I couldn’t post this yesterday because I was having complications. Every once in a while, though thankfully much less often than it used to be, my body reminds me that I have limitations, that I have done too much and need to slow down. My best friend in the world counseled me, “The most important part about being a domestic goddess is knowing that sometimes life happens and you can’t beat yourself up about it.” So I gave myself a pass, took some extra fast acting calcium and put my feet up.
Another one of my favorite recipes I learned while living in New England was dressing to accompany the holiday meal. It is aromatic, flavorful, and unique, highlighting many of the best flavors possible in what is usually portrayed as an overtired, underappreciated side dish. It’s a nice way to class up the traditional box mix, or you can go all the way and use your own bread crumbs as well.
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 McIntosh apples, diced
1/2 pound chopped carrots
1/2 pound celery
1/4 pound sliced mushrooms
1 pound ground sausage (use your favorite kind– I used sage pork sausage)
2 sticks of butter, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (be sure to use a lot of the mace also)
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon sage
Olive oil, salt, pepper
6-8 cups of your favorite dried bread crumb blend. (Depending on time, either go the easy route and use a blend from the store, or whatever you have on hand.) I used equal amounts of marble rye, pumpernickel, and sourdough breads.
4 cups chicken broth
Directions: Cook and crumble sausage. Drain and set aside. In olive oil, saute all vegetables and fruit until everything is tender but not mushy. Be sure to season every layer with salt and pepper. Add seasonings and herbs, add sausage, and mix. Slice all bread into relatively equal sized cubes. I did half to three-quarter inch pieces. It doesn’t have to be precise. Toss the aromatic blend into the bread crumbs.
Boil chicken broth and butter. Pour over dressing mixture and fluff with a fork. Serve immediately.
Look, I get it. This is also a cheat because it is cooking, not baking. But you need this! It’s worth it. I justify it because it is good to have healthy foods to savor in the midst of the sugary goodness I keep promoting throughout this series. Oh, and this is a perfect use for the green tops of the scallions which I suggested you to save when you made your party cheeseballs.
Last month one of my sweeties had a relapse of strep throat. I’m constantly commuting with 5 kids in tow, errands and activities to and fro. My sweet husband took over dinner and enabled me to pick up my muffin’s Rx in peace, and he told me to buy myself a treat while I was out. (I had been dealing with a bad case of post partum depression for the first time in my life, and it was healthy for my well being to steal a moment away from the chaos. We will discuss more on the topic of PPD at a later time because it is an extremely incredibly important topic that needs to be acknowledged in our society more than it is.)
Well, next door to the pharmacy is my favorite grocery store. They are a (mostly) healthy minded grocer. One of my favorite things is that they have a hot soup station near the front of the store. I steal away to have lunch there often. This night one of the soups du jour was “Asian chicken soup.” I loved it!! When I got home I scoured the internet for a recipe. No luck.
This is when having basic cooking skills and an enjoyment for replicating or adapting recipes proves beneficial. So, on a cold night when you are feeling overwhelmed with your life and need a boost, here is a warm hug from the inside out.
Ginger Chicken Soup
3 large chicken breasts, shredded
6 cups chicken stock
8 cups water
3 bunches of scallions
16oz sliced baby portabella mushrooms (shitake are great too)
Shred chicken breasts by hand into tender bite sizes. Set to the side. Slice bamboo shoots into match sticks and sauté in olive oil. They are more enjoyable in this soup when they are slightly less dente than straight out of the can. Slice the green tops of the scallions at a diagonal. Spice the whites in paper-thin rounds. Add to the bamboo shoots and cook until nicely wilted. Add sliced mushrooms and cook mixture until mushrooms shrink to half their size. Give the mixture one light sprinkling of salt and pepper. Add ginger and ginseng. Mix evenly. Pour chicken stock and water over the mixture. Add soy sauce and vinegar. Simmer for 10 minutes. Garnish with a few small drops of sesame oil. Serve while hot.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
For all you last-minuters like myself, I just have one piece of advice:
DOWN WITH CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE!
Okay, not really. It’s yummy, and I appreciate corned beef at least once a year, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret: (whispers: It’s not reeeeally Irish.) It’s totally Americanized Irish food faire. Granted, my ancestors left blessed Ireland a couple hundred years ago, but we still love our heritage. (I’m more English and Scottish, but my husband has loads more Irish than I do, so we’re covered.)
Back to the point then. If you want to celebrate tomorrow with something delicious and slightly more authentic, I’ve got some recipes for you to try. Our dinner menu tomorrow will include Beef Stew, Soda Bread, and Apple Cake. These are all adaptations from recipes I have collected from friends and internet over the years. I’ll make them into .pdf and printable versions later when I am up to photographing the yumminess. For now, enjoy!!
