I have no idea who Marilyn O’Reilly is, but she has an Irish name, so she must know what she’s doing, right?
I have been making this recipe every year since 2006 when I had this infatuation with the Food Network….(most likely because I was deep into child care and going completely crazy). I couldn’t tell you why I chose this recipe in the first place, but I have never made any other kind. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
My family loves it. I really should make it more often.
Irish Soda Bread is actually a crumbly, quick bread made with very simple ingredients that most people have in their cupboard and cooler. No yeast required. Traditionally, irish folk would make this bread every couple of days and eat it with their main meal of the day. It is shaped into a round loaf and using a knife, is marked with a cross on top to ward off the devil and keep the home safe.
Soda Bread does require buttermilk but I NEVER have it in my fridge. Instead, I make my own “buttermilk” by adding 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 Cup of regular milk and letting it sit on the countertop for awhile before mixing. It creates a “sour” buttermilk that is perfect for this recipe.
This is Marilyn O’Reilly’s Irish Soda Bread and it’s the best. Let’s bake…
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and set your rack in the middle of the oven.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all your dry ingredients and whisk well. Using your fingers (well, this is how I do it) pinch and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it disappears.
Stir in seeds and raisins. (optional)
Take your buttermilk (or the “buttermilk” that you made) and mix the egg into it. Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a strong spatula. This is your dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and do some light kneading. if it seems too sticky, sprinkle a little more flour on outside. Shape into a round loaf. Place onto cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or a silpat. Cut a cross on the top of your loaf and throw it into the oven for 15 minutes. Now reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and cook for an additional 25-30 minutes more. It is done when it passes the toothpick test. Try not to overcook as it is already a pretty crumbly bread.
Serve warm with lots of sweet butter and marmalade. Mmmmm Enjoy!
Remember A Charlie Brown Christmas special when the gang tries to find a tree for their holiday play and all they find are brightly colored, shiny, blinking metal trees? Even back in 1965 when the iconic movie was made, they knew that the holiday is NOT about flashy, commercial things. It is about family, friends and gathering to celebrate each other. #seasonofgiving
I grew up on the Charlie Brown special and have raised my own kids on it too. It never fails to capture the exact sentiment that every year we are inundated with pretty, shiny things to purchase to make our holidays perfect when in reality, all we need is each other.
But, I am no Grinch.
I still love to decorate to create a sense of comfort and joy – objects and scents bring back great holiday memories. When my kids were younger, it was all about creating a magical world. Today, it is about showing them that objects and gifts are not necessary, just memories and time together. (that’s not so easy with teenagers) I wish I had started sooner!
So, in an effort to show gratitude and giving and to also reduce our carbon footprint and our budget, I am doing my best to keep our household purchasing low. Instead of buying decor, we are making our own natural homemade decor. It is super easy and fun to do and forces you to slow down to create in this crazy season and stress.
First we dried orange slices and cranberries and then we gathered sticks, twigs, cedar branches, pinecones and holly from the backyard and the woods. We also took the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks from the pantry and pulled out our huge spool of jute that I have had for years just for all these amazing creative crafts. #alwaysanartteacher
Next we made a quick and easy salt dough recipe to make rolled cookie cutter ornaments. They are not for eating, but they are adorable and easy and can be a great way to add holiday scents to your home decor. Then you just gather up everything and start putting things together in any which way that makes you happy!
Here is how we created all of our “supplies”
Dried Orange Slices:
Salt Dough Ornaments:
String everything together on a garland or tie each individual item as a cute and simple ornament or decor for a wrapped present. No matter what you do or how your projects turn out, the point is that you got to spend some time together making new memories and you didn’t spend any extra money. The holidays can be a time of stress, anxiety and debt and you just beat that!
My mother still recalls the jaw-dropping moment when as an adult, I told her I was coming home for the holidays and bringing a pear tart. I had never been much of a homemaker so she was a little stunned. We still laugh about it.
