Category Archives: raisins

Irish Soda Bread


Nothing personifies Irish food and St. Patrick’s Day like Irish soda bread. Neither savory nor sweet this raisin studded bread is incredibly simple yet unforgettably good. I would describe both the taste and texture as being similar to a scone. And best of all it is incredibly easy to make.

There are many recipes out there for this classic bread but my favorite is this one from Simply Recipes. So in honor of St. Patrick’s Day go ahead and bake up a loaf, or two. Eat it as is or my preferred way, toasted until warm then slathered with butter. Yum!


4 to 4 1/2 cups flour

1 Tbsp sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

4 Tbsp butter

1 cup raisins

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 3/4 cups buttermilk

  • Preheat oven to 425°.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 4 cups of flour, the sugar, salt, and baking soda.
  • Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal, then add in the raisins.
  • Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the beaten egg and buttermilk to well and mix in with a wooden spoon until dough is too stiff to stir.
  • Dust your hands with a little flour and then gently knead dough in the bowl just long enough to form a rough ball. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add in a little more flour. Be careful not over-knead the dough.
  • Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into a round loaf. Note that the dough will be a little sticky, and quite shaggy (a little like a shortcake biscuit dough).
  •  Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased cast-iron skillet or a baking sheet (it will flatten out a bit in the pan or on the baking sheet).
  • Using a serrated knife, score top of dough about an inch and a half deep in an “X” shape.
  • Transfer to oven and bake until bread is golden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped, about 35-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.
  • Remove the pan  from the oven and let the bread sit for 10 minutes before moving it to a rack to cool briefly.
  • Serve the bread warm, at room temperature, or sliced and toasted.

Yields 12-16 slices


Cumin Dusted Pork w/ Apple Chutney

photo 1-308

For me, this dish screams fall and is a perfect way to use up some of those less than perfect apples. Chutney is incredibly versatile and so easy to make. You can make it with just about any fruit combination  and adjust the spices and seasonings accordingly. It also keeps well so you can make it ahead of time and keep stored in the refrigerator for up to one week, using it for this dish as well as other meats, as a dip or even a sandwich spread. Or you preserve it and it will keep on a cool shelf for much longer.

This chutney is more tart than sweet but if you prefer a sweeter version simply substitute a sweeter apple. And although it is served at room temperature, the spices have a warming quality to them making them the perfect accompaniment for the pork loin. (Of course, the chutney would also be good served alongside chicken). And the pork? The cumin and garlic powder add flavor without being overpowering leaving your taste buds ready for the chutney. Yum!


For the chutney:

1 pound tart apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks

1 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

3/4 cup golden raisins

1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

5 large garlic cloves, crushed and minced

5 whole cloves

1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

3/4 teaspoon salt

  • Place the cider vinegar, brown sugar, white sugar and lemon juice in a large heavy saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and allow to cook until the sugars are completely dissolved.
  • Add the apples, raisins, ginger, garlic, cloves, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes and salt and stir well to combine.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and cook uncovered for 30-45 minutes until the apples are soft and the flavors have melded.
  • Remove from the heat, place in a bowl and allow to cool before serving at room temperature.
  • The chutney can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. For best flavor, allow to return to room temperature before serving.

Yields: 2 cups

For the pork:

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1-pound pork tenderloin, trimmed

  • Lightly oil a grill and preheat it  to medium-high heat.
  • Combine the cumin and garlic powders, ground coriander, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Using your fingers, massage the spice rub into the pork tenderloin.
  • Place the pork in the center of the grill and cook, turning every 3-4 minutes for 16 minutes or until the meat is cooked through. (Cooking times may vary depending upon the grill).
  • Remove the pork from the grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
  • Serve with the apple chutney.

Serves 4

Buttermilk Coleslaw

photo 1-273

Too many times the crisp cabbage and carrots of coleslaw are drowned in a too sweet dressing that makes this classic salad difficult to enjoy. If this is how you feel, you must try this recipe for coleslaw adapted from Williams Sonoma. The dressing is a wonderful combination of sour cream, mayonnaise (I use Miracle Whip) and tangy buttermilk that makes for a flavorful and surprisingly light dressing. For good measure I add the dressing in gradually mixing well as I go along. You can always add additional dressing if you find it to be too dry but once you add too much, there really isn’t any going back. The raisins are optional but I think they add a nice touch. You can also add in chopped tart apples or toasted walnuts for additional flavor and crunch.


