Giant Irish Soda Muffins (that aren’t green)

It doesn’t seem like we should be talking about St. Patrick’s Day yet. And it definitely doesn’t seem like Easter should be just around the corner.

But here we are, nearly halfway through March. So the green is sneaking up on us . . . even if it is only in the form of glittery shamrocks and leprechaun hats. Hopefully, we will soon see some green sneaking out of the ground and sprouting from our flowerbeds.

Until then I will just enjoy a celebration of the Emerald Isle with some good food. I’ve never really understood the fascination with coloring foods green that should not be green so I am going for some actual greens instead. I suppose when you think Irish cuisine most people don’t think of greens anyway. You think of sausage, fish and chips, and other plain colored items. However, a few years ago I read a wonderful piece in Travel & Leisure that gave me a whole new perspective on Irish cooking.

My favorite still remains the traditional soda bread, but I’ve been getting inspired by a few Irish dishes online as well. Here are a few of our favs and our favorite soda muffins to go along with whatever you choose this St. Patrick’s Day. muffins

Corned Beef and Vegetables

Beef and Stout Casserole with Herby Dumplings

Sausages Baked with Beans and Eggs

Roast Spring Lamb with Mint Sauce

soda muffins
Irish Soda Muffins
Print Recipe
Big, delicious muffins that are great for dipping in stew or slathering in butter and jam. This recipe originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Bon Appetit.
Servings Prep Time
6 large muffins 15 minutes
Cook Time
22 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 large muffins 15 minutes
Cook Time
22 minutes
soda muffins
Irish Soda Muffins
Print Recipe
Big, delicious muffins that are great for dipping in stew or slathering in butter and jam. This recipe originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Bon Appetit.
Servings Prep Time
6 large muffins 15 minutes
Cook Time
22 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 large muffins 15 minutes
Cook Time
22 minutes
Servings: large muffins
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray six 1-cup muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. 2. Whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. 3. Using your fingertips, blend the butter into the flour mixture until incorporated as small pea like pieces.
  4. 4. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg together. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to blend.
  5. 5. Spoon muffin batter into prepared muffin tin. Bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. 6. Remove muffins from oven and let cool slightly on a rack prior to turning out.
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Peanut Butter Banana Bread

As I’ve said before, I love quinoa. It is perfect for cold or warm dishes. You can toss it with veggies, fruits, nuts . . . really anything. It can be the base for a savory or sweet dish.

Quinoa flour, that was something new. I’ve been seeing more recipes that use alternative flours – coconut flour, oat flour, tapioca flour – and I was ready to branch out from my normal whole wheat and all purpose for something a little different. Family breakfast seemed like the perfect opportunity for a little experimentation because who wants to be the only taste tester.

Getting inspiration from Monique over at Ambitious Kitchen I settled on a Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe for a first try.

This sweet bread made a perfect Valentine's Day breakfast.

This sweet bread made a perfect Valentine’s Day breakfast.

Note: After doing a little research online I found it is important to toast the quinoa flour to take out some of the quinoa flavor. Monique used the stove top method, but I preferred the oven method and just did the whole bag at once. For this method, spread the flour out on baking sheets covered in foil or parchment paper and bake at 215 degrees for 2 ½ to 3 hours. The flour will lose its quinoa smell and can then be kept in an air tight container in the fridge or freezer for 8 months.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 loaf 15 minutes
Cook Time
50 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 loaf 15 minutes
Cook Time
50 minutes
Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 loaf 15 minutes
Cook Time
50 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 loaf 15 minutes
Cook Time
50 minutes
Servings: loaf
  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8x4 loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. 2. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. 3. In a large bowl, combine the mashed bananas, agave, egg, peanut butter, and almond milk until creamy.
  4. 4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until well combined. Fold in the mini chocolate chips.
  5. 5. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before turning out of the pan.
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Pink angel food cake and family traditions

Those moments when you feel like things just aren’t going according to your carefully laid plans . . .

For my three year old, these moments usually end in pouty lips and tears with some occasional yelling. Oh, if only it was still that easy! However, I am pretty sure that my employer and the general public would not stand for a 30 something woman falling apart in the grocery store aisle.

So, I bite my tongue, hold back the tears, and find my “happy place”. For me, there are two things I turn to that do not rely on someone else– my running shoes and my oven. There is an innate appeal about the smell of something baking and the heat slowly filling the kitchen that makes me feel wrapped in a cocoon of security and positivity.

