Irish Soda Scones

March 17: Feast Day of St. Patrick

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day (much like Cinco de Mayo) is often an excuse for some people to party and drink alcohol excessively. For us, we see it as a reason to try Irish-inspired recipes from Highlander’s heritage (he is Scots-Irish, according to genealogical records) and honor the patron saint of the Emerald Isle.

For the Feast Day of St. Patrick, we modified an Irish soda bread recipe and made Irish soda scones. The currants in this recipe lend a subtle sweetness to these scones (without the dried fruit, they would really taste like biscuits, which are close to mini Irish soda bread).

Have a terrific “top o’ the mornin’” or teatime treat with some Irish soda scones on St. Patrick’s Day!

Recipe

(Adapted from Tea Time Magazine)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  • ¼ cup dried currants
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • ¾ cup+ buttermilk, whole

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, sugar and salt.

Add small pieces of cold butter and mix with a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in the currants and caraway seeds.

Stir in the buttermilk until a sticky dough is formed. On a clean, floured surface, pat the dough to 1-inch thick circle. Cut out shapes with a 2-inch round cutter (or use a 3-tablespoon scoop to make drop-style scones). Place scones onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with a little buttermilk (optional). Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve warm with Irish butter, clotted cream and/or jam.

Notes

  • Since we like currants, we added ¼ cup more than stated in the original recipe. We also reduced the caraway seeds to ½ teaspoon because we are not too fond of the flavor.
  • Feel free to substitute the currants for raisins (black or golden).
  • Search our blog for more Irish-inspired recipes. Or see the St. Patrick’s Day recipe list under the Theme Menus option.

Fruit-Nut Toaster Cakes

March 13:National Breakfast Day

Whenever Islander and her friend Karen B. have a long day ahead of them doing baking and decorating projects, Karen would prepare a quick, healthy and convenient breakfast snack called toaster cakes. She would pre-make them, freeze and reheat so they could eat them before and while they spent the rest of the day decorating cakes or cookies to give to family and friends on special occasions.

Toaster cakes taste a little like cornbread because of the cornmeal in them. They can be reheated in a pop-up toaster (without the fruit and nuts on top), or they can be reheated in a toaster oven (with the fruit and nuts and top). Either way, toaster cakes are great to grab for breakfast on the go—or even for a more leisurely morning meal on National Breakfast Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup flour
  • 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup raisins, cranberries or other dried fruit
  • ¼ cup chopped nuts

Directions

In a bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, oats and brown sugar, baking powder and salt.

Melt and cool the butter. Beat the egg with vanilla. Stir in the milk.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until smooth. Option 1: Sprinkle dried fruit and nuts on top after spreading the batter in six baking cups (tart-size liners or cupcake-size papers) or greased muffin tins.

Option 2: Stir the dried fruit and nuts into the batter and scoop into the baking cups. Place on a cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and eat warm. Reheat leftovers in a toaster (remove paper) or toaster oven (see Notes).

Notes

  • If reheating in a pop-up toaster, do stir in the dried fruits and nuts in the batter before baking or the pieces will fall into the toaster. Remove the paper before inserting the cakes into to toaster.
  • If reheating in a toaster oven (not pop-up toaster), do not stir in the dried fruits and nuts in the batter. Sprinkle them on top and bake as usual.
  • Toaster tongs are pictured in the final food photo above.

Bush Family Mushroom Quiche

February: Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February)

Behind every good man is an equally good woman! Barbara Pierce Bush (June 8, 1925-April 17, 2018) was the wife of the 41st U.S. president, George H.W. Bush (June 12, 1924-November 30, 2018), and mother of the 43rd U.S. president, George W. Bush. A woman of her time, she devoted her life to care for her family and household as best as she can. That included cooking and making sure they were well fed and nourished. Mushroom quiche was a Bush family favorite so we have made it for our blog post in observance of Presidents’ Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from the Houston Chronicle)

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ pounds mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons oregano
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons basil
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • ¾ teaspoon marjoram
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 3 stalks green onions, chopped (green part only)
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup whole milk or half and half
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust

Directions

Wash, dry and slice the mushrooms. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the oregano, basil, salt, marjoram, black pepper, thyme and dry mustard.

Chop the green onions and mince the shallots. In a large skillet, melt the butter on medium low heat.

Sauté the mushrooms until they are soft. Stir in the minced garlic, green onions and shallots.

Add the spice mixture and stir until liquid has evaporated. Remove from the stove top and let cool. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk.

