How to Win a Soda Bread Competition in 7 Easy Steps

This is the true story of how, a couple of years ago, I became a gold medal champion in an Irish soda bread competition, with helpful tips so that you, too, can bring home that coveted award!

~1~

Have a kid or two in Irish dance. I don’t know if the competition will let you in if nobody’s dancing, though I suppose it never hurts to ask.

We’ve had kids in Irish dance for nearly a decade now, so I had my ticket in!

~2~

Research.

Once I was in, I wasn’t doing this halfway. No sir. I wanted to do my dancer proud. I did extensive, careful research on the history of Irish soda bread, variations on the recipe, and what constitutes “proper” and “improper” soda bread. I love food, and especially the history of regional foods, so this was going to be awesome.

My research led me to The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. Here I learned that Proper Soda Bread is made with “flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. Anything else makes it a tea cake.”

Perfect. No rookie mistakes at MY first soda bread competition!

~3~

Shop.

Proper ingredients are essential. So, I actually bought some buttermilk, instead of just souring milk with vinegar like usual.

~4~

Prepare.

It was the night before the feis (“fesh” – it’s an Irish dance competition). I had polished my dancer’s two pairs of shoes, printed off her feis schedule, printed directions to the venue, checked her costume, gotten cash for parking, packed her snacks and our lunches, and gone through the checklist for shoes, socks, bobby pins, safety pins, band-aids, competition card holder, sock glue, and a hole punch.. We would be up at 4:30 to curl her hair into ringlets and get there on time. But I still had to…

~5~

Practice.

Yes, sir. No early night for me. I stayed up until 1 am, baking three (or was it 4?) loaves of soda bread, so that I could have a couple of practice loaves, taste one, and choose the one that was the most beautiful, the most perfect, yet also the most rustic. 

~6~

The Big Day

In the hustle and bustle of getting a dancer checked and settled in, you’ll need to be sure to leave time to check in your soda bread entry and scope out the competition.

You may need to look around for a while, if the entry table isn’t obvious. If you can’t find it, ask at the check-in desk. They will stare at you in obvious confusion, before going to find somebody who knows whether where there is a soda bread competition.

Eventually, a harried looking feis volunteer will come grab your soda bread with obvious astonishment. She might be amazed at its rustic perfection, its faithfulness to the historic tradition of soda bread, the way that the cross-shaped score across the top did not rise all crooked in the oven on the fourth try.

Or, she might just be stunned that somebody actually entered the competition.

~7~

Finally, be sure to go check your results at the end of the day. This is your moment to shine.

Like the gal at the check-in table, the lady at the medals table will also stare at you in confusion. After checking the computer, though, and finding that you were the only entry, she will award you your gold medal! No one will be sure what became of your soda bread, but you will be too humiliated exhilarated by your win to care.

You, dance mom, are a champion.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

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{SQT} Simple, Frugal Lenten Decor, Tofu, and Learning as I Go

~1~

Since I’m learning to incorporate the liturgical year into family life at the same time I’m adjusting to being a new Catholic, living in a new state, being a first-time homeowner, homeschooling with some unique challenges, and recovering from a serious financial slump, I’m keeping it simple. And cheap. I spent about 20 minutes on our Lent decor, if you include the time it took to figure out where they keep the plastic flowers at Walmart.

Of course, I’d probably keep it simple and cheap no matter what. I like it that way.

~2~

First up: our Lenten front door wreath, pictured above. I love having something on the front door! I picked up a grapevine wreath for $5 at Walmart, and I got the purple flower at the same time for $2.50. I don’t have a glue gun, or florist wire, or the ability to care about that, so I just cut the stem to a good length and wove it into the wreath. It took about two minutes, minus the Walmart-roving, and this way the flower could be readily removed to make way for some other seasonal whim.

Cost: $7.50

~3~

Next, the dresser in our dining room, which houses playdoh, school games, art stuff, and various junk that I shove in there when company is coming.  I put our Advent wreath on it this Advent past, and liked it so much I decided to just leave the space for “liturgical year stuff.” (There’s probably a lent 1better name for that).

