Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread in cast iron skillet

As some of you may know, my mom’s parents were from Ireland. Nanny was a wonderful home cook, bringing her Irish food traditions from Belfast to Brooklyn where her Italian, German, and Jewish neighbors influenced her cooking in America.

Irish Soda Bread sliced on cutting boardBut Nanny wasn’t the only one to bring Irish food traditions, my grandfather ruled the kitchen on weekend mornings. According to my mom, Saturday mornings would be met with plenty of hot tea, eggs, bacon (or ham or sausages), potato farls, and soda bread. My grandfather would fry bacon, set it aside, then in the same pan, immediately fry the eggs in the bacon fat.  From there, in went slices of plain soda bread, fried quickly on both sides until lightly brown.  Can you imagine?  Heaven!!!  Unfortunately, my grandfather died before I was born, but I still grew up enjoying his Irish Soda Bread, first made by my mother, and now my dad.

My father has tweaked the recipe over the years, as I’m sure my grandfather had tweaked his own recipe. My Irish Soda Bread in cast iron skilletguess is that if you ask 10 different people how they make Irish soda bread you will get 10 different recipes. What is generally accepted throughout is a combination of flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk.  The baking soda and buttermilk give this quick bread its rise. Another common practice is cutting a cross deep on top. Tradition states that the cross is to let the devil out and ward off evil. Practically speaking, it also helps the heat penetrate the center of the loaf as well as providing the guidelines to break the bread up beautifully when served. My mom recalls my grandfather usually making plain soda bread, and only occasionally making a sweeter version with raisins. This makes sense as years ago the addition of sugar, dried fruits, or eggs would have been a treat and only done on special occasions.

Irish Soda Bread with a cup of tea.The recipe below is my version of my dad’s recipe, slightly sweet and full of raisins. This loaf is perfect for breakfast, snacking, in lunch boxes, and definitely with a cup of tea or two. I do make other soda breads, a hearty Brown Soda Bread (made with whole wheat flour) and plain White Soda Bread that is unsweetened and wonderful with soups and stews- or fried eggs and bacon. Those recipes will show up here, but first I’d like to introduce this lovely raisin studded Irish Soda Bread.

Irish Soda Bread in cast iron skillet

Irish Soda Bread

  • Servings: 1 large loaf
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Ingredients:
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup raisins or currants (my dad loads his with raisins and uses up to 2 cups)
1¼ -1¾ cups buttermilk

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 450°F.

In a large bowl use a pastry blender to cut butter into flour.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add the raisins or currants and mix well.

Pour in 1¼ cups buttermilk and mix, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be soft, slightly sticky, but not too wet. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead it just enough to completely bring it together. Shape into a round about 1½ -inches deep. Transfer to cast iron skillet or lined baking sheet. Using a sharp knife or bench scraper cut a cross on it, deep- but not completely through.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400°F and continue baking for an additional 30 minutes. The bread is done when it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Allow to cool slightly before enjoying!

Irish Soda Bread Ingredients: flour, unsalted butter, sugar, salt, baking soda, raisins, and buttermilk.
This is all you need for Irish Soda Bread: flour, unsalted butter, sugar, salt, baking soda, raisins, and buttermilk.
Using a pastry blender to cut butter into flour.
Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour.
Adding sugar, salt, and baking powder to flour/butter mixture
Add sugar, salt, and baking soda to flour/butter mixture. Still well to combine.
Adding raisins to dry ingredients in bowl.
Add raisins to dry ingredients.
Pouring buttermilk into bowl of dry ingredients.
Pour buttermilk into dry ingredients and mix well.
Irish soda bread dough forming in bowl.
The flour mixture is coming together to form a soft, but not too sticky dough.
Irish soda bread dough in bowl
The dough is soft, not too sticky or wet.
Irish soda bread dough with cross cut into it in cast iron skillet.
Transfer dough to a cast iron skillet or sheet pan. Using a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut a deep cross into the dough- almost completely through, but not all the way. Bake in a 450°F oven for 15 minutes, then lower temperature to 400°F and bake for another 30 minutes.
Irish Soda Bread in cast iron skillet
Out of the oven! The bread is done when golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when rapped with your knuckles.

 

Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream

Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream

Butternut SquashButternut squash has a long shelf life- which works well for me when I receive large quantities of it as part of my CSA! As you can imagine the growing season in New England is short, though our local farm does an amazing job of squeezing every last bit of sunshine and warmth out of earth and sky to make the harvest last as long as possible. In fact, they do such a good job, that the farm offers an “Extended Harvest” share, with pick ups well into November.