Mix in the mushrooms. Pour into the pie crust. Place the pie on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 35-45 minutes or until the filling has puffed up and is starting to set and turn brown. Remove from the oven. Slice and serve.

Notes

  • The sautéed mushroom mixture must be cool enough before adding to the eggs or the heat will cook the eggs prematurely.
  • Complete the Presidents’ Day theme meal with dessert. See the recipe for Barbara Bush cookies here.
  • The final food photo above was styled with a red carnation, white pearls (the late First Lady’s signature accessory) and blue checkered cloth.
  • Search our blog for other presidential and patriotic recipes.

Chicken Fricassee

February: Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February)

The third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743-July 4, 1826), is credited as being America’s first epicurean. Through his travels and work in international relations, he developed a penchant for fine and foreign foods. From Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean and South America, he imported vegetables like okra, lima beans, eggplants, garlic, peanuts, peppers, tomatoes and olive oil. From Europe, France in particular, he made popular French cuisine and asked his chefs to prepare it often.

Chicken fricassee is an adaptation of a classic French stew, which includes making a roux. This dish was one of the favorites of the “Founding Foodie” (some sources also note that chicken fricassee was loved by the 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln). So make this comfort food, which is perfect for Presidents’ Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from CD Kitchen)

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds chicken pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • oil for frying
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup white cooking wine
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup half and half cream

Directions

Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper, nutmeg and paprika. In a large pot, heat the oil and fry the chicken until browned. Transfer to a plate.

In the same pot, add the flour and cook in the chicken fat-oil until light brown, adding the water a little at a time to make a smooth sauce. Stir in the wine. Put the chicken back in the pot, cover, and simmer on low heat for 45-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

While the chicken is cooking, chop the onions, slice the mushrooms, chop the sage and parsley. When the chicken is cooked, transfer to a plate. Strain the gravy in a bowl and set aside. In the same pot, melt the butter over low heat.

Sauté the onions with the mushrooms. Stir in the chopped sage and parsley.

Return the chicken and gravy to the pot. Stir in the cream to thicken. Serve hot over pasta or rice.

Notes

  • Chicken fricassee is popular in the South. Jefferson was a Southerner from Virginia. Islander has met some Cajuns from Louisiana at the local culinary book club in Texas and they introduced her to this recipe.
  • Search our blog for other presidential and patriotic recipes.

Siu Mai

(Pork and Shrimp Dumplings)

February: Asian Lunar New Year

While out running errands in Hawaii, Islander would sometimes stop in at the nearest 7-Eleven convenience store/gas station to grab a quick snack and fuel up for the road. She would forgo the hot dogs and choose either a manapua/char siu bao or Hawaiian pork hash/siu mai to go with a strawberry Slurpee. One would not normally think that these popular dumplings, which are traditionally rolled out in carts at Chinese/Vietnamese dim sum restaurants, could be found at a grab-and-go shop. But hey, dis is Hawaii nei—and da locals love ’em.

There are not too many 7-Eleven stores in the Texas town where we live. And they understandably sell taquitos instead of Asian dumplings. So Islander makes and freezes her own siu mai. They are ready to steam anytime as snacks/appetizers for when she craves them, when we have company or when we want to celebrate the lunar new year. It’s worth a try to make some siu mai!

Recipe

(Adapted from AllRecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • ½ pound ground pork
  • ½ pound shrimp, shelled/deveined/minced
  • 2 egg whites
  • ¼ cup water chestnuts, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons green onion, chopped (green parts only)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • round dumpling wrappers, defrosted and separated
  • frozen peas and carrots (optional garnish)

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the ground pork and minced shrimp with the egg whites.

Add the water chestnuts, green onion and garlic. Add the cornstarch and mix well. Add the soy and oyster sauces.

Sprinkle in the sugar, salt and ground pepper. Stir in the sesame oil and mix until the filling is well combined. In the middle of a dumpling wrapper, generously scoop a rounded tablespoonful of filling. Make a circle with thumb and forefinger and cradle the siu mai between the fingers to form its round shape and flatten the bottom.

Let it sit back on a flat surface and pleat the sides. Place in a mini muffin tin to hold its shape. Continue making the rest of the siu mai. Top the middle of the dumplings with pea or carrot.  Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes to let the filling set and keep its shape.

Line the bottom of a bamboo steamer basket with waxed or parchment paper. Brush a little oil on it. Arrange some siu mai in the basket, leaving some space between them so they do not touch each other (they expand slightly while cooking so the spacing helps to prevent from sticking). Cover and place in a wok that has been filled with a water bath (do not let the water touch the bottom of the steamer basket). Steam for 30 minutes. Remove the covers and carefully remove from the waxed or parchment paper. Serve hot with soy sauce.

