Irish soda bread

Last year I made Irish soda bread for the first time and I really enjoyed it. It’s not sweet like corn bread, but it does have a subtle sweetness to it; which allows it to be used in a variety of ways. It get’s its name from the baking soda in it that is used as leavening agent instead of traditional yeast. It also bakes faster than yeast bread.

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My favorite way to eat Irish soda bread is with either a hearty vegetable stew or chili. It makes for some great comfort food; especially while being cooped up inside during a long freezing winter.

Another yummy way to enjoy it is toasted with a generous spread of marmalade or peanut butter. My hubby will even just eat it plain for a snack. What is your favorite way to eat Irish Soda Bread?

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Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients:

  • 4 Cups of flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 3 TBS of raw sugar
  • 4 TBS of vegan butter (Melted)
  • 1 flax egg ( 1 TBS ground flax seed + 2.5 TBS of water. Mix and let sit for 5 minutes)
  • 1 1/2 Cups of vegan buttermilk ( 1 1/2 Cups of almond milk mixed with 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar. Let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes)

Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 425º and grease a 9” round baking dish.
    2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar. Once the dry ingredients are all mixed in, make a well in the center. Add the wet ingredients to the well and then begin to fold it into a dough with either a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.
    3. Once the ingredients are mixed in, turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead with your hands until the dough has completely come together. Then form the dough into a ball.
    4. Place the dough onto the prepared baking pan and score an X (about a half inch thick) through the top center with a knife. Sprinkle a dusting of flour on top.
    5. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350º and bake for another 40 minutes. You want the final color to be a golden brown.
    6. Let cool and enjoy!

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Heirloom brown bread and a winter wonderland

Thanksgiving is over. Now the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations begins. I am sad to say that my hubby and I will have to spend our holidays in Montana this season. It’s never an easy decision to make, but when you live 1700 miles away from family these hard choices will often present themselves.

I was blessed with a lovely childhood, I do not take that for granted and I have tried to carry that with me into adulthood and marriage (My journey hasn’t been as effortless as my parents made it look. Though I know there were sacrifices of their own that I did not see.). My family has so many traditions, some classic like watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” the same night we decorate the tree; and some silly ones as well, like always having to stop at the same gas station for coffee and cocoa on our way to grandmas house Christmas day. It’s a cherished lifetime of invaluable memories and instilled in me what really happens when you have traditions. What happens is consistency and quality time, which produces fond memories, which creates hope and excitement for the next time around. I can remember a few of my favorite presents from my childhood, but my fondest memories, the ones I’ve tried to recreate in my own home are the ones that involve my family being together.

A tradition my mom and I have together is baking. She would make several pounds of gingerbread dough and we would decorate dozens of little gingerbread men to share with friends and family. Dad was banned from cookie decorating… I don’t think I need to explain why.

One of our favorite baked goods that’s always on our table during the holiday season is brown bread. It’s basically a loaf of ginger bread. My mom got the recipe from my great grandma Tiffany (One of the most amazing women I have ever met.). I have managed to successfully carry this tradition on into my own household. My husband loves brown bread! I recently looked up the origin of this recipe and was surprised to find that it was created in Boston Massachusetts and in that part of the U.S. it is known as “Boston Brown Bread”. However, the most surprising fact about it’s origin, is that it was originally made in a tin can! It can even still be found sold in a tin can in Boston markets.

I am sharing this delicious recipe with you. It’s very sweet. A slice could be eaten on it’s own with some Earth Balance butter spread on top. It can be served with nice cream. Or served during dinner, which is the way we’ve always served it. It’s origin story said it was always served with baked beans.

Here is my family recipe for Holiday Brown Bread. Read on to hear about our long weekend in the beautiful mountains of Alberta and British Columbia Canada.

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Brown Bread

1 loaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 C of flour
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 1/2 C of sugar
  • 1/2 C of molasses
  • 1 Flax egg (1tbs of ground flax seed and 2 1/2 tbs of water)
  • 1 tbs of vegetable shortening
  • 1 C of boiling water

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven at 325º F
  2. Grease and flour a loaf pan
  3. In a large mixing bowl mix together dry ingredients then stir in the wet ingredients.
  4. Pour the batter into the loaf pan.
  5. Bake in the oven for 1 hour.
  6. Take out and let cool.
  7. Serve with dinner, with baked beans, or with your favorite nice cream. *Or you can sneak a slice every couple of hours until you’ve devoured the whole thing like my husband does.

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A winter wonderland

Our adventures in a wintery Canada

Happy snow bunnies

The mountains have a mystical way of drawing us to them. Last weekend my hubby and I venture north to Calgary, Alberta in Canada. We stayed the night in the beautiful city, I miss city life. We had a great place right in the heart of it. What a treasure to look outside and see the skyline all lit up at night.

The next morning we met up with our good Canadian friend and ventured out to the mountains of Banff National Park.

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Banff upper springs

Our first day we walked along a trail just taking the majestic view. We also visited a protected hot spring with an endangered specie of snail only known to Banff Canada. Later in the evening we went swimming in Upper natural hot springs. It was about 30 degrees outside, but the hot spring was about 110 degrees. It was so relaxing.

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The next morning was very cloudy and snowy. We could barely see the mountains anymore. We ventured to the stunning Lake Louis. We couldn’t see the mountains and the lake was frozen and covered with snow. But that didn’t dampen our spirits. The foliage and graceful snow fall  was creating a fairytale beauty all it’s own. We walked along a trail (That I can only assume went around the lake) just admiring the splendor.

