Quick and easy bread: delicious Irish soda bread

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Quick and easy bread: delicious Irish soda bread

This bread is easy enough and delicious enough to make and eat every day!!  I know you won’t, and I won’t even go there either, but really it’s a great recipe to have on hand to round out a hot meal.  It takes just minutes to throw together, about 45 minutes in the oven and a little rest while you are finishing the rest of the meal.  Just thinking about it makes my mouth water….homemade bread in all it’s lovely whiteness (more about that later)…

I made this recipe for Irish soda bread for our St. Patrick’s Day meal, fitting, eh? I found the recipe in my rusty trusty Fannie Farmer Baking Book (the one I was going to throw out when somehow it made it’s way into my house, but then I decided to use it to press flowers in, then finally when I actually started cooking and baking, realized that it contained some great recipes and instructions!  Now it’s my go-to for baking.  Funny how things work out….)  Here are the photos, then I’ll add the recipe.Quick and easy Irish soda bread for St. Patrick's Day or really just for any day! Delicious and easy, recipe posted by dennasideas.com

It’s such a gorgeously rustic looking bread!  I love the texture, color and the big cross in the center.  Oh, and the smell while it bakes, and did I mention that it was easy?  And only takes 4 ingredients!  F.O.U.R.  Having said that, I didn’t actually have all of the ingredients on hand….Quick and easy Irish soda bread for St. Patrick's Day or really just for any day! Delicious and easy, recipe posted by dennasideas.com

I had spent my time working on roasted cabbage and an “Irish” stew variation (made with what I had on hand: sausage, potatoes, onions and carrots…but I guess that that’s fairly authentic anyways).  So I go to bake up some Irish soda bread, like I did last year.  I measured out the dry ingredients and opened the fridge.  I knew that I didn’t have buttermilk, so I would just use milk and vinegar or lime juice….but no milk!!!  I dashed to the computer and typed in “substitutions for buttermilk” and found a great link here, so I found out that I could use yogurt as a substitute!  Yay, I had lots of greek yogurt!

Here’s a close-up of the texture (I was eating the leftover bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil as a snack…sooooo good!)  Remember, this was made with yogurt, and no extra fat!  A very white color and great taste, and it must have a lot of protein with 2 cups of greek yogurt!!  Now on to the recipe….

Quick and easy Irish soda bread for St. Patrick's Day or really just for any day! Delicious and easy, recipe posted by dennasideas.com

Irish Soda Bread

(an authentic recipe from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham, 1984)

4 cups all purpose flour

1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups buttermilk (or 2 tbsp. vinegar in milk to make 2 cups OR 2 cups of plain greek yogurt)

Preheat your oven to 3750 F.  Grease a baking sheet or an 8-inch round pan…I used baking parchment on a cookie sheet.  Add all the dry ingredients into a large bowl (flour, salt, baking soda) and mix them around.  Add buttermilk and stir it up with a fork until it holds together in a rough mass.  Since I was using thick yogurt, I actually had to add just a bit of water to the dough to make it mixable.  Knead the dough a few times (I did this right in the bowl) then pat into about an 8 inch round mound on the sheet (or in the round pan). Using a sharp knife, slash a large X into the top of the dough, about 1/4 of an inch deep.

Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes, until it is nicely browned and the X has spread open.  Transfer to a rack to cool for awhile, then wrap it in a slightly damp tea towel and let it rest, on the rack for about 8 hours.  This recipe makes one round loaf, and it should be completely cool when you serve it.  The rest time in a damp towel helps the crust to nicely soften up.  We didn’t wait 8 hours, obviously, or it wouldn’t be such a quick bread!!

If you can whip this up right before you prepare the meal, bake it, then let it sit in the damp towel while you make the rest of the meal, it should be ready to be served when the meal is ready.  Using the towel is a good way to store leftovers.  This bread also makes great toast!  I love it with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, or just plain with butter.  This loaf was enough to go with 2 meals for the six of us!  So thankful for our blessings!Quick and easy Irish soda bread for St. Patrick's Day or really just for any day! Delicious and easy, recipe posted by dennasideas.com

(now I am craving some yummy bread….!)