Each week from June through November I am the happy recipient of culinary treasures… fruits and veggies of all sorts. The spring and summer pick ups Cabbagesgenerally contain perishable produce that has to be dealt with immediately… eaten, frozen, or canned for future meals. The November shares are far more forgiving in terms of shelf life; onions, garlic, potatoes, and winter squash can live on my kitchen counter or in a cool spot in the basement for a long while before I turn my attention to them. Cabbages, radishes, and carrots will survive almost the entire winter in the produce drawers of my fridge.

Butternut squash is one of my favorite winter veggies and incredibly versatile. It can be baked, roasted, or turned into soup, pairing well with many different types of flavors. According to The Flavor Bible, the wide range of combinations include (but is definitely not limited to):
Butternut squash + bacon + maple syrup + sage
Butternut squash + cilantro + coconut + ginger
Butternut squash + ricotta cheese + sage

Below is my take on Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream. The tart apples are beautiful with the rich nutty squash, while the cider’s sweetness rounds everything out. I usually use chicken stock, but vegetable stock will work equally well if you’d like to keep this strictly vegetarian.

Do you have a favorite winter vegetable that you like to use? What do you with it?

Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream

Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream

  • Servings: 10
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*adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients:
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ½ lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
2 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
½ cup chopped peeled carrot
½ cup chopped celery
2 small granny smith apples, peeled, cored, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
½ teaspoon crumbled dried sage leaves
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 ½ cups apple cider, divided
2/3 cup plain greek yogurt or crème fraiche

Instructions:
Melt butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium high heat. Add squash, leeks, carrots, and celery; sauté until slightly softened, about 15 minutes. Mix in apples, thyme, and sage. Add stock and 1 cup cider. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer until apples are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly.

Using an immersion blender, puree soup. Alternatively, soup can be pureed, in batches, in a blender.

Make cider cream. Boil remaining ½ cup cider in heavy small saucepan until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Cool. Place yogurt or crème fraiche in small bowl. Whisk in reduced cider. (Soup and cider cream can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and refrigerate.)

Bring soup to simmer. Ladle soup into bowls. Dollop with cider cream and serve.

Squash, leeks, carrot, and celery in dutch oven.
Melt butter in heavy large saucepan. Add squash, leeks, carrot, and celery.
Adding apples and herbs to sautéed vegetables in dutch oven.
Sauté until veggies are softened, 15 minutes or so, then add apples, thyme, and sage.
Adding stock and cider to sautéed veggies and apples.
Add stock and 1 cup of cider. Bring to a boil.
Simmering veggies, apples, and herbs in stock and cider.
Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until apples are tender.
Pureed Butternut Squash Soup
Through the magic of the blogosphere, the soup has been pureed. Actually, I used an immersion blender, but couldn’t get an action pick- not enough hands! If you don’t have an immersion blender, puree the soup in batches in a regular blender.
Cider syrup, plain yogurt, and whisk
Boil remaining 1/2 cup cider until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes.

Cider Cream

Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream
Bring soup to a simmer, laden into bowls and dollop with cider cream.

 

Miso Glazed Fish and Bok Choy

Miso Glazed Halibut

A preschool teacher once declared about my now 15yr old son, “you better have a plan, because if you don’t, he does!” The same sentiment holds true for my January calendarentire household. With two active teenage boys, and one “sign me up for everything” tween, things can quickly get derailed. In my attempts to contain the chaos as much possible, I have a general plan or template for dinners each week. This is so helpful when grocery shopping; daily trips to the store are only occasional, and money is saved because I’m shopping more efficiently with menus in mind. I’ve learned the hard way, that if I don’t have a solid dinner plan in place by the time the kids get home from school, we’re probably doing take out!

