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

Cornbread Stuffing- Tis the Season

Stuffing. Oh stuffing. Easily my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner. And then I want it all holiday season. Along with all the other carbs that come with this time of year. I’m decidedly trying not to do things like continue to eat holiday food for the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas since I know from past experience it can be a slippery slope– what starts as one piece of persimmon bread for dessert in late November becomes three pieces of persimmon bread, a slice of apple pie, a slice of pumpkin pie and five chocolate chip cookies by the new year. I don’t want that tolerance/numbness to sugar to build up in my body as it has in the past. But. But. I don’t see why that means I can’t share my stuffing recipe with anyone out there who is throwing a dinner party this holiday season, or just happens to want a week-long supply of stuffing because he or she has the proper amount of all-in holiday attitude to be able to handle it. That doesn’t mean I’m condoning gorging on sweets (or stuffing for that matter) on any sort of regular basis. As a nutritional therapist, I know way too much about how our bodies handle sugar to suggest that. But, I am first and foremost of the school of thought that the holidays are made for traditions, that many of those traditions involve food that is sometimes rich and sticks to your ribs, and that it is ok to indulge in the treats that make you the happiest. So here is one of my favorite recipes that has become tradition. I’ve been working on it for a few years and feel I’ve perfected it to the point where it is share-worthy this year. For the cornbread, I base my recipe off the Alber’s cornbread box recipe, but I modify it to use olive oil instead of vegetable oil and I cut the sugar in half, replacing it with maple syrup. I also use more cornmeal and less wheat flour than the original recipe. It’s these little tweaks that allow me to tell myself I can still be a nutritionist and eat my favorite things. At least that’s how I choose to see it.

Indulge and enjoy!! More holiday recipes to come.

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Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups cornmeal

1 1/2 cups flour

1/4 cup raw sugar

1/4 cup  maple syrup

1 Tbs. baking powder

2 tsp. salt

2/3 cup olive oil (or good quality unsalted butter, melted)

2 large eggs

2 cups liquid (you can use milk if you don’t have a problem with it, you can use organic unsweetened soy milk or almond milk or even a combination of milk and water)

1 large onion, diced

3 large celery stalks, diced

3 large carrots, diced

1 large apple, peeled and cubed

1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins

4 sage leaves, chopped

olive oil for cooking

2 tsp. fresh thyme

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp. honey

2-3 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth)

Grease a 9 x 13 inch rectangular baking dish with butter or oil. Preheat oven to 400. Mix cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar and baking powder with a wooden spoon. In a separate bowl, beat together oil or butter, maple syrup, eggs and milk. Combing wet and dry ingredients. Stir well to combine. Pour into greased baking dish. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until edges are golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cornbread cool for 15 minutes, then slice it into cubes and set aside.

Turn oven down to 350. In a large stock pot, heat 1 Tbs. olive oil over medium high heat. Add in onion, celery and carrot. Season with thyme, sage, salt and pepper to taste. Stir well. Sauté 10 minutes, until onions are translucent and start to brown. Add in apples and cranberries or raisins. Cook another 5 minutes. Add in the honey and stir well. Transfer veggies mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in the pot and add in half the cornbread cubes, stirring well to coat. Continue to toast, stirring every few minutes, until cornbread starts to brown. Pour into a bowl and heat another Tbs. olive oil and repeat with the other half of the cornbread cubes. Remove from heat. Pour all the cornbread cubes and the veggie mixture back into the stock pot and still well. Pour in 2-3 cups chicken or veggie broth to add moisture. Pour a little, then stir to see how much the cornbread soaks up. You want to just moisten it, not drown it. It is normal for some of the cornbread to fall apart and become crumbly. This is still delicious.

Transfer mixture to a casserole dish and bake at 350 for 20 minutes with a cover on and 20 minutes without a cover.

Enjoy alone or as a side dish and definitely with gravy!

Serves 10-12

 

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.

 

Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Chèvre

For the weekend– this is the quickest, easiest crowd-pleasing appetizer I know. Top it with a little balsamic honey glaze, and you’re golden!