But, in hindsight, I saw these days of my life as a time when I started to find more of myself and my interests. I went to college for art – specifically ceramics. Out of school, I worked for a potter in Hoboken, NJ that used to always say that potters made great bakers because we already knew how to knead the bread from all the clay wedging we had to do. (Ironically, all the sourdough recipes out there now are No-Knead recipes, so I can’t use my mad potter’s skills.)
I kinda rolled my eyes at her those days, because the idea of me doing something so domestic made me want to vomit. I was an artist….and of course that meant that I would wear all black, live in a loft in NYC and eat takeout. Hahaha I would never bake bread.
But, we all evolve (thank goodness)…..for me it started with a pear tart from the Martha Stewart Living magazine and now I am activating my own San Francisco sourdough starter.
Who doesn’t? More specifically, I LOVE sourdough bread. Even more specifically, I love San Francisco Sourdough. I was born in the San Francisco area and even though I wasn’t raised there, my parents did what they could to continue getting that Boudin bread in our hands (we were lucky enough to have neighbors that worked for the airlines and traveled there often). Sourdough on the east coast was never exactly the same.
But, why is that? Sourdough bread is actually a “wild yeast” bread……meaning, it is made with wild yeast instead of commercial yeast. So, a sourdough made on the east coast will taste different than a sourdough made on the west coast simply because of what is floating in the air. It may not be ‘sour’ at all! San Francisco sourdough is particularly famous because of the local bacteria – it’s just delicious. I wrote more about this in a previous post about sourdough….I may be slightly obsessed.
So, I bought a dry, inactive San Francisco culture online that had to be activated before I could bake it into that delicious bread. It took me forever. So, why was I so nervous? What was I waiting for?
Bread is not difficult. Bread is forgiving. Just go for it. The instructions that came with my dry culture said I had to put my culture in a proofing box to activate it properly (these are little mini ovens that hold low temps and cost $100’s of dollars and are clearly for dedicated bakers). WTH? I was so excited to get this baby going and now I am nervous as hell that I am going to mess it up. All I bought was a glass jar for my starter….. So, I asked around in the homesteading/baking communities and I was talked off the ledge and reminded that this is not difficult. Bread is forgiving. Just go for it…..
So, I did.
Again and again and again and again and again.
I have had my share of mistakes and some small wins and I am still not happy with where I am……YET. I have made bread that ended up looking like a pancake, or was hard as a rock or lacked a toasty crust. I have also made bread that was perfect and tasted amazing. Baking, cooking, gardening or any skill that you are teaching yourself requires trying and failing. This is how we learn.
My sourdough starter got going pretty quickly and without the fancy proofing box. #learnedmylesson I split it into two jars and continue to feed them both each week as I bake bread. Oh yeah……I have been baking lots of bread.
At first, my family was super excited and would eat the loaf within 12 hours. I was worried at first simply because I knew I couldn’t keep up with how much they ate and also because I can’t just feed my family bread – even though it is sourdough which is more digestible.
**HERE COMES SOME SCIENCE: There is this stuff called phytic acid that is present in most breads (particularly whole wheat). Phytic acid inhibits the enzymes that help you breakdown proteins and starches in your stomach resulting in digestive difficulties. Luckily, sourdough has wild yeasts and bacteria that neutralize that phytic acid which makes it easier for us to digest. Oh, and did I mention that sourdough is also a prebiotic? Yup – it feeds your healthy gut microbiome and you know I am ALL about a healthy gut. #hallelujah #plexustaughtme
Alright, enough science, let’s talk about the bread baking adventures again. I still have not figured out the exact PERFECT method for myself and my needs and abilities. As I said, this is a process. But, here is what I have learned:
This is where I am right now. I am currently trying to find MY process. I have started with an AMAZING recipe from Homestead and Chill that is 3 pages long in my little notebook. Yup, it is a long process. But, since I work from home, I can mingle it into my daily activities with some practice. I have tried a few other recipes that have not worked out and I always come back to this one. Now I am just trying to tweak each little part of the process in an effort to understand WHY it works this way.
