Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

July 3, 2020

IMG_0722

So here we are, just moments away from Independence Day. Certainly not the 4th of July for this year that I imagined last year. Not that the Husband and I have made a habit out of heading off to big fireworks displays on the 4th, but still…Needless to say, we’ll be spending this one right here at home. Where we have been. For oh – months and months. Perhaps years at this point. 2020 has certainly made months seems like they go on for years. Facing the tedium of yet another social distanced holiday, I thought it might be nice to make the Husband a little treat. Now I’ve told you how he absolutely loves any fruit based dessert and of the many fruit desserts out there, lemon bars hold a special place in his heart. So I was absolutely delighted when I saw that Smitten Kitchen – one of my favorite blogs – had just shared a recipe for Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars. Clearly, it was just meant to be!

IMG_0752

And the whole lemon thing is true. Yup – you actually use a WHOLE lemon in this recipe. Well – you take the seeds out and remove the stem, but otherwise the whole thing – skin and all.

IMG_0772

I was afraid that the whole lemon might have caused the lemon filling to be bitter, so I kind of held my breath a bit when the Husband took his first bite. Hooray! Not bitter at all. I think using the whole lemon actually gave it a much more – well lemony taste. I mean these bars actually tasted perfectly sour and tart and also sweet. But just the right amount of sweet. Sometimes when I’ve gotten lemon bars, they taste very, very cloyingly sweet with only a slight hint of lemon. Like maybe someone had only waved a lemon over the mix. That is certainly not what the Husband is hoping for in a lemon bar. He wants that pucker up sour citrus zing of a real lemon. Let me tell you, these bars definitely delivered in that regard.

IMG_0723

And although I have made lemon bars before, I had never added the meringue layer on top. With these Lemon Meringue Pie Bars the sweet marshmallowy toasted meringue works to perfectly balance the lip puckering intensity of that velvety lemon filling. Both the Husband and I were very well pleased.

IMG_0775

I don’t know what you’ll be getting up to this 4th of July, but I do know that no matter what it is, these Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars will make it better. Make yourself a batch today!

IMG_0753

Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

  • Servings: 12 - 16 bars depending how you slice them
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Smitten Kitchen who sourced it from Susan Spungen’s Open Kitchen 

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 9 whole graham cracker sheets (1 sleeve), broken into pieces or 1 1/2 cups (150 grams) crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes

For the filling:

  • 1 whole (preferably organic) lemon, any variety (see Note below in filling directions), scrubbed
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 8 Tablespoons (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
  • Pinch of salt

For the meringue:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

Make the crust:

Heat your oven to 350°F [180°C]. Line an 8-by-8-inch [20-by-20-cm] baking pan with two pieces of parchment trimmed to fit, going in both directions, with some extra hanging over the edge so that you can easily remove the bars later.

Place the graham crackers, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until the fine crumbs form. Add the cold butter and pulse until the cold butter blends into the crumbs. It should look and feel like wet sand. Transfer to the prepared pan and mix it up with your hands to make sure the butter is well distributed. Press into the pan, going up the sides a bit, and bake for 10 minutes, or until just golden. Let cool while you make the filling.

Make the filling:

Note on lemons: Deb Perelmen of Smitten Kitchen advises that you can use any variety of lemon but that you want to stick to a smaller lemon weighing approximately 4 – 4.5 ounces and that you do not want the skin to be too thick. The pith (white bit) should not be over 1/4 inch. If you feel the lemon you have is a bit too thick skinned, simply remove half of the skin from the lemon before proceeding.

Trim the stem end of the whole lemon and cut it into thin slices. Remove any seeds. Add to a food processor or blender jar (preferably a high speed blender) along with the lemon juice, egg yolks, butter, sugar, vanilla and salt and blend until very smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour over the crust (it’s ok if it’s still warm) and bake for 30 minutes, or until it is bubbling and browning around the edges. It won’t look at all set, and might even look like a total mess (unevenly browned or bubbly), but it will set up as it cools. Place on a cooling rack. After about 10 minutes, run a small, sharp knife around the edges. Cool completely, then chill until cold (you can speed this up in the freezer). When completely chilled, carefully remove the parchment and, using a spatula, transfer to a small baking sheet.

Make the meringue:

An hour or so before serving, make the topping. Combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and salt in the metal bowl of a stand mixer and set over a pan of simmering water. Keep the mixture moving, using a whisk or the whisk attachment, until the sugar is completely melted and it’s hot to the touch (or 160°F). Transfer to a stand mixer and beat on high speed until glossy and very stiff, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the top of the lemon bars, smooth out, and use a large serving fork to create a pattern in the meringue, or the back of a spoon or offset spatula to make swirls.

Finish the bars:

When you’re ready to finish, use a kitchen torch or your oven’s broiler to brown the meringue. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Use a knife dipped into hot water to cut bars into 12 to 16 squares, depending on how large you want them.

Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Cuisinart Pro-Classic Food Processor

Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer by Thermoworks

Breville Fresh & Furious Blender

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Sondiko Butane Torch

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook– This recipe is not in this cookbook, however a ton of other great ones are!

Smitten Kitchen Everyday: Another awesome cookbook by Deb Perelman

 

 


Kanilterta (Icelandic Cinnamon Cake)

May 8, 2020

IMG_0097

Today I would like to share this Icelandic recipe for Kanilterta with you. This delicious treat boasts four layers of cinnamon spiced buttery cake separated by sweet vanilla whipped cream & topped with silky decadent chocolate. I even bet you have all the ingredients necessary to make it in your pantry right now.

IMG_0017

Oh, and I also want to tell you all about our visit to Iceland for an amazing Ice Cave adventure back in February 2018.

IMG_0065

Now I know when folks are planning a get away in February they might be dreaming of a sunny Caribbean island or something. Iceland might not be the country that comes to mind. However, anyone who knows me, or has read my blog at all knows the Husband and I are not beach people at all. We much prefer the colder climes and absolutely love Iceland at anytime of the year. We had taken a trip to Scotland to go to Up Helly Aa– Europe’s largest Viking fire festival, which takes place at the end of January. So we decided to take advantage of Icelandair’s Stopover offer. You see, if you fly to any of their destinations you can add an up to a 7 day stopover in Iceland at no charge! So it was a no brainer for us. We actually ended up spending one night in Iceland on the way to Scotland and then spent an additional 6 nights on the way back to Virginia.

IMG_7261

And in addition to Icelander’s fantastic Stopover offer, on certain flights they also offer the option to “Class Up” from economy seats to Saga Premium. So, how it works is 10 days prior to an eligible flight, you will receive an email asking if you would like to place a bid. You are then able to decide the amount you are willing to pay, in addition to the cost of your original ticket, to have a Saga class seat.

IMG_6560

You should keep in mind that it is per seat. So if you bid $200 and there are two of you on the ticket, then you have actually bid $400. And this is per segment of the flight. So if you have a roundtrip flight, you would be bidding on the flight over as well as the flight back. If your bid is not accepted, nothing changes with your original ticket. You still have the same seats. However if your bid is accepted, you will find yourself in Saga Class. We made a bid and it was accepted!

IMG_6561

Our flight arrived in Iceland around 6:30 am and we were not headed on to Scotland until 7 am the next morning. So we chose to stay close to the airport rather than to travel into Reykjavik. Tired after our overnight flight, we checked into the Silica Hotel at the famous Blue Lagoon.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1829.JPG

The Blue Lagoon is located near the town of Grindavik and is only about a 15 – 20 minute drive from the airport. The Silica Hotel is only about a 3 minute drive, or a short stroll through the beautiful green moss covered lava fields, from the Blue Lagoon. Needless to say, we arrived well before our check-in time, but were able to take advantage of their abundant breakfast buffet while we waited for our room. Since the hotel was not very busy, being February and all, they were able to get us into our room a bit early.

IMG_6564

View from our room at The Silica Hotel

After some shut eye, we took a stroll over to the Blue Lagoon

IMG_6579

Strolling through the lava fields

to enjoy a delicious dinner at the Lava Restaurant.

