Grandmoms Recipes

Irish Brown Bread

I know, Baccala certainly doesn’t sound Irish, and to be perfectly honest my maiden name isn’t Irish either (my dad there in the middle of that picture below practically screams 80s Italian). But my heart? My heart is Irish. My grandmother was a generation removed of being “off the boat” Irish but for all intents and purposes, she was super Irish. She was also a pretty awesome lady in general. She was my first babysitter, taught me most of the cooking and crafting I know, and was an all around fun lady!

That’s her in the middle with me in her lap

There’s not a day that goes by I don’t think about her. Most of my recipes are some derivation of her recipes and she’s the one that took me to Ireland (along with some other family members). With that in mind, around St. Patricks Day I always think about her and among my many cravings for her various recipes (tacos, pineapple stuff), one of them is her brown bread recipe. A lot of people think they’ve had brown bread when what they really mean is Soda Bread. My grandmom made both, but let me tell you folks,

brown

First of all, Brown Bread? No raisins. Brown Bread? Not horrifically dry or scone-like. Brown Bread? Coated with delicious butter. There’s hardly even a comparison. And when you go around Ireland tasting the goodness and heartiness that is Irish cuisine, there wasn’t a single meal I ate that didn’t come with a side of this delicious bread. Nobody wants soda bread when the other option is this bread!

It’s impossible to duplicate, I’ve decided. We’ve made a few different attempts at it but they just aren’t the same. Maybe it was her Irishness that made it more delicious? I don’t know. My husband was a breads and pastry major when he was in cooking school so I had him try his hands at it a few times and he came as close as anyone I know outside of Ireland, but then we lost the recipe he used. So again, I sought out to try and find one that was close to hers. The recipe I tried this time was from looking through my grandmothers cook books and finding what I thought she used. It was close but it lacked something. Like, maybe it wasn’t salty enough? Maybe had we used a saltier butter spread on top it would’ve been ok because the texture was SPOT-ON! It just wasn’t quite the flavor I was looking for. It was SUPER close though. Like, minimal ingredients off. I knew I was close. I felt like it was missing a wheat germ or something. Then I decided to call in the big guns and sent a message to my Grandmothers best friend Margaret, who is in fact, off the boat Irish, and quite the lovely lady. Low and behold, she’d had my Grandmothers recipe and got it from my very own Aunt! Der! Why I hadn’t thought of this sooner, is beyond me…. But, the important thing is that it was found and I have it and I can make it whenever my heart desires now! And now, I shall share it with the world in hopes that everyone can try the deliciousness that is my Grandmothers brown bread recipe:

Irish Brown Bread

Ingredients:
2 cups ground whole wheat flour (best to use stone ground whole wheat)
2/3 cup wheat bran
1/3 cup wheat germ
1 and 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 cup buttermilk (or a little more as needed to make gently pliable dough)
Directions:
1. Mix dry ingredients by hand

2. Add buttermilk & mix with hands. Add more buttermilk if necessary to moisten the flour

3. Kneed about 10 times

4. Scoop into well greased, round 1 1/2-2 quart casserole that has a lid (I couldn’t do this because I don’t own one so I just cooked it on a dusted with flour baking sheet)

5. Make a 1/2 inch deep cross in the center

6. Cover & bake – middle shelf – 400 degrees for 50 mins (if you aren’t cooking it in that casserole dish with a lid, around the 30 minute mark, cover the bread with some aluminum foil)

7. Remove from oven and let cool for at least an hour and a half (or make two so you can eat one hot, quickly and one later. The reason to do this is because if you don’t let it cool, the bread tends to be really crumbly and more difficult to eat. While it’s hard to resist when it comes out of the oven, it’s for the best, I promise. And you can always re-heat it when it’s time to eat it, if you want to eat it warm)

8. Enjoy with family & friends (that’s totally in my grandmothers recipe! Ever the entertainer and baker of food for others!)

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Oh also, if you’re smart, you’ll make it with a delicious lamb stew, Colcannon, or some kind of Shephards Pie! All are delicious. I went with the lamb stew 🙂 I’ll share that recipe with you soon! Just have to type it on up.

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Grandma’s Tacos with a Twist

I’ve posted my grandmothers recipes on this site a time or two and this recipe is no different. Well, maybe it’s a little different. Not where it counts though. Not the most important thing. What’s the most important thing? I’m glad you asked. That’d be the taco shells. That’s the key to making them hers.

Maybe I should formally introduce you to my grandmother, first. World, meet Peggy:

This is my favorite picture. It was taken either on her wedding day or close to it. Probably just close to it. I don’t really know. Wasn’t she pretty? Pop, my grampa was a pretty attractive guy too. They made a cute couple. She cooked a lot, and he ate a lot. So as you may be able to tell, back in days of yore, my grandfather was in the Navy and my grandma’s favorite thing was to soak up the culture of wherever they were. And by culture, I mean cuisine. They lived in such exotic places as Guantanamo Bay, Japan, New Jersey, and Coronado. This recipe comes from the locals of Coronado. Thank god for Coronado. And my grandmother. I remember the first time my mom took us to Coronado and Old Town San Diego. It was after my grandmother had passed and we went to this little mexican restaurant and I was shocked. They actually made tacos JUST like my grandmothers! It was amazing. I hadn’t had them in years and it was so awesome to be brought right back to that delicious food memory. For an Irish girl she made some mean tacos.

It was shortly thereafter that I decided I would just have to try to make these for myself. How hard could it be? Well ladies and gentlemen, it’s a touch harder than you’d think.  And the key/difficulty was in the shells. I’m not gonna lie and say I made the tortillas or anything. I’m not THAT good.