I am here to say that ANYONE can make sourdough bread if you give it a few trys. It is so worth it. I suggest getting started with a few supplies……you will need:
If you want to really get into it, I also recommend adding:
YOU CAN DO IT! And, if you need any starter, just drop me a line and I will send you some of mine!
I am all about ease in the kitchen. Maybe I am lazy, or maybe I am just not a good cook. But, one thing is for sure, I LOVE good food and I don’t like to follow recipes that have me in the kitchen doing complicated things.
As the temperature drops and the sweaters and slippers come out, it is time for some warm, comfort food….like soup. I love ALL kinds of soup – I never discriminate. One of my faves is Butternut Squash Soup but now that I am getting more into baking bread (post coming soon!), I knew I had to try making french onion soup because it just HAS to have fresh bread and melted cheese on top. #foodgoals
The only thing I hate about onions, is chopping them. I am definitely not up to sous chef ability when it comes to my knife skills. But, I push through. For this recipe I used enormous vidalia onions I bought in a ridiculous sized bag at Costco. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking when I bought them, but now I am so glad I did.
I took about 5, 6, 7, 8, who knows, onions and chopped them all in half, peeled and sliced them in very chunky half moon sizes. Because I was slicing them chunky, I wasn’t chopping for days, so the onions didn’t bother my eyes as much. Usually, I have to take breaks and go cry in the other room it’s so bad.
Heat up your crock pot to low and throw all your thick sliced onions in there. Add a few pats of butter – 2 or 3 tablespoons – who measures? Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. It adds a deeper flavor. I went to the garden and pulled a few sprigs of fresh thyme and threw it in the pot as well. That will come out later.
Yup…..you read that right. I put these onions in the crock pot the NIGHT BEFORE I wanted to eat the soup. Now, you are probably going….whoa, that’s a long time! But hear me out, the reason why you cook it so long is for the deep, rich caramelized flavor you get from this long slow cooking. The onions get a rich dark brown color and take on such a sweet taste that even my littlest kid liked it. He was quite skeptical about coming to the dinner table when I said I made ONION soup.
So, let those onions cook for 8-12 hours I honestly don’t even remember how long I cooked mine. Maybe even longer. Hmmmmm…. The next day I added beef broth until it was the right liquid to solid ratio I prefer for my soups (probably around 3 boxes) and then I let it go until dinner time. When everyone was ready to eat, I thickly sliced some crusty bread (it’s gotta be a medium density artisan bread – sandwich bread will fall apart) floated it on top with a slice of whatever cheese I had in the sandwich drawer – provolone or swiss? and put it under the broiler and watched it like a hawk. When the cheese melted and got some warm brown spots, I served it to the family.
My oldest child didn’t even come to the table, my middle child said it was OK and my youngest (as usual) praised me up and down saying he didn’t know onions could taste that good. I actually consider this a success. My husband and I were in heaven and we even had a few pints to put in jars to share and freeze.
I heated up a bowl for lunch yesterday since I made a loaf of sourdough for breakfast and it was just as delicious as day 1. Mmmmmmm
Not fast, but so, so easy and with a little planning and a few basic ingredients, you can have some rich, delicious soup this weekend too. Don’t forget the red wine…..
It’s a rainy summer day. I’m sitting on the sofa with my kids watching a movie while the piles of laundry cycle through the washer. The rose outside my window is gently swaying and releasing the sweetest scent. Perfect time to reflect on the last few months…
I started this blog about 8 months ago when I was very early into my homesteading journey. And if this seems foreign to you, let me explain….
(man, do I fit this definition!) I also like to include ‘clean, less toxic living’ in my homesteading definition which is kind of implied since it’s DIY so of course I pick safe ingredients, but I like to show that I do this SPECIFICALLY because I care about those ingredients.