IMG_6587

We did not spend any time in the actual lagoon at the Blue Lagoon on this trip. We have several times in the past and truly enjoy it and do recommend it, even if it is a bit touristy. There is a reason why folks love it! And I should mention that when you book a room at the Silica Hotel, premium entrance to the Blue Lagoon is included. That is really quite a perk, especially in the summer time. The Blue Lagoon has become so popular at this point, it is unlikely that you could gain entrance without booking in advance. But there is also even another perk to staying at the Silica Hotel – they have their own private lagoon for folks staying with them! How awesome is that!!!

IMG_6573

Now there isn’t a swim up bar, like there is in the main Blue Lagoon, however you can place a drink order with one of the Silica employees and they will deliver it to you while you soak in the Silica Lagoon. The Husband and I loved this little private oasis. Not crowded at all, very quiet. We spent quite a while relaxing and unwinding here on the first night of our trip!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1868.JPG

After all of our adventures in Scotland, we arrived back in Iceland and taxied into Reykjavik. We had been dreaming of visiting an Ice Cave for sometime and February was the perfect time to go on an Ice Cave adventure. You see, it needs to be cold to safely visit an Ice Cave, so most of these tours take place from October – March. February was just perfect! So I booked a two day tour, which would take us and a small number of other guests (no more than 8) out along the South Coast, stopping to visit Seljalandfoss & Skógafoss Waterfalls, the Reynisfjara Black Sand beach, and Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Then we would spend the night at the tour group’s cottage, have a traditional Icelandic dinner and enjoy the Northern Lights if possible. The second day we would visit the Diamond Beach, Jökulsárlón, walk on a glacier, go to an Ice Cave and then be back in Reykjavik by around 21:00 – 22:00. Two full days without a doubt! Even though we had seen a lot of the South Coast, we were happy to see it again. And even happier to sit back and let some other folks do the driving. On the day our tour began it was raining. And I don’t mean just a little drizzly, just spitting a bit…I mean all out, cats and dogs, RAINING! Sure, it will let up soon I thought…HA! If anything it intensified throughout the day! But we didn’t let it stop us! We had all our waterproof gear at the ready.

GOPR1422

Drenched at Seljalandfoss.

IMG_3627-1

Soggy at Skógafoss

GOPR1431

Soaked before the Basalt columns at Reynisfjara Beach

IMG_7322

Drowned at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

 

DCIM100GOPROG0092030.JPG

We arrived in a big water-logged heap at the cottage, which was quite charming and thankfully warm.

P1010985

The tour company had prepared a lovely Icelandic lamb dinner for us. But first they wanted us to try an Icelandic national delicacy – Hákarl, which translates to rotten or putrefied shark. Yup, you read that right. You see Greenlands shark meat is actually poisonous when fresh due to its high levels of urea and trimethylamine oxide. However after it is buried in sand and pressed down by stones, hung to dry for weeks and then cured for a month or so more, it is just fine! Usually eating a bit is followed quickly by taking a shot of Brennivín – an Icelandic liquor also known as Black Death. The Husband is allergic to seafood, so he got a pass on the putrefied shark and merely concentrate on the shots of Death. Lucky me, I got to sample both. Hmmmm… Rotten Shark & Black Death…what could go wrong?

So how did it taste? Well, the smell was worse than the taste. The taste wasn’t great, but probably not the worst thing ever, though I certainly have not found myself craving either. Needless to say, the Northern Lights did not make an appearance that night. Or if they did , the heavy cloud cover and pouring rain obscured them. But, good news, when we woke in the morning the rain had decided to move on. It was cold and windy, but all things considered and knowing what it was like just the day before, not too bad for February in Iceland. We ate breakfast and then set out for the day. First stop, Diamond Beach & Jökulsárlón.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR2055.JPG

IMG_3683

P1020111

P1020124

And finally, the time had arrived! We met up with some local ice cave guides, boarded their modified 4X4 and set off on a very bumpy ride towards Vatnajokull to explore an ice cave!

P1020099

Ice caves in Iceland are formed from beneath by the canals of water which run under the glaciers. In the summer these caves are often filled with water and impassible, but with the coming of cold water they freeze and voila – ICE CAVE! Incredibly otherworldly and stunningly beautiful – I’ll just let my pictures do the talking:

GOPR1450

IMG_0497

 

P1020034

IMG_3697

We not only got to see a traditional ice cave, but after a short walk across the glacier, we got to see a convertible type of ice cave – you know…one with the roof off. Really, it was more like a fissure in the glacier. Also, incredibly beautiful.

IMG_7416

DCIM100GOPROG0182089.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR2082.JPG

And the great news is that new caves form every year, so you could likely go again and again and it would always be different!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR2100.JPG

GOPR2099

Alas, it was time to head back to Reykjavik. We stopped for a short look see at Svínafellsjökull (the glacier where the scenes from North of the Wall in Game of Thrones were filmed), but then got right on the road.

IMG_3770

I had been monitoring the weather on my phone throughout the day and was worried about a storm that was moving in. Sure enough, the weather soon turned bad. We thought rain was a problem, but not so much. What we ended up with on the way back to the city was much worse – very windy and driving snow. There was little visibility, multiple cars had gone off the road and driving was treacherous!

When we finally arrived in Hveragerði at the foot of the Hellisheidi Mountain Pass, the one that we needed to take to get back into Reykjavik…yeah, that one…we found that it was impassable and closed.

IMG_7476

We sat and waited to see if a plow might make it across the mountain somehow, but after about an hour and some consulting with other stuck tour drivers as well as the police, we realized that we were going to have to go around. Yeah….go around a mountain! Thus turning what should have been about a 40 minute drive over the pass into a 2 hour + blizzard driving odyssey! But I gotta give it to our driver. He was awesome. Calm and confident. We finally showed up back in the city around 2 am! Let me tell you, that was the point where we were really glad we weren’t the ones doing the driving, but rather were in the expert hands of a driver who was experienced driving in Iceland’s tricky, ever-changing winter weather. Although this two day Ice Cave trip turned out a little different than we might have imagined, we ended up having a fantastic time and quite an adventure!

IMG_7613

The rest of our time in Iceland we spent relaxing in Reykjavik. We stayed in an AirBnB which was in a great location and had a lovely view.

IMG_7258

We went shopping and wandered about town

IMG_7278-EFFECTS

took in the street art

stopped for coffee at Reykjavik Roasters,

IMG_7271

visited our favorite restaurants like Íslenski Barinn and Snaps,

enjoyed a kanilsnúðar or two from Brauð & Co.

IMG_7535

and stopped by our favorite bars

IMG_7280

and of course, ate a hot dog or two or so…

 We were lucky that the Winter Lights Festival was taking place while we were there. This festival is an annual February event in Reykjavik which celebrates both the Winter world and the growing sunlight after a long period of darkness. Every night during the festival various buildings throughout the city have light installations. You can get a map and stroll through the city to see them all.

IMG_3607

And we got even more snow, which made me a very, very happy camper. So yeah, February is a great time to visit Iceland! To see all the action as it happened, take a look at this video:

But oh yeah, I was supposed to tell you about his Kanilterta. This traditional Icelandic cake was often baked around the Christmas holidays and served with hot chocolate on Christmas Day. However, in recent years it has lost some of its popularity, being seen as rather old fashioned. Old fashioned it may be, and perhaps not very polished or fancy looking, but it is truly delicious!

IMG_0019I know I’ve told you before that the Husband doesn’t really like sweet desserts. Well, he absolutely LOVED this cake. Has asked for multiple slices!

IMG_0109The layers are more like a cookie or soft shortbread than a traditional layer cake. They are incredibly buttery and decadent. The vanilla whipped cream between the layers serves to light each bite.IMG_0024The top layer of silky dark chocolate is absolutely amazing. Where has this cake been all of my life?!!