Irish Beef Stew
2lbs beef stew chunks
salt and pepper
1 bag of pearl onions
3 cloves minced garlic
a healthy dollop of tomato paste (About 2-4 oz…what, you don’t know what a dollop is?)
1 large chopped potato
2 medium peeled and chopped parsnips
2 medium peeled and chopped carrots
1 small to medium turnip, peeled and chopped
1 small to medium rutabaga, peeled and chopped
4 cups low sodium beef broth
12 oz Guinness (I do a non-alcoholic substitution with usually apple or juice and a shot of malt vinegar because we don’t consume alcohol in our home- or you could add more broth and some sautéed mushrooms)
A few shots of Worcestershire sauce to taste
Fresh parsley for garnish
Use an enamel stew pot or dutch oven and coat the bottom with oil. Brown the stew meat on all sides in small batches on medium-high heat. Each time a small batch of the meat has been browned, just remove it and leave on a plate on the side. In the same pan, sweat onions and garlic, salt and pepper, and tomato paste. Be sure to scrape up all those yummy browned bits from the bottom of the pan and also let some of that tomato paste brown a little from the heat of the pan. Add beef chunks and any remaining juices back to the pan now and deglaze the pan with the stock, your beer or beer alternative, and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 1-2 hours.
In a separate pan, sauté with olive oil all the chopped veggies to give them a nice brown exterior. Don’t fully cook and especially do not burn them! This is just to give them extra flavor. After your stew meat has simmered for 1-2 hours, add in the veggies. Simmer for 30 or so more minutes. (Adjust the salt and pepper as needed before finishing.) Garnish with fresh parsley and enjoy!
It’s excellent with Irish cheddar scones. However, I like to skip the cheese scones and go for the sweet Irish soda bread. Truthfully, it’s because I only have so many calories I can spare in one day, so tomorrow I’m going for the soda bread. Leave a comment on this blog post if you want me to share my scone recipe later.
Irish Apple Cake
4 granny smith apples, cored, peeled and diced, about 2 cups (extra is fine)
1 c granulated sugar
4 T butter, softened (room temperature)
1 egg, beaten (room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves (optional)
1 c all-purpose flour
¼ c chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F
Chop apples and macerate in sugar, salt, and spices while preparing other ingredients.
In a large bowl, mix butter, egg, and vanilla. Add apple mixture and gently mix. Add baking powder, baking soda, flour, and nuts. Mix well.
The dear woman who shared this recipe with me used to make it in a large bread pan, so that’s what I do. Although, you could just as easily pour it into a charming little cake pan or dish and serve it that way after baking. (Prepare the pan with your favorite method: butter, baking spray, etc.)
Bake for 45min until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake is lightly browned. Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes before removing it from the pan.
Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or dusted with powdered sugar. (I’m in heaven with just the cake and a glass of milk.)
Here’s a fun tip- I also make this recipe in a muffin tin for quick breakfasts. Skip the muffin liners and just spray the tin directly with baking spray.
Sweet Irish Soda Bread
5 c flour
3/4 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ c (1 stick) butter
2 1/2 c raisins, soaked in water for 15-20 minutes and drained
3 T caraway seeds (I don’t always have these and it tastes fine without)
2 1/2 cups buttermilk (I don’t often have buttermilk on hand, so I do that milk and lemon juice trick. If I don’t feel like doing that, I just use normal milk. Whatever you have on hand will work fine.)
1 large egg
Milk for brushing tops of bread
Raw sugar for sprinkling tops of bread before baking
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter 2 (9 by 5-inch) bread pans.
Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Cut in the butter and mix very thoroughly with your hands until it gets grainy. Stir in the plump raisins and caraway seeds.
Add the buttermilk (or milk) and egg (beaten) to the flour mixture. Stir until well moistened. The “dough” should resemble thick cake batter like a standard quick bread. Equally fill 2 loaf pans. Lightly brush just a little bit of extra milk on the tops of the bread, then sprinkle the top of each with raw sugar to make it shimmery! Bake for 60-70 minutes. A toothpick in the center will come out clean when it is done. Cool in the pans for 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Another fun tip- Slice it and leave it out overnight to dry a bit and then make French toast with it in the morning. It’s YUM-AZING! (Haha… Sorry, couldn’t help myself– don’t worry, I don’t actually say that in real life.) It’s the best!
And if these holiday meal ideas still don’t appeal to you, despite how Irish they may or may not be, then here’s one more interesting tidbit. Saint Patrick wasn’t Irish either, so just make what sounds good and celebrate however you wish. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day and Éirinn go Brach!