Irish Soda Bread

It’s not unusual for me to go into a blogging hiatus this time of year. Auditing is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it. In all seriousness, things have been all consuming at work and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I welcome the familiar distraction. I’ve found myself in a new, exciting environment that is both challenging and rewarding.  I’m surrounded by people who push me and I can feel myself adapting constantly.

To be honest, work has been consoling for me. Only days after my last post, my best friend got married. It was a beautiful day that I will never forget. Definitely the best wedding I’ve ever been to. The only thing that would have made the day so over the top would have been if Ellen, my aunt and my sister’s god mother had been in attendance. My aunt had been diagnosed with cancer in the summer and was in the hospital at the time. My family and I were with her the very next day wielding wedding pictures and stories to share the joy with her. It breaks my heart still to say she died a few days later.

Beth, Aly, and Ellen

I’ve never felt so supported at work. During the summer and fall, my team and mentors made it possible for me to work from Long Island part time so I could have long weekends with my family. I was happy to be able to spend as much time with Ellen as I could. I was also glad I could be there for my mom and Aly, who’d been making multiple trips every day to the hospital toward the end.

I ripped a page out of Ellen’s book when it comes to entertaining and being the head chef in the kitchen. Ellen got a lot pleasure making delicious meals and taking care of everyone. Holidays and family get togethers were marked by some kind of special treat, whether it be corn muffins for Thanksgiving, chocolate Santa’s for Christmas or Irish soda bread for St. Patty’s day. If you’ve ever tasted love in food, then you’d know exactly what any of these morsels tasted like.

5 cups of flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups raisins
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sift together all dry ingredients. Add butter, buttermilk, and the egg. Roll up your sleeves and start mixing. The batter will be very sticky. Once the batter just comes together, add the raisins and give it a few good folds.

Pam or butter a cast iron skillet (preferred) or a 9 inch pie pan. Add the batter and cut a T in the dough before placing in the oven. Bake for an hour to hour and 15 minutes. Poke the bread directly in the center with a knife. It it comes out clean, then you’re good to go. Otherwise, leave it in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. Let cool and serve with a nice pat of butter. Yes, more butter.

So far, we’ve managed to make corn muffins and get our chocolate Santa’s. I’m sure among all of the cousins, someone will bake a soda bread this March. I can feel Ellen celebrating with us and we can continue sharing our happy family memories with her by keeping up traditions.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

‘Tis the time for seasonal fall treats! Now that I’ve checked an apple treat off the list, I’ve moved onto pumpkin! My friend Ray introduced me to pumpkin chocolate chip cookies a while back and since then, it’s been an annual tradition. I’m not someone who loves pumpkin. I actually can’t even handle real pumpkin pie. My family is all about the chiffon variety. These cookies, however, are beautifully spiced and cake like, it’s hard not to eat one or four.

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 extra large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can canned pumpkin puree
3 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugars with a hand mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Mix the dry ingredient into the batter in thirds. Stir in the chips. Scoop the cookie dough in heaping tablespoons onto your baking sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them rest until firm enough to remove from the baking sheet. Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks.

Share with your friends, but keep a few for yourself first

The King of Cupcakes

Late night cupcakin’

It has been a long time coming that I get back to making cupcakes. I bake often to relieve stress and to fuel my teams during busy season. The life of an auditor is a yummy one, for my teams anyway.

I was feeling a little stir crazy tonight and recalled a conversation I had earlier this month with Mr. E. He had only recently learned of the classic Elvis in the form of a smoothie and it had me hankering for a hunka hunka burning peanut butter and banana sandwich. I spied four bananas getting ripe on my kitchen counter, saved for a likely healthy destination. I took it upon myself to steer these babies away from healthy to a world of fat and sugar and magic.

For the cupcakes
1 1/2 cups AP flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
4 large ripe bananas, roughly mashed
2 extra large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the frosting
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. I got 14 cupcakes from the recipe.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add melted butter, bananas, eggs and vanilla. Using a hand mixer, mix until just combined. Do not over mix or you will get a tough crumb.

Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full. Bake for about 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from pan and let cool completely prior to frosting.

To make the frosting, cream together peanut butter, cream cheese, and butter until fluffy using a hand mixer. Gradually add the powdered sugar until well combined. Add vanilla extract.

To frost, I used my handy dandy 1M star tip because it makes the frosting look too pretty to eat. To complete the Elvis flavor trifecta, drizzle honey just before serving.

All is right with the world when there are cupcakes in my fridge

These were ridiculous. The frosting is light and sweet and salty. If you love peanut butter and bananas, you will love these!


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