 

IMG_0135Wonderfully rich and buttery with warm cinnamon and chocolate notes, this Kanilterta is absolutely irresistible! It is welcome all year round in our house. Once you give it a whirl, I’ll bet you’ll be hooked too!IMG_0029

 

Kanilterta - (Icelandic Cinnamon Cake)

  • Servings: 12- 14 slices
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly modified from: Þjóðlegt með kaffinu

Ingredients:

  • 260 grams salted butter
  • 350 grams sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 300 grams all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 4 dl  (400 ml or 13.5 oz) cream
  • 3 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 75 grams dark chocolate
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C).

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour and cinnamon together. Add flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until just combined.

Butter four to six 8″ round cake pans and line with parchment. Divide the dough equally between the pans and spread it out into an even layer. Or, if you do not have the round pans, you can draw 4 – 6 circles measuring 8″ in diameter on parchment paper and bake on a cookie sheet.

Bake each layer for 12 -15 minutes or until set. I baked four layers. If you are making six layers, the baking time will likely be closer to 8 – 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely on wire rack.

Whip cream until it starts to thicken. Add confectioners sugar, cream of tartar and vanilla bean paste and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Spread whipped cream mixture evenly between each layer of the cake, leaving the top layer bare.

Place layered cake in refrigerator or freezer briefly while you prepare chocolate for the top layer. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat.

Once chocolate has cooled to room temperature, spread chocolate over the top layer of the cake.

Enjoy!

Kanilterta brought to you today by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Kanilterta:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

8″ Round non-stick cake pan

Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Bean Paste

Valhrona French Chocolate Pearls – This is what I used to decorate the top of the cake. It is a crispy bit of cereal coated in dark chocolate. This link if for a much, much bigger bag than you would need for just this dessert, but I wanted to let you know what I had used.

Links for Planning your vacation in February in Iceland:

Getting There: Icelandair! We love Icelandair and have always had great experience with them. Take advantage of their Stopover program on your next flight to Europe.

Accommodation: 

Silica Hotel at Blue Lagoon: Lovely hotel with its own private lagoon for guests. Extensive breakfast buffet and very close to Keflavik Airport as well as (of course) the Blue Lagoon.

Once in Reykjavik, we stayed in an AirBnB on this visit. Planet Apartments were the folks who managed the unit we stayed in. They have several lovely apartments with great views of the sea. Very friendly & helpful folks to work with.

Car Rental – We did not actually rent a car this time, but relied on taxis. When we do rent a car, here is the company we love:

Blue Car Rental: We ALWAYS rent our car from Blue Car Rental. Friendly Icelandic company, well maintained, newer, quality vehicles – they’ve never let us down and at this point we have rented from them on six different visits and have had excellent experiences every time. The price they quote on their website has all of the insurance included so there are no surprizes when you show up at their rental desk. Highly recommend!

Tours: So visiting an Ice Cave was a lot of fun. We definitely recommend it. I did want to take this time though to impart some advice. Visiting an ice cave is weather dependent in a couple of ways. First of all you need to visit between the months of November – March, when the weather is cold enough that the caves are more stable. Second of all, weather in Iceland is unpredictable. Tours are often cancelled in the winter, so you need to try to remain flexible and go into it knowing your tour might be cancelled due to the weather. That being said, you have to consider how you will be getting to the ice cave. Some of the best caves are located in Vatnjökull, which is about a 5+ hour drive from Reykjavik. You could drive yourself out that way to meet up with a tour – a lot leave from Jökulsárlón. However, keep in mind you will be driving in Iceland during the Winter, so you might end up having to deal with less than favorable to downright dangerous winter driving conditions.  Rather than driving yourself, you could book a tour which leaves from Reykjavik and let a local do the driving, like we did. A word of caution here – although they do offer day tours out to Jökulsárlón, I do not recommend them. You will spend at least 10 hours driving – so that is a long day in a car. And keep in mind, the days have less daylight hours at this time of year, so most of it will be in the dark. I think a two or three day tour is a better option. I bet you think that the two day Ice Cave & South Shore tour that we took looked like a lot of fun. It really was and I would have recommended the tour company that we used with out hesitation. The problem is that they sadly ended up going bankrupt in 2019. However, I know a lot of other tour groups out there do similar tours to this one. Which brings me to my actual recommendation here: I Heart Reykjavik! If you are familiar with my past recommendations for Iceland, you will be familiar with this company. We have gone on a couple of walking tours of Reykjavik with them which were fantastic! It was as if you had a local friend there who was able to give you the inside tip on the best restaurants, pubs and shops while telling you all about the city. And I also follow their blog, which offers just a ton of useful advice and tips for your visit.

I Heart Reykjavik– An invaluable resource for all things Iceland! I Heart Reykjavik is a small, family run company that offers you personalized service. They can help you plan a fantastic vacation to Iceland in a couple of ways. You can browse and book tours directly on their website. The advantage here is that I Heart Reykjavik has vetted all of the companies on their carefully curated list. Often they have even gone out on the tours and you can read a review of their experience on their blog. Their recommendations can save you a ton of time pouring over tours and reviews online and let you know which company you can best trust with your money . Another advantage is that if you book all of your tours through them and then a unforeseen change due to the weather or some sort of thing, I Heart Reykjavik can suggest changes to your itinerary and assist you with rebooking. And speaking of itineraries, if you are the type of person who likes to plan out everything yourself, I Heart Reykjavik can still be of assistance. They offer an Itinerary Review service, where they can take a look at your upcoming plans and make sure everything makes sense – such as if you have allowed enough travel time. They can give you feedback concerning accommodation and alert you if there is a must see in the area you are visiting which has not found it’s way into your plans. They are truly an invaluable resource!

Here is a link to an excellent, informative blog post I Heart Reykjavik wrote about visiting Ice Caves just last year. They can help you find the best tried & tested company to take you on an Ice Cave Adventure, according to your individual needs.

Destinations:

Seljalandfoss – A beautiful waterfall located just off of Route 1 on the South Coast. If the weather is good and you don’t mind getting a bit wet, you can walk behind this waterfall.

Skógafoss – Another beautiful waterfall located just off of Route1 on the South Coast. Due to the amount of spray from the falls, if the sun is out you will likely see a rainbow in front of it.

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach– Famous picturesque black sand beach located near the village of Vík. Please be careful at this beach. The waves and rip currents are quite powerful. There are sneaker waves which can seemingly come out of nowhere and travel much further up the beach than expected, knocking you off your feet and potentially pulling you out to the freezing sea. Never turn your back to the waves. Unfortunately there have been several fatalities at this beach.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon – Stunning canyon located near the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur in South Iceland. In Season 8 of Game of Thrones you can see the Dragons fly through this snow covered canyon. The vegetation in the canyon suffered from the amount of tourists and it was closed until June 2019, to allow it to recover.

Svínafellsjökull– An outlet glacier of Vatnajökull located in Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Game of Thrones filmed many of season 7’s North of the Wall scenes here.

Jökulsárlón – is a large lake which was formed by a glacier (glacial lagoon). It is located in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Bits of the Vatnajökull glacier break off (calve) into the lake, forming icebergs. These icebergs float around until they melt enough to fit through the narrow opening of the lake and drift out into the ocean.

Diamond Beach A black sand beach near Jökulsárlón often peppered with icebergs which have calved from the glacier, traveled out to the ocean and then washed back up on the beach.

Restaurant/Bars:

Íslenski Barinn– Love, love, love! Delicious food & local brews in a comfortable, cozy setting.

Kaldi Bar Fun & hip Bar featuring beers from the Kaldi Brewery

Ölstofa Kormáks og Skjaldar (Kormakur’s and Skjöldur’s alehouse) – Or just plain Ölstofan –house brew Brío is not to be missed!

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur – Legendary Icelandic Hot Dog stand in Reykjavik. A one a day must for the Husband while we are visiting the city!

Reykjavik Roasters– Best coffee & vibe. Love the cinnamon scones!

Brauð & Company– Bakes my most favorite in the world kanilsnúðar!

Snaps Bistro– Laid back, French style bistro, serving up delicious cocktails and amazing breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinners. A favorite with locals and tourists a like.