St. Paddy’s Day Green Mason Jar Desserts

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A sweet little green dessert packed in serving-sized mason jars!  For half of the winter I’ve been looking forward to celebrating the green…the green of spring.  There is no green around here.  Amazingly, the snow has started melting a lot and we can see grass, it’s just not green yet.  Seriously, it’s been about 12 years since we’ve had nice weather to be outdoors for my daughter’s bday next week.  It has always been winter weather, usually snowing.  So bring on some shamrocks, rainbows and a whole huge pot of gold!  Spring is in the air!
St Paddy's Day green mason jar desserts with kiwi and lime jello and pound cake by dennasideas.com Extra bonus for you: 5 minute shamrocks:  use a heart punch.  punch. glue together, or not.  There you go.St Paddy's Day easy to DIY shamrocks  dennasideas.com Enough with the decorating, back to the desserts…St Paddy's Day green mason jar desserts with kiwi and lime jello and pound cake by dennasideas.com

My Mom gave me a flat of little mason jars, I’ve had so much fun with them!  They are the perfect size for individual desserts.  So instead of making a big trifle with the pound cake I baked the other day, I made these jar desserts for each of us.  It wasn’t very difficult to fill the jars.  All you need is cake, whipped cream, jello and some fruit slices.  The other day I baked up a vanilla pound cake, the old fashioned kind, and tinted it green.  (any kind of cake should work).  I sliced the pound cake up then cut out circles with a cookie cutter.  Mix up some green gelatin/jelly jello, I used lime flavor.  Use a tiny bit less water than called for, and do the ice cube method to cool it off faster.  Add a few spoonfuls of jello to each jar, then let it set up (I stuck them into the freezer for a bit) while you are cutting the cake into circles and whipping the cream (or Cool Whip will work).  The rest of the jello went into the fridge to start setting up.

St Paddy's Day green mason jar desserts with kiwi and lime jello and pound cake by dennasideas.com So, jello, a round of cake, a squeeze of whip cream.  Then slice up some kiwis and chop each slice in half.  Set them in the jars against the side (so you can see them!), then fill up the hollow with some jello when it is half-set, so it is still kind of blobby and pourable.  Then another layer of cake and some whipped cream.  Let them sit for as long as possible in the fridge (overnight is best. Especially if the cake was a little stale!)  When I open them up, I’ll add another slice of kiwi on top.  I love that these jars have lids, so easy to pop into the refrigerator.  They would be great to take on a picnic (if the weather was nice enough!), or even for the kids’ lunches (if I was nice enough!)St Paddy's Day green mason jar desserts with kiwi and lime jello and pound cake by dennasideas.com My favorite Irish band has a new release today! yay! And here’s a great watch for today:

St. Patrick’s Day Healthy Fruit Rainbow Pancakes

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St. Patrick’s Day Healthy Fruit Rainbow Pancakes

There’s still a bit of time to make something yummy for tomorrow!  Well, ok, time is rather ticking away, but there’s still time to rush out and buy some fruit and whipped cream!  And then tomorrow you could mix up a batch of pancakes….layer them up and there you go, a fruit rainbow for St. Paddy’s day!  I saw this idea on Pinterest, but then when I started putting it together I realized that whatever was used in the photo was not pancakes (cookies I think).  (P.S. I just found out that the idea was from i am baker! Yes, cookies, with an awesome cream cheese frosting!)  So my pancakes were a bit floppy and the stack was leaning a bit….solved that with a straw right down the middle of the pile!  The “fun” part is to layer your fruit in the order of the rainbow.  If you don’t remember that order, watch the fun little video at the end of this rainbow post, then you’ll never forget again!healthy fruit rainbow pancakes for St. Patrick's Day by dennasideas.com

The fruits I used were red grapes, frozen blueberries (fresh ones would have looked more blue), kiwi, banana, orange and strawberries.  So easy!healthy fruit rainbow pancakes for St. Patrick's Day by dennasideas.com

And then it was sliced up into four awesome slices….healthy Rainbow fruit pancakes for St. Patrick's Day by dennasideas.com healthy Rainbow fruit pancakes for St. Patrick's Day by dennasideas.com

Add each fruit in a blanket of whipped cream between layers of pancakes.  Like I said, it was quite easy…..or would have been if this hadn’t happened….Rainbow pancakes by dennasideas.com - Page 001

My mixer went crazy while I was getting a pancake out of the pan…when I looked over at it, a ring of cream was blobbing out of the bowl.  What a goopy mess!  But it didn’t actually surprise me….that’s how I usually cook….messy…. ;)

Anyways, to cheer myself up, I love to watch this video for St. Patrick’s Day!  An 8 minute account of St. Patrick’s life for the kids….even with flannel boards!

