Twitter Facebook

Min’s Irish Soda Bread

For as long as I can remember, my mother has cooked her famed Corned Beef and Cabbage for each and every Saint Patrick’s Day. Except for Christmas, I never felt further from home in New York than on St. Paddy’s Day, 3,000 miles away from my family and our delicious traditional meal.

So you can imagine how excited I am for tonight’s Family Dinner! That’s right! In honor of Saint Patrick and Frost Family Tradition, Mama Frost is making her wonderful Corned Beef and Cabbage and I baked two loaves of Irish Soda Bread to go along with it. Mmmmmmm…. I love me some Irish Soda Bread! My mom gave me this recipe, and I think she got it from her father, who probably got it from his mother, Min. But I’m just guessing.

Grandma Min’s Irish Soda Bread

Oven: 325*
Prep: 10 min.
Bake: 65-70 min.
What you’ll need:
A 9×5 loaf pan (I use a 9″ cake pan and it works fine.)
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter

P.S. As I typed that list out, I realized that I totally did not add the baking soda to my Irish Soda Bread. What happens when you skip the baking soda in a recipe? (We’ll find out at dinner tonight.)

Preheat your oven to 325* and grease your loaf pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, BAKING SODA, sugar, and salt.

Blend egg and buttermilk, then add all at once to flour mixture.

add buttermilk and egg

Mix buttermilk and egg mixture into flour mixture until just moist.

mix in until just moist

Stir in the melted butter…

add butter

Then… defile the Irish and add RAISINS to the mix! Yes, that’s right. Traditional Irish Soda Bread does not contain raisins, at least not according to the Internets. However, my family’s traditional recipe does include raisins, and it’s delicious that way, so do as the Frosts do and add raisins! Yum! (Also, don’t really defile the Irish. We love and adore the Irish. In fact, the Frosts are Irish. So maybe the Internets are wrong about what makes Soda Bread authentic.)

add raisins

I have no idea how many raisins you should add. Just throw in a bunch until you think it looks right. And be sure not to forget the baking soda. It is, after all, Irish Soda Bread.

Pour your batter (it should be thick and gooey, like the batter for scones) into your greased loaf pan. I like to use a rubber spatula to scrape the mixing bowl clean. Put it in a 325* oven for 65 to 70 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

irish soda bread

Well, it looks fantastic. Too bad this blog doesn’t have smell-o-reading because it smells fffffaaaaannnntaaaasssstic! Now you’re going to let it cool on a wire rack for thirty minutes to an hour.  For best flavor, wrap it in a clean dishcloth and let it sit over night before serving. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Now for your daily sleeping wiener:

wiener dreams

(Tomorrow I’ll tell you what the fam thought of my soda-less soda bread. Seriously? How could I forget the baking soda?)

***It was awesome, by the way. Delish. Everybody had multiple helpings, and one of my brothers even skipped dessert so he could justify eating more of the sodaless soda bread. But really? The true star of the show was my mother’s Corned Beef and Cabbage which, Holy Mother of Goldfish, was so incredible, so much more incredible than I even remembered, it was completely worth moving 3,000 miles across the country for.

Weather Check

Yesterday marked one-month since we arrived in Los Angeles and started living with my parents. One month with all of our belongings in boxes in their garage. One month of shared dinners and shared errands and shared Sundays. One month of little dogs with muddy feet on white linen slacks, one month of cats leaping from dark bookcase corners.

My parents are incredibly gracious. They even seem to enjoy having us here, and thank goodness, because being able to land here, with them, to have a home base while we gather ourselves together and get ready to move on to the next phase in our life has been invaluable. And wonderful.

Friends keep asking how the apartment hunt is going, but we haven’t even started looking. For one thing, I’ve been too busy at work to do anything else, and as long as Mike is still looking for an apartment manager job, why should we sign a lease? In the meantime we’re enjoying the shared dinners and shared errands and shared Sundays. Mike’s been wonderful about chipping in with chores and cooking, and I’m trying too. The dogs are enjoying the backyard and the cats are taking full advantage of sharing a room with us. They spend their nights tracing our faces with their whiskers, leaping back and forth from our bellies to our pillows and back again.

I’m sure it’s not easy for my parents to share their home with another family, especially one that consists of so many animals. But every time I ask them if we’re driving them crazy yet, they just laugh and insist that Mike’s cooking is worth it. And honestly? I’m a little surprised at how easy it’s been for Mike and me to adjust to sharing our life with another family. Granted the other family is our family too, but I was a little worried that we wouldn’t have enough privacy, or we’d impede on their privacy, or Theo would pee all over the garden furniture and drive my mother nuts, but so far it’s been fine.