Here’s how it works though. You need to get corn tortillas. Not the tortillas that are in the refrigerator section, the kind that are in the bread section of the grocery store. I don’t know what it is about the ones in the refrigerator section but they are NOT the same.

Then, you want to get a small skillet. Just big enough to fit the shells. You can use a bigger one but really it just wastes the oil. I like to use my little 8″ skillet. Fill that up with any oil, just not olive oil. I use canola or vegetable. Heat it up at medium high heat. You’ll know it’s ready when you can drop a little piece of the tortilla into the oil and it sizzles. ** NOTE – make sure you watch the oil and that it doesn’t burn. If it looks like it’s cooking too fast turn down the heat. The oil will remain hot and if it starts to cool down you can turn up the heat again but you do NOT want to burn the oil or you’ll be in for a world of gross tacos. 

Place the tortilla into the skillet and fold it in half, holding the top half above the oil with some tongs. Hold it there for about 30-45 seconds, and then flip it over and do the same thing again with the other side. Then you want to sit them folded side up on a paper towel (that is nowhere near your hot oil – we don’t want a fire). Sprinkle some salt on them and that’s it. There’s a fine line though between soggy tacos and perfectly chewy. The perfect taco is mostly crunchy but with some chew to it. You just have to try it a couple of times. I think I made this recipe two or three times before I really got it. It’s also nice to start just by making chips. And the chips are way easier.

For the chips, you want to just cut the tortilla into quarters, and drop them into the oil. Flip after about 45 seconds. When you take them out, pat them with a paper towel, then salt them, and that’s it. Also, make a lot of them. Your family is going to want to eat them en masse. They’re the best tortilla chips you’ll ever eat.

Now, here’s how I make this recipe my own. See, every time my grandma made the tacos it was exactly the same. Seasoned ground beef, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, and salsa. It never changed. I made them this way all the time at first but then I discovered my love of the fish taco and I thought, yes, I must make grandmas tacos but with fish.

The best way to make a fish taco? Well in my opinion there are 2 secrets. The first, fish sticks. They’re perfect for tacos. The second, bloomin’ onion sauce. Yeah. I still add the lettuce and tomatoes but I don’t use cheese, sour cream or salsa. As for the bloomin’ onion sauce, it’s super easy. I used this recipe:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (I use the smart balance fake mayo)
  • 2 teaspoons ketchup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon creamed horseradish

It’s delicious and the perfect compliment to the fish. And that’s it for the recipe. I hope you make them, and I hope you enjoy them.

And don’t forget the chips!

Categories: Grandmoms Recipes, Recipes, Sunday Dinner | 1 Comment

Easter Favorite

Easter is probably the most lackluster of the holidays we celebrate in our household. My parents have gone out of town for the last few years, to visit my little brother, my sister is in Wisconsin still, and my husbands family were visiting relatives in Virginia, so we took the opportunity to have a nice calm Easter at home… doing yard work. I know, you’re jealous. The yard looks nice though so that’s good. And the weather, well, we couldn’t have asked for better!

We also usually make lamb for Easter but this year, since it was just the two of us and we had some ribs we needed to cook, so we went with that instead. One tradition that I will never pass up though, is my grandmothers Pineapple Stuff. I make it every year. Some people call it a bread pudding, some call it a stuffing and others call it a casserole. We just call it stuff. Delicious stuff.  I thought since it’s my favorite thing to eat for Easter dinner, next to Cadbury eggs, I would share it with you. I don’t have a recipe for Cadbury eggs, unfortunately. And I didn’t even eat one this year. Oh well. Here’s the recipe!

Ingredients:

1 large can of crushed pineapple
2 eggs
1 stick of melted unsalted butter
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of cream
8 slices of lightly toasted (or slightly stale) white bread, cubed.

IMPORTANT INGREDIENT NOTES:

Some notes about the recipe since my grandma was making it. First, the “cream” is flexible. I’ve always used what I have on hand. Skim milk, 2%, half and half, heavy and light cream, and my personal favorite, creamer. Specifically, the flavor called “sweet cream”. It’s wonderful. Bread is also a flexible ingredient. And white bread is most definitely not my favorite. I’ve experimented a lot with this. I still included white bread in the ingredients because that’s grandmas recipe, but it’s one ingredient that needed some tinkering. I tried potato rolls (3), a container of cooked Pillsbury croissants (my least favorite), half a loaf of French bread (which is a close second for my favorite, and what I used tonight) and finally English Muffins, which is the best option. It just holds up the best in the cooking process. Even toasting the white bread, it still kind of gets lost in the mushy goodness of the casserole. Using the English muffins is just the best texture and it holds up really well to the liquid in the rest of the ingredients, so that’s my personal preference.

Directions:

It’s basically 3 easy steps (after pre-heating the oven to 400, and greasing a 9×9 pan – preferably glass).

1. Cube up and lightly toast the bread

2. In a large bowl, combine all of the liquid/semi-solid ingredients (this means everything except the bread).

3. Layer the ingredients – bread, pineapple mixture, bread, pineapple mixture. The pineapple mixture should be last and should completely coat the top. If you find yourself at the top of your casserole with some dry bread sticking out, just mix it up with a spoon until all the bread is coated with the pineapple mixture. It’ll look a little something like this:

That’s it. Then you just pop it into the oven for around 30 minutes. You want a nice crust on top though so sometimes I leave it in a little longer (I wouldn’t leave it in any longer than 45 minutes). You’ll end up with something that looks like this, if you did everything right:

I hope you enjoy it. Oh and I also got myself and the house some tulips, so we could at least have a little Easter feeling to the house. Is there any flower that says “Easter” more than tulips? I think not. Happy Easter everyone!

Categories: Grandmoms Recipes, Recipes | Leave a comment

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