Growing up I heard stories of my great grandmother preparing angel food cake smeared in pink icing for birthdays. When I recently needed a little “me” time in the kitchen I figured what better positive memory to wrap myself in than a sugary pink, light and fluffy cake?

great gmas cake

My mother enjoying her birthday cake from grandma.

So with flour, sifter, sugar, and butter at hand I started my baker’s motivation.

Angel Food Cake (recipe from Taste of Home)

1 1/4 cups egg whites

1 1/2 cups sugar, divided

1 cup cake flour

1 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

  1. Place the oven rack in the lowest position. Preheat to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place egg whites in a large bowl and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift 1/2 cup sugar and the flour together twice; set aside.
  4. Add cream of tartar, vanilla, and salt to the egg whites; beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar 2 Tbsp at a time while beating on high until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold in flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time.
  5. Gently spoon the batter into an ungreased angel food cake pan. Cut through the batter with a knife to remove any air pockets.
  6. Bake 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned and the top appears dry.
  7. Remove from the oven and invert pan. Cool completely, about 1 hour.


1/2 cup butter, softened

4 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

5 to 6 Tbsp milk

A few drops of red food coloring

  1. In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy.
  2. Beat in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and the milk to reach the right consistency.
  3. Add a few drops of food coloring to desired hue.

Angel food

I have to admit it tasted delicious, but I don’t know how great grandma did it. Frosting an angel food cake is hard! Would I do it again? Of course, it is a part of the past of my family and one I might introduce to Olivia.

Don’t forget to enjoy your own family traditions.

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Quick summer quinoa salad

I feel like this week flew by. I haven’t had time to stop and think about anything, including meals. It is weeks like these where it seems it would be easier to just pick up the phone and order take-out or pop a frozen pizza in the oven. However, I know that doing either of those things probably wouldn’t make me feel any more awake or aware and I would feel crappy about what I ate.

It is weeks like these that I tend to get creative with what is in my pantry. That would be where this meal came from.

bowl of summer happy

Quick Summer Quinoa Salad

1 cup uncooked quinoa (3 cups cooked quinoa)

1 ½ cup water

12 oz. fruit salsa

½ cup roasted unsalted nuts

¼ cup crumbled feta cheese


Place the water and dry quinoa in a pot on high. Bring to a boil, then reduce the head, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Once the water is absorbed, remove from the heat and set aside.

While the quinoa is cooking, place the fruit salsa including any juices into a large bowl. Chop the nuts (we used roasted almonds) and add to bowl. Crumble in the cheese.

Add the quinoa to the dish and toss.

Serve with pita, naan, or top with chicken or other protein.

quinoa salad

4 servings                                                                ENJOY!!!!!

Note: I used mango fruit salsa from Lunds & Byerlys, which is made on site. I recommend a salsa made by your local grocery store or a store bought one that is low in sugar and salts. Or it is super easy to make your own and store for later use.

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Teachers and lemon raspberry muffins

I have always loved learning and school and I hope we can instill the same passion in Olivia. As much as I love learning in general, it always helps to have a great teacher. We should celebrate these teachers year round, but especially this week. We should recognize their hard work, long hours, patience, and unwavering support.

Hopefully, we have all had at least one teacher that sparked something in us. Someone who could make you dig deeper than you thought possible, believe in your own talents, or just make you realize that you are not alone.

For me, there was Mrs. Gaither, who made me believe in myself again. Mr. Williams, who encouraged my love of reading and writing (and look where I am today). Mrs. Lane, who made science a passion and proved it could be entertaining. Mr. Paternoster, who made me proud to be one of the “smart kids” and reminded us that teachers are pretty cool people. Really the list could go on and on because I was blessed with a collection of amazing teachers and still am to this day.

Olivia has already had a handful of teachers in her young life and if they are an example of what is to come then I know she will be in good hands. To honor them and share a little of our love with them we made them some beautiful Lemon Raspberry muffins. Just a nice way to kick off their week . . . we hope they enjoyed them and we hope you do too.

Be sure to thank the teachers in your life and let them know their work is appreciated and making a difference.

Lemon Raspberry Muffins – from Eating Well 



1 lemon

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup nonfat buttermilk

1/3 cup canola oil

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the lemon, trying not to get the pith (white layer). Combine the zest and the sugar in a food processor and pulse until the zest chopped into the sugar.

lemon sugar

Add the wet ingredients: buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla. Pulse until blended.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the buttermilk mixture and mix just until almost blended. Gently fold in the raspberries, trying not to break them.


Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray and evenly divide the batter between the cups.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes until the edges and tops are golden. Let cool slightly before turning out of the pan.


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Pistachio muffins for a little comfort

**spoiler alert for Grey’s Anatomy fans who’ve been living under a rock this past week**

I am not an emotional eater, but every once in a while you need something special in your belly to feed your happiness.

If you are a Grey’s Anatomy fan you might be looking for some comfort food just like me. I know it has been almost a week, but we all still haven’t gotten over the death of Derek Shepherd (aka Dr. McDreamy). Some people turn to ice cream or cheesy lasagna, but my go-to is muffins. There is something soothing about starting your day with a moist slightly sweet muffin.

So hopefully these pistachio muffins will soothe whatever is bothering you . . .

Pistachio muffinsPistachio Muffins – adapted from Food Pleasure and Health
Makes 6 jumbo muffins (I mean who eats one little muffin anyway)

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup skim milk
1 Tbsp lemon juice
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp all spice
¼ cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
¼ cup shelled, roasted salted pistachios, roughly chopped

Preheat your oven to 375F.

Measure your milk and add the lemon juice. Allow to sit until needed – the milk will thicken like buttermilk.

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and all spice.

In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients and gently whisk – milk, oil, vanilla extract, and egg.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Spray a six jumbo muffin pan with cooking spray. Spoon the batter into the cups and sprinkle evenly with the chopped pistachios.

Bake the muffins for 15-17 minutes until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let set in the pan a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


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Easter traditions and lemon poppyseed rolls

Happy Easter

Growing up Easter Sunday meant it was one of the few times we were forced to sit though church service dressed in our best. It also meant bright colored baskets, lots of candy, and a toy or two. We would bounce out of bed like it was Christmas in spring and start eating the Reese’s and Hershey kisses.

Little hands help with breakfast

Little hands help with family breakfast – Lemon Poppyseed Breakfast Buns via Half Baked Harvest

Lemon poppy seed breakfast bunsAfter a special family breakfast and church it was off to grandma and grandpa’s to be with the extended family. Usually, the day entailed sidewalk chalk, an Easter egg hunt, and a game of tag or even Wiffle ball. I can still remember my dad and my uncles out there running the bases with my teenage cousins. Of course, there weren’t any sore knees and backs that another good meal couldn’t heal. Chow time

So the ham, potatoes, casseroles, homemade bread, and those weird Jell-o molded eggs cluttered the table until everyone got more than their fill. Easter for us now isn’t high profile enough to cross state lines for a large group gathering. It has become a chance to slow down and sign off from the rest of life.

Of course, the Easters of year’s past are another one of those things you never realize you are going to miss until it is gone. We’ve all grown-up and moved around. My aunts and uncles are grandparents themselves, my cousins have started families, and, like us, begun their own traditions. I hope they all look back with fondness at those spring days and maybe even work in a little sidewalk chalk and Wiffle ball themselves.

Apple spice cake

Apple spice cake with Two Gingers whiskey glaze; recipe coming soon 🙂

As for us, we are still trying to find the right Easter tradition, but chances are it won’t be until years after Olivia is grown that we look back and realize what that special thing was.

Note on lemon poppyseed rolls: We couldn’t find passionfruit and I didn’t want to make a blueberry syrup (I’m just lazy!) so we substituted a simple powder sugar glaze made with pomegranate juice. Still beautiful color yummy flavor!

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A love affair with quinoa: Caprese quinoa bake recipe

It has been nearly 12 years since my love affair with quinoa started. I can still remember my food science class in college, learning about ancient grains and how we couldn’t figure out how to say quinoa (keen-wah).

Imagine trying to explain it to my friends who were mostly architecture majors. These were the kids puling all-nighters and living off of cheap pizza, Mountain Dew, Red Bull, and loud music. Actually, looking back on it they were probably the normal ones for college students. Not like the nutrition majors and athletes I sat in class with. But I digress.

The relationship has endured, with quinoa finding its way into hot, cold and room temperature dishes. Breakfast, snacks, and dinners have been known to feature the tiny grain. As an active person who isn’t much of a meat eater, this grain has been a big player in my healthy eating. For a grain, it is higher than average in protein, high in essential amino acids, full of vitamins and minerals, and even has some calcium in it.

Even though I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say I’ve made over 50 different quinoa dishes this one is my favorite.

Caprese quinoa bake

Caprese Quinoa Bake

Adapted from Tieghan at Half Baked Harvest

Serves 4-6 (great for lunch the next day!)