That said, things do come up and this is a very flexible “schedule.” Nothing is set in stone. It really just serves as a general guideline and helps me organize my shopping (and mind) for the week. Here’s a look at my weekly template for dinners:
Meatless Monday– Fish
Taco Tuesday– Build your own tacos, fajitas, burritos, etc. I usually set out a protein, with loads of grilled/sautéed veggies, rice, beans, tortillas, cheese, guacamole, and salsa.
Wednesday– Pasta
Thursday– Soup or stew (especially in fall/winter)
Friday– Take-out, and by the end of the week I’m ready for it.
Saturday– My husband usually grills (even in the snow!)
SundayHomemade Pizza

Meatless Monday usually means fish, like Fast and Crunchy Baked Cod or fillets simply seasoned with salt and pepper and briefly roasted in the oven.Ingredients for miso glazed fish: white miso, rice vinegar, vermouth, sugar, black vinegar Recently, Miso Glazed Fish has made several successful appearances. The glaze is slightly sweet/salty and perfect for firm fish like swordfish, halibut, and salmon. Sea bass and sable (black cod) would be wonderful as well, but they are expensive compared to the others. The dish is quick and easy. Popped into the oven, it is done in no time. Serve with rice and something green. We love it with bok choy sautéed with ginger, garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes (recipe follows miso glazed fish).

Note about the photos- You’ll see that there is no beautifully plated finished product. This is the result of the aforementioned active teens and tween. As soon as the fish came out of the oven, I was able to quickly snap a few pics before it was gobbled up. Then it was off to drop one son at basketball, pick the other up from his basketball practice, and get my daughter to ballet. In my ideal world, the final shot would have been a gorgeous piece of fish, lightly sprinkled with sliced green onions, presented on a bed of rice, with bright green bok choy on the side. Use your imagination!  You can see it, right?

Bok Choy
On the bright side, the bok choy did make it into a serving bowl!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How about you? Do you have a general idea of what your dinners will look like throughout the week? Or, do you decide day by day?

Miso Glazed Halibut

Miso Glazed Fish

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons vermouth*
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
3 Tablespoons white miso
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon black vinegar
24oz firm fleshed fish (swordfish, halibut, sea bass, sable (black cod) salmon)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a small saucepan over medium heat, place vermouth, rice vinegar, white miso, sugar, and black vinegar. As the glaze warms, stir to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a parchment lined casserole or sheet pan place fish or fish fillets. With a pastry brush, off-set spatula, or spoon, glaze top and sides of fish. I always have glaze left over, so don’t feel the need to use it all.

Place fish in oven. Cook times will vary depending on thickness of the fish. I usually start checking at the 15 minute mark. The fish is done when it is opaque in the center and easily flakes with a fork. Alternatively, you can place the fish under the broiler for approximately 6 minutes… but keep an eye on it, it can quickly burn.

*If you have sake, please feel free to use in place of vermouth.  But we don’t have sake, and I probably won’t buy an entire bottle just to have on hand for this dish.  Vermouth works well, as would dry sherry.

Vermouth, rice vinegar, white miso, sugar, and black vinegar in a small saucepan.
Put vermouth, rice vinegar, white miso, sugar, and black vinegar in a small saucepan.
Ingredients for miso glaze in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Place the saucepan over medium heat, and whisk the ingredients together until sugar dissolves.
Miso glaze in a saucepan
Miso glaze is done. Remove from heat and allow to cool briefly.
Halibut fillets in parchment lined casserole with miso glaze in the background.
The fillets are ready for the miso glaze.
A pastry brush glazes the top and sides of fish fillet.
Using a pastry brush, off-set spatula, or spoon, glaze the top and sides of the fish.
Raw miso glazed fish ready to go into the oven.
Place miso glazed fish into a 375°F oven. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until fish is opaque inside and can be easily flaked. Alternatively, place under a broiler for about 6 minutes, but remember to keep an eye on it! The glaze and fish can quickly burn.
Miso Glazed Halibut
Out of the oven… the fish looks done, but need to be sure.
Checking fish for doneness, opaque and easily flakes with a fork.
Checking for doneness… the fish is opaque and easily flakes with a fork.
IMG_8964
Quickly served and then off to basketball and ballet! No time for a beautifully styled shot…

 

 

Bok Choy

Sautéed Bok Choy with Ginger, Garlic, and Red Pepper Flakes

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients:
2 heads of bok choy, rinsed and chopped
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut in half
1 clove of garlic, peeled and smashed with the flat side of a knife
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes, stirring frequently for approximately 1 minute. The ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes are there to flavor the oil.

Add chopped bok choy to skillet, stirring so that it mingles with the oil. Reduce heat to medium low and cover. The water from rinsing the bok choy will help steam it. Cook for 3-5 minutes, checking and stirring occasionally.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

The bok choy will reduce down by quite a bit. The leaves will wilt and stems will be tender but retain some crunch. We happen to like the contrast of textures, but if you’d prefer more uniformity, give the stems a head start by adding them to the skillet first. A minute or so later, add the leafy part of the bok choy.