Misc:

Þjóðlegt með kaffinu – Besides being a Facebook page, there is also a cookbook penned by Jón Símonía Bjarnadóttir & Gudfinna Hreidarsdóttir. It is available in English, Danish & German. You can purchase it when you visit Iceland or contact them at icelandiccakes@google.com

The Reykjavik Grapevine: A witty English language Icelandic magazine. Great read whether or not you’re planning a visit! And if you are planning a visit make sure to check out their annual “Best of” edition where they give you a curated list of the best of everything to be found in the country!

Icelandic Meteorologic Office – Great for checking the weather before you go and essential while you are visiting – especially if you are visiting in the Winter! They also have an app you can have on your phone which I definitely recommend. The weather in Iceland can change suddenly. Be prepared!

 

 


Spicy Taco Egg Cups

May 5, 2020

IMG_5538

Woohoo! It’s Cinco de Mayo! And we’re still on lockdown! No drinking margaritas in the cantina for the Husband and I. Nope – looks like it might have to be shots of tequila on the couch. I guess we better get some food on the stomach if that’s the way it’s gonna go today. And I have just the thing: Spicy Taco Egg Cups!

IMG_5535

These little firecrackers pack quite a punch! At least they do when I make ’em, ’cause we do love our spicy food. But don’t despair if you don’t – you can tame them down accordingly. Just don’t use any cayenne and use a very mild salsa. They will still have tons of flavor, just not as much of the “burns so good-ness” that we love.

IMG_5528

While I’ve got you here I’d like to take the opportunity to remind you of some other great recipes that would be perfect for today such as my favorite Guacamole (there is a secret ingredient in it!)

IMG_2510

Or how about this Tres Leches Cake with Dulce de Leche Glaze

IMG_4793

And who could forget the Double Decker Taco Cupcakes

IMG_7483

But let me get back to these little Taco Egg Cups. Here is another fantastic piece of information – they can actually be pretty low in calories if you concerned with the Covid 19 pounds that I’ve mentioned gaining while in quarantine. Just use lean ground beef and reduced fat cheese. There you have it, low calorie (around 100 -ish per cup) and tasty! They come together pretty quickly as well. So while you’re making a batch of these, have your quarantine buddy fire up the blender for some frozen Margaritas. Nine in the a.m. isn’t too early to start with the festivities is it? Cinco de Mayo will turn out just fine at home after all!

IMG_5525

Spicy Taco Egg Cups

  • Servings: 12 Egg Cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: Food Faith Fitness

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Taco Seasoning
  • 3/4 Cup Salsa (your choice, but I love Green Mountain Gringo)
  • 6 Eggs
  • 4 Egg whites (or 3/4 cup store bought prepackaged egg whites)
  • Pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne if you like it spicy!
  • 1 Cup Mexican Cheese Blend or Pepper Jack Cheese

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375°F and GENEROUSLY spray the wells of muffin tin with cooking spray.
In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add in the ground beef and cook, breaking up, until no longer pink. Add in the taco seasoning and stir until well mixed.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the salsa. Set aside.
In a large pyrex measuring cup, whisk together the eggs and egg whites with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Pour the egg mixture in the wells of the muffin tin, trying to distribute equally among the wells.
Spoon about 2 Tablespoons of the beef mixture into the muffin wells.
Finally, top each muffin cavity with 1 slightly heaping Tablespoon of the cheese.
Bake until the eggs are set and lightly golden brown, about 20-23 minutes.
Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and them carefully remove them from the muffin pan to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Enjoy!
Spicy Taco Egg Cups brought to you today by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)
Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Spicy Taco Egg Cups:
OXO Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop
Pyrex Glass Measuring Cup
Cupcake & Muffin Tin
Green Mountain Gringo Salsa – here is an Amazon link, though you can likely get this at your local grocery store.

Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake

May 1, 2020

IMG_9891

Today is May 1st or May Day as it is known. Now when I say “May Day”, I am not referring to the more modern, political International Worker’s Day type thing. Or the distress call – though given the state of the world currently, I can understand why you might have thought I was calling for help. No, I am talking about the ancient festival of Spring that is/was celebrated throughout many countries. For my part, I’m going to celebrate with this Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake.

IMG_9934

You might be familiar with May Day celebrations held in England. There, a May Queen is crowned and you will likely see Morris Dancers and folks dancing around a Maypole. Today I am looking back in time to Irish traditions.

IMG_9947In Ireland the day is known as Lá Beltaine, which roughly means “the day of the fires of Bel” – Bel being a Celtic God. Halfway between the Spring and the Summer solstice, Beltaine celebrates the arrival of summer and the fertility of the coming year. Yellow flowers such as primrose, rowan, hawthorn, gorse , hazel and marsh marigolds were placed at windows and over doorways. A Maybush, often a hawthorn tree, was decorated with flowers, ribbon and bright shells and sacred wells were visited to pray for health.

93766039_909129439535110_463991514624688128_n

Photo from Facebook Page May Day – Bealtaine

This was also the time in Ireland, back in the day, when cattle were driven to their summer pastures. And quite significantly it was believed that the veil between our world and the world unseen was very thin. It was more likely that you might encounter fairies or other supernatural beings out and about at this time. That notion made folks very nervous. So lots of the Beltaine traditions were done to protect oneself, livestock and crops from any mischief or ill will. Bonfires were lit throughout the country. It was believed that flames, smoke and ashes have protective properties. Livestock were driven between the fires and people walked between them as well, Indeed they sometimes even leap over them. All fires in the house were extinguished and then relit from the communal Beltaine bonfire.

IMG_9965

The festival was associated with fertility, not only of the land, but also the people. Just think about that Maypole…yup, symbol of fertility. In order to have a more youthful and beautiful complexion, women would wash their face in dew, preferably gathered from beneath a hawthorn tree at dawn on May 1st. I have been trying to do this for years here in Virginia, but I don’t have a hawthorn tree. I have a crab apple, which is in the hawthorn family, so that is my go to. Unfortunately, I’m not really an early riser, so the dew is almost nearly all burned off by the time I schlep on out of the house. Furthermore, I’m often quite suspicious of any wetness I do find under the tree. Anybody out there have any idea what washing your face in fox or cat urine accomplishes? But I digress…

20141024_155012 - Version 2

Maybe I should make the effort to get out of bed earlier this year…

Interestingly enough, I had originally considered doing a recipe for little fried honey cakes. I found an article online (so you know it had to be true…) that said they were made for Beltaine and left out as a gift for the fairies the night before. I really did not want to fry any dough, since that would not only use up all my oil (pandemic quarantine concerns….) but would also make my house smell like a chipper. So I reached out to some friends in Ireland to ask if they knew of any traditional Beltaine recipes. They did not, but were horrified to hear that anyone would consider leaving treats out for the fairies. As far as they are concerned, doing anything whatsoever to draw any sort of attention from the fairies was to say, at the very least, quite foolish. Having recently read The Call by Peadar O’Guilin (creepy and somewhat terrifying, Hunger Games-esque modern Irish fairy story – have you read it? You should!) I can definitely see the wisdom in that line of thought!

cUmFVJAsBDPxvMcrOdraMC0BepUh6l3B1IAGG6R4mgE

So I arrived on the idea of baking, not frying, a honey cake. Honey has long been associated with Beltaine. Not surprising since it is considered to have aphrodisiac qualities and is often associated with fertility. So I figured a honey cake would be a great match for the holiday.

IMG_9963

Truth be told, this recipe is from Smitten Kitchen. Deb calls it the Majestic & Moist Honey Cake and she baked it for Rosh Hashannah – Jewish New Year. In Jewish tradition, honey symbolizes excitement for a sweet New Year. Hey given what 2020 has dished out so far, a “Sweet New Year” sounds really good right about now! Can we just hit reset and have a do over sans deadly pandemic?

IMG_9928

This Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake is quite tasty., filled with spices and incredibly moist with crispy chewy delicious caramelized crust. I used Irish Whiskey in the mix for my Beltaine nod to Ireland. This recipe does make quite a lot of cake. Although I baked it in cutesy little beehive pans, you should probably consider doing a big ole bundt! Happy Beltaine ya’ll!