Mike and I started running in the mornings, and since he started a part-time job our run has become our one chance to touch base during the day. He’s working nights, I’m working days, so it’s morning runs or nuthin’. As close as we are, it’s become really important for us to have the opportunity, every day, to clue each other in as to how we’re feeling, what’s going on, and where our heads are at. I’ve found that when we miss that hour alone together too many days in a row, I end up feeling disconnected, insecure, and uneasy. Then when we  run we get awkward. We trot side by side, talking small about the weather, our plans for the day. But by the end, sweaty and out of breath, we’re excited and talking about our future, the fixer-upper we hope to buy, the trip to Nepal, the degree Mike will earn, the family we hope to begin.

Do a “weather” check during the day Call your partner at home or at work to see how his or her day is going. This is a great way to adjust expectations so that you’re more in sync when you connect after work. For instance, if your partner is having an awful day, it might be unreasonable to expect him or her to be enthusiastic about something good that happened to you. — From 10 Tips for Happy Couples, by Dr. Mark Goulston.

Mike’s working in a restaurant, so calling him at work is out of the question. And I really don’t feel comfortable taking personal calls while I’m working, because they distract me too much. But the idea is what’s important, and for us, the hour of running is what is keeping us in tune. So what about you? What do you do to stay connected to your partner? Do you have a weekly date night? Do you share a daily meal? How do you manage sharing a life with opposite schedules?

Thursday Night Family Dinner

family party 2006

A family gathering, November 2005

One of the reasons I am so excited to move home is because finally, finally after three-and-a-half years, finally I get to participate in Thursday Night Family Dinner. My mother always spends Thursday afternoons with my niece, and then my brother and sister-in-law come over for dinner, and often times, at least when I’m in town, most of the other siblings and their partners and various off-spring come over, at least whoever is free that night, and we all sit around the dining room table and eat something wonderful and talk about our day and what’s been going on lately, and sometimes we end up reminiscing and telling family stories, and those are my favorite times of all.

Other times we have a big family fight and someone stomps out of the room and everyone whispers in hushed tones and the person who said something to make the other person mad goes upstairs to apologize and then the mad person and the apologetic person come downstairs and we all eat ice cream. Or graham crackers with peanut butter and honey.

When I was growing up, my parents and I sat around the dinner table every night, ate a meal my mother cooked, and talked about our day. Which usually led to us talking about other things, like something great that happened, or something that was bothering us. Dinner time was our time to reconnect as a family. When I was really little, I would get sleepy listening to Mama and Papa talk and I’d crawl into Papa’s lap and lay my head on his chest and the deep rumbling of his voice would lull me to sleep.  Later he’d carry me upstairs, say my prayers with me, and tuck me in. In the mornings Mama would wake me up singing, she’d fix me breakfast and pack my lunch and Papa would walk me to the bus stop so we could spend a little extra time together. In the afternoons I walked home with the other kids and Mama would be waiting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper and we’d sit and have snacks and visit and then I’d do my homework while she cooked dinner and when Papa came everyone smiled and laughed and kissed and hugged and then we ate dinner and talked about our day. Family dinner made my childhood better.

Mike and I eat dinner together at the table every night we possibly can, which for the last year and a half has been nearly every single night. I adore our dinners together. Next to when we finally curl up at the end of the day, dinner is my favorite time of day. Dinner is when we reconnect, talk about our day, the great things that have happened, something that’s bothering us. It’s our one guaranteed hour of quality time in the day. It’s a gift from one to the other.

When something is bothering me I need a little time to warm up before I can talk about it. I can’t just pin Mike down at the end of a busy week and dump my heart out. I’ve got to spend a little quality time with him, talk about the weather, the dogs, something stupid, anything. I’m slow to warm. Which is not to say I don’t feel safe with Mike, because if there is anyone I feel safe with, it’s him. That man has known me through some of the ugliest moments of my life and he has always stood next to me, arms open and ready to catch me the moment I fell. I’m no psychologist, but I believe that open and honest communication is the only way to have a solid relationship. And open and honest communication only comes when you are able to communicate on a regular and frequent basis, because communication = human connection. Therefore family dinner = human connection = happy marriage = happy family.

I was not at all prepared for the loss of connection with the people I love the most when I moved to New York. Of course we’ve all made the best of it, found ways to connect through social media and lengthy emails and photos and regular visits. But it’s going to be so much better when I’m not so far away! And also more annoying, probably. There is nothing like seeing someone on a regular basis to make you feel like they’re driving you crazy. Even that considered, I’m really excited to go home and take part in Thursday Night Family Dinner. I can’t wait to hear about everyone’s day, what’s on their mind, what’s going on. I can’t wait to be a part of their lives again, and have them a part of mine. I can’t wait for everyone to get to know Mike better, and for me to get to know his family better. And also? I can’t wait until the day we get to bring our own off-spring to dinner, Thursday nights and every night.*

*That’s at least twenty-two months away,** so don’t get excited.

**Not that I’m counting or anything.