Monday, March 17, 2014

Authentic Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick's Day! At our house, we don't go crazy celebrating this holiday, even though Kevin is Irish. We do usually make a traditional meal with Kevin's favorite foods. If you're looking for inspiration, try pairing colcannon with lamb or corned beef. I love colcannon because it's a mixture of cabbage and potatoes, it's hearty and really tasty! This recipe is very close to what I make, although I usually add cheese. What's better than loaded mashed potatoes mixed with sauteed cabbage?
One thing Kevin loves to make every year is Irish soda bread. This recipe was passed down to us from his great grandmother, so it's both special and authentic!
Authentic Irish Soda Bread
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
1 stick of butter or margarine,
8 oz. of raisins *optional
2 eggs, beaten
buttermilk (~ 1 cup, enough to make stiff dough)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix flour, salt, sugar and baking soda. Mix the butter into the dry mixture with a wooden spoon, until it is well incorporated. Add in raisins and beaten eggs, mix. Add enough buttermilk to form a stiff dough (probably ~1 cup but this amount will vary). Bake until a knife or toothpic inserted comes out clean, for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. We usually bake it in a cast iron skillet and put a cross in the top of the dough. If it begins to brown too much before it is done in the middle, tent with foil.

Enjoy a slice with butter for breakfast or a snack. This makes a good addition to dinner if you omit the raisins (or not, if you like).

Long time no see.

I had all of these grand plans to get back to blogging more frequently and then I got busy (as usual!). Well, here's what we've been up to the last few weeks!

This February it felt like we had more snow than usual (along with most of the country)! I'm hoping that we can say that we won't be seeing any more snow until next year... However, it was fun and I loved seeing the dogs play in the snow. Rory really loved it, Darcy didn't like it that much. He doesn't like how it sticks to his long hair ;)
On March 2nd, Kevin and I celebrated 10 years since we started dating. We don't usually do much for this anniversary, but we decided that 10 years of anything is cause for celebration! We went to Second Empire for dinner, it was delish, as always. Second Empire is definitely my favorite restaurant in Raleigh, you must go if you haven't. And, you must ask for the fois gras!!
This past week, we celebrated Kevin's birthday! His birthday was on Wednesday and we celebrated all week long. On Saturday we had dinner at my parents and went out in Downtown Raleigh to see our favorite local musician Adam Pitts perform. Always so much fun!

I'll be back soon to talk about all of the things we are working on around the house to get ready for Spring. :)

Oh and, P.S. GO WOLFPACK! So excited that the NCAA tournament starts this week and that NC State gets to play! :)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies

It's Valentine's Day-week! Are you thinking about what you're going to get someone special in your life? Last night my friends got together to decorate cookies for Valentine's Day and I thought I'd share the recipes.
Chocolate sugar cookies and classic sugar cookies
with royal icing
We made sugar cookies with royal icing, and although royal icing can be trickier than normal frosting, you can make some beautiful designs!! Here's the recipe for the perfect classic sugar cookies, they are really easy to make and only take 8 minutes to bake. Plus, they hold their shape really well, so you can use any cookie cutter you want!

Classic Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies via Annie's Eats
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1½ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
With the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, beat the butter on medium until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar to the bowl and mix until well incorporated, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl. While beating on medium-low, add the egg, almond extract, and vanilla extract. Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the flour and salt. Mix until everything is evenly incorporated, taking care not to over-mix. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 375. Lightly flour the work area and rolling pin and roll the dough to ¼ inch thickness. Cut with floured cookie cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, checking the at 8. Cookies should not brown. After a few minutes of resting on the pan, transfer to wire racks or parchment paper to cool.

If you're looking for another fun option, try these Chocolate Sugar Cookies via Annie's Eats. (YUM!)

Royal Icing
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp meringue powder
- 5 tablespoons water, plus more for thinning

Mix powdered sugar, meringue powder and water in mixer with paddle attachment on low for about 5 minutes. You may have to add a little more water to get it to the right consistency.

Place royal icing in individual bowls or containers and add gel food coloring to create the desired color. Add water when needed to thin icing.
source: Annie's Eats

Stiff icing consistency should be thick, almost like toothpaste and is used for outlining cookies and decorating that you don't want to smooth out. This is what the consistency should be when it comes out of the mixer.

Medium consistency icing has a little bit more water added to it and it flows a little better, but doesn't get runny. This is best for decorating cookies that have a base of icing already.

Flood consistency icing is thin and runny (but don't add too much water!). This is used to fill in the border of your cookies by "flooding" them with icing. Also use flood consistency icing to decorate wet on wet designs where the icing is all in one plane.

This is what flooding inside your bordered cookies looks like:
Here's a tutorial and comparison of icing thicknesses:
Flood consistency royal icing
Here are some more cookie decorating tips:
second, colored icing design on dry flooded cookie
Here are some awesome inspiration pictures for Valentine's Day decorating:
Hearts. Do "FHS" etc letter cutouts onto icing for fund-raisersSweetheart Conversation Cookies for Valentine's Day - such a cute idea!Royal iced sugar cookies
royal icing cookiesValentine's Day Cookies (with link to Annie's Eats fantastic sugar cookie recipe and royal icing recipe and tips).
Beautiful Valentine's Day Cookies!  And easy step-by-step instructions.royal icing recipe

Friday, January 31, 2014

My Favorite Appetizers & Party Dishes

It's time for the Super Bowl! That means gathering with friends and family to watch the game and my favorite: the commercials. I'm also excited that there are so many players who played at NC State. Go Russell Wilson!!

Well, whether you're hosting or going to a party this weekend, you're probably looking for something to make. Here are some of my favorites...  I highly recommend making some of these if you haven't before. YUM!

New Favorites
Chili Lime Shrimp Cups
Chili Lime Shrimp Cups
Cucumber Crostini
Knorr Spinach Dip
Knorr Spinach Dip
Stuffed Mushrooms
Three-Cheese Mini Macs
Mac and Cheese Bites
Frank's Buffalo Chicken Dip with Ranch
Pigs in a Blanket

Raspberry Brie Bites
Tried one of these today... amazing! Turtles made with pretzels, rolos and pecans.
Rolo Pretzel Delights
Others to Try
Soft Pretzel Bites
Homemade Soft Pretzel Bites
Dipped s'mores.
Dipped S'mores
Hope you have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Happy Snow Day!

We got a few inches of snow last night! The dogs are super excited that I am working from home today, because that means that they get to play in the snow a lot. Here are some pictures from early this morning when they got to enjoy the snow.

Dogs in the snow
Action shot of Rory stirring up the snow trying to play with Darcy
Rory (Darcy went inside to get warm!)
Snow beard!
Running a fast as he can through all of the snow!
Hope you have a great day!
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