Chopped bok choy on cutting board with garlic clove, ginger, and red pepper flakes.
Rinse and chop the bok choy. Peel and cut a 1-inch piece of ginger in half. Peel a garlic clove and smash with the flat side of a knife. If you want a little bit of spice, you’ll also need a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes warming in a skillet.
In a large skillet over medium high heat, warm a tablespoon of vegetable oil with ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes for a minute or so. Watch carefully, so the garlic doesn’t burn.
Stir the bok choy, giving it a light coat of the flavored oil.
Stir in the bok choy so that all the pieces have had a chance to meet the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to medium low and cover.
Cooked bok choy in skillet
Cook for 3-5 minutes until leaves have wilted and stems are slightly tender, but retain a bit of crunch.

Bok Choy

Lentil Soup with Sausage and Kale

Lentil Soup in dutch oven with baguette on cutting board.

Happy New Year!

Many cultures have very specific foods they eat on New Year’s Day, foods that are believed to put the odds in your favor for a wonderful year.  So, if you’re superstitious, or don’t want to tempt fate, or just want to eat some delicious and healthy food, please read on!  As I gathered information, digging through recipes and stories about these traditional foods, a pattern emerged. Certain humble ingredients are likely to lead you to a year full of wealth and good fortune. And though each culture’s final dish was different than another’s, the basic building blocks were the same.

Chopped kale on cutting board.Some key elements include:
Leafy greens (kale, chard, collards): Represent economic fortune as the greens are thought to resemble paper currency.
Legumes (beans, peas, lentils): Also represent economic fortune; the tiny round legumes are symbolic of coins.
Pork: Full of flavor and fat, eating pork signifies wealth and prosperity.

When living in Virginia and North Carolina, my family and I always ate Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day. Hoppin’ John is a traditional southern one-pot meal made with Green Lentilsblack eyed peas, rice, and pork (bacon, ham hock, or fatback). We served it with greens on the side, usually collards. This year, after all the indulging between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my body needed a major reboot. Instead of Hoppin’ John for New Year’s Day, I tried something new. Using the same overall game plan… leafy greens, pork, and legumes, we kicked off the year with Lentil Soup with Sausage and Kale, healthy, but still full of good luck. Yes, I know there’s sausage in there, but really- it’s not a lot, less than 1oz per serving.

While the pork and kale will provide additional good fortune for the year, they are not necessary for the recipe. If you don’t want to add the sausage, don’t, but then do bump up the flavor by adding more garlic and other spices such as a bit more thyme, and perhaps red pepper flakes. Or maybe bacon or cubed ham steak is more your thing; either would be delicious. If you prefer a different green, try spinach. How about no greens? Add a bell pepper or turnips to the vegetable mix.

Individual bowl of lentil soup with sausage and kale.Hoppin’ John, a very special dish full of flavor and memories of our time spent down south, will remain in my arsenal of recipes, making an appearance once a year. On the other hand, this soup will be now be part of the regular rotation. Perfect for dinner with warm crusty bread, even tastier the next day for lunch at home or sent in a thermos to school or work. And who couldn’t use some help ensuring prosperity throughout the year, not just at the start?!?

I wish all of you a year full of health, good fortune, and delicious food shared with those you love!

Lentil Soup with Sausage and Kale, along with baguette.

Lentil Soup with Sausage and Kale

  • Servings: 10-12
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Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced carrots (about 3 carrots)
1 cup diced celery (about 3 stalks)
1 cup diced onion (about 1 medium onion)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 italian sausages, casings removed (I used 1 sweet and 1 spicy)
grape tomatoes (as many as you’d like)
2 cups green lentils, rinsed
8 cups water
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon thyme
1 bunch kale (stems removed), rinsed and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
In a dutch oven over medium high heat, warm olive oil. Add carrots, celery, and onion. Sauté vegetables for 5 minutes or until just tender. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add sausage, breaking meat up as it browns. When sausage is cooked, stir in tomatoes and lentils. Add water, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes-1 hour, until lentils are tender. During last 5 minutes of cooking, stir in chopped kale.

Check seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread.