IMG_9924

Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake

recipe very slightly adapted from: Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups (440 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  •  teaspoons (about 8 grams) ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup (235 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (340 grams) honey
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (95 grams) brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup warm (235 ml) coffee or strong tea
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) Irish whiskey (I think Jack Daniels would work well too)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease pan(s) with non-stick cooking spray. For tube or angel food pans, line the bottom with lightly greased parchment paper, cut to fit.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice. Make a well in the center, and add oil, honey, white sugar, brown sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee or tea, orange juice and rye or whiskey, if using. (If you measure your oil before the honey, it will be easier to get all of the honey out.)

Mix on slow speed, stir together well to make a thick, well-blended batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom.

Spoon batter into prepared pan(s). Place cake pan(s) on two baking sheets, stacked together (this will ensure the cakes bake properly with the bottom baking faster than the cake interior and top).

Bake until cake tests done, that is, it springs back when you gently touch the cake center. For angel and tube cake pans, this will take 60 to 75 minutes, loaf cakes, about 45 to 55 minutes. For sheet style cakes, baking time is 40 to 45 minutes.

Let cake stand fifteen minutes before removing from pan.

Enjoy!

Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Useful links for Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer
Nordic Ware Bundt Pan
Nordic Ware Bee Hive Cakelet Pan – This is the pan I used for the cakes in my pictures. However, this pan only makes 6 cakes at a time and they are pretty small. With the amount of batter this recipe makes you will be baking these for hours with just the one pan! You might also want to use a bundt pan or 9″x13″ pan in addition to this pan.
The Call by Peadar O’Guilin – creepy modern day Irish fairy store I mentioned above. Technically you do not need this to make the Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake, but it really is a good read if you like scary fairy stories, Hunger Game, Game of Thrones type things.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman – This recipe is not actually in the book, but I have never been disappointed in a Smitten Kitchen recipe, so you might want to get a copy!

Polish Babka

April 10, 2020

IMG_9773

Happy Good Friday everyone! Wait…can you say that? You hear a lot of “Happy Easter” but not really “Happy Good Friday”. Hmmm…well I’ll ask you to indulge me today because I am very happy today! My Apple Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns that I make every year ( you have to bake them on Good Friday or they don’t have all of the special powers) are well under way!

IMG_2431

I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make them this year what with all of the quarantining shortages in the stores, but luckily I was able to score some flour and sugar. Hoooray! And not only am I making the traditional Hot Cross Buns today, but I am also going to share a great Easter bread recipe with you: Polish Babka!

IMG_9762

When you hear “Babka” you might think of the Jewish version of the bread, which is often a twisted bread filled with chocolate or cinnamon and topped with a streusel. That is definitely tasty, but not the treat I’m talking about today. Today we look to Poland.

IMG_9769

Polish Babka is a rich, buttery bread which is shot through with rum soaked fruit, brushed with a rum syrup and dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

IMG_9757

Traditionally served on Easter in Poland, there are many different versions of this recipe, with each family claiming the bread made by their “Babka” which means grandmother in Polish, is the best!

IMG_9760Folks in many countries around the world have a special bread that they bake for the Easter holidays. I have shared quite a few of these recipes with you over the years. Last year was Cozonac – Romanian Easter Bread.IMG_8091

 

And prior to that was Italian Easter Bread:

IMG_6979

Then there was this Tsoureki from Greece:

IMG_6348

Don’t forget that Slovak Paska:

IMG_2688

And the impressive Russian Kulich:

IMG_2724

That’s a lot of Easter breads huh?!! But let me get back to talking about this Polish Babka. This Babka is a cross between a bread and a cake in a way. You do start with a sponge, which boosts the rise that you get from the yeast, but you don’t have to knead it all, so it is a bit like a batter bread.

IMG_9792A loaf of Babka is often included in the swiecone basket that Polish families take to church with them on Easter Saturday to be blessed. The basket contains food such as meat, eggs, cake and breads, which will be eaten at the Easter meal after Mass. Each of the food items in the basket are symbolic. For example eggs represent new life and the yeast bread represents the risen Lord.IMG_9798

 

If you hadn’t guessed, I love bread. I love baking it and I love eating it. Guess that’s why I could not stick with the South Beach diet! This bread was pretty easy to make and will be a fantastic Easter treat.

IMG_9785

Now you can make a rum icing to drizzle over the Babka if you wish. I have included it in the recipe. Since the Husband really isn’t a fan of super sweet desserts, I chose to just dust our Babka lightly with confectioner’s sugar. But you should do whatever you prefer.

IMG_9758

With its tender crumb and rich rum soaked fruit I’m also looking forward to the French Toast I will be making soon as well.

IMG_9802Hope everyone has a Happy Easter!

IMG_9778

 

Polish Babka

  • Servings: 1 cake with 12 -16 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: King Arthur Flour (I have incorporated a lot of the advice from the reviews of this recipe from bakers on the KAF site.)

Ingredients:

For the Starter Sponge:

  • 60 grams (1/2 cup) All-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 113 grams (1/2 cup) lukewarm (95°F) milk

For the Babka:

  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • heaping 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 57 grams (4 tablespoons, 1/4 cup) softened butter
  • 181 grams All-Purpose Flour (if you do not wish to do the sponge – it is 241 grams (2 cups flour)
  • 43 grams (1/4 cup ) currants or raisins (golden raisins preferred)
  • 43 grams (1/4 cup) candied mixed fruit or candied mixed peel, or mixed dried fruit, chopped

For the Rum Syrup:

  • 99 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 57 grams (1/4 cup) water*
  • 14 grams to 28 grams (1 to 2 tablespoons) rum*

*If you prefer not to use Rum you could substitute apple juice for the water and rum mixture.

For the Icing (Optional – you can just go with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar):

  • 113 grams (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 28 grams (2 tablespoons) milk, or a combination of milk and rum or apple juice

Directions:

Begin by making a starter sponge:  In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix 60 grams of the flour and two teaspoons instant yeast with 113 grams of the lukewarm milk. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to let rise for 1 hour.

Place the raisins and candied mixed fruit in a small bowl and cover with rum. Allow to soak while the sponge is rising.

After on hour, add the rest of the remaining ingredients, except the fruit, to the mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed until cohesive. Increase your mixer’s speed to high, and beat for 2 minutes.

Add the rum soaked fruit, beating gently just to combine.

Cover the bowl, and let the dough/thick batter rest/rise for 60 minutes; it won’t appear to do too much.

Scoop the batter into a greased 10-cup Bundt Pan. (If you don’t have a Bundt pan you can also bake the bread in an 8 1/2″ X 4 1/2″ loaf pan). Cover the pan, and let the dough rest/rise for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.

Bake the babka for 35 to 40 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads at least 190°F.

While the babka is baking, prepare the rum syrup. Combine all of the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, and boil, swirling the liquid in the pan, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat.

Remove the babka from the oven. Poke it all over gently with a toothpick or fork, and slowly pour the syrup over the babka’s surface.

When the syrup is fully absorbed (about 20 minutes or so), carefully loosen the Babka’s edges, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack.

If you choose to use the icing: Mix all of the ingredients together, stirring until smooth. Drizzle over completely cool Babka.

Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Polish Babka:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer by Thermoworks

SAF Instant Yeast

Baker’s Fruit Blend

Nordic Ware Bundt Pan


Baileys Bite Sized Cheesecakes

March 17, 2020

IMG_9514

Woo-hoo! Today is St. Patrick’s Day!!! It is here, it is here! And to finish off my annual St. Patrick’s Day recipe run I give you: Baileys Bite Sized Cheesecakes!

IMG_9545

These little luxurious gems might be small, but they are big on taste. I mean I really don’t have to describe it much at all – I can just say Baileys Cheesecake. Nuff said really. Everyone knows cheesecake is scrumptious and when you add some silky smooth Baileys into the mix – well  – sheer perfection. I should mention that I have also topped these little tempters with a Baileys whipped cream as well. You know, once you’ve got the Baileys out, why stop?

