Soda Bread and Dreams of Ireland

I tend to organize my memories by meals. Chances are if I’ve been on a journey of any kind, I can remember what I ate every day of the trip. I guess it comes along with having a food- oriented brain– when I’m out of my everyday life, flavors and conversations had around the table become that much more vivid. Something about being away from other distractions and belongings brings the focus back to the basics of human livelihood.

Right now, I’m waiting for grad school classes to begin in a seemingly unending fog of hot, humid and stagnating L.A. air. In this environment and time of year that does not spark my appetite or excitement to be in the kitchen, I find my thoughts escaping to the crisp air and fluorescent green of the Irish countryside where I wandered for two weeks back in March. In addition to the friendliest people you can imagine, Ireland offers some of the freshest, most scrumptious, made-from-scratch meals. It seems to be the Isle’s best-kept secret. Shhhh..don’t tell or the small towns will become more overrun with tourists than they already are. In each tiny village, my friends and I enjoyed grass-fed steak, farm-fresh chicken, raw oysters, and the most brilliantly yellow butter, all for undeniably reasonable prices.

Among all this variety, one staple remains constant with each meal in Ireland : soda bread. Crunchy on the outside, soft and often gooey on the inside and made to be used as a vehicle for the mango-colored butter. When I returned from my trip, I set about coming up with my own version so that I could mix up a batch, brew a cup of Irish Breakfast tea and indulge in dreams of cow-spotted hills, pub music sessions and Guinness stew.

This recipe is so quick and easy. You only have to dirty one bowl. Bake a loaf and enjoy with butter, jam and lemon curd. Or as a savory treat alongside soup!

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Ingredients:

2 cups white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup old fashioned oats

2 Tbs. coarse corn meal

1/4 cup oat bran

1.5 tsp. sea salt

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 cup brown sugar

8 Tbs. unsalted Kerrygold butter, chilled

1.5 cups yogurt without pectin (Trader Joe’s sells one) or Keifer

 

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a flat cookie sheet with butter.

In a large bowl, combine flours, oats, oat bran, cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Mix well with a wooden spoon.

Cut butter into small pieces and use your hands to combine it with the dry ingredients until it is pea size (just like making a pie crust).

Pour in yogurt or keifer and mix dough into a ball. Add more yogurt if it’s too dry. Just enough to bring it together. Place ball of dough on cookie sheet. It absolutely does not have to look perfect. Just like a semi-round, sort of lumpy on the top loaf of bread. Bake for 35-40 minutes until top and bottom are golden brown. Center should be very moist.

Let cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes and serve warm.

 

 

 

 

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Yam Carrot Latkes

This is one of my favorite recipes to make for the girls I nanny. Everyone loves latkes and I use it as an opportunity to sneak some colored veggies into their food, which isn’t easy. I usually get a “you had to put carrots in them again?” comment, but they are still consumed quickly, so I think it’s working. Plus I love them. They take some time up front, but they last for a week in the fridge and taste good for breakfast with eggs on top or alongside anything you might be having for lunch. I’m a big fan of recipes I can make once and eat all week. Efficiency is key!

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Ingredients:

5 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled

3 medium yams, peeled

4 large carrots, peeled

1 large onion, finely chopped

1.5 tsp. sea salt

black pepper to taste

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ginger

dash chili flakes

2 eggs

3 Tbs. flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

coconut oil for frying

Use a box grater to shred all of the veggies. This will take a good chunk of time, maybe 15 minutes. And your arms might get tired. But I promise it’s worth it. As you collect the shredded veggies from your cutting board, squeeze the liquid out of them before placing them in a large bowl. Once you collect all the shredded veggies in a bowl, add the spices, eggs and flour. Mix together well.

Heat a frying pan over medium high heat. Add 2 tsp. coconut oil for each batch of latkes fried. Form potato mixture into patties, about 3-4 inches in diameter, and fry, about 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Once you fry for 5 minutes on the second side, turn the heat down to medium low and put a lid on the frying pan. Continue to cook on medium low for 6-8 minutes until cooked through. Repeat until you have a big ole batch!