3/4 cup mayonnaise (I use Miracle Whip)

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup sour cream

1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1/3 cup fresh chives, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 head green cabbage

2 cups finely shredded carrots

1/2 red onion, finely minced

1/2 cup golden raisins

  • For the dressing, stir together the mayonnaise, buttermilk and sour cream in a small bowl. Stir in the parsley and chives. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • Place the raisins in a bowl of warm water and allow to plump for 1/2 an hour. Drain and set aside.
  • Core and thinly shred the cabbage. Place the cabbage in a large bowl along with the carrots and red onion. Toss well to combine.
  • Add the raisins to the cabbage mixture and stir well.
  • Gradually add in the dressing mixing well to coat. Depending upon your personal preferences you may not need to use all of the dressing.
  • Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.
  • Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Serves 4


Cilantro Shrimp w/ Apple-Raisin Sauce over Curried Pepper Polenta

photo 4-20

It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This meal only appears complicated but in reality is fast.  There are three components in this dish but each cooks in a matter of minutes and when combined on the plate create a satisfying Indian-esque meal. The original recipe from Cuisine at Home used sea scallops but I substituted shrimp with tasty results.  Fresh steamed broccoli completed the meal.


For the sauce:

1/2 cup peeled and diced Granny Smith apple

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons minced red onion

2 teaspoons minced orange zest

1 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons minced cilantro

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Combine the apple, raisins, orange juice, broth, onion, zest, honey, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until the apples are tender.
  • Stir in the cilantro, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Keep warm while you make the remaining meal components.

For the shrimp:

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 pound fresh or frozen raw shrimp

1/3 cup minced cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Heat the oil in a large saute pan until it shimmers.
  • Pat the shrimp dry and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  • Add the shrimp to the oil and tossing occasionally,  saute until cooked through, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  • Off the heat and stir in the cilantro.

For the polenta:

4 cups whole milk

1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon sweet curry powder

1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/2 cup diced tomatoes

1/3 cup chopped scallion greens

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Combine the polenta and curry powder and slowly whisk it into the milk.
  • Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and smooth, 4-5 minutes.  Be sure to mix continually otherwise lumps will form.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese, tomatoes, and scallions.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves: 4

Honey Braised Lamb Shanks


I love lamb and despite its abundance here in Albania, I rarely prepare it.  Albanians use the term “lamb” and “sheep” interchangeably and as anyone who has eaten it knows, there is a big difference between a tender piece of lamb meat and an older piece of sheep meat.  There is one solution for older meat however, and that is braising it.  The slow simmering and stewing of meat in a flavorful and well seasoned broth will render even the toughest piece of meat tender.  I love the rich and spicy flavors of Moroccan foods and they provide the perfect foil for braising.

This recipe is adapted from Saveur Magazine and brings together the spicy and exotic flavors of northern Africa to make a meal that is sure to satisfy.  Braising done properly takes time so this is the perfect meal to make on a cool and lazy weekend.  As the meat braised and the flavors melded I found myself wishing it was dinnertime already.  Serve the lamb on top of a bed of couscous or other grain so you can  soak up all of the yummy juices.


1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 lamb shanks

Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

1 large white onion, diced

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon ginger powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads

2 cinnamon sticks

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup whole almonds

2/3 cup honey

Toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

  • Heat the oil and butter in an 8 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper.
  • Add the lamb to the pot and cook, turning as needed, until well browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a plate and set aside.
  • Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring, until soft, about 4 minutes.
  • Add the raisins, allspice, black pepper, coriander, cloves, ginger, cayenne, saffron, and cinnamon sticks and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  • Return the lamb to the pot and nestle it between the onions and spices.  Add the almonds, honey, and 3 cups of water.
  • Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the lamb is very tender, about 3 1/2 hours.
  • Serve over couscous and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds before serving.

Serves 4

Carrot Cake Cookies


Cool weather means it is baking season and my oven has been going full blast making cakes, cookies, and other baked treats.  I’m always on the lookout for new recipes and hit the jackpot with these.  Sidney loves carrots and he loves cookies so these sweet little treats are the perfect way for him to enjoy two of his culinary loves.  The recipe is courtesy of the the Yankee Kitchen Ninja, a.k.a. “the Ninj”, one of my favorite go-to food blogs.  The cookies are good as is but I added a few chocolate chips and a bit of spice to kick them up a notch.  (After all, Mamma needs to fulfill her chocolate cravings as well).  I prefer dark chocolate chips but milk chocolate would work too.  As a bonus the recipe makes the perfect amount of cookies; 20 are just enough for your family to enjoy without over doing it!


7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 egg yolk

3/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup old-fashioned oats

3/4 cup finely shredded carrots

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1/3 cup golden raisins

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, stir together the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, and egg yolk.
  • In another bowl, combine the flour, ginger, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until blended.
  • Mix in the carrots, chocolate chips, and raisins.
  • Use a 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop to drop the dough onto parchment lined baking sheets, leaving 2 inches of space between each cookie.
  • Bake for 17-20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.
  • Remove the cookies from the oven but allow to cool slightly on the baking sheets before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield 20 cookies

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