Notes

  • Chinese dumplings, such as siu mai, are auspicious foods for the lunar new year. The pastry wrapper represents a container or bag. The pork filling represents abundance (as pigs are big) and luck ahead (as pigs hoof forward and not backward). Hence, may your purse always be filled with a lot of wealth for the coming year.
  • Look for more lunar new year food recipes on our blog by searching under Theme Menus.
  • Kung hee fat choy!

Kung Pao Lotus Root

February:Asian/Chinese Lunar New Year

When we were visiting China, our tour group was served different lotus root dishes. Even though Islander grew up around Asians and a large Chinese community in Hawaii, she had never tried lotus root until we travelled to China. When we returned to the states, she went to find lotus root at the Asian grocery store so she could try cooking it at home and expand our Chinese recipe list on our blog.

Lotus root is considered a vegetable with a long, tubular stalk-stem (like large potato-like sausage links) growing below the water into the ground and shooting at the surface into a beautiful flower. It has a neutral taste that takes on the flavors of other ingredients. We also like its unique “crisp” bite and smooth texture. Chinese and Eastern medics believe lotus root is a cooling food that helps the body restore balance.

As Highlander loves kung pao chicken, we made a meatless version with lotus root and it was delicious for our Chinese new year dinner (one year, it fell on Ash Wednesday so we abstained from kung pao meat). Kung pao lotus root is a differently delicious dish to start off the lunar new year! Kung hee fat choy!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1-2 pounds lotus root
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 thumb size piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 3 stalks green onions, chopped (green part only)
  • 6 pieces dried chili pepper
  • 2 tablespoons peanuts, skinless
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • oil for frying

Directions

Separate, wash and peel the lotus root like a potato. Slice half the lotus root into 1/3 inch thick rounds and dice the rest. Set aside to make the sauce.

In a small cup or bowl, mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and sesame oil.

Crush the garlic, peel and slice the ginger and chop the green onions. In a small cup, make a slurry with the cornstarch and water.

Heat a little oil in a skillet or wok. Fry the lotus root slices and cubes until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and dry on paper towels. In the same pan, sauté the garlic, ginger, green onions and peppers. Remove from the pan onto a small plate.

Toast the peanuts by sautéing them in the same pan for a minute or two. Return the lotus root and spiced vegetable mixture into the pan. Pour the soy sauce mixture and slurry and mix well until sauce is thickened. Dish out on platter, garnish with extra green onion slices (optional) and serve hot with rice.

Notes

  • Learn more about the nutritional value of lotus root here.
  • Search our blog for other Chinese and Asian recipes to make for the lunar new year.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon,

Garlic and Shallots

January 31: Eat Brussels Sprouts Day

Just a month into the new year, Islander continues her resolution to try new recipes and eat more greens. She dislikes Brussels sprouts when Highlander would steam them plain. They are just too bitter for her tastes and avoided eating the mini-looking cabbages—until she tried a soup recipe shared by her college roommate. Then she tasted other Brussels sprouts dishes at a restaurant and potluck parties and wanted to discover other ways to cook them (to the delight of Highlander who loves to eat Brussels sprouts). Of course, Islander believes anything tastes better with bacon so she sautéed it with the vegetable and flavored them with garlic and shallots. Discover how delicious and easy this side dish is to make—cook Brussels sprouts and eat them today!

Recipe

(Adapted from MyRecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 – 1½ pounds fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 6 slices center cut bacon, chopped
  • ¼ – ½ cup chicken broth (we used fat free and lower sodium)
  • salt and pepper to taste

 Directions

Wash and dry the Brussels sprouts. Cut off the stem and slice in half. Set aside. Peel the garlic cloves and slice thinly. Peel the shallots and slice thinly.

Chop the bacon. Sauté the bacon over medium-high heat until brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Discard all but 1-2 tablespoons of bacon drippings. Use this to sauté the shallots.

brusselssproutssteps2

Add the Brussels sprouts and sauté around 5 minutes, allowing some of the leaves to become tender and brown. Stir in the garlic and mix for another 5 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth and heat on high for 2 minutes until evaporated. Remove the pan from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot in a bowl as a side dish.

brusselssproutssteps3

Notes

  • Raw Brussels sprouts are a healthy vegetable full of vitamins B, C and K. With essential minerals and dietary fiber, they also have anti-cancer properties.
  • We resolve to cook more Brussels sprouts and share the recipes in future blog posts.