Most people think homesteading means you have to live on a full sized farm, milk cows, ride horses and wear a bonnet – all or nothing. But homesteading is actually about sustainability, not churning your own butter (although I would love to try this!). This is the 21st century and there is a whole new insurgence of people seeking a simpler lifestyle with less plastic, less technology, less chemicals and less waste. Can you blame us? Things have really gotten out of hand (I should know, I am a child of the over-the-top 80’s).
During the 4 years of being with my health and wellness company, I have eagerly absorbed tons of information about the ingredients we put in our household products, the chemicals in our foods and how deeply they affect our well-being. Health is not just about diet and exercise.
The problem is that the chemicals and toxins we are affected by are EVERYWHERE. They are in the sofa I am sitting on, the soap I washed my hands with, the cereal my kids ate for breakfast, and so on and so on. It can be overwhelming. I know how easy it is to give up and throw in the towel when you find out you are completely surrounded.
In the past, I did.
My health and wellness company taught me that we can all start with small changes. Those small steps mean you are moving in a positive direction. Making lifestyle changes is NEVER easy – the change always seems so big which is why most people give up on their dreams. I follow the small steps mantra with my homesteading as well as with my health and wellness needs. I don’t have my own goats to make cheese or a field of corn or pigs to make bacon (wahhhh!)….but I HAVE started a small garden, begun the canning process, have a flock of egg laying hens, mix my own shampoo and detergent, and even create my own household items and art. Yep, I AM a homesteader.
This year so far of blogging and building and mixing and creating has taught me so much and yet I still feel like a newbie with tons more to learn. I have connected with other farmers and homesteaders to absorb what I can and continue to ask questions, try new things, document them and share. The journey to make such a huge lifestyle change takes time and patience. I have made mistakes, been lazy and felt defeated many times already.
The health and happiness of my family are my biggest priority. Through organic living, DIY household items, health and wellness supplements from my company, canning and preserving as much as possible, building/creating more and purchasing/wasting less, I know I am on the way to get my family where I want us to be – living a more sustainable life that shows respect to our planet, to others and most of all, to ourselves.
Some of the goals I have reached and continue to learn in this modern homesteading life are:
So, in reflection, I KNOW I am on the right path and hopefully I can encourage more of you to do the same. Whatever you need help with – send me a message. The more sustainable we all are, the better.
I didn’t grow up with a disposal, so having one as an adult means I am learning everything about them now. I honestly had no idea why someone would want one unless they were in a horror movie. They just didn’t seem that necessary.
But, then I got one…..and now I can’t live without it and wonder how others do. My kids are taught to scrape their plates into the trash can and put compostable materials in the compost bin, and yet…..there are still chunks in the bottom of my sink.
Ya know those pet peeves that drive you crazy, but just aren’t worth creating a stink about? Mine is a dirty sink. We are a busy family and dishes stack up sometimes. I don’t expect perfection (not even close). But I will admit that it drives me nuts when I find an oatmeal bowl next to the sink that was actually rinsed but the oatmeal has now created a cement like substance all over my sink basin. Grrrrr.
My poor sink. But, it’s a sturdy one.
What I have discovered is when you have chunks of food in your sink, you have them in your disposal too. There is nothing worse than walking into your house and smelling that nasty, moldy, stinky, rotten smell and not knowing where it comes from (and hoping your best friend can’t smell it when she comes over to visit). Masking smells with candles and scents is just not healthy, so I need to find a way to keep that disposal clean without using chemicals or toxins.
In the past, I have taken the citrus rinds from oranges, lemons and limes I have eaten or used in a recipe and frozen them. I just throw the frozen rinds in the disposal when I think it needs a refresh and the citrus smell is lovely while the frozen pieces helps to scrub away grime.
But, lately, I am in need of a little more and as you know, I prefer to make my own CLEAN products.