IMG_9534

Folks absolutely love Baileys. In fact, on December 3rd, 2007, the manufacturers of the beloved liqueur, announced the sale of the billionth bottle of Baileys since it was first introduced. A billion is a lot right? But you’re probably thinking, yeah but Baileys has been around for ever. They’ve had a lot of time to get to 1 billion. You’d be wrong. Baileys wasn’t introduced until 1973! Hard to believe! Baileys was the first Irish Cream to go on the market as well. There have certainly been plenty of  imitators since then, but Baileys continues to rule supreme.

IMG_9557

Although a big huge honking Baileys Cheesecake is truly impressive, these decadent little bite sized indulgences have a lot going for them. They are super portable, so if you’re in a rush to get out to the parade or onto the next festivity, you can just pop one in your mouth and grab another to go. (Yeah – I did write that previous line before we all found ourselves in the social distancing situation we are now enduring…I guess I should say you can grab one out of the fridge quickly and get right back to your Netflix-a-thon without missing a thing) Easy-peasy. And you won’t fall into a cheesecake induced sugar coma like you might if you ate a big old slice of cheesecake. Plus they’re so small, I’m sure they barely have any calories at all in them. Not that you should be thinking of calories on St. Patrick’s Day…

IMG_9542

Well I guess that finishes my annual St. Patrick’s Day run. I’ve gotta admit, this is the strangest St. Patrick’s Day I can remember what with all the Covid 19 closures, cancellations and quarantines going on around the world. Definitely scary times. Things will likely be weird for awhile, but hopefully if we can work together we will be able to weather this storm. Friends in Ireland forwarded me an inspiring St. Patrick’s Day message from their President, Michael D. Higgins, which I will leave you with now.

I wish everyone a safe, healthy and happy holiday! Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daiobh (Happy St. Patrick’s Day)!

IMG_9526

 

Baileys Bite Sized Cheesecakes

  • Servings: 12 mini cheesecakes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

For the Crust:

  • 1 cup (120 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (32 grans) almond flour or 1/3 cup (28 grams) ground almonds
  • 2 Tablespoons (28 grams) brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons (85 grams) butter, cold

For the Batter:

  • 1 cup (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) heavy cream or sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 2 Tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream

Toppings:

For the Baileys Whipped Cream:

  • 3/4 Cup (180 ml) whipping cream
  • 2 Tablespoons confectioners sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream
  • Baileys Cookie (optional), Valhrona Dark Chocolate Crunchy Pearls (optional) Chocolate covered espresso beans (optional)

Directions:

For the Crust:

Preheat your oven to 425°F. Whisk together the flour, almond flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives, or rub together with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Or simply pulse the mixture in a food processor until combined. Sprinkle in a teaspoon or two of water if the dough is too crumbly to hold together when squeezed.

Divide the crumbs among the 12 cups of a mini cheesecake pan. Press them firmly into the bottoms and about 1/2″ up the sides. I used a medium sized cookie scoop to fill the wells with crust and then used a cork to tamp the crust down and hollow out a space in the center. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until set and just beginning to color. Remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

For the Batter:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the cream, egg, vanilla and Baileys; mix well. Spoon the batter into the cooled crusts, using about 2 tablespoons in each. Again the medium sized cookie scoop works well here.

Bake the cheesecakes for 18 to 20 minutes, until just set. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes — the tops will sink slightly. Use a knife to gently loosen the edges. Pick the pan up and gently and carefully push the individual cakes up until you can lift them from the pan. Put them in the fridge to chill. To remove the metal plates before serving, run the blade of a table knife under hot water to warm it, then run the knife between the crust and the metal disk to free up the cheesecake. I was actually able to easily pop the metal plates off the bottom of the cakes when I first removed them from the pan.

Make the Baileys Whipped Cream: Place the cold whipping cream in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attached. While whisking the cream, slowly add the sugar and the Baileys. Continue to mix until glossy peaks form.

Just before serving, pipe some Bailey’s Whipped cream on the top and garnish with Baileys cookie or chocolate shavings if desired.

Enjoy!

Baileys Bite Sized Cheesecakes brought to you today by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Useful links for Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Baileys Bite Sized Cheesecakes:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Series 5 Qt. Stand Mixer

Cuisinart Pro-Classic Food Processor

OXO Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop

Norpro Nonstick Mini Cheesecake Pan

 


Leprechaun Bait

March 16, 2020

IMG_9495

So tell me, are you hoping to catch a Leprechaun this St. Patrick’s Day? Have you ever indulged in so many adult beverages on a St. Patrick’s Day past that you thought you saw one? Well, let me tell you about today’s recipe: Leprechaun Bait!

IMG_9394

What we’ve got going on here is a magically delicious combination of chex cereal, Lucky Charms, salty pretzels, pistachios, cashews, M&Ms and Lucky Charms marshmallows, addictively coated with a silky white chocolate. Leprechaun bait? More like Leprechaun crack if you ask me!

IMG_9437

But perhaps I’ve gotten ahead of myself. You can’t really conduct a Leprechaun hunt if you aren’t familiar with the wee fellows.

Leprechaun-1

Old world Leprechaun as pictured in Spiderwick Chronicles

A Leprechaun is one of the fairy folk that live in Ireland. Cobblers by trade, these diminutive fellows (no taller than 3 feet) live a solitary life.  They are very focused on their appearance, dressed to the nines in a green suit, top hat and buckled shoes. Their love for green fashion apparently developed sometime in the 20th Century. Prior to that, they were fond of wearing red. Yeats explained that solitary fairies wore red, whereas trooping fairies tended to wear green.

IMG_9451

There seems to be a bit of controversy about where the name “leprechaun” comes from. In middle Irish there is the word luchrupán which means small body or it could derive from the word leithbrágan translating to half shoe which eludes to their profession. Or if you are a fan of the Artemis Fowl series of books, you are well aware that Leprechaun is from Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance – LEPrecon for short. (OMG – If you have not read this young adult series put it to the top of your to read list!!! And a movie is coming out soon!)

09d04305-9a02-4667-ab8c-76e29b9ec11b

Dame Judi Dench as Commander Root of LEP-Recon.

But wait….let me get back to the traditional folklore Leprechaun. Leprechauns love music and dancing, having ceilis which have been known to last for days. Perhaps these fairy raves are how they all wore their shoes out. Because apparently shoe making/mending is quite lucrative. It is well know that each leprechaun has a pot of gold which they have hidden somewhere. It is that pot of gold that has caused them to have such a troubling history with humans, which we know tend to be very greedy – always after the poor Leprechauns pot of gold or lucky charms.

IMG_9449

Making matters worse, there is that rumor that if you catch a Leprechaun they will grant you three wishes. You know, like a little green genie. This relentless pursuit is perhaps why leprechauns are know to be tricksy or even sometimes grumpy or distrustful. If you had to put up with being constantly hassled for money and favors, you’d be grumpy too. Kind of like the long suffering denizens of New York City. However if folks chose to be nice to them, Leprechauns have been know to bestow huge rewards, like a castle full of gold, to such good samaritans. Now I should point out what with St. Patrick’s Day upon us, there is a fairy known as a clurichaun which is said to be a cousin of the Leprechaun. Clurichauns, which tend to hang around breweries, pubs and wine cellars, are know to be often drunk. And rather than happy drunks, they are the surly, boisterous, fighting type of drunk. They raise all kinds of ruckus at night, keeping good folk awake with all the commotion. They have even been know to go on wild joyrides on unsuspecting dogs, cats or sheep. Terrible altogether! Though I would be remiss if I did not mention that there is some thought that these aren’t two different types of fairies, but that Clurichauns are actually just Leprechauns out on a bender!

clurichaun20feat2

But wait just a second! I have really gotten off track here. I was supposed to be telling you about this Leprechaun Bait. This addictive snack is really very easy to make and will be a perfect addition to your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

IMG_9406

In the spirit of full disclosure, my Mom always makes this at Christmas with some red and green M&M’s and craisins thrown into the mix. I love the stuff and look forward to it every year, so I decided to give it a St. Patrick’s Day spin by using green, white and orange M&M’s (colors of the Irish flag) green pistachios and Lucky Charms Marshmallows. Feel free to customize it as you see fit, cuz I gotta tell you – once you taste this delicious mix you’re going to be making it all the time. Yup – Leprechaun crack I tell you!