Easy Pink Dough Valentines for Preschoolers

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An easy way for toddlers and preschoolers to celebrate Valentine’s Day!  Pink dough to play with!  Mix up a quick batch of pink colored dough and break out the heart cookie cutters!  The recipe I used is at the end of the post.  Here’s my nostalgic look back at my babies busy at work on their “Valentines”Pink Dough for Preschool Valentines by dennasideas.com - Page 008We’re going to make something!Pink Dough for Preschool Valentines by dennasideas.com - Page 007Pink Dough for Preschool Valentines by dennasideas.com - Page 005Squish that pinkness!Pink Dough for Preschool Valentines by dennasideas.com - Page 004The idea was to get them to make a Valentine on the table, then I would photograph it as their “valentines” for Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa.Pink Dough for Preschool Valentines by dennasideas.com - Page 006And that’s what we did.Pink Dough for Preschool Valentines by dennasideas.com - Page 002Pink Dough for Preschool Valentines by dennasideas.com - Page 001It was a lot of very pink fun!  I had to play a bit, too….Pink Dough for Preschool Valentines by dennasideas.com - Page 003Here’s the recipe I use for play dough:

2 and 1/2 cups of white all purpose flour   (I’ve tried it with whole wheat flour, and let’s just say…No!)

1 cup of salt  (fine, not coarse)

2 small packages of Kool Aid  (the ones without real sugar)  this is optional. if you don’t have Kool Aid, then add food coloring

3 tsp. vegetable oil  (canola oil is good)

2 cups of boiling water

Mix all the dry ingredients together, then add the boiling water.  Stir it all together very well and turn out onto a surface where you can knead it a bit.  It will be hot, so let it cool a bit before kneading.  Then knead away until it becomes smooth.  When it’s cool enough, the kids can start playing.  As soon as it’s cool enough, either play with it or seal it in plastic bags so it doesn’t start drying out.  This will last for quite awhile in a sealed bag.   Note:  the Kool Aid is just for easy color and aroma!  We used cherry for Valentine’s day.  If the kids love the smell so much that they taste it, it won’t hurt them at all, just a little salty.  If there’s worry about the flour, then I’d say don’t add the Kool Aid and then it won’t smell appetizing enough for little ones to put into their mouths!

Fun for the kids to make, and the photos are easy to send to everyone online, no mess, no snail mail! ;)  Just digital cuteness from the kids!  Happy <3 weekend!

3D Cookies for Valentine’s Day

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3D Cookies for Valentine’s Day

How do you say Happy Valentine’s Day to those you love?  Flowers, candy, cards, or some even bigger display?  Or do you prefer to do something special together?  Or is it one of those days that just slips by?  I saw a funny “quote” the other day.  It was a photo from Star Wars and the caption was “I’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day Han’s style….Solo!”  Maybe that’s more you :)

We don’t make a super big hoohaw about Valentine’s Day, a few special things, like maybe chocolate or sometimes flowers.  I’m usually in favor of homemade or home-printed Valentines.  (OK, I admit sometimes I put way too much work into the “homemade” Valentines that the kids take to school.  But this year, I put in 10 minutes of work on a printable, and then they are on their own, I’m just too tired,with a been there, done that  kind of feeling).  Anwyays, I came up with a brilliant idea that I think will make a memorable Valentine’s Day for us this year:  The kids are in charge of making and serving supper for my husband and I.  Sounds a tad dangerous, but I intend to enjoy it!  We’ll see how it goes…3D Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 003

After having said that, I admit I did make a few Valentine’s cookies.  I had the dough in the fridge and a few more M&Ms from the last couple of posts! :)  And I had these cute letter cookie cutters to try out!  (A fun gift from a friend)  So here goes a little tutorial for some fairly easy, but attention-getting cookies.

Ingredients:  chocolate cookie dough and candy melts (I use Wilton brand) and letter cookie cutters (or just freehand it) and small heart cutters.3D Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 015Amor= love in Spanish ;)  Galletas=Cookies!   Cut out letters and a bunch of small or medium hearts for bases.3D Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 014Bake and let cool…..cool!3D Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 013Melt up some red and white candy melts and get ready to pipe them out of baggies with only a tiny corner snipped off…3D Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 012Squeeze strings of candy melt out while moving back and forth over all the letters.  Repeat with next color.3D Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 011Then pick up each letter and break off the extra bits of candy melt off the sides, this is really easy and works well.3D Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 0103D Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 009Line up the letters and the bases, some letters need two hearts for their bases.3D Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 008Use some more candy melt to attach the bases, I used dark cocoa candy melts (only took 3 melts)3D Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 0073D Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 006Holding the letters in place for about 5 seconds was mostly enough to balance the letters, but if necessary, prop them up for a bit…3D Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 005The candy melts set up quite quickly.  Here’s the bird’s eye view:3D Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 004And there you go!  The letters are quite sturdy and just so fun looking!  Great for a Valentine’s Day centerpiece.3D Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 002Oh wait!  Since you have the cookie dough out, and maybe a few extra cookies baked, go ahead and decorate some more for your centerpiece.  Here’s how I did it with Nutella and M&Ms using the same idea from the other day’s post:pixel Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 020 pixel Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 019 pixel Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 018 pixel Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 017 pixel Valentines cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 016 candy valentingecookies by dennasideas.com - Page 019The kids wanted to cut out some Os and Xs for hugs and kisses, so I used up the last of the red M&Ms on these:candy valentingecookies by dennasideas.com - Page 016And here’s one for you from me (sorry it’s not edible but I’m all about digital stuff)happy valentines day from dennasideas.com

I’d love to hear from you if you try out some of my little cookie techniques! :)

Easy Lego Cookies for a Lego themed party

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Since I had a big bag of mini M&Ms sitting around my kitchen, I decided to try out some more cookies.  Colorful M&Ms always remind me of Lego bricks….and it’s no coincidence that I’m thinking about Lego right about now, when The Lego Movie just came out in theaters..still haven’t seen it, but it’s on my wish list…Mini MnMs by dennasideas.com - Page 001So while I wait to see it, I made some easy Lego brick cookies.  And yes, photos in this post may possibly resemble photos in my last post.  I’m ok with that.how to make easy Lego brick cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 004The only ingredients you need for these easy cookies are:  cookies, mini M&Ms and candy melts (or possibly icing and maybe some Nutella, depends how far you want to go with this).how to make easy Lego brick cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 012Roll out your cookie dough and straighten off the edges, then cut into small rectangles.  I used this chocolate cookie dough recipe, but you can use your favorite dough. You might want to lay out 2 rows of 3 M&M candies to see exactly what size you want your rectangles.   If you really wanted to go crazy with these cookies, you could use a vanilla recipe, then add food coloring to the dough so that the actual cookie would be the color of the lego brick! cool! But too much work for today.

So after you bake up the little rectangle cookies (about 7 minutes), when they have cooled you just ice them and stick M&Ms on them.  Easy!  I tried to melt all my different colors of candy melts in just a few baggies, so that I could pipe the melts onto the cookies.  Well, that didn’t work out for me….how to make easy Lego brick cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 002They melted right through the bags and glooped all over the plate.  In the end I just scraped up the goopy candy melts and spread them onto the cookies.  For a brown Lego brick, I used Nutella instead of candy melt, yum!how to make easy Lego brick cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 011Just add the M&Ms before the candy melts set up.   That’s all.  Really.  That’s it.  Now to eat them!how to make easy Lego brick cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 003how to make easy Lego brick cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 001disclaimer:  this is only easy if you have M&Ms and candy melts.  If you have to go out and buy everything, then it’s not so easy.  BUT if you were having a Lego themed party, and even only wanted to make, let’s say, red and yellow bricks, then you’d only have to buy 2 colors of candy melts.  Or if you only wanted brown Lego bricks, then you only need Nutella.  But then you’d still have to get lots of M&Ms….anyway.  It does happen to be a win-win situation though, since both M&Ms and candy melts (oh, and Nutella) will keep for quite awhile and you can bring them out for your next special baking event.  And make some slightly different looking cookies…..maybe like these ones….Mini M and M cookies by dennasideas.com - Page 001

Winter Olympics Cookies with M&Ms and my fav Olympic events

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Winter Olympics Cookies with M&Ms and my fav Olympic events

We have been enjoying watching some of the events in the Winter Olympics in Sochi!  Ahhh, the Olympics….such a colorful event.  This year there is definitely a lot of extra fodder for conversation around the supper table.  I guess these Olympics just highlight what we are capable of as humans….the best and the worst, the agony and the ecstasy, the good the bad and the ugly.  Obviously I’m not just referring to the sports themselves…

Well that’s enough deep thinking and introspection for a Monday morning, now let’s think about cookies.  I just downed a few bites of these Olympic Rings cookies with a cup of tea.  Nice.  Nice and chocolaty.  Now Let me introduce you to one of my favorite sports: decorating sweet things with other sugary sweet things to make an edible artwork of colorful awesomeness.  This easy-to-make cookie will thrill your Olympic fans.  The triple chocolate effect comes from a great chocolate roll-out cookie dough recipe, Nutella and M&Ms.  A perfect combination.