So, let’s do this! I found recipes to make little tabs to drop in your disposal, but let’s be real here, a couple sprinkles of a powder is just as effective, just as easy to use and MUCH easier to make. So, here are both recipes that I found from Living Well Mom.
Mix baking soda and salt in a bowl. Mix water and castile soap in another bowl. Add liquid mix to dry mix slowly while stirring. You want to get the best consistency in order to be able to hold it’s shape, so not too liquidy. If you add too much liquid, just put a bit more baking soda in the mix. Add your oils! Now, take a spoon and make flatish spoonfuls and place them on a sheet of parchment paper to dry. They take 1-2 days to air dry or you can pop in 175° oven for 1-2 hours.
But, this is waaaaay easier so this is what I made…
Mix the powders and then add the oils and mix! I mixed everything right in the glass jar (repurposed jelly jar) I was using to store it – use glass as the citric acid can mess with plastic – and then put the cap on and shook it up to mix. Easy.
I tried it right away…..and yes, I totally cleaned my sink of the dishes and stuck on food before taking these pics….I think.
To use the tabs or powder, just run some hot water for a little in your sink and then add your tab or 2 Tbsp of powder. Check out that citric acid bubbling. Let the disposal rip!
Ahhhh enjoy the clean, citrusy smell of your sink and repeat again next month (or week depending on how good your family it as cleaning out your sink).
After I graduated from college, I spent 2 months backpacking around England, Scotland and Ireland. That time is so precious because it is the only time you have between school and a career and other responsibilities that are never ending. It was one of those experiences in life that I NEVER forget or regret. In fact, I suggest to all graduating students to take a few months off to explore. You will never have this moment ever again…
I have so many incredible memories from this adventure. The history, the landscape, the people, the experiences and even the food. I fully believe in immersing yourself in the local flavor of each town you visit. I love a good challenge and am very curious about other cultures. I even ate haggis.
I stayed in a few bed and breakfasts, during my travels, and with some lovely families and friends I came to know. I have so many fond memories. I tell stories from my travels all the time….I am sure my kids are sooooo tired of it. Out of all my different stories from the female mason working on restoring an old stone church, the buildings that got wider as they got taller, the hostels and the rail trail pass, the Cavern Club where the Beatles played, trying to make phone calls to the US from those bright red boxes, birds stealing my scones from Lands End, riding a bike through the purple heather in western Ireland, castles, castles, castles and even the Loch Ness monster – I think my favorite is talking about the food.
I never expected the food to be as different as it was. It was very eye opening to how processed and cheap our American food habits are. I tried the haggis, ate lots of “take-away” fish and chips, had some shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash and lived on “toasties” (grilled cheese sandwiches) with tomato and onion. The trip changed many of my eating patterns for the rest of my life. The most fascinating to me was breakfast. A typical English breakfast almost always included eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, toast, mushrooms and grilled tomatoes (and sometimes black pudding – look it up). As an American, beans were what I ate at a picnic with a hotdog and mushrooms were served with a steak, so seeing them on my breakfast plate was so odd. But, I have always been a brave eater and love my food to mingle on the plate.
The breakfast is usually called a “Full English” or “Fry Up” and can be found pretty much in any restaurant or pub you stumble into while abroad. But, it’s also extremely simple and you can make it at home too! I highly recommend giving it a try. Here is a simple and delicious recipe from The Culinary Ginger.
It’s a big meal! So, sometimes, I like to mix up a smaller lighter version of the beans to eat with just toast and an egg. But, best of all, I can freeze it in small portions to grab in a pinch. It’s super easy, perfect for freezing and gives you some good protein for your busy day.