IMG_9485

And if you do see a Leprechaun this year, don’t be trying to abduct him, rob him or nag him for favors. Just pour him a drink and share this snack with him. You never know, perhaps he’ll forego his tricksy ways and you’ll be rewarded!

IMG_9396

Leprechaun Bait

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups Rice Chex cereal
  • 3 cups Lucky Charms cereal sans marshmallow bits (usually I use Cheerios, but since you’ve already got a box of Lucky Charms opened…Though this will make the mix a bit sweeter since Lucky Charms is frosted)
  • 2 cups broken pretzels ( I used Snyder’s Snaps but you could use small stix)
  • 1 cup pistachios
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 12 oz. M&M’s candy (I ordered specific color’s from the M&M store which does a St. Patrick’s Day mix as well* see disclaimer at bottom of post. Though you could just pick through regular M&M’s to get the green and orange ones)
  • 27 oz. White Chocolate chips
  • 1 cup marshmallows from Lucky Charms (I was able to get ahold of a limited edition box that had green clover & gold coin marshmallows)

Directions: 

In a large bowl, combine the Chex, Lucky Charms cereal (without marshmallows), pretzels, pistachios, cashews and M&M’s.

Cover counter with parchment paper.

Place white chocolate chips in top of double boiler and heat until melted through.

Pour the melted chocolate over the cereal mixture.

Stir quickly but carefully, taking care not to crush the Chex cereal, but to ensure that the mixture is completely coated with the white chocolate.

Turn the mixture out onto the parchment paper, spread it out and sprinkle evenly with the Lucky Charms marshmallows. Press down gently to get the marshmallows to adhere.

Allow the white chocolate to set. Break into smaller pieces and store in air-tight containers.

Enjoy!

Leprechaun Bait brought to you today by: Runcible Eats (www. leaandjay.com)

Links for helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Leprechaun Bait:

Double Boiler Pot

Snyder’s Snap Pretzels

Lucky Charms Cereal – Limited Edition

Artemis Fowl set – Books 1-3

St. Patrick’s Day M&M mix – I feel rather nit picky about mentioning this, but it is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. The M&M’s store St. Patrick’s Day mix is made up of green and white M&M’s which have been stamped with some lovely shamrocks – which is great. However, some are also marked with “Happy St. Patty’s Day” Arrrrghhhhh! Who is “St. Patty” Did Peppermint Patty from the Peanuts cartoon strip perform a couple of miracles I was unaware of which got her canonized? If I had noticed that slip up, I would not have purchased them. Deal breaker! I would have just bought some plain green and white M&M’s. Patrick in Irish is Pádraig and the nickname for that is Paddy. Not Patty, which is a nickname for Patricia. Come on M&M’s folks – surely you can do better!

 

 


Guinness Braised Steak with Crispy Baked Chips

March 15, 2020

IMG_9359

Oh my goodness my Guinness! I absolutely love cooking with Guinness. It just makes everything better. But I must say, there is something so magical when Guinness meets beef.  In this tasty St. Patrick’s Day recipe, flank steak which is a rather tough cut of beef is made melt in your mouth tender by braising it in Guinness. It is served along with some crispy baked thick cut chips for the win!

IMG_9362

This recipe is so easy to make. You can actually braise the steak the day before you would like to serve it. Then, on the big day, just reheat the steak in the oven as you prepare the chips. I can not tell you how good your house will smell while this steak is slowly cooking away.

IMG_9364

And those crispy, crunchy homemade chips are fantastic as well. I absolutely love chips or french fries to those of us over on this side of the pond. The only problem with frying them up at home is that your house then smells like a big old chipper for days. That scrumptious smell of the braising beef will be overrun in no time. So thank goodness that rather than fried, these chips are dusted in polenta, sprayed with a bit of cooking oil and then baked in the oven.

IMG_9348

Still quite tasty and a bit healthier for you. Serve them with some ketchup, a splash of malt vinegar or dip them into the reduced Guinness cooking sauce. It will be a very happy St. Patrick’s Day indeed!

IMG_9376

Guinness Braised Steak with Crispy Baked Chips

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Slightly adapted from BBC Good Food

Ingredients:

  • 2 (250 gram) flank steaks
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 500 ml can of Guinness (could use other stout if you prefer…)
  • 1 beef stock cube, crumbled
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sauce (HP Sauce)
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 3 Shallots

For the Chips:

  • 600 gram large baking potato
  • 3 Tablespoons cornmeal
  • Spray oil ( olive oil, canola oil, crisco – whatever you might have)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Season the steaks on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a frying pan. When hot, down the steaks well on all side. Transfer to a snug casserole or narrow, deep baking dish.

Pour the Guinness into the frying pan and bring to a simmer. Add the stock cube, Worcestershire Sauce an HP Sauce. Stir to combine.

Add the bay leaves and roughly chopped shallots to the dish holding the steaks. Pour the Guinness mixture over the steaks. Cover the dish tightly with foil and then add the lid. If your casserole does not have a lid, you can place a flat baking sheet over top. Bake for 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender. This can be done 1day in advance.

For the chips: One hour before you plan to serve the meal, preheat the oven to 400° F (200°C). Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil while you can the potatoes into 3 cm fat chips. Parboil for 3 min. Drain and let steam dry.

Place the cornmeal into a shallow bowl and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dredge the chips in cornmeal and transfer to baking sheet. Spray chips with spray oil and sprinkle remaining cornmeal over the top. Roast for 45 minutes, tossing chips and spraying with a bit more oil half way through the baking time. The chips should be crispy and golden.

When the chips have 20 minutes cook time remaining, remove the steaks from their cooking liquid. Wrap them along with the shallots in parchment, followed by foil. Place the packet on the low shelf of your oven and allow it to heat through.

Place the cooking liquid into a small sauce pan. Boil it over high hear until reduced by 3/4. Place in pitcher to serve over steaks.

Remove the chips from the oven and season with freshly cracked pepper and flaked sea salt. Remove steaks from packet and plate along with some shallots.

Enjoy!

Guinness Braised Steaks with Crispy Baked Chips brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Guinness Braised Steak with Crispy Baked Chips:

Le Creuset Cast Iron Signature Casserole

HP Sauce This link is for a two pack of the sauce. I can usually find it in my local grocery store. You can also substitute in some A1 if you’re pressed.

 

 


Irish Coddled Pork with Cider

March 14, 2020

IMG_9280

Ah now here is a traditional Irish dish for you – Irish Coddled Pork with Cider. If St. Patrick’s Day is at all chilly and rainy – which seems to often be the case – this slow cooked stew will really hit the spot! But what does “coddle” mean? Well, in a culinary sense it likely comes from the french verb caudle which means to cook gently, parboil or stew. You know, low and slow. Sure everyone knows a stew boiled is a stew spoiled! But I’ve also read that it comes from the Irish word cadal which means to sleep. The legend goes that the wife of the house could make up  a coddle and leave it simmering on the stove for hours. It would still be delicious when her man finally arrived home from the pub, long after she’d gone off to sleep!

IMG_9270

Dublin Coddle is the coddle which is best known I’d say. That Coddle is a stew consisting of Irish Sausages, potatoes, onions and Irish Bacon. It has been enjoyed in Ireland since the seventeenth century and likely before. It was a favourite of the likes of Jonathan Swift, Seán O’Casey and James Joyce.

IMG_0845

Coddles were a useful way of using up any meat on a Thursday, in times when Catholics were not supposed to eat meat on Fridays. Now a days you can enjoy a hearty coddle any time. This particular coddle recipe features a couple lovely thick cut pork chops.

IMG_9291

After having prepared this dish, I can definitely say it is so easy to make. You just brown the pork, chop up the veg and toss it all into a pot to simmer away. Now you do want to make sure that you have a pot with a well fitting lid so that the ingredients left uncovered by the stock/cider will be steamed. True Irish comfort food. Serve up with some soda bread or a hunk of brown bread slathered with butter. And maybe a pint or two….