Fried Chicken Skin with Garlic and French Bread

This probably sounds like a very strange dish, but I promise it’s delicious! Growing up, I always found it bizarre how much my mom enjoyed eating the skin off of roast or rotisserie chicken. I had a limited palate for chicken and only liked the white meat. As I grew up I discovered the joys of the flavor (and price) of dark meat and finally, realized just how delicious the skin truly is! Only one thing could possibly make the crispy, herby skin of an oven-roasted chicken more delicious. That’s right. Making it more crispy with just a bit more butter in a frying pan. I had a rotisserie chicken in my fridge the other day and woke up craving the skins fried in butter for breakfast, even though it’s not something I’d ever had before. Must be my southern roots coming through, y’all (but I promise I don’t use as much butter and oil as Paula Deen). As I was frying up the chicken, I thought it needed something to round it out. I grabbed a few slices of chewy “tordu” baguette I had picked up at Honoré bakery in Ballard the day before, sliced it into cubes and tossed it in the frying pain along with roughly chopped garlic. I let it get crispy on the outside then topped the whole thing with an egg. And voila! Breakfast, lunch or dinner. You could also top it with fresh baby arugula or sautéed kale.

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Ingredients:

1 Tbs. unsalted butter

2 tsp. olive oil

1 cup cooked chicken skins (from roasted or rotisserie chicken)

3 large cloves chopped garlic

1 cup large cubes of chewy, sourdough bread

salt and pepper

1/2 tsp. oregano

1/4 tsp. red chili flakes

1/2 tsp. rosemary

2 large eggs

Melt butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken skins and garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, for five minutes. Add bread, oregano, red chili flakes, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to fry over medium high until bread is crispy–about 5-7 more minutes. Divide among two plates.

Fry or poach or soft boil eggs and serve on top of chicken skin “hash”.

Serves 2

Roasted Vegetable Platter

Whew!! It’s been a long long time! This time of year always throws me. My to-do list gets longer and longer and my motivation for creative endeavors dwindles as my focus becomes day to day health and wellness and powering through the holiday hangover. Ever since I was very young, I have been especially in tune with the seasons and how they change my outlook on life, even in California when it can feel like summer all year long. I know I’m not alone in this January blues–there is something stagnant about this time of year no matter where you live. A friend and mentor described this beginning of the year, middle of winter phenomenon as “Januaryitis” and I couldn’t agree more. The only way I’ve found to snap out of it is to bite the bullet and begin planning and creating once more, allowing for new ideas to flow. At first, it’s painful to pull myself away from watching Saturday Night Live reruns after a long, rainy day, but eventually I get up and start by doing small things like organizing my bookshelf or getting rid of old clothes. Next, in a window of sunshine, I’ll take a walk, then come home and make a batch of bone broth and chicken soup. And suddenly. Bam! The inspiration is back and I remember how much I love cooking and sharing recipes. So here I am with a very simple guide to my favorite way to prepare veggies. I’ve included roast veggies in posts before, but I wanted to do a comprehensive guide to many kinds.

P. S. I’m working on launching a new website for my work as a Nutritional Therapist. It’s been in the works for about a month now and I’m planning on publishing the most basic form of it by the end of the month. I’m excited for this new endeavor! If you know anyone looking to make changes in diet and lifestyle or address a health or digestive concern, please send them my way. I will post the link on this site once the new site is live.

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Ingredients:

I large head cauliflower

5 large yams or sweet potatoes

5 large yukon gold potatoes

6 medium zucchini

2 large heads broccoli

3 bell peppers of any color

plenty of olive oil

salt and pepper

herbs of your choosing–rosemary, oregano and thyme are great, as well as a dash of chili flakes

Preheat oven to 400 F

For cauliflower: Cut the stem and leaves off the head of cauliflower. Next, set it on its end where the stem joins the florets and cut into slabs as if you are cutting a loaf of bread. Cut each slab into bit sized pieces. Place pieces in a colander and rinse well. Dry with  clean dish cloth or paper towel. Put the cauliflower pieces in a large bowl with 3 Tbs olive oil (yes, that seems like a lot, but this is a lot of cauliflower and enough oil is key here) and toss well. Season with salt and pepper. Pour onto a large, rimmed baking sheet and spread out so that none of the pieces are on top of one another. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, then flip each piece to brown on the other side. Bake 20 more minutes. Cauliflower should be cripsy and golden brown.

