02 February

Pistachio Pudding Cupcakes


February 26: National Pistachio Day

As the end of February quickly approaches, we look forward to marching on toward St. Patrick’s Day. During this time, we experiment with a variety of green-colored recipes before deciding what to take to potluck parties in celebration of the patron saint of Ireland. Although pistachio pudding cupcakes are not Irish, we like the subtly nutty taste and the soft shade of green from the frosting. They look festive at the food table for green-themed get-togethers and pistachio pudding cupcakes are perfect on National Pistachio Day.


(From an undated community cookbook)

For the pistachio pudding cake

  • ½ cup pistachio nuts, chopped
  • 1 box white or yellow cake mix
  • 1 box (3.4 ounces) pistachio nut instant pudding
  • 1 cup cooking oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1 cup lemon-lime soda (such as 7Up)
  • 3 eggs


In a large bowl, combine the pistachio nuts, cake mix, pistachio pudding mix, cooking oil and lemon-lime soda. Beat in the eggs.


Scoop into cupcake papers. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes or until done. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.


For the pistachio pudding frosting

(Adapted from Food.com)

  • 1 box (3.4 ounces) pistachio nut instant pudding
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 1+ cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • pistachio nuts, chopped (for garnish)


In a bowl, combine the pistachio pudding mix with the milk and stir until smooth. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the shortening. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix well until creamy.


Blend in the thickened pudding mixture and beat until light and fluffy. Scoop into a piping bag with a decorator’s tip (we used Wilton tip 1M). Pipe swirls of frosting on top of the cupcakes. Sprinkle pistachio nut pieces on top.



  • Toast the pistachios to boost the flavor of the nuts in this recipe. In a small pan on the stovetop, heat the nuts over medium high heat, stirring constantly so the pistachios do not burn or brown too much. Remove the nuts from the pan and cool completely before using them in this recipe.
  • Optional: Sift out the pistachio pieces in the boxed pudding mix before using in the frosting recipe to make it smooth for piping out from a pastry bag.
  • Add powdered sugar a little at a time to the butter-shortening mixture in the frosting recipe and blend until it is a desired consistency for piping. Otherwise, the moist and soft frosting simply may be spread onto the cooled cupcakes instead.

Easy Caramel Sticky Buns


February 21: National Sticky Bun Day

We have seen some sticky buns served at social gatherings and potlucks but usually avoid them there because they are really gooey and messy to eat while mingling with people. So we bake them at home quickly and easily on the rare occasion when we want to indulge our sweet tooth and can freely make a mess of ourselves! The recipe we use features a refrigerated can of buttermilk biscuits as a shortcut to making the dough. The topping on these buns really live up to its name and are very sticky and super sweet!!! Chew on some gooey goodness on National Sticky Bun Day and make easy caramel sticky buns.


(Adapted from Pillsbury)

For the topping

  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • ¼ cup pecans, chopped

For the sticky buns

  • 1/3 cup sugar, granulated white
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 can (7.5 ounces) canned buttermilk biscuit (Pillsbury)
  • ½ cup butter, melted


In the bottom of an ungreased 8-inch round pan, combine the melted butter with the brown sugar and corn syrup. Mix well. Sprinkle the chopped pecans.


In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the cinnamon. Remove the dough from the can and separate the biscuits. Dip each biscuit into the melted butter on all sides. Then dip that biscuit entirely into the sugar-cinnamon mixture.


Arrange the biscuits in the pan over the topping, making sure the sides touch. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for a couple of minutes. Invert the pan onto a serving plate and spoon the remaining caramelized drippings over the buns. Serve warm.


Tourin (French Garlic Soup)

tourin soup

February 18: Feast Day of St. Bernadette of Lourdes (France) [also April 16]

As a newly-professed religious brother, Islander’s sibling, K, had to go to France to learn about the 200-year history of his congregation and its founder. Along with his fellow brothers and sisters from all over the world, they met in Bordeaux for an ongoing program of formation to learn about their roles as young missionaries. They were also fortunate to have made a pilgrimage to nearby Lourdes, the hometown of St. Bernadette, who had incredible visions of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, in 1858.


St. Bernadette’s life story, apparitions and journey to sainthood have been chronicled elsewhere so we are not elaborating here. However, we are providing a peasant’s recipe from the Midi-Pyrénées region where she grew up as a poor girl. Tourin is a French-style soup made of sautéed garlic thickened with a little flour and egg. It is very flavorful for those who love garlic like we do!

So celebrate with simple soup on the Feast Day of St. Bernadette of Lourdes today or on April 16.


(Adapted from Southwest Story)


  • 6 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 cups water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • croutons (optional garnish)


Slice the garlic cloves thinly. In a small soup pot, sauté in olive oil over medium low heat until brown (about 5 minutes). Stir in the flour quickly to make a roux. Slowly pour water while constantly stirring and dissolving any clumps of flour. Boil on medium low heat for 20 minutes for the garlic flavor to develop. Season with salt and pepper.


Meanwhile, separate the white and yolk of the egg. Mix the vinegar with the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of the boiling soup water. Pour this mixture back into the pot. Stir well. Whisk in the egg white quickly. Allow the soup to thicken for another 5 minutes. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with croutons. Serve hot. Yield: 2 servings.



  • February 18 is when the locals in Lourdes and traditional congregations in France observe the Feast Day of St. Bernadette. Others celebrate on April 16, the date of her death in 1879.
  • Thanks to Islander’s brother who brought back a bottle of Lourdes water from the grotto’s spring as a souvenir. It is pictured in the final food photo above next to the garlic bulb. Learn more about Lourdes water, St. Bernadette, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and the place for pilgrimages from the Sanctuaire Notre-Dame de Lourdes website.

Lincoln Cake


February 12: Birthday of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln (1809)

We have been to Washington, D.C., on several occasions for business and pleasure. One of the many monuments we have visited was that of the 16th American president. A huge statue of Abraham Lincoln sits peacefully within his stately national memorial—we hope his expression reflects that we, too, could have peace across the land that he loved.

Speaking of which, here is a cake recipe that Lincoln loved. His wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, supposedly made this almond-flavored confection while they were courting and throughout their marriage. As First Lady, she also made this comforting cake while in the White House. Bake this as a birthday cake in honor of one of America’s most popular presidents—Abraham Lincoln.


(Adapted from Parade)


  • 2-3 ounces blanched slivered almonds, finely chopped
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • ½ cup sugar, superfine (caster sugar)
  • ¾ teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract
  • ¼ cup flour, sifted


Chop up the almonds finely to resemble coarse crumbs. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks until they are thick with a pale yellow color (about 3-5 minutes).


Gradually beat in the sugar until blended well. Stir in the almond and lemon extracts. Mix in the almonds.


Stir in the flour. Fold in about 1/3 of the egg whites into the flour mixture until lightened. Then gradually fold in the rest of the egg whites.


Pour into an ungreased tube pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool upside down. Carefully remove the cake from the pan. Slice and serve.



  • Our final food photo above features lots of Lincoln pennies (unfortunately, we do not have enough five dollar bills!). Look on the back of the penny. Some one-centers have different designs on the back, from the old wheat, Lincoln Memorial and other commemorative bicentennial images to the current Union shield.
  • This cake does not rise as high like an angel food cake. But it is still light, fluffy and delicious for a snack.
  • Search our blog for other patriotic recipes.

Pizza Bagels


February 9: National Bagel Day and National Pizza Day

Highlander’s all-time favorite food is pizza! Our first-ever blog post was for a pizza recipe and we have made mini pizzas (pepperoni and sausage) as well. We have used different crusts for those recipes. But for National Pizza Day today we used thin bagels for the crust because it is also National Bagel Day! Pizza bagels are simple to make and doubly delicious for celebrating both food holidays.



  • Bagels (we used thin bagels)
  • 1 small jar pizza sauce (we used Ragu brand)
  • 1 bag shredded pizza cheese
  • 1 package of mini pepperoni slices (we used Hormel brand)


Cut the bagel in half. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Spread pizza sauce on the bagel halves. Sprinkle the cheese shreds over them.


Top with mini pepperoni slices. Bake in a preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and cool slightly before eating.



  • The second week in January is National Pizza Week. September 5 is National Cheese Pizza Day. October is National Pizza Month. October 11 is National Sausage Pizza Day. And November 12 is National Pizza With Everything (Except Anchovies) Day.

No-Churn Cherry Ice Cream

Cherry Ice Cream

 February: National Cherry Month

There was a little ice cream shop behind the tall fence of our Illinois townhome. We would have to walk down the pathway and around the back of the businesses to get to the ice cream shop. Then we discovered a shortcut when the fence had a few broken planks. It seemed the fence was vandalized or worn from the extreme weather—or a combination of both. On our summer strolls, we would take the shortcut to the ice cream shop before the fence got fixed and were able to get to our destination quicker and enjoy our ice cream. We would order our favorite flavors (chocolate and butter pecan) often but cherry ice cream was a close second! On our way back home, we walked off the weight from our indulgences.

Now we do not have the convenience of walking to an ice cream shop nearby. So we make our own ice cream at home. When cherries are in season, we take advantage of the fresh fruit and prepare it in a no-churn recipe. This cool treat warms our hearts during the month of Valentines and is perfect during National Cherry Month.


(Adapted from Bon Appetit) 


  • 1 ½ – 2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, granulated white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream (cold)
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract


Wash and dry the cherries. Pit and cut each cherry in half. Place them in a saucepan with the sugar and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until thick and syrupy (around 8-10 minutes). Remove from the heat and cool completely.


In a mixing bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the condensed milk with the almond extract.


Gently stir in the cooled cherry mixture. Do not over mix; just fold until there is a ripple color effect and the cherries are distributed evenly in the cream. Place the mixture into a loaf pan or freezer safe container. Cover and freeze for at least six hours or overnight. Remove from the freezer. Let stand for a few minutes and scoop into cones or dessert dishes. Add a cherry on top (optional).



  • Eat cherry ice cream during the summer when July is also National Ice Cream Month.
  • Search our blog for other ice cream recipes.


Bairín Breac (Barm Brack)


February 1: Feast Day of St. Brigid

When we first moved into our new home in San Antonio, Texas, back in 2008, one of the first Catholic churches we attended was the nearby parish of St. Brigid. We were still adjusting to our new neighborhood, finding where the grocery stores, post office, clinics, churches, etc. were located. Although we attended St. Brigid’s temporarily before becoming members at another church, we always remembered the Irish saint’s unique cross design, which has been incorporated into the parish’s logo.

St. Brigid of Kildare, Ireland, (451-525 A.D.) is considered the female counterpart of St. Patrick (in fact, he witnessed her vows as a nun). St. Brigid founded monasteries, schools and convents around her country and is known for her many charitable works.

In observance of the Feast Day of St. Brigid, we made a traditional Irish barm brack, a rustic yeast bread/loaf speckled with raisins. As she is associated with dairy cows, it is customary to eat barm brack with lots of creamy Irish butter! Bain taitneamh as do bhéile (enjoy your meal).


(Adapted from “Cooking with the Saints” by Ernst Schuegraf)


  • 1 ¼ cup old tea (we used Irish breakfast tea)
  • 2 cups raisins (1 cup each of regular AND golden)
  • 1 cup currants
  • ¼ cup mixed candied peel
  • ¼ cup candied cherries (we used the green colored ones in honor of the Emerald Isle)
  • 1 ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 ¾ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 egg


In a large bowl, pour the tea over the raisins and currants, cover and soak overnight to plump them up and add flavor. In the same bowl, stir in the candied peel.


Add the cherries. Mix in the brown sugar, flour, baking powder, allspice and egg.


Line a 1-pound loaf pan with parchment paper, letting some extra hang over the edge to act as handles later. Grease it well before patting the barm brack mixture down in the pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 1½ hours. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Slice and serve generously with Irish butter.



  • Irish barm brack does not taste like an English Christmas fruit cake. It is less sweet. We like our slices of barm brack lightly toasted but smothered in lots of creamy Irish butter!
  • Below is a photo of a pin of St. Brigid’s cross, which was taken at the souvenir shop across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. We were visiting our friends during spring break one year and went with Gaurab B. to Midtown Manhattan for the day (while he attended meetings for work, we enjoyed touring the town!). Coincidentally, we stayed with him and his family at their New Jersey home and baked a special cake for his wife, Maria, who was blessed with celebrating her birthday on St. Patrick’s Day!


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