IMG_9278

Irish Coddled Pork with Cider

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: BBC Good Food

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons good Irish butter (like Kerrygold)
  • 2 Pork Loin Chops
  • 4 rashers smoked bacon, chopped into pieces
  • 2 potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 carrot, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 rutabaga (swede, turnip) cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 small cabbage, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 100 ml Irish cider
  • 100 ml chicken stock

Directions:

Heat butter in a casserole dish until sizzling. I used a Le Creuset oval casserole #27 (6 quart). Brown the pork chops on each side. Remove from pan and set aside.

Place the bacon, carrot, potatoes and rutabaga in the pan and fry until just starting to color. Stir in the cabbage and cook for a few more minutes. Nestle the chops into the vegetables. Add the bay leaf and then pour the cider and stock over the top. Cover the pan and continue to simmer on low until the pork is cooked through (145°F/ 63°C) and the vegetables are tender.

Enjoy!

Irish Coddled Pork with Cider brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Irish Coddled Pork with Cider:

Le Creuset Cast Iron Signature Casserole

 

 


Irish Whiskey Marmalade Bread Pudding

March 13, 2020

IMG_9247

Mmmmmm. Did someone say Bread Pudding? Comfort food at its finest if you ask me. It is enjoyed all over the world with each country putting its own special spin on it. Like in Canada it is often made with maple syrup and in Puerto Rico you will find it with coconut milk and a rum guava sauce. So for St. Patrick’s Day I thought this Irish Whiskey Marmalade Bread Pudding would be perfection!

IMG_9214

Bread Pudding started out as a pretty rustic dish and folks have been enjoying it for some time. It can be traced all the way back to the 11th century. It was a pretty frugal dish, made to use up bread that was going stale. In 13th century England it was referred to as ‘poor man’s pudding”. How far it has come. Not so humble anymore you can find it offered up in some of the most posh and trendy restaurants.

IMG_9183

A couple of years ago I shared a recipe for Irish Whiskey Marmalade. I thought the bright  citrus goodness of that marmalade would be a perfect complement to my pudding. I originally got this award winning Irish Whiskey Marmalade recipe from my friend Theresa’s cookbook  Fruit on the Table: Seasonal Recipes from the Green Apron Kitchen by Theresa Storey.

book-cover-fruitonthetable

Theresa and I met in college when she was finishing up her degree in botany. After college, Theresa moved back to rural County Limerick and started her own business, The Green Apron, which is an artisan preserve company. Theresa grows much of the fruit and vegetables she uses in her preserves at her family’s orchards at Derryclough and in the walled vegetable garden at her parents 18th Century castle, Glenwilliam.

img_2809-e1463570050345-683x1024

Her award-winning preserves are made in small batches by traditional methods using locally sourced, organic produce where possible and without artificial preservatives, colours or setting agents. The Green Apron has won 15 Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards, 7 International Great Taste awards and is listed not only in McKenna’s Guide, but also in Georgina Campbell’s Guide. The Green Apron is also now offering workshops on sustainable living, preserving and bee keeping.

blas-silver-2014-pic-e1463574382426-1

But let me get back to today’s recipe. The Irish Whiskey Marmalade I made to brighten my bread pudding is a three fruit marmalade consisting of grapefruit, oranges and lemons and a good glug of Irish Whiskey. It is one of The Green Apron’s best-selling jams and won a bronze Blas na h’Eireann (Taste of Ireland Competition) in 2015. I have included the recipe for it which makes about 5 pints. That is quite a bit more than you need for this recipe. But I will say, it is amazing stuff. You will be delighted to have extra on hand. I have used  it to enhance other dishes in the past such as these Irish Whiskey Marmalade Tarts 

img_5781

as well as this Irish Whiskey Marmalade Cocktail

IMG_5878

And this scrumptious Batley Cake

IMG_6087

Great recipes to be sure and this Bread Pudding is right at home with them. So warming, cozy and comforting and a bit boozy I must say with the whiskey in the marmalade and well as the pudding. The bright citrus flourish will remind you that Spring is right around the corner. Serve it warm with some whipped cream or ice cream. But I’ve got to tell you, this Irish Whiskey Marmalade Bread Pudding is so delicious it stands fine all on its own.

IMG_9165

Irish Whiskey Marmalade Bread Pudding

  • Servings: 4 -6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 6 – 8 slices of day old bread (I used challah, brioche would also be great, or plain white bread)
  • 50 grams butter, room temperature
  • 4 – 6 Tablespoon Irish Whiskey Marmalade (recipe noted below)
  • 250 ml heavy cream
  • 50 ml milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 4 Tablespoons demerara sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Irish Whiskey
  • Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting over top

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325° F (160° C)

Butter the bread on both sides. Spread half of the pieces with marmalade. Cover with the remaining slices of bread to make marmalade sandwiches. Cut the sandwiches into quarters or halves depending on the bread size and your chosen baking dish and arrange them in the dish. I used an oval casserole measuring about 10″ x 8″. A 9″x 9″ would also work well.

Combine the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla, sugar and whiskey. Pour the mixture over the marmalade sandwiches. Set aside for 30 minutes or so to allow the bread to absorb all of that goodness.

Dot the remaining marmalade over the top of the bread. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until set. Remove from oven and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Serve warm with whipped cream, ice cream or simply plain.

For the Irish Whiskey Marmalade:

Ingredients:

  • 1 ruby grapefruit
  • 2 medium sweet oranges
  • 4 lemons
  • 3.4 kg (6 pints) water
  • 2.7 kg (6 lbs) sugar
  • 60 ml (2 fl. oz.) good Irish Whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice (Please note, mixed spice is different from all-spice. Mixed spice, sometimes also called pudding spice is a British spice similar to pumpkin pie spice, containing cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. I have a link for it below, or hereis a recipe for it.)

Directions:

Place a saucer into the refrigerator to chill.

Wash the grapefruit, oranges and lemons. Remove any blemishes from the skin and cut them into quarters. Place in the food processor and process on high speed until the peel is reduced to 6-mm (1/4″) pieces. If you like a bigger peel in your marmalade, don’t process it for so long, and if you like very little peel, process it for longer.

Put the processed citrus in a preserving pot with the water, stir well and cook on a high heat, stirring occasionally, until the peel is cooked and smooshes to wee pieces between your fingers. This usually takes an hour.

Add the sugar, stir well and cook over a high heat, stirring occasionally, until the marmalade reaches setting point, with a marmalade this usually takes 20 -40 minutes.

Spoon a little of the boiling preserve onto the cold saucer. Let it cool and then push it with your finger. If it has reached setting point, the top of the blob of marmalade will wrinkle. Marmalades should have wrinkles at least 2 -3 mm hight.

Remove from heat. Skim off any seeds and sugar foam.

Add 60 ml (2 fl oz) of good Irish Whiskey and 1 teaspoon of ground mixed spice.

Pour into warm sterilized jars to within 6 mm (1/4″) of the top. Wipe any drips off the rims of the jars to make sure there is a good seal between the jar and lid. A dampened paper towel works well for this. Place the lids on and seal.

Enjoy!

Irish Whiskey Marmalade Bread Pudding brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for helpful kitchen tools & ingredients for Irish Whiskey Marmalade Bread Pudding:

Fruit on the Table: Seasonal Recipes from the Green Apron Kitchen

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Cuisinart Pro-Classic Food Processor

Kilner Stainless Steel Jam Pan

Ball Mason 4 oz quilted jelly jars

Canning Magnetic Lid Wand

Norpro 600 Jar Lifter

Ball Canning Funnel

Mixed Spice

Oxo Good Grips Baker’s Dusting Wand

Folláin Irish Whiskey Marmalade – If you don’t have the time to make up a batch of marmalade before St. Patrick’s Day, nor can you travel to the Limerick Milk Market to buy a jar from The Green Apron, here is an option for Irish Whiskey Marmalade that will show up on your doorstep!

 


%d bloggers like this: