• ”my
    Award Winning Recipe Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
  • myTaste.com
  • Proud member of FoodBlogs
  • Cherry Walnut Soda Bread

    I come from an Italian and Greek family. We celebrate a lot of things with a lot of food.

    But, here comes St. Patrick’s Day. The Dear One is Irish (mostly) and can trace his roots back to Town someplace in the County something. Totally lost in translation for me.

    Sadly, this is what I know about being Irish …

    Irish Whisky
    Guinness (Steak & Guinness Pie)
    Uncle Nicky’s Irish Cream
    Irish Stew
    Beer
    St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC
    LeprechaunS

    I’m sure there are other things … but the knowledge is SERIOUSLY limited.

    I want to make something special for the Dear One. Celebrate his heritage a wee bit.

    I opened the Boston Globe and there was a recipe from Lisa Yockelson of Baking Style Diary for a cherry and walnuts soda bread. This is the ticket.

    No blarney, this was fantastic and easy … and gone. Great combination of favorite flavors. This could make even the least Irish amongst us to feel a bit green on St. Patrick’s Day!

    • 2½ cups flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
    • ¼ teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt
    • ¼ cup sugar
    • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into teaspoon-size chunks
    • 1 egg plus 1 extra yolk
    • ½ cup buttermilk, or more if needed
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • ¾ cup dried Montmorency cherries
    • ⅔ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

    NOTE: Didn’t have buttermilk. Didn’t want to buy a gigantic container of buttermilk for a mere 1/2 cup. I do, however, keep a container of buttermilk powder in the fridge for just such emergencies. Worked like a charm! The powder goes in with the dry ingredients and you add water to the wet ingredients. Not sure how it works – magic, I’m sure – but it does!

    Set the oven at 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

    In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar to blend them.

    Scatter the butter over the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or two blunt knives, cut the fat into the flour until it is reduced to pea-size bits. Using your fingertips, lightly crumble the mixture for 1 minute to reduce the butter into small flakes.

    In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, buttermilk, and vanilla. Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture. Scatter the cherries and walnuts on top. With a rubber spatula, stir to form a dense but cohesive mixture to bring the dough together. If necessary, add more buttermilk, 1 teaspoon at a time. Knead the dough lightly and briefly in the bowl for half a minute.

    Turn the dough out onto the counter. Form it into a plump ball about 5½ to 6 inches in diameter. Place the ball on the baking sheet and use a sharp paring knife to slash a shallow “X” in the top.

    Bake the round for 45 to 50 minutes, or until set and golden on top. Using two spatulas, carefully transfer the bread from the parchment paper to a wire rack to cool completely.

    Use a serrated knife to cut into slices.

    https://static.inlinkz.com/cs2.js

    Rhubarb Coffee Cake

    Done

    As Robert Burns once wrote … ‘The best laid schemes ‘o mice an’ men’ …

    As anyone still out there may recall, this past January I took a stand against cyber stalking, pledging to not allow fright and fear of judgment curb my enthusiasm for writing.

    AND THEN …

    Came the snow! (Imagine that, snow in Maine …) And there was the Dear One, shoveling and shoveling and shoveling. It pained me to watch him do this all alone, so off I went to help. It pained me to watch him and then it pained me the next morning ~ SCIATICA. Crippling sciatica. Off we go to the doctor. Here’s some meds. They will help. Rest. Heat. Cold. Drugs. Repeat.

    After a few days, they did help. Helped enough so I was able to get myself out of bed and go downstairs.

    At our house in cold and snowy and blowy Maine, it was not easy to keep the outer door closed tight and we would offer awake to inches of snow inside the porch doorway. The solution? Put a log there.

    Physically fragile and compromised me goes to walk outside and instead of bending over to move the log, I pushed it aside with the outside of my left foot. No big deal.

    HA!

    I opened my eyes the next morning in the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. It was blinding. I couldn’t stand or walk or sit. I had one comfortable position and one emotion ~ hysteria.

    Dear One and I drive off to the doctor again, this time with me lying across the back seat in the fetal position sobbing. Different drugs. Rest. Heat. Cold. Drugs. Repeat. No better come in and we’ll start running tests.

    And really crappy drugs. I needed the mother of all muscle relaxers and I truly felt this medical office was ‘not getting it’. I managed to get flexeril, but I was in pain. I needed relief. It wasn’t happening. I was just stoned out of my head. Not sleeping, just passed out. Not eating (not the worst thing in the world). Sad. Deflated.

    A friend or two stepped in and suggested an osteopath. Being the skeptical gal I am, I just didn’t see that working. But at this point – three weeks of being in bed – I would have done nearly anything anyone suggested for relief.

    On a ridiculously snowy day, the Dear One and I drive 40 minutes to see the osteopath. I walk in the door and there’s sitar music playing and incense burning and I’m thinking – ‘yeah, right. This ain’t gonna work. $230 down the drain.’

    I lay on the table and the doctor placed his hands on my middle and lower back. Then my knee and hip. Light little fluttery touches. Nope, nope, nope, not working, not working … OH MY GOD, the muscles I pulled and twisted and tore RELAXED. No more drugs, slow pace, less bed rest, more sessions with him. And after 6 weeks, I felt like … well, at 80%.

    What I didn’t realize at the time was the emotional and mental blow this took on my psyche. I was just unhappy and unmotivated. I did just the bare minimum I needed to do to get by. Quite frankly, I didn’t even realize this was happening. I wasn’t writing or cooking anything new, certainly not taking photos. I felt myself slipping away. Nothing was fun. Nothing was interesting. Get up. Shower. Eat. Work. Sleep. Repeat.

    Finally, a dear friend who had been trying to reach out to me over and over again, cornered me. And we started talking … and talking … and talking … it didn’t hurt that she is an incredible neuropsychologist …

    Everything had caught up to me after the injury … moving, being away from my family, my friends, being away from my darling son and his new bride, trying to find a place to fit in with the Dear One and his children, making new friends, being seriously injured, feeling isolated and alone. I don’t have those bring you chicken soup at 2:00 am friends here yet. No one who would reach out and come and visit or … It all just came crashing down on my soul at once. I was just paralyzed. My dear friend has known me for many, many years and heard the sadness and desperation creeping into my head. Her answer … let’s talk some more and let’s think about prozac.

    I knew what I thought about prozac and I was VERY reluctant. The first pill I took was truly really hard to swallow. I was terrified. And I sat, patiently (well, as patient as I am capable of being) waiting for something to happen. As if there would be a TA-DA! moment. There wasn’t.

    But one morning I woke up, just as dear Dr. D.T. said, and it felt as though the haze was gone. I felt happier in my head, my heart and soul felt lighter. I tried a new recipe. I giggled. I’m sleeping.

    I’m getting better. I’m at the edge of the woods about to step into the sun light. Thank you, Dear one for being so patient and for dropping everything to stay home and take care of me. Thank you, D.T., I would have been able to get to this point without you. To my friends and family I’ve hidden from for the last number of months, I’m sorry, I love you all, and I’m back amongst the living.

    So, while in bed I saw this recipe for Rhubarb Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping from Melissa Clark in the New York Times Cooking section. It looked like it had to be made. I had rhubarb that had to be cooked.

    Tender, sweet, easy, yummy. The true testament is it being gone in a day!

    Cake

    • 1 C of sugar
    • ½ C of butter
    • 1 egg
    • 1 C buttermilk
    • 2 C flour
    • 1 t baking soda
    • ½ t nutmeg (optional)
    • 2 C rhubarb, diced

     

    Streusel Topping

    • ½ C sugar
    • ½ C walnuts, chopped
    • 1 t cinnamon
    • 1 T butter, melted

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a nine-by-thirteen pan. Assemble the cake, cream together the sugar and the butter, beat in the egg and buttermilk. Whisk or sift together the flour, soda, and optional nutmeg, and add it to the sugar, butter, egg, buttermilk mixture. Mix all together completely, and then fold in the rhubarb. Spread in the baking pan.

    Mix the topping by combining the sugar, walnuts, cinnamon, and melted butter, and distributing it over the top of the cake batter.