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After enjoying the snow for a little while we headed to Emerald Lake in British Columbia. It was still snowing pretty hard there as well, another winter wonderland

We stayed at Emerald Lake Lodge, which I found out later on, that the whole lodge is basically an island in the middle of the lake. I didn’t realize at the time because the lake was frozen over and covered with snow.  At night Emerald Lake transformed into a real life Thomas Kinkaid painting. It was absolutely stunning. Hubby and I spent some time just wandering the little village in awe.

Emerald lake lodge, British Columbia

We Went to bed with no real knowledge that when we woke up the next morning the giant mountains would be smiling down on us. It was like waking up in a new place, with a new kind of beauty.

I felt so humble staring at the vastness of this magnificent mountain. I need to find out it’s true name, but in my mind I keep referring to it as “Grandfather Mountain” because of the respect its presence commands. A stroll through the woods

 

Did I mention I love mountains? Before breakfast, even before coffee, hubby and I eagerly got dressed and headed back out into the snow like a couple of kids.

I don’t know how long we were out there walking around, but its a walk in the snow with my love that I’ll never forget.

Now that the mountains were back out and the sky was blue again, we decided to go back to Lake Louis and she did not disappoint.

Lake Louis

We headed back to Banff’s downtown village for brunch and then said goodbye to the mountains and in Calgary we said goodbye to our good Canadian friend. Then we ventured homeward and reunited with our cherished furbabies.

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The mountains are always calling. They have taken a piece of me and they know it. Now that I love them, they will never let me go. Something happens to me when I am standing in the presence of a mountain. Peace washes over me like a warm bath. I want to run away into the mountains and live in peace.

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Thanksgiving ciabatta stuffing

Winter is here. Winter comes early in this part of the U.S. and it stays for a long time. Some days it can be difficult to shake the winter blues. But it helps to try to see the beauty in things around us. Sometimes winter makes it easy to see the beauty, like the other morning when a thick fog rolled into town and frosted everything from the blades of grass to the tip tops of the trees. I wish I could have gone for a long walk that day to capture some truly magical moments, but alas my day job did not allow it. I did sneak this picture real quick on my way out to my car.

Frosty morning

How about the beauty in those cold, cozy mornings at home? I love a quiet morning with a beautiful wintery sight out my window, nowhere to go and a warm drink in my hand.

You know another beautiful thing about winter? Comfort food. One of the ultimate comfort foods is definitely stuffing. I don’t want to brag but I make awesome stuffing! I’ve had so many people ask me for this recipe after they’ve had a taste and when I have Thanksgiving with family, it’s always a must that I make the stuffing. So skip the boxed stuff and try something new that’ll be a real hit at your Thanksgiving table this year.

If you’re concerned about having yet another dish to prepare, I kept the instructions pretty simple. And I don’t recommend you go with another bread, stick with the ciabatta, it’s the perfect stuffing bread.

Thanksgiving stuffing

Ciabatta and Herb stuffing

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 large loaf of ciabatta bread cut into small cubes
  • 2TBS Olive Oil
  • 1 carrot diced
  • 1 Celery stalk diced
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 2 Cups of Vegetable stock
  • 2 TBS of fresh chopped sage
  • 2 TBS of fresh chopped rosemary
  • 2 TBS of fresh chopped parsley
  • salt
  • black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven at 375º
  2. Over medium heat, heat olive oil in a skillet. Add carrot, celery, and onion. Cook until the onion is transparent and carrots are soft. Once cooked through, transfer to a glass bowl.
  3. Add stock, sage, rosemary, parsley, salt, and pepper to the bowl. Whisk together.
  4. Spray 9 x 13 baking dish with non stick spray or coat in coconut oil.
  5. Add ciabatta cubes to the baking dish.
  6. Pour the stock mixture over the ciabatta bread. stir to coat the bread pieces.
  7. Bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes or until it turns golden on top. *I like mine crispy on top so I leave it in a little longer.
  8. Remove and enjoy!

Thanksgiving stuffing

 

Grandma’s Zucchini bread

My family is everything to me. And I have been immensely blessed by the women in my family, they have instilled so many treasured values in my life. I was a pen pal with my great grandma from my childhood into adulthood. I’ve also been a pen pal with my grandma since I was a little kid; which has been exceedingly therapeutic since I moved so far away from her. They helped me appreciate the art of letter writing and sending cards. My mom has passed down recipes to me that she received from her mom, that grandma received from her own mother and so forth. Generations of women taking care of each other.

One of those cherished recipes is Zucchini bread. I remember my friend’s mother bringing zucchini from her garden so my mom could make her some loaves of our family’s zucchini bread. My mom got the recipe from her grandma and now she has passed it on to me. This was a very delicate recipe for me to modify. I didn’t want to alter it too much because then it wouldn’t be my family’s recipe anymore. All I did was switch from chicken eggs to flax eggs. Then added a healthier oil option; from vegetable oil to coconut oil. Everything else is original and just as delicious as I remember it.

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Zucchini Bread Recipe (vegan)

Serving: 2 loaves        Bake time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 3 flax eggs (3tbsp of ground flax-seed mixed with 6-7tbs of water, set for 10 minute)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of coconut oil
  • 2 tsp of vanilla
  • 2 cups of shredded zucchini
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 tsp of baking powder

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Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degree
  2. Grease two loaf pans
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the flax eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla
  4. Stir the shredded zucchini in with the sugar mix
  5. In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder.
  6. Using a sifter, sift the dry mixture over of the wet mixture and mix them together
  7. Split the batter between the two pans
  8. Bake for 1 hour (check the center with a toothpick; if it comes out clean, it’s done)
  9. Remove from the oven and let it cool down in the pan.

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