For yams/ sweet potatoes: Scrub well. Leave skins on if using organic. Cut off the end, cut in half lengthwise, then cut each half lengthwise again. Cut into quarter-moon pieces about 1/4 inch think. Toss in a bowl with 2 Tbs. olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a large baking dish for 35-45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

For potatoes: Here’s where the herbs come into play. Scrub potatoes and cut in the same way as the sweet potatoes. Toss in a large bowl with 2 Tbs. olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs of your choosing. Bake for 35-45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

For zucchini: Wash, dry and cut off ends. Cut in half lengthwise and then into half-moons. Toss with 1 Tbs. olive oil, salt and pepper, pour into a baking dish and roast 25-35 minutes, stirring halfway through.

For broccoli: Rinse and dry, cut off very end, but then cut rest of stem and roast along with florets. Cut head of broccoli into bite-sized florets. Toss with 2 Tbs. olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet in one layer. Roast for 30-35 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

For peppers: Wash and dry. Cut in half and remove stem and pith. Cut into 1/4-1/3 inch strips. Toss with 1 Tbs olive oil, salt and pepper, Roast on a baking sheet for 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Arrange all veggies on a platter when done! Serve and enjoy!

Breakfast (or Lunch or Dinner) Kale and Potatoes

My go to meal these days is some sort of potato hash topped with an egg. In it’s most basic form, it can just be potatoes, onions and spices, but jazzed up with extra veggies and perhaps a little bacon (just sayin’…cause, why not?) it becomes a cost-effective, healthy and satisfying meal. And it takes very little time out of your busy life! Plus you can make a big batch on the weekend and eat it for several days. This is a basic recipe with kale and garlic. My favorite variation is to add sweet potatoes, bell pepper, onions and carrots.

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Ingredients:

6 medium organic yukon gold or red potatoes

4 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 Tbs. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

a few shakes of red chili flakes

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1 bunch green kale, de-stemmed and broken into bite-sized pieces

Wash potatoes well. Cut each potato in half, lengthwise, and then in half lengthwise again, so that when you slice it into thin pieces, they look like quarter-moons. if you have small fingerling potatoes, which you can also use, those can be half or full moons :). Heat oil and butter in a large frying pan. Add minced garlic over medium-high heat and sauté until it just barely starts to brown. Add potatoes, spices and salt and pepper, starting with a few pinces of each. Cook, stirring every few minutes, so that the potatoes brown a bit. After 10 minutes, add the kale, turn the heat down to medium low, and cover the pan. Continue to cook for 8- 10 minutes until potatoes and kale are tender. Taste to see if you want to add more salt. You probably will. Potatoes suck up salt like a sponge.

Fry or soft boil or poach an egg, begin sure to leave the yolk nice and runny and pop it on top of a plateful of these. Or serve at dinner alongside a main dish of beef or chicken.

Serves 4 for one meal or just you for many meals!

Spicy Tomatoes and Kale with Fried Eggs

Andddd…it’s officially winter in my book. I don’t care what the calendar says– as long as the clocks have been turned back and it’s getting dark at 4:45 pm, it’s time to hunker down. So I’ll continue with my theme of warm and cozy recipes adding spices that will give your sinuses a jolt of life. At least for a few minutes.

I’ve been eating eggs for breakfast most days while doing the Whole30, so I’ve been eating them all different ways to keep it interesting. The secret to this particular recipe (and any egg recipe really) is to splurge on the best quality eggs you can get. That’s how you get these bright yellow-orange yolks and the flavor difference is very significant. I’ve been buying Vital Farms eggs from Fred Meyer when I can’t get to the farmer’s market. They are best eggs I’ve ever found in a grocery store and from the looks of their website and the little newsletter you get when you buy the eggs, it seems like they are the real deal.

This dish is a simple and delicious answer to a winter breakfast, lunch or dinner.

 

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Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic, chopped

olive oil for cooking

1/2 tsp. oregano

1/4 tsp. red chili flakes

1/4 tsp. cumin

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups chopped organic canned tomatoes and their juice (I say canned because it’s winter, but if you happen to have frozen or jarred tomatoes from summer time, use those!)

