Irish Soda Bread

After promising my Father for many, many weeks to make him Irish Soda Bread, the event finally came to pass on his birthday this past Friday. I was lucky enough to be home at the time to help out and make a flour covered mess of myself.

My mother’s baking skills (I should say her kitchen skills in general) are ridiculously awesome despite no formal training, merely practice from cooking for her family. The bread came out perfectly golden and delicious! Neither vegan/raw, I limited myself to a little taste with some Earth Balance butter. Yum!

The following is the basic recipe we followed. Instead of raisins, we used a mixture of currants, golden raisins, cherries and cranberries, allowing them to soak in hot water for about 15 minutes and drain completely before adding to the dough mixture. When adding the buttermilk and egg mixture, make a bowl in the center of the dry ingredients and pour part of the liquid in, folding the dry ingredients to the center. Continue this until all the liquid is incorporated. Do not over mix. Afterwards my mother commented on next time using 1 cup of sugar versus 3/4. I thought it sweet enough, but feel free to add the extra if you wish. Happy baking!!

Ingredients

  • 5 cups sifted all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
  • 2 1/2 cups mixed light and dark raisins, soaked in water for 15 to 20 minutes and drained
  • 3 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter 2 (9 by 5-inch) bread pans.

Stir together the sifted 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 raisins and caraway seeds.

Add the buttermilk and egg to the flour mixture. Stir until well moistened. Shape dough into 2 loaves and place in the pans.

Bake for 1 hour. Test with a toothpick to see if it comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool

Recipe courtesy Brother Rick Curry, The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking, HaperPerennial, 1995. 

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

Creative spin on Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go put together by the imaginative minds of Burning Man.

What is Burning Man?

Once a year, tens of thousands of participants gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, having left no trace whatsoever.Burning Man is also an ever-expanding year-round culture based on the Ten Principles.

First Snow Blues

While Darby, my fabulous furry friend, is ecstatic about the first real snow of the season (a good 5 inches of accumulation and it is still coming down! – HARD), the 23 degree gusts, iced roads and piles of snow everywhere are putting a major damper on my Saturday plans.

As my only day off, Saturdays are my one opportunity to let loose, relax, do something fun and just enjoy myself and a little bit of freedom from responsibility. However, the weather has stuck its grimy middle finger up at all my propositions causing immense grievance.

This is how my day was supposed to turn out:

Wake up bright and early for a trip to the Javit’s Center for the annual International Motorcycle Show, a gathering of men and women clad in studded leather sharing their love for cruisers and crotch rockets. It is my favorite opportunity to sit on a bunch of really sexy motorcycles and dream. This year, it would be a little less fantasizing and a little more shopping.

My heart is set on a Harley Davidson Street Bob.

Or the Nightster.

I can’t decide if the only reason I like the Nightster is because Marisa Miller looks so damn sexy on it. It is a little more rugged than the Street Bob as well as about $3000 less.

This morning, I intended on taking advantage of the reduced prices at the show and purchase some of the essential riding gear – leather jacket, boots, helmet, maybe pants as well. I may be jumping the gun as I do not have my license yet, but a local Harley dealership offers the Rider’s Edge course every weekend for a nominal fee which overrides the DMV road test. I plan on taking it in early summer when my weekend schedule opens up.

As I am in the process of paying off tuition and ridiculously high credit card bills, it is probably best I did not charge an extra few hundred this morning on motorcycle gear for a bike I do not have nor can afford to buy in the next 12 months. Alas, the experience of the show is greatly missed as is the company of the interesting characters who attend.

The rest of my day involved a ritual trip to Vada Spa and a viewing of Tintin with a very good friend of mine. Instead I find myself sipping a steaming mug of chai tea splitting my time between watching Darby frolic in the snow, leaping up to catch snow flakes and rolling around in the white powder, and reading Wuthering Heights – a classic revolving around the destructive power of passion and love. This is not usually a subject I am inclined to read, but too many I know consider it a favorite. Therefore, I feel compelled to give it a chance.

While my intended day’s plans shifted due to inclement weather, I refuse to lose my Saturday. I will make the most of it spending time with Darby, reading, maybe trying out a new recipe and venturing out to Whole Foods once the flurries subside. If I feel inspired, I can get ahead on school work, CPA review materials or even my accountant work (unlikely).

For those of you who have snow – enjoy! For those of you who do not – you lucky bastards.

Motorcycle photos courtesy of Google. 

Hazelnut & Coconut Chai Brownies

Pure chocolate, hazelnut and chai BLISS. I credit the recipe and photos (I devoured the results before thinking to take a picture) to Nouveau Raw, a great source for easy and delicious raw recipes including many sweets treats.

As a trial run, I cut the recipe into 1/4, making about 2-4 brownies. Where the ingredients call for chai tea bags, merely empty the contents of the packet into the mixture. I took a tablespoon of a loose leaf chai and ground it up into a fine powder with mortar and pestle before incorporating it into the batter.