Here is a breakdown of my easy, do-able sports event:

Search for some M&M’s, the mini kind, sometimes labeled as baking M&Ms. Usually found in the scoop and weigh area of the grocery or candy store, if not already stashed away in your pantry.  You will cringe at the price, but the mini size is important.how to make Olympic ring cookies with M&Ms and Nutella by dennasideas.comNext, mix up a batch of LilaLoa’s The End All for Chocolate Cookies recipe, (even the name is yummy).  And lastly, grab your ever-ready jar of Nutella or other similar chocolaty hazelnutty spread.  Ok, truth be told, even chocolate icing would work perfectly fine.

Here’s where the Olympic part comes in:  The idea is to frost a cookie with chocolate, then add candies to decorate, candies in the shape of the Olympic rings.  This might seem easier said than done, so I’ve made a little tutorial on how to almost painlessly accomplish this feat of sporting awesomeness.  (Yes, these are the Olympic events that I would enter in a perfect sporting world….the Sugar Sports: chocolate-eating contests, dough mixing, and the 10-minute cookie-decorating-athalon)

First let’s make a pattern to follow.  Draw those Olympic Rings!!  I traced the smallest juice glass I could find.how to make Olympic ring cookies with M&Ms and Nutella by dennasideas.comGet your dough ready so it can bake while you outline.  Roll out the dough and cut in into a rectangle that will fit your pattern.  I cut around a rectangle paper pattern (actually made after I did the rings) with a pizza cutter.  This chunky mama cookie measured in at 8 1/2 by 5 inches (21 1/2 by 12 1/2 cm)!how to make Olympic ring cookies with M&Ms and Nutella by dennasideas.comLet the dough bake for about 8 to 10 minutes (you want a slightly harder cookie so it doesn’t collapse under the weight of all the sweetness!) while you sit and outline the rings in M&Ms.  (but don’t forget to check on the cookie at about 7 minutes!)how to make Olympic ring cookies with M&Ms and Nutella by dennasideas.comTip:  this is important to remember, do the colors backwards!  We are going to transfer this onto the cookie, so flip the way the colors are supposed to be.  I actually did them from right to left, so I wouldn’t confuse myself too much.  And if you are picky about the end result, make sure the side of the M&Ms with the M is facing up!!!   Oh, I also lined my pattern with wax paper so the M&Ms wouldn’t be touching the marker strokes.  Here’s a photo to copy from (THE COLORS HAVE ALREADY BEEN FLIPPED FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE!  so just copy this:)how to make Olympic ring cookies with M&Ms and Nutella by dennasideas.comIt didn’t take very long, honestly….well, kind of depends how many handfuls of orange M&Ms you keep throwing into your mouth while you work….. now check that cookie in the oven!!  When the cookie is totally cooled, spread it with a uniform layer of chocolate….(Nutella!)how to make Olympic ring cookies with M&Ms and Nutella by dennasideas.comReady?  Set…..how to make Olympic ring cookies with M&Ms and Nutella by dennasideas.com

Go!  Flip!  This is the trickiest part….flip the cookie chocolate-spread-side down and hold over the M&M design, then quickly but lightly set it onto the M&Ms…how to make Olympic ring cookies with M&Ms and Nutella by dennasideas.comMove it just slightly, hopefully to pick up all the candies.  Hold your breathe and…..lift straight up!!!  Now one last flip!!!!how to make Olympic ring cookies with M&Ms and Nutella by dennasideas.comWhew, that was a nerve wracking moment!  And she did it with only one M&M deduction!!!  An almost perfect score!!  Yay me!  (my other designs had more M&M deductions, but they were easy to pick up and place onto the cookie).

Such a proud Olympic moment:how to make Olympic ring cookies with M&Ms and Nutella by dennasideas.comAnd an even prouder Winter Olympic moment:how to make Olympic ring cookies with M&Ms and Nutella by dennasideas.comCoconut snow!  We are surrounded by snow today, snow and Olympic events, and now also by M&M cookies (which are disappearing way faster than the snow).  Oh yeah, so what are my favorite Olympic events (other than chocolate events)?  The pairs ice skating of course!!  I just love watching the routines they come up with, the innovation, reviewing everyone’s costume, the grace and quick thinking and skating…..and especially eating cookies while I watch all that exercise!  Yay ice skating!!

(ahhg, why is my head buzzing?)

how to make Olympic ring cookies with M&Ms and Nutella by dennasideas.com