Carrots, celery, onions, garlic, sausage and lentils with dutch oven
The basics of lentil soup… carrots, celery, onions, garlic, sausage and lentils. The spices, kale, and water are waiting on deck.
Carrots, celery, and onions are sautéing.
Sauté vegetables for 5 minutes, or until just tender.
Adding sausage to sautéed carrots, celery, and onion.
Add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks.
Adding green lentils to sausage and vegetable mixture.
Add the green lentils (and tomatoes) if using, stirring them into the sausage mixture. I forgot to add my tomatoes at this point, but remembered and added them while the soup was simmering.
Adding water to sausage, vegetable, and lentil mixture
Throw in a bay leaf and thyme. Add 8 cups of water to the sausage, vegetable, and lentil mixture.
Simmering lentil soup
Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45-60 minutes or until lentils are tender.
Adding chopped kale to lentil soup.
About 5 minutes before the soup is done, add the chopped kale.  Continue simmering the soup until kale is wilted, about 5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serving lentil soup from dutch oven, along with baguette on a cutting board.
Serve with crusty bread.

 

Homemade Gifts

Candied Peanuts

We are all so busy nowadays and quickly grabbing something from the store is an efficient and easy way to tick the boxes off your gift giving to do list;  you’ll get no argument from me!  But that’s what makes homemade gifts so special, taking the time to make something from scratch and presenting it to someone who also has a lot on their plate (no pun intended!). Think about teachers, neighbors, friends, hostesses, as well as those who help keep our worlds moving smoothly, like school bus drivers and postmen.  Those people (and their families) will appreciate the time spent creating thoughtful gifts for them.

Christmas is naturally a wonderful season to share homemade presents with those around us.  But these gifts work well all year round, anytime you would like to say “thank you” or just brighten someone’s day.  My passion lies in the kitchen, so baking gifts is where I turn. Your strength may lie in photography, flower arranging, knitting, crafting, gardening, etc.  If you’re able to, please consider sharing your talents!

Below are some of my favorite homemade gifts to give… nothing exotic, over the top, or containing hard to find ingredients. But, they are all heartfelt and give me great joy to share.

Granola in mason jars.
Maple Nut Granola
A jar of homemade mulling spices.
Mulling Spices
Candied Peanuts
Candied Peanuts
Cranberry Nut Bread- sliced on a cutting board
Cranberry Nut Bread
Dark Chocolate Bark on a silver tray.
Dark Chocolate Bark

Dark Chocolate Bark with Toasted Nuts, Dried Fruit, and Flaky Sea Salt

Dark Chocolate Bark on silver tray.

My grandparents grew up in Ireland and for as long as I can remember my grandmother’s preferred chocolate was Cadbury’s. Among all the Cadbury choices, the Fruit and Nut bar was her favorite. However, it wasn’t always easy to get Cadbury chocolates in the US so she had to find an alternative to satisfy her sweet tooth. Success was achieved when Nanny discovered the Chunky Bar. Do you remember Chunky Bars? They were thick cubes of chocolate studded with nuts and raisins, all wrapped in silver foil.

Dark Chocolate Bark on a silver tray.I’m not sure which came first… did the Fruit and Nut Bar or Chunky Bar inspire this bark, or did the taste memories come flooding back after the first bite? In either case, this treat would definitely meet Nanny’s approval. It’s the perfect blend of a fruit and nut studded candy bar and chocolate bark. Like a candy bar, the sweetness of the dried fruit, partnered with the crunch of the nuts, encased in dark chocolate is such a fantastic combination. Spread thin and topped with more dried fruit and toasted nuts brings it closer to a bark. Sprinkled with sea salt pushes it over the top. Excellent with a glass of red wine after dinner or a quick pick me up mid-day; another option is to leave out a small platter of the bark so that every time you walk by you grab a nibble. Not that I’ve ever done that. No judging here.

Dark chocolate bark with toasted nuts and dried fruit.

Dark Chocolate Bark with Toasted Nuts, Dried Fruit, and Flaky Sea Salt

  • Servings: about 1 lb
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Ingredients:
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or one 11.5oz bag of bittersweet chocolate chips)
2/3 cup mixed toasted nuts, roughly chopped (such as walnuts, almonds, cashews)
2/3 cup mixed dried fruit (such as raisins, cherries, blueberries, cranberries)
sprinkling of flaked sea salt

Instructions:
Line small baking sheet with foil.

Melt chocolate in heatproof medium sized bowl set over saucepan of simmering water, stirring until melted and smooth.