Anyway, the purple cloth is actually just my favorite t-shirt (which is at least 10 years old). On top of that is Lenten Sacrifice Beans.  I got both the idea and the free printable from Lacy at Catholic Icing. The only thing I bought for this was the purple ribbon and the flowers.

Cost: $5.00

~4~

We “buried the alleuia” this year, too. This idea I got from Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas – both talleuiahe idea itself and the inspiration to keep it simple. I was happy that I was able to fancy up the Sharpie with some glitter paint that I borrowed from the three year old, though.

I made this on Ash Wednesday, but we forgot to bury it till the Tuesday following.

Cost: free

~5~

The last thing I did was change the top of the bookshelf by the door. It’s only vaguely Lenten, with purple candles and a plain basket, which I recently snagged at the thrift store for a couple bucks. Thelent 2 rest I already had.

Cost: about $2

~6~

Lenten cooking is on my mind, and we tried tofu for the first time in years this week. Last time I made it, it was awful; I think I tried putting it in lasagna, or something equally egregious. This time, I fried it and put sweet and sour sauce on it, and it was actually quite tasty. I have a Pinterest board for Meatless and Fish dishes, come on over and visit for some new Friday ideas.

~7~

Lent seems long, just now, as sacrifices already grow tiresome and I become forgetful of the positive additions I am trying to make to my day during this time. One thing I have learned to appreciate, though, in becoming Catholic, is the sense of the value of time. The value of waiting, of walking through the process instead of skipping to the end. Honestly, I don’t fully intuitively grasp the value of fasting (and I mean fasting in a broad sense) yet, though I have read enough about it by now that I should. I don’t understand it, or why it is beneficial, but I do accept that it is, and I hope to gain a clearer vision of that in this season.

Incorporating the liturgical year into our family uncovers these kinds of gaps in understanding. It brings to mind how, as a Protestant, I would not do something I did not understand the value of or see the Biblical mandate for. Each hymn I sang, each prayer I read, all had to be screened – by me, of course. I love that I can learn by doing, by following the ancient practices of the Church and discovering the richness of it as I go.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

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10 Grain Waffles

Moving is getting pretty thick, here, now. We move out in 2 1/2 weeks now, and the crazy…oh, the crazy. Had to drop the running, but I did love it and I am looking forward to starting up again during our few weeks hiatus with my awesome in-laws, before we head east!

Running isn’t the only casualty of crazy. My kids have started swirling mournfully through the kitchen at mealtimes, asking why I don’t make pancakes anymore. Poor things, they are right. I don’t. It’s cereal for breakfast these days, and now our landlord is trying to sell the house…which means we need to let the realtor show the house. With 8 kids. Packing to move out of state. Getting ready for a new job.

It’s a special flavor of crazy. It makes my brain hurt.

So we aren’t making waffles these days, but in case you’d like to, here is a recipe I’m mildly proud of. I don’t make up my own recipes much, I just like to tinker with other peoples’. This one is an exception, and it’s a favorite.

10 Grain Waffles

  • Time: 30 minutes. Ish.
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Light, crisp whole grain waffles

Credit – www.greencatholicburrow.com

  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 c 10-grain hot cereal (dry)
  • 1 heaping T baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 3/4 c milk
  • 1/2 c oil
  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl; mix the egg yolks, milk, and oil in another.
  2. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix till just combined.
  3. Beat the egg whites till stiff, then fold lightly into batter.  Leave a few fluffs of egg white.  It should look like the picture.
  4. Bake according to your waffle baker’s instructions.  Serve it up with butter and real maple syrup. Unless you like that weird fake stuff, in which case, hooray for your budget. 😉

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The Feast of St. Joan of Arc, the easy way

We wanted to have a French party for the feast of St. Joan of Arc, since she is Rebecca’s confirmation saint. So we did, kinda. Since we are getting ready to move, for most of the day my kitchen looked like this:20160530_152536.jpg

And like this:

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Basically, like this:

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It’s French. Says so right there on the box.

So, we had “French” pot roast.  It’s a lot like any other pot roast, but I added wine. We also had croissants from a can, and, um, salad.  With French cafe music in the background.

And, eclair for dessert.  The sort made from graham crackers, generic French (!) vanilla pudding, and Cool Whip.  And canned frosting. Haven’t had it? It’s luscious. Look for Eclair Cake on Pinterest and you’ll find your way.

It was definitely low labor, but it was fun and the kiddos loved it. 🙂

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5 Minute Pot Roast

Pot roast 1Okay, so the 5 minutes is prep time, guys.  You do have to cook it, I’m afraid. I mean, you don’t, if that’s your thing, but then it’s not really a pot roast, then, is it?

(Incidentally, the picture is not of my pot roast.  I take terrible food pics.  But mine looks kinda like that.)

This makes enough for a crowd, especially if you serve it with egg noodles.

5 Minute Pot Roast

  • Time: 5 minute prep, all day in crock pot
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A tomatoey, fall-apart pot roast

Credit – www.greencatholicburrow.com

  • 4 lbs chuck roast
  • 1 onion
  • 1 12 oz can tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Trimmed vegetables (carrots, potatoes, radishes) as desired
  1. Roughly chop onion and place in the bottom of crock pot.
  2. Add beef roast. I do not usually brown it, but if you want to brown it first it does add a nice touch. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread tomato paste on top of the roast. Toss in any veggies you want in there.
  4. Cover and turn to high; cook about 8 hours. Before serving, use a fork to pull the meat apart into big pieces, so the gravy can go all through. Serve.

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Breakfast for 10: Simple Tips to Feed a Crowd without Losing Your Mind

I love to cook. It’s really one of my favorite things to do.

And it seems a little ironic that now that I have so many people to cook for, I have so little time to do it. I’ve got 10 people eating most of their meals at home; I have to simplify.

Especially when you consider that Timothy is grumpy at all mealtimes. I don’t know if he hates the confinement of his chair, or wishes he could just live on ketchup. But that kid yells a lot at meals. Around here we call that “ambience.” 

So, while I have a killer whole wheat pancake recipe, and we love muffins and scones, these days breakfast is a little more slapdash than that. Sometimes I make a more involved meal, but…not real often.

Method 1: You’re on your own

What’s for breakfast?  Whatever you can find or fix yourself, that is healthy enough to count as a meal. Unless you are too little for that – which is under 4ish. If you are 4, you can get yourself cereal or talk a sibling into making you toast. Bigger kids know how to fry and scramble eggs, get themselves bagels, smoothies, etc. This strategy means that I am only feeding 2 kids breakfast – the littlest – instead of a mob. And it teaches them good skills. They can care for themselves, contribute, make choices, plan, and appreciate that food involves work. They are also anxious to learn how to make new things so they can increase their options for these days. Unless things (or people) are totally crazy, I’m happy to teach new skills upon request. If I try to plan a time to do that, it never happens.

Method 2: Have one big batch of something simple

Um, oatmeal. That is what that means. Or possibly overnight pancakes, where the batter was in the fridge and the griddle is out and ready to go. Or maybe eggs, but eggs is pushing it because if you give a kid eggs, he’s gonna want some toast. And bacon. And cheese. And more eggs. So we do that sometimes, but not if we want to keep it simple.

Method 3: The hybrid of methods 1 & 2

This is my favorite, and I do it often. I like to throw a skillet full of sausages on the stove first thing when I get up, and then I just leave them on a plate on the counter. As sleepy, p.j.-clad kids stumble in asking for breakfast, I tell them that there’s sausage. They get some, and fix themselves whatever else sounds good to complete things.

I also might do this with yogurt, or boiled eggs, etc. Anything that is easy to leave out for people to help themselves. I prefer to make it protein, because that is what they don’t tend to get for themselves as easily.

Bam. Done. Go play. 🙂

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