 

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Ingredients: 

20-30 large medjool dates

16 oz. plain goat cheese (chèvre)

20-30 piece high quality, center cut bacon

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 375. Use a pairing knife to slice each date open on one side and remove the pit. Make sure you keep half of the date intact (so it looks a little like a hot dog bun). Take a teaspoon full of goat cheese, roll into a ball, and stuff into each date. It’s ok if it overflows a bit. Next Wrap each goat cheese stuffed date with a piece of bacon, making sure it wraps all the way around. It is so worth it to splurge on the bacon. Really, it makes all the difference. If you’re in the Seattle area, go to the Ballard farmer’s market on Sunday and get bacon from Skagit River Ranch. It tastes like candy.

Arrange dates on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, until bacon is crispy.

Meanwhile, heat balsamic in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Once it begins to simmer, stir in honey, reduce to medium low, and let cook about 8 minutes, until it thickens. When dates are done, arrange on a platter and drizzle with glaze.

Serves 12-16 as an appetizer.

 

Turmeric Eggs with Tomatoes and Caramelized Onions

I love eggs. I love them for breakfast, for brunch, for lunch, for dinner. I love them prepared any which way. My go to breakfast is a fried egg over potatoes and other veggies or a scramble with whatever I have in the fridge. Yesterday morning I mixed up my usual plain eggs by adding turmeric. I didn’t mean to put in as much turmeric as I did (the spice jar didn’t have a shaker top and my attempts to gingerly shake out just a bit failed), but it turned out to be a happy accident. The eggs turn a deep yellow orange and the caramelized onions and tomatoes really balance the unique nuttiness and warmth of the turmeric. With the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric, the healthy fat from the avocado and good quality eggs, this is a fast and simple meal that feels good any time of day!

 

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Ingredients:

1/2 medium onion, thinly slice

1 tsp. olive oil

salt and pepper

1/4 tsp. chili flakes

3/4 tsp. turmeric

1/2 tsp. honey or sugar

1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1 medium tomato, chopped

2 eggs (preferably organic and free range)

2 Tbs. cream, half and half or milk

1/2 large avocado

 

Heat olive oil over medium high in a medium frying pan. Add onions and cook 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until they start to become translucent. Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper, the chili flakes and turmeric. Stir well. Add honey or sugar (whichever flavor you prefer–I use honey) and the balsamic. This will help with the caramelization process. You might be wondering if the flavors of turmeric and balsamic vinegar clash. I get it. It sounds weird. But I promise it isn’t. Cook down for 2-3 minutes and add the tomato. Crack the eggs into a medium bowl, add the dairy of your choice (or a dairy alternative if you want) and whisk well. Pour the eggs over the onions and tomatoes in the pan. Let sit for 30 seconds before beginning to scramble gently. Fold the eggs around for about a minute, or until done. Top with avocado. Enjoy!

 

Serves 1. Or 2 as a snack :).

 

Lemon Raisin Scones

I’ve made these scones in several different variations, all with tasty results. They are inspired, once again, from one of my favorite cookbooks, A Homemade Life. You can try lemon raspberry, whole wheat flour and mixed berry, ginger apricot, or even chocolate chip! Scones are hard to mess up. Just add roughly half a cup of your fruit or other mix ins, and if you’re using something moist like fresh berries, cut down on the amount of half and half in the recipe by about 2 tsps. Play around with it!

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour (or 1 cup all purpose and 1 cup whole wheat)

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

4 1/2 Tbs. cold, cubed, unsalted butter

3 Tbs. sugar

2 Tbs. lemon zest

1/2 cup golden raisins

2 Tbs. lemon juice

1/2 cup half and half

1 egg

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Brunch happiness

Preheat oven to 425. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add butter cubes and mix with fingers or a pastry cutter until butter becomes small, pea-sized pieces. Add sugar, lemon zest and raisins. Stir well. Beat egg with lemon juice and half and half. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon until it gets too sticky. Switch to using your hands to bring the dough together into a loosely formed ball. Turn out onto a floured surface. Use your hands to press the dough into a flat circle, about 8-9 inches across. Divide the dough into halves, then quarters, then eighths. Grease a cookie sheet with butter. Arrange scones on sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until just barely golden on top. You’ll want to check the bottoms because those will brown before the tops. If the bottoms are brown, take them out. Serve warm with butter and jam or lemon curd.

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Cherry Chocolate variation

Makes 8.