Stir in half of toasted nuts and half of mixed dried fruit. Pour melted chocolate mixture onto foil, spreading with offset spatula to thickness of scant 1/4 inch.

Scatter remaining nuts and dried fruit over chocolate. Cool slightly. Sprinkle with flaked sea salt.

Chill until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Peel off foil and cut bark into irregular pieces.

Chocolate Bark ingredients- dark chocolate chips, toasted nuts, dried fruit, and flaked sea salt.
Four ingredients and 15 minutes is all it takes to make chocolate bark.
Melting chocolate in a double boiler.
Stirring occasionally, melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl set over simmering water.
Melted chocolate in bowl waiting for toasted nuts and dried fruit to be added.
The chocolate is melted and ready for the toasted nuts and dried fruit.
Stirring toasted nuts and dried fruit into melted chocolate.
Stir in half of the toasted nuts and dried fruit.
Spreading melted chocolate mixture onto foil lined baking sheet.
Using an offset spatula, spread the melted chocolate mixture onto a foil line baking sheet. The chocolate should be about 1/4″ thick.
Topping chocolate bark with remaining nuts and fruit.
While chocolate is still melted, top chocolate bark with remaining toasted nuts and dried fruit. Press lightly to be sure nuts and fruits adhere.
Sprinkling flaky sea salt on top of chocolate bark.
Sprinkle pinch of flaky sea salt on top of the chocolate bark.
Dark chocolate bark cooling.
Chill, allowing chocolate bark to completely cool and harden, about 30 minutes. Break into irregular pieces before serving.

Dark Chocolate Bark on silver tray.

 

 

Cranberry Nut Bread

Cranberry Nut Bread- sliced on a cutting board

Quick post today. It’s a busy time of year for everybody… school concerts, Nutcracker performances, decorating the house and tree, sending cards, shopping for gifts, and events every weekend. It’s incredibly easy to become overwhelmed and miss the magic and beauty that is Christmas… the twinkling lights, carols being sung, and the warm spicy scent of pine. When I do feel like I’m becoming engulfed in the frenzy, I escape to the kitchen, put on some Christmas music and start baking… nothing elaborate though, believe me! You will not find homemade gingerbread houses or meticulously cut out and decorated cookies worthy of the front cover of a magazine. I’m more of drop or roll cookie maker (think gingersnaps or Mexican Wedding Cakes) and quick bread baker. Being in the kitchen is like therapy for me, and if I tried to make photo shoot worthy decorated Christmas cookies, I would royal ice and silver dragee my way straight into real therapy!

This Cranberry Nut Bread is quick, coming together in about 15 minutes, then off to the oven for an hour. Golden brown crust, slightly tart, and studded with cranberry jewels and sweet pecans, the bread is perfect for breakfast, late afternoon snack, or even dessert. It’s also ideal to share with family and friends over a cup of tea, enjoying each other’s company and the season for even just a quiet moment or two.

Cranberry Nut Bread

Cranberry Nut Bread

  • Servings: 1 loaf
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*recipe adapted from Kathleen’s Bake Shop Cookbook

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup orange juice (fresh or bottled)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped cranberries
¾ cup chopped pecans

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Cut butter into flour with a pastry blender. Stir in orange juice, lightly beat egg, and zest. Fold in cranberries and nuts. Scrape into prepared loaf pan.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Pastry blender cutting butter into dry ingredients.
Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients
Chopped cranberries in a food processor.
Chop the cranberries by hand or in a food processor.
Roughly chopped pecans on a cutting board.
Roughly chop the pecans.
Orange, zest, and juice on a cutting board.
Zest the orange so that you have 1 Tablespoon set aside, then juice the oranges to yield 3/4 of a cup. I need three navel oranges to get the right amount of juice.
Wet ingredients and dry ingredients in mixing bowl.
Add juice, lightly beaten egg and zest to dry ingredients and mix.
Batter in bowl with wooden spoon.
Using a wooden spoon, combine the wet and dry ingredients.
Folding in the cranberries and pecans.
Fold in the cranberries and pecans.

Cranberry Nut Bread Batter

Cranberry Nut Bread batter in a greased loaf pan getting ready to go in the oven.
Scrape the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350°F for 50-60 minutes.
Testing the bread for doneness with a bamboo skewer.
Bake until a cake tester- or bamboo skewer in this case- inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cranberry Nut Bread- sliced on a cutting board