4 large leaves of kale (any variety), de-stemmed and chopped

4 eggs, organic and pasture raised if possible

Coat a large frying pan with olive oil and add garlic, heating over medium high. Once garlic just barely begins to brown (after about 3 minutes), add spices, salt and pepper and stir. Add in tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Turn down to medium low and let cook 5 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper to you taste. Add in chopped kale, stir well, cover, and let cook down 5 minutes. Remove lid and once again taste. You will most likely need to add more salt (both kale and tomatoes can take a lot of salt to flavor) and you might find you want more spice. My spice tolerance is wimpy. Once you’re happy with the flavor, divide the tomato kale mixture among two shallow bowls. Wipe the frying pan clean with a paper towel.

Reheat the frying pan over medium high with olive oil, coconut oil or butter. Fry your eggs, two at a time, to your liking and serve over the stewed tomatoes.

Serves 2.

Creamy Spiced Oatmeal with Pumpkin Seeds and Figs

Here’s a perfect breakfast for a late fall morning. The days are getting so short up here in the north and we haven’t even changed the clocks back yet! I guess the plus side of turning back the clocks is that we’ll have a little more light in the mornings. For the past few weeks, I’ve found it difficult to adjust to waking up in the pitch dark. In the summer I forget that the flip side of  the long long days of a Northwest July are the dark days of fall and winter. But warm breakfasts and my vitamin D lamp are doing wonders. Plus, I appreciate this drastic change of seasonal light and the rainstorms rolling in when I think of the constant summers of my drought-stricken home state. This is the time of year when I start to miss California sunshine, but I have to be grateful for the well-hydrated town I live in and for the brilliant afternoon pauses in the rain when the sky opens up to reveal snow-capped Olympics over the sound. I get to visit L.A. soon enough. I only wish I could bring some rain with me.

Now, back to the food at hand. I am actually beginning the Whole 30 challenge today (basically paleo eating for a month–yikes) in an attempts to nip my seasonally typical bad eating (rainy weather + holidays= sugar consumption for me) in the bud. I’m also determined to prove that I can walk the walk of the program in Nutritional Therapy I just completed last week. This program trains practitioners to work with clients on the foundations of nutrition in order to support balance, health and holistic well-being. I am very excited to be starting my journey as  Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, but don’t feel like I can very well suggest to a client that they cut out all white sugar, when I can’t seem to mange that successfully in my own life for any extended period of time. So I’m more motivated than I’ve been in the past.

That’s not to say I won’t still be making delicious food this month. On this particular whole food challenge, it is suggested that you not eat grains of any form. So I’ll be trying that and won’t be having this oatmeal for a while. But in everyday life, I would suggest this oatmeal recipe to any client as a whole food alternative to sugary cereal, yogurt and granola (which can often be very sweet) or toast. The fiber in oats sustains you throughout the morning, and toasting them in coconut oil add an extra satisfying, stick to your ribs element that provides essential, healthy saturated fats that keep you full longer.

In the upcoming months, I’m going to be incorporating more nutritional advice into my blog and recipes and transitioning my recipe and cooking lesson mini business into a Nutritional Therapy Practice that includes recipes and cooking advice along with a client based practice focused on helping others discover vitality through food.

I’m excited to share with you.

Ok. Finally–the recipe!

 

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Ingredients:

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (preferable organic)

2 tsp. virgin coconut oil

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cardamom

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. black pepper

2 cups water

1 1/4 cups milk, cream or coconut milk

2 tsp. honey

4 figs, fresh or frozen (organic)

2 Tbs. raw pumpkin seeds

Melt coconut oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add in oats and spices. Stir with a wooden spoon until spices are aromatic and oats just start to brown. Pour in water and cream or milk. Turn heat down to medium low. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 5-8 minutes, until oats are tender but not mushy. Chop up figs and stir them in. Remove from heat and stir in honey. Divide among 2-3 bowls, depending on how hungry your family or guest are. Or, if it’s just for you, take you fair share and save the rest to be reheated later! Top each bowl with a sprinkling of cinnamon and pumpkin seeds.

Serves 2-3.