I learned this from a lovely British Instagram friend – just take a couple cans of cannellini beans or butter beans, a can of crushed tomatoes with italian herbs and some sliced red onions. Start with the onion and than add the tomatoes and beans. Cook it all together in a frying pan until it’s heated through and saucy delicious. You can add crumbled bacon, different herbs or some mushrooms too! Play with it so it fits your needs. Portion out and freeze if you want or serve with toast and a fried egg for breakfast – add an avocado too! MMmmm….
Our family has been tackling the plastic reducing with much frustration. Plastic is everywhere and in so many unnecessary places. Some stores that brag about their fresh and organic foods tend to have more plastic than others. Very frustrating!
At least with paper, I have actions in MY OWN control for reducing our use. Reducing paper use may not seem like it would make a huge impact, but consider this:
When 40% of the world’s industrial logging goes to paper, (and that percentage is rising) you have to take a deeper look. Producing paper is the third most energy-intensive of all manufacturing industries and the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The production uses chemicals and toxins that can cause major and persistent health issues. It uses up natural resources and ruins animal habitats. (save the animals!) Paper plantations aren’t offering any wildlife habitats at all with their perfect rows of pesticide ridden trees. It’s so sad.
Time to rethink your daily paper use. Is ease of use really worth the price we are ultimately paying?
I highly suggest doing another trash audit on your household (and also at work!) just to get a good picture of what you are using daily. Paper products include plates, napkins, towels, tissues, notepads, writing/printing paper, mail, receipts, anything that comes in boxes at the store, etc, etc, etc. It can be overwhelming.
The best ways to reduce your paper:
Recycling is excellent, but it is not the ultimate answer. REDUCE and REUSE FIRST!
If we all try to use less, we can reduce the impact we have on our forests, cut down on energy use and toxic emissions, lessen pollution and ultimately produce less waste – and let’s not forget the human rights abuses that go hand in hand with this industry.
I’m no tree hugger (well, maybe I am) and I am definitely not much of an activist leader, but I do know when things need to change and right now, we ALL need to make some changes. If it all seems like too much, just start with one idea and see where it takes you.
Today, my family started using cloth napkins for everyday meals. I purchased a pile of old, unmatching linens at an antique store for a tiny cost just for this purpose (reuse and repurpose!) They were all a bit confused about the funny old napkins with cross stitching, lace and scalloped edges, but hopped right onboard my crazy train because they know that what I am doing at our dinner table is good for our world and their future.
It’s Sunday night and I am reflecting on a weekend full of sunshine, warm weather and lots of outdoor activity. We spent many hours both days tackling a very adventurous backyard project that we have been working on for weeks.
Exhausted from yesterday’s grueling work, we both fell asleep on the sofa. So, when my husband woke this morning and said he was going to go fishing, my first thought was that I would sleep in while he was gone. But instead, I got dressed.
Nature is grounding……refreshing……connecting.
Even though we were outside in the yard for maybe 10 hours working the day before, when your yard is a fenced in box and you are shovelling never-ending piles of clay, it isn’t exactly calming. That real peaceful connection with nature is what you get from being in the woods, on the top of a mountain or near a babbling brook. So, I am going fishing too.
Fishing is a tranquil hobby (for me). You have to be quiet so as not to scare away the fish especially when standing on the bank of a river. But, something magical happens when you whisper, move intentionally and watch that lure flit across the river. A connection occurs between you and your surroundings which can actually HEAL you:
“Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.” ~ How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing
The outdoors have such an impact on us that they can actually reduce our stress which impacts your physical health! It makes so much sense to me because I understand my need to be outdoors, but not everyone may recognize it. Maybe for others they recognize that a view of the park out your window instead of a busy highway is stress reducing. Or maybe it’s the houseplants you have scattered around the home.
Whether it be pictures of mountain ranges or actually being barefoot in the park, find what heals, restores and refreshes you. Reducing stress is something we all need to manage for our mental and physical health.
Having that hour of being outdoors fishing meant that we were refreshed, focused and ready to tackle the next day of grueling work in the backyard. Progress and success.
Find your nature connection. It’s important to your health.