Ingredients: Makes 12-24 brownies

  • 4 cups medjool dates, seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup cold-pressed raw coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (or preferred sweetener)
  • 1/4 cup raw grounded flax meal
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 6 coconut chai tea bags
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup raw hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Preparation:

  1. Prepare the 8×8, straight-edged pan by lining it with plastic wrap.  This will help when it comes time to remove the brownies.  Set aside.
  2. Place all ingredients, except the hazelnuts, in food processor.  Process using the “S” blade until everything is well incorporated.
  3. Remove the dough and place in a large bowl.
  4. Add the chopped hazelnuts and work the dough by hand.  Run your hand under the faucet to dampen your hand.  Then using the palm of your hand, make folding motions with the dough so the hazel nuts get evenly distributed.  If the dough starts to stick to your hands, just dampen them again.
  5. Press the dough into the pan.
  6. Put the brownies in the freezer and let it set for a least an hour.
  7. Slice squares, sprinkle with cacao powder and garnish with whole hazelnuts.

Paul Risse: Small Town Raw, Big City Taste

Fresh, green, delicious, and above all, simple.

I bought Paul Risse’s first ebook this afternoon. Skimming through the recipes and his direct approach to living raw, I find myself reawakened by the ease in which he writes, lives and enjoys all pleasures of life.

I am a cynic from the northeast tramping around Manhattan for the better part of most of my days. While I love raw food, I am turned off by the spirituality of many raw food spokespeople and I know others feel the same. This has caused me to steer clear of many YouTube channels and blogs. I do not share in their divine, otherworldly tendencies. It seems every little snack or juice turns into a transcendental experience.

Paul is one of the few I can listen to without rolling my eyes and fast forwarding to the recipes. Even the spiritual nonsense. It may have to do with how devastatingly handsome he is and my kindergarten crush, especially with his new sexy clean cut hair. Regardless of his charm and good looks, he has sensibility. The man lives in Stephenville, Texas. Enough said.

I digress. The ebook is marvelous and more than worth the $14.99. Recipes are clear, concise and easy to follow. Most do not require exotic ingredients or complex preparation, but are designed after Paul’s simple day-to-day life. They also look incredibly delicious!  My eyes feasted on full page photos of bright colored fruits and luscious entrees.

Paul has a knack for creating tasty meals from the simplest of ingredients. I highly recommend it for any new raw foodie or veteran looking for some fresh ideas.

The ebook may be ordered here.

Evening Radiance Ritual

Bright, clear eyes, vibrant flush of the cheeks, energetic spirit, and a natural, healthy, glow. The essence of radiance.

As my diet has begun to shift in the direction of purer and cleaner, I have also begun to incorporate techniques that promote a natural well-being on the outside focusing on the skin and hair. A clean diet is the first step, free of animal products and processed chemicals. Cleaning out the inside will naturally promote a fresh exterior, but this can be thwarted by layering harsh chemicals and questionable ingredients onto our skin which readily absorbs all we feed it.

In order to speed up the purification process (my New York minute attitude cannot handle much of a wait) the substitution with all-natural bath and beauty products as well as the addition of homeopathic techniques has transformed my daily rituals. Here I will focus on evenings.

As the evening winds down for sleep, I begin my ritual with a steaming mug of chamomile tea and a good book. Sipping for fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes, until I find sleepiness taking over and the urge to conclude my reading. I take my time. Linger and enjoy. Savor the relaxing moment of each evening, because with each rising sun comes another 8-12 hours of tedious work and complex dilemmas.

Next step: Dry brushing. This is something I recently picked up and initially hated. The brush felt course and almost painful against my skin and I did not notice any effects that made the process worthwhile. However, after about a week my skin grew to love the feel of the course bristles and it looked brighter and felt silky soft.

Beyond supple skin, dry brushing promotes circulation of the lymphatic and circulatory systems which work to remove toxins from the body. This can also diminish the appearance of cellulite. This is a wonderful addition to your morning routine as it stimulates the body and wakes you up. Be sure to brush towards the heart, movement can be seen below. I use a natural plant fiber brush I purchased at Whole Foods. Steer clear of synthetic fiber as irritation may ensue.

Direction of brushing

Next Step: Warm shower. After dry brushing, your pores are awake and alive. Keep the shower warm rather than hot. I step into the warm stream and allow the water to course down my back and relax my muscles, washing away the grime and environmental hazards of the day before massaging my body with Dr. Bronner’s Almond Castile Soap, my preferred scent as it is light and sweet. I also occasionally use this as a shampoo as it is wonderful for giving body and thickness though it can occasionally leave the hair feeling dry. I am currently using Nature’s Gate Tee Tree shampoo and conditioner. It is not ideal, but it leaves my hair shiny and feeling silky.

I conclude my shower with a burst of icy water before quickly retreating to the warmth of a fresh towel made from organic bamboo.

Next Step: Hydrate. While my skin is still damp, I apply a generous amount of cold-pressed organic coconut oil from head to toe, even lightly on my face, and allow it to soak in while I brush my teeth with Tom’s of Maine and floss. I even apply a little oil to my eyelashes. This helps to condition them for thicker and healthier lashes. I give my body another good rubdown for optimal absorption before easing between the sheets to escaping reality and slip gently into oblivion.

Images courtesy of Google.