    Bake for forty-five to fifty minutes. Serve warm.

    Makes one nine-by-thirteen cake.

    New York Crumb Cake

    Ready

    Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once said “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” … “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

    Not that I’m one to argue with a dead, French journalist, who coined one of the most used sentences … well, EVER …

    BUT, for me, truth be told, the more things have changed, the more different they have become.

    I was born in New York City. Grew up in New York City. Grammar school and high school in New York City. Up until November 2013, I had never lived further than 10 miles from everyone to whom I’m related – except my sister Maria who abandoned ship to marry a great guy and now lives in Oswego, IL.

    I worked for my Dad for around 30 years as a paralegal and office manager.

    I had GREAT gal pals.

    November came along and EVERYTHING changed. I moved from the hustle and bustle of New York City to the calm and quiet of Bar Harbor, Maine (well, except for July and August when town is over run by tourists). Am no longer (mostly) working for my Dad, have new jobs, added some new gal pals to my beloved inner circle, live in a beautiful home surrounded by beautiful gardens, with the MOST incredible man.

    I decided as I was packing my boxes that I no longer wanted to be a paralegal. I didn’t want a 9 to 5 office grind. If I was going to change everything about my life, I may as well change everything about  my life.

    BUT WHAT DO I WANT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP!?

    Well, who knows?! (and I refuse to grow up …) But I do know it HAS to involve food! At the moment, I’m working at Reel Pizza Cinerama – truly one of the coolest places EVER! I began my own summer based cooking business – The Maine Ingredients – which truly struggled its first summer. I even picked up a few shifts as a sous chef in a friend’s restaurant – Sweet Pea’s Cafe.

    A little restless. A little bored. Feeling a little sorry for myself.

    AND THEN! … an email from my friend Jennifer Steen Booher, whose photographs are the coolest I’ve ever seen (check them out on Quercus Design) arrived. Her daughter Tabby wants to cook, bake, be in the kitchen. They tried a cooking camp and it was a massive FAIL. Would I consider coming over and teaching Tabby and a couple of friends the way around a cake tin? WOULD I? HELLS YEAH!

    We had a blast! We made pretzels and scones and bread and blueberry muffins and quiche and lemon meringue pie (which I had personally never made either and was knocking knees that it would work out – and it did!) and sticky buns and this New York Crumb Cake.

    Jenn wrote a great piece about our time in the kitchen – check it out – and check out hr fabulous photography!

    Thank you, Jenn for sharing your kitchen and daughter with me! Thank you Tabby, Anna, Irene, Geneva and Carolyn for making the lessons so much fun and for turning out some fabulous baked goods!

    I’m hoping others will see this and Jenn’s piece on her blog and want some lessons too … if you do you can reach my by email themaineingredients@gmail.com or 207-801-0302!

    See, the more things have changed, the more they have changed and the better they have become!

    Makes one 9-by-12 1/2-inch cake

    • 2 T canola oil, plus more for pan
    • 4 C all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
    • 1/2 C granulated sugar
    • 2 1/2 t baking powder
    • 1/2 t salt
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/2 C milk
    • 2 t pure vanilla extract
    • 1 C packed light-brown sugar
    • 1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
    • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

    Place rack in center of oven, and heat oven to 325°. Lightly brush a 9-by-12 1/2-inch baking pan with canola oil, dust with flour, and tap to remove excess. Set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a second bowl, whisk together egg, milk, canola oil, and vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture.

    Batter in pan

    Spread batter evenly into prepared pan, and set aside.

    In a medium bowl, combine remaining 2 1/2 cups flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Pour melted butter over flour mixture, and toss with a rubber spatula until large crumbs form.

    Adding crumbs

     

    Sprinkle crumbs over batter.

    Transfer pan to oven, and bake, rotating pan after 10 minutes. Continue baking until a cake tester comes out clean, about 10 minutes more.

    Cooling

    Transfer baking pan to a wire rack to cool.

    Dusting

    Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Using a serrated knife or bench scraper, cut into 3-inch squares. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.