  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup of jarred pasta sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • ½ cup baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • ½ cup fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil, cut into ribbons
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Heat tomato sauce and tomato paste over low heat in a large saucepan until the tomato paste has incorporated.

2. Once incorporated, stir in almond milk, parmesan, chopped spinach, salt and pepper.

3. Remove from the heat and stir in the quinoa. Fold in the shredded mozzarella and half of the tomatoes, and half of the chopped fresh basil.

4. Spray an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish with non-stick spray and pour the quinoa mixture in. Top with fresh mozzarella rounds and the remaining tomatoes.

5. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes and then turn the broiler on and broil for 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly.

6. Remove from the oven and top with fresh basil ribbons. Let sit five minutes before serving.


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Quick Minestrone soup

When I started my MBA, and working outside the home full-time, and motherhood all back-to-back I envisioned plenty of time for extracurricular activities. Prior to these major life changes I worked out twice a day most days, made homemade granola weekly, and read for fun. I guess in my head I lived in a world with more than 24 hours in a day.

Unfortunately, I don’t live on whatever planet I thought I did so it is one workout a day, store bought granola, and a growing list of unread fun books piling up by the bed. One thing I hate to give in on though is a healthy meal for my family. That would be why this soup is a great addition to our recipe box (even Nick can throw it together in a pinch).

Quick Minestrone

-1 large yellow onion, diced

-2 carrots, diced

-3 stalks of celery, diced

– 1 Tbsp olive oil

-14.5 oz can dice tomatoes

-14.5oz can tomato sauce

-3 cups chicken broth

-2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed

– 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning (mixture of oregano, basil, thyme)

– ¼ cup fresh basil, minced

-2 cloves garlic, minced

-1/3 cup frozen corn

-1 cup frozen peas

-salt and pepper to taste

-extra water as desired

  1. Dice your onion, carrots and celery. Mince your garlic (or use jarred like I do)
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large stock pot
  3. Add your diced vegetables and sauté until onions are translucent
  4. Add the broth through the frozen peas to the pot and simmer for 15 minutes
  5. Add water and salt and pepper to desired consistency and taste

Quick minestrone soupServe with crusty bread and save the leftovers for a quick lunch or dinner to go.

Of course on the other planet I imagined only having spring and summer, but I live in Minnesota where winter trumps all.

So even after seven years of frozen tundra when I should be buying this . . .

MN winter

I am instead buying this . . .


So I guess I will curl up inside with my pretty bright shoes on and eat my soup to stay warm 🙂

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Roasted butternut squash and quinoa salad

I can remember Christmas day at my grand parents house with all four of my dad’s siblings there with their families. More than a dozen of us crammed into a little farmhouse, but having a great time.

The meal was the main event – okay, besides the presents. We would have turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, broccoli rice bake, rolls, and much more. The drinks and conversation would flow and there seemed to be a glow coming from the house.

I still remember the cookies, pies, and homemade chex mix being pulled out; as if we needed more food to sustain the long evening ahead of us. My brother and I use to sit under the large wooden table and listen to the stories and laughter as the adults reminisced about days long past.

Recently I had a holiday potluck at my new office and there was something about that table full of varied foods, the stories and the laughter that took me back to the farm. I am thankful I have had both those opportunities and grateful that I have a new group of people to get close to. And this time I don’t have to sit under the table.

The recipe that follows ended up being the perfect dish for our holiday potluck. Easy to share, colorful, a little crunchy and a little surprising – reminds me of my extended family and all their stories.

Roasted butternut squash and quinoa salad

Butternut Squash salad

Serves 4-6 as main course or 8-12 as side dish


  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries (I prefer the low sugar version)
  • 3/4 cup baby spinach
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp honey or agave
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups quinoa, cooked
  • 1 8oz microwave package of farro, cooked

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Toss diced squash with 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt. Spread on a greased baking sheet.

Roast the squash for 15-20 minutes or until tender and golden brown.

While the squash is in the oven, heat 1/2 Tbsp olive oil in a small saute pan over medium/high heat. Saute the onion slices for 2 minutes then reduce the heat to medium and continue to saute for another 5-6 minutes, until onion is caramelized.

Once the squash is done place the lemon juice, honey, 1 Tbsp olive oil, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl and whisk.

Add the butternut squash, onions, quinoa, farro, spinach, and cranberries to the bowl. Toss with the dressing until well coated.

We added feta and some chopped almonds when enjoying it as the main dish, but it also goes well as a side dish with fish and other simply prepared meats.

Enjoy with good friends and family 🙂


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