03 March


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.

Engagement Chicken

March 20: National Proposal Day

Is the way to a prince’s heart through his stomach? Many have speculated that American actress Meghan Markle’s roast chicken dinner impressed Prince Harry of Wales so much that he proposed to her!

Other women have claimed that when they cooked a heartwarming lemony-herbed roast chicken for their boyfriends, they finally proposed, too. The “magical” recipe, which originated from Glamour magazine in the early 2000s, earned a reputation for its power it has over guys to “pop the question” and thus has been dubbed “engagement chicken”!

Believe the sexist tale or not, engagement chicken is still a tasty comfort food that is relatively simple to make for loved ones. Whether for a prince, significant other, family or friends, roast chicken is perfect to cook any day but especially on National Proposal Day.

Recipe I

This is the version we adapted by Chef Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, which Meghan Markle alluded to in her BBC interview, stating that she and Prince Harry cooked it together for dinner the night he proposed to her.

Ingredients

  • 1 (5-6 pound) whole roasting chicken
  • salt and pepper
  • bunch of fresh thyme
  • 2 lemons (one cut in half, another cut in wedges)
  • 1 head of garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced thick
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour

Directions

Remove the giblets from the chicken and rinse inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. Generously salt and pepper inside of the chicken. Stuff it with half a bunch of thyme. Place two halves of a lemon and garlic inside of the chicken.

Put on a roasting pan. Rub the skin of the chicken with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Tie the chicken legs with cooking twine. Secure the wing tips to the chicken with toothpicks. Place in a large roasting pan. Put onion and lemon wedges around it.

Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F for 1½ hours until juices run clear. Baste occasionally. Remove from the oven and cover with foil while making the gravy.

Remove twine and toothpicks. Discard the garlic, thyme stems, fat and lemon halves and wedges (and seeds) from the roasting pan, reserving the onions and two tablespoons of juices. Place the onions and juices into a saucepan with the chicken stock. Boil on high heat for about five minutes until reduced. Then stir in the flour and boil for a few more minutes until slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Strain the gravy into a boat. Serve hot with carved chicken pieces.

Recipe II

This is the version we adapted that originated from Glamour magazine and became an urban legend.

Ingredients

  • 1 (4-5pound) whole roasting chicken
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 large lemons)
  • 2-3 additional lemons
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • sprigs of fresh herbs to garnish (rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the giblets from the chicken and rinse inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. Rub the lemon juice inside and outside. Season the inside with half the salt and pepper. Prick the lemons with the tines of a fork and insert inside the cavity of the chicken. Tie the legs with cooking twine.

Secure the wing tips to the chicken with toothpicks. Season the outside with the remaining salt and pepper. Place in a roasting pan lined with foil breast side down. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake the chicken for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn the chicken over breast side up and insert a meat thermometer in the thigh. Bake for another 1½ hours or more in 15-minute increments and until the thermometer reaches 180 degrees F.

Remove from the oven and baste with the pan juices. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes and transfer to a platter. Garnish with herbs. Serve hot with sides of roast vegetables.

Notes

  • The pan drippings from the engagement chicken used to baste and flavor this tender and tasty dish is called the “marry me juice”, according to Glamour magazine.
  • We garnish the engagement chicken with sprigs of herbs, roast vegetables (like carrots and potatoes) and/or extra lemon wedges. It makes for a pretty presentation especially for special occasions.
  • We like to serve engagement chicken to the couples we are sponsoring at our church through a marriage preparation ministry program. The dish is well liked by many, even by those who are picky eaters. Our couples enjoy hearing about the recipe’s reputation as well, and is a fun icebreaker and conversation starter for our meetings.

 

No-Churn Irish Cream Ice Cream

March 17: Feast Day of St. Patrick

Of all the liqueurs we like, Irish cream is our favorite. The strong Irish whiskey is totally toned down with sweet cream so it is more palatable to us who do not drink much alcohol. As we have been experimenting with flavors in our no-churn ice cream recipes, we decided to add Irish cream to the “trinity” of ingredients (after all, St. Patrick is associated with the teachings of the Holy Trinity). So try our no-churn Irish cream ice cream for a festive dessert on the Feast Day of St. Patrick!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ cup Irish cream

Directions

Beat the cream until stiff peaks form. In a large bowl, mix the condensed milk with the Irish cream.

Fold the whipped cream into this mixture until smooth, being careful not to whip more air into it. Place in a loaf pan or ice cream container. Cover and freeze for at least six hours or overnight. Remove from the freezer. Scoop into cones or dessert dishes. Decorate with shamrock sprinkles (optional).

Notes

  • Shamrock sprinkles can be found at local cake supply shops.
  • Search our blog for other no-churn ice cream recipes as well as other Irish, Irish-inspired and green colored recipes for St. Patrick’s Day.

 

Chocolate Raisin Nut Clusters

chocolateraisinnutclusters

March 24: National Chocolate-Covered Raisins Day

This blog post is dedicated to our New Jersey friend Gary B. who, whenever we went out with him and his wife to dinner and a movie, would get a bucket of buttered popcorn and a box of chocolate-covered raisins to eat—even if he already had a big meal. His habit of combining popcorn and Raisinets has influenced us, as we now like to eat something sweet with our salty snacks.

We no longer live in the Garden State but still watch a matinee in the local theaters once in a while and eat popcorn and candy. On some Saturday evenings, we laze around the house and watch videos and also eat microwaved popcorn with a side of homemade chocolate raisin nut clusters. They are an amped-up version of Gary’s favorite movie theater treat.

Our double-dating days with our friends may be over because of the distance now. But Gary can still enjoy this easy recipe with his family in their huge home theater. And we can all treat ourselves to chocolate raisin nut clusters on National Chocolate-Covered Raisins Day!

Recipe

(Adapted from Food Network)

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces chocolate, dark or milk, melted
  • ½ cup peanuts, unsalted
  • ½ cup raisins

Directions

Line a cookie pan with waxed paper. Set aside. In a large bowl, melt the chocolate (over a double boiler or in the microwave according to the directions on the package). Stir until smooth. Add the peanuts.

chocolateraisinnutclustersstesp1

Stir in the raisins and coat everything well. Use a small scoop to drop a cluster on the prepared pan, leaving ample space between each candy. Refrigerate to set until firm. Peel the clusters from the waxed paper. Serve at room temperature.

chocolateraisinnutclustersstesp2

Notes

  • This is a very versatile recipe. Exchange the peanuts for pistachios, macadamias, cashews, etc. Use golden raisins or dried cranberries.
  • Instead of dropping clusters on waxed paper, spoon them into mini cupcake or candy papers for an elegant presentation.

 

Baguette

March 21: National French Bread Day

We celebrated Highlander’s birthday while touring Paris, France, many years ago. Before heading out of our hotel to go sightseeing, we ate croissants, brioches and other breads for breakfast. But our favorite was the classic baguette, a long loaf of French bread with a crusty exterior, which was served with many meals at the cafes and restaurants throughout the day. It tasted so delicious, especially when smothered with creamy French butter!

We still like to buy baguettes and fresh artisan breads at the local grocery store’s gourmet bake shop. But for our blog, we decided to try the “dough only” cycle on our bread machine and bake baguettes in our own oven because Islander has an old form pan that she wanted to use (both our bread machine and the form pan were acquired in our newlywed year).

Whether starting from scratch or taking a shortcut with a bread machine, try baking a baguette for National French Bread Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Oster)

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon softened butter (or margarine)
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons regular active dry/bread machine/quick-acting active dry yeast

Directions

In the container of the bread machine, place the water, butter or margarine, flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Set the machine to “French” and “dough only” cycles. Press start and wait until the cycle is complete.

Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into two or three balls. Place the balls in well-greased bowls or pans that are large enough for the dough to rise. Cover with a damp cloth or greased plastic wrap.

Put the dough in a warm, draft-free place, such as an oven. Let them rise until doubled in size (about 1-2 hours). Remove from the pans and roll out to form a long loaf shape. Sprinkle corn meal on a greased French bread form pan or baking sheet. Lay the dough on the pan/baking sheet, cover with a damp cloth or greased plastic wrap and return to the oven. Let them rise again until doubled in size (about another hour). Remove from the oven. Meanwhile, preheat it to 375 degrees F.

Brush a little milk on top. Cut diagonal slits on top of the dough. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven. Cool slightly before slicing.

Notes

  • We bought our baguette form pan from Wilton before the item was discontinued. However, Amazon.com sells a variety of French bread pans.
  • Search our blog for other Franco-inspired food recipes.

 

Mini Corn Dog Muffins

minicorndogmuffins

Mid-March: National Corn Dog Day

March Madness is upon us! Spring into action and make mini corn dog muffins for watching all those basketball games on TV. They are just as easy to pop into the oven as well as pop into your mouth for a “slam dunk” snack.

According to Wikipedia, “National Corn Dog Day is a celebration concerning basketball, the corn dog (usually a hot dog sausage coated in a thick layer of cornmeal batter), Tater Tots and American beer that occurs in March of every year on the first Saturday of the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship” (usually in mid-March).

Make some mini corn dog muffins for March Madness basketball game days and on National Corn Dog Day.

Recipe

  • 1 box Jiffy brand corn muffin mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • hot dogs

Directions

Generously spray or grease a mini muffin pan with cooking spray. In a bowl, combine the corn muffin mix, egg and milk. Beat until the batter is smooth. Scoop into the wells of the pan no more than halfway or the batter will engulf the hot dog pieces.

minicorndogmuffinssteps1

Slice the hot dogs into ¾ – 1 inch pieces. Place in the middle of the corn muffin batter in the pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven. Let cool in the pan for another 10 minutes before removing them (run a toothpick around the edges to loosen, if necessary). Yield: Approximately 2 ½ dozen.

minicorndogmuffinssteps2

Notes

Next Page »