been on my Pandemic Baking list.

I found a recipe from Alexandra’s Kitchen of alexandracooks.com, after scouring the internet for an authentic traditional soda bread recipe. It had to be authentic – if I was to be true to my ancestors.

The authentic traditional recipes include only four ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk.

Geez, seriously? This was going to be easy peasy.

When I landed on Alexandra’s page, she mentioned adding an egg, and a little sugar and butter. Now, this seemed to Americanize the Irish ways, but I’m trying to be open minded, ya know, instead of stuck in my ways – then, I realized, I don’t even have a way yet . . .

I appreciated Alexandra’s commentary about these added ingredients, which usually, I find “the story” of the recipe QUITE annoying with recipes online. Just cut to the chase and give me the recipe! my typical whine. But, in this case, I needed to know why one would mess with the Irish?

The author of this recipe made a bold statement in saying that the original version was edible, but she missed the scone-like texture, the richness that comes from the addition of butter.

Now, I wasn’t going to succumb to the false riches of the Americans – I wanted the real deal. Yet, as I was mixing the dry ingredients, I found my wicked mind had latched onto this author’s statement and was now taunting me.

What if for all this work – your Irish soda bread is only “edible”?

In the last minute, I added the sugar, butter and egg to the milk. It’s wasn’t THAT much, I rationalized.

Did I also tell you that I didn’t have buttermilk in the house?

Well, I knew you could substitute this with milk and lemon juice, so I searched online for specifications. Some recipes warned, Only use buttermilk! Other recipes said, You can substitute, but use whole or 2% milk with the lemon juice. I only had skim and Almond. Well, this was going to be an all – out gamble. Finally, I found a vegan site that said you could do it with Almond milk – no probs! So, I did.

So now, its a Vegan American Irish Soda Bread.

The dough seemed awfully sticky. One site said you gotta use your CLEAN hands – like claws. That’s how they did it in Ireland. So, I did that. I had to keep dipping them back in the flour though to make the dough behave.

I greased the heavy cast iron pan, after washing out the bacon grease. It might now have a little bacon flavor, too.

Next, I scooped the dough into the pan and worked with it to try and shape it into a nice ball. It wasn’t easy – still sticky. The knife I used to make a cross cut across the top didn’t do such a nice clean cut either – sticking to the dough besides. Hopefully, those fairies got out of there to ward off evil.

Finally, I shoved it in the oven, hoping to just end this ordeal.

I read some more Irish history while it baked, learned some useful Irish slang and had a message round about with my mother and sisters trying out my new slang. We laughed a lot.

40 minutes later, I pulled the bread out of the oven and cut into it. The middle was still doughy, so I put it back in the oven. I guess I should have flattened it a little more.

Finally, when completely baked all the way through, I had a taste slathered with some butter.

It didn’t really taste like bread.

It tasted more like scones – sweet and rich.

That’s not really what I wanted.

But, it was edible.

My husband wanted to try some so I gave some to him. He didn’t seem impressed either.

I guess my Irish taste buds know more than I do. I’ll try the real recipe next time.

I wrote it down to remember it.

I am participating in the 14th Annual SOL 2021 March challenge. For 31 days, I will attempt to write and share a small slice of life from my days. I’ve missed a couple of days, but I’m still at it! If you’d like to read more of today’s slices from other teacher-writers, please head over to twowritingteachers, who have also committed to this challenge.

Reasons to Bake #SOL 21/31 ~ 2021

There are many reasons to bake something.

You might have a hankering for a little sweetness. Or, perhaps the kids are coming for dinner. Maybe baking is something that you can actually admit to being skilled at – and if you’ve got something you know how to do, you don’t want to lose it, so to stay sharp, you keep up the practice. The challenge of baking that perfect dessert or sweets and perfecting a dish is an act I never grow tired of.

But, if I’m honest, I bake mainly for one person.

My husband.

Looking back in my notebooks over the years, there are common threads that always surface in the month of March. Snow melts and yard debris emerges, reminders of tasks undone from the fall. The snowmobile must be stored away, along with snowshoes and ice fishing gear. The lakes remain with layers of ice, but unsafe to trek onto for fishing or journeying across to the cabin. Hunting seasons pause. Fishing opener still two months out. Months of laps in the pool take a toll on my husbands shoulders and he drags into the house worn down from the extra hours in the long weeks of work.

He becomes little edgy. Quiet. Less giddy-up-ed-ness in his skipp-i-dee-do-da. Even Ella steers clear some days.

“If you could have anything, any kind of baked good, dessert or treat, what would it be?” I ask him.

“Geez,” appearing surprised at this question, “I don’t know, what are my choices? I need some perimeters.” He lights up just a bit, yet seems overwhelmed by the possibilities.

“There are none. Anything!” I respond.

He ponders for a bit and and after rambling some options, he decides.

“I would have to say apple-cherry pie. But, that’s kind of a lot of work,” he says Eeyore-like.

I was afraid he’d say pie. He’s right. Pie crust is temperamental and I’ve still forgotten to purchase a new rolling pin cover, so I’d have to use a cut up sock. There will be sticking problems rolling out the dough. I can do it. It’s just my own willingness to wrestle with this today is at a two on a scale of one to ten.

How can I make this pie without the uncertainty of the crust turning out or frustrations of a sticky rolling pin?

I decided to just press the crust into the pie pan with my hands. Perhaps I should have greased the pan, I don’t know. And, once the cherries and apple filling were added, just a topping for Dutch apple pie crumbles was added rather than rolling out a top crust. We’ll see what happens. It’s practice for my uncertainty muscles.

Appearances can be deceiving, so the true test of pulling this off will come at the actual tasting.

Oh my, it’s World Poetry Day today, so now I must shape this into a poem.

The days of Mid-March wear on us
like a ship voyaging the ocean
through weather of fraught
rations dwindling 
cold, damp and weak. . .

But, sun peeks through
the thick heavy clouds
land appears 
in the distance

We'll make it through
by holding one beautiful
memory in our minds' eye
an image, a scent, a pleasure
a loved one, a dream
or a place of warmth 

What is it for you, hon?

Could you make me
an apple cherry pie?

I am participating in the 14th Annual SOL 2021 March challenge. For 31 days, I will attempt to write and share a small slice of life from my days. If you’d like to read more of today’s slices from other teacher-writers, please head over to twowritingteachers, who have also committed to this challenge.

Pie Story #sol16

I don’t like to admit it, but we are pie snobs at my house.  It’s not our fault.  I blame my mother-in-law (or should I say credit?).

Before I even married my husband, I knew that making pie from scratch was going to be an art that I wanted to master.  His mother, you see, had the gift of creating these masterpieces and at the end of many Sunday meals, they would be presented, savored, and devoured.

I was there.  A mere 16-year-old girlfriend.

I saw the look on my husband’s eyes when the pie came out.

I saw the look on my father-in-law’s eyes when the pie came out.

I also saw the family in my husband’s house melt into a blissful state upon tasting that first bite.

And, I saw the love that radiated around the table.

I learned then and there that I would need to figure this pie thing out.  As a new bride, my pies were a sad disappointment. Crust making was torture.  My husband persevered, never criticizing my attempts.  Perhaps he knew he still had his mother’s pies as a default.  Or, maybe he was praying that eventually I would get there.  Really, I think he was just grateful that I was trying.

It’s taken years, and my pie making art is one of the few things I will openly say that I’m pretty good at.  There are days that no matter what, a crust won’t take shape and I’ll throw it in the garbage and start over (or decide to make a box cake instead).  There are days when I can’t find my rolling-pin cover and I have to cut off the toes of a sock to stretch over the pin.  And, there are days when I overcook the apples turning them to applesauce.

But, on those good pie days. . .

oh man. . .

my husband is like putty in my hands.

Shari 🙂

Savory Summer Zucchini Cashew Soup

Image

Miraculously, I’ve been able to continue to eat clean since this summer when I completed the Ultimate Reset with my daughter Lauren.  I just can’t seem to imagine any other way to make and eat food now.  My body craves natural food from the earth without additives and preservatives.  I can not even begin to tell you how my entire being has been transformed since all of this all of this has taken place.  I think back to the day I posted about how my body was so out of synch with my mind and soul back in July and I know that I am blessed.  Truly, Lauren has changed my life by coaching me to wellness.  You can read this post here.

Well, I’m a regular at the farmers’ markets now.  I planted my own garden this summer, but neglected to water it. . . so, um. . . everything kinda died.  I’ve decided to support our local gardeners now. 🙂

Zucchini is in abundance right now.  My generous neighbor, Linda, brings us her overflow and it’s the cheapest vegetable at the market.  This recipe is an alteration of one from the Reset.  I have a lot of trouble following a recipe as I have to change it by adding what I like.  Maybe that’s part of my creative soul working at it’s best.

Anyhow, this soup is so fabulous.  You would never think it was so good for you.  It’s filling and just warms you up inside.  What’s better is you can add whatever you’d like to make it “yours”.  Zucchini loves other flavors! There will also be plenty left over for lunches throughout the week.  Ya gotta love a quick, healthy lunch!

Here is the recipe, but be brave and tweak it to your whatever your heart desires (or with what you have on hand):

Savory Summer Zucchini Cashew Soup

Ingredients

1 mega giant zucchini (or a few medium-sized OR several small ones)

1 – 2 cups of unsalted cashews

1-2 cups of vegetable broth (made from scratch or try Rapunzel brand soup base)

1 or 2 red onions

garlic (fresh cloves or use chopped garlic from a jar – fresh is better)

Himalayan salt and any other herbal seasoning you like

fresh basil

fresh corn and Italian parsley for topping

Directions

Roast cashews on a cookie sheet in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Then soak cashews in water for 30 – 60 minutes.  This softens them for blending.

Wash and dry zucchini.  Seed and cut into one inch chunks leaving the skin on.  Cut onion into chunks.

Steam the zucchini and onions until easy to pierce with a fork.  (I had to do this in shifts as it all does not fit in the steamer at one time.)

Drain water from cashews.  In blender, puree cashews, zucchini, onions, garlic, basil and broth until smooth.  I had 3 blender loads of ingredients, so know that this makes a nice amount of soup.

Pour into large soup pan and cook on low.  Add salt and herbal seasonings (if you wish) to taste.

We like to add freshly cut corn off the cob and chopped Italian parsley once our bowls are full.  It just looks so dang pretty that you hate to dig in.  Presentation is always key!

Way yummy.  You will be hoarding zucchini from now on.

I promise.

Shari :-))