Introducing Gaelic Girl Bread Mixes Plus A Little Christmas Giveaway

Irish breads, especially soda breads and scones, are enjoyed every day by Irish people. I think tourists to Ireland are often pleasantly surprised by the natural, wholesome goodness of Irish brown bread. 

Irish breads have a unique taste that is difficult to replicate using American ingredients. But this problem has been solved by Sandra Sheerin, who has developed specialty Irish bread mixes that are easy and simple to make.

gabby irish bowl4

Today I’m delighted to introduce Gaelic Girl Goodies, and a little giveaway to help celebrate Christmas.  And so, it’s time to hand you over to Sandra, the creator of these wonderful Irish bread mixes …….

 

Gaelic Girl Bread Mixes by Sandra Sheerin

 

These bread mixes are the fun way to bring Ireland into your home!

Gaelic Girl Goodies is a new Irish brand of traditional bread mixes for Irish American folks – big and small.

Created by Sandra Sheerin and her family, who emigrated to the U.S. from Dublin in 1987, Gaelic Girl Goodies offers easy-to-bake mixes of traditional Irish brown bread, soda bread and scones.

The inspiration for the line came from Sandra’s grandmother, born near the Mourne Mountains in the Cooley Peninsula, who taught her how to mix, whisk, knead and bake breads over the open fireplace.

Wanting to share this tradition with friends and families in America, Sandra created Gaelic Girl Goodies as a fun, easy way to make traditional Irish breads at home.

 

ggg-header-3-01

Most of her customers purchase the mixes to make with their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews as a way to spend quality time baking Irish treats and sharing stories of Ireland.

The mixes are packaged in 16oz bags and only require water or buttermilk as an add-in before baking. All ingredients are produced and mixed in Ireland and shipped to Pennsylvania for distribution.

 

gabby plate2

 

While the Gaelic Girl line currently offers three bread mixes, it will be expanding in 2015 to offer gift sets, limited edition goods and treats for kids.

To learn more about Gaelic Girl Goodies, check out Sandra’s Gaelic Girl website.

Irish Bread Mixes

The Giveaway:

Gaelic Girl Goodies would like to offer one lucky reader a set of Gaelic Girl Bread Mixes as a prize in our little giveaway. Who wouldn’t love a little taste of Ireland for Christmas.

To enter our giveaway just leave a comment on this blog post by noon on Wednesday, December 17th, 2014.  You can leave any comment you wish. What you write does not affect your chances of winning.

If you need some inspiration, why not tell us about your favorite Irish bread, or any fond memories you have of baking or enjoying Irish bread. Perhaps there is a dish you especially enjoy with Irish bread. Feel free to share all your soda bread thoughts and dreams…..

A winning comment will be chosen randomly.  Remember to leave your e-mail so I can contact you to arrange shipping of the prize.  Your e-mail won’t be published or shared, just used to contact the lucky winner.

The winner will be announced on Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 and the name shared at the end of this post.

You may check out Irish American Mom’s complete terms and conditions for sweepstake entries by clicking here.

Best of luck to all our entrants and a big thank you to Gaelic Girl Goodies for sponsoring this fantastic prize for Irish American Mom’s readers.

 

A quick note of endorsement:  Sandra sent me a free sample of her bread mixes, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. They’re easy to make and I definitely give them my seal of approval – just delicious.

 

December 17th, 2014 – We Have A Winner:

 

Congratulations to Patricia, who is our lucky winner.

Thanks to everyone who joined in and enter this little giveaway. It was lovely to read everyone’s comments and learn how much you all love Irish soda breads.

And a big thank you to Sandra from Gaelic Girl products for sponsoring this wonderful prize. Wishing her every success with her business.

 

 

Nollaig Shona Daoibh

(Merry Christmas)

 

Irish American Mom

 

Disclosure: Irish American Mom received a free sample of Gaelic Girl Bread Mixes for review purposes.   I did not receive cash payment for publishing this guest post. I love to help spread the word about small home businesses, artists and crafts people. Thank you to all who support these wonderful Irish and Irish American business enterprises.

All images published with permission of Gaelic Girl.

Shortbread or Petticoat Tails

Shortbread is originally from Scotland, but like many tasty Gaelic treats, Irish people have shared a love of shortbread with their Scottish neighbors for centuries.

And the best shortbread in the world is baked with creamy butter made from grass fed cows such as Irish Kerrygold butter.

Shortbread - a Scottish and Irish cookie or biscuit

Shortbread biscuits are simple at first glance – butter, sugar and flour are the three basic ingredients. But trust me, getting the exact balance and ratio is key to baking success.

Shortbread can be flavored anyway you choose – lemon and thyme, chocolate and orange or even with more exotic flavors like lavendar or caraway.  For me however, the best shortbread in the world is just plain and buttery, with a sprinkle of sugar on top.

Scottish Shortbread

With Christmas just around the corner and cookie swaps getting into full swing, I thought it might be the perfect time to share my recipe for shortbread.

So today is the day for Petticoat Tails. This unusual name is given to shortbread cut into triangles and decorated to resemble petticoats from days gone by. From the 12th century onwards women wore elaborate petticoats beneath their skirts, with decorative, frilly layers peeping below their skirts.

Four petticoat tails or shortbread on a plate

In Dublin Castle the dining hall was fitted out with low lying petticoat mirrors. When a lady sat down to dine she could inspect her skirts in the opposite mirror to ensure her ankles were fully covered by the voluminous layers of her petticoats. 

In the 18th and 19th centuries Irish girls wore red woolen petticoats beneath their skirts. In some parts of the country custom required them to switch to blue or purple petticoats once married.

And don’t get me started on “petticoat government”. A hen-pecked man was always said to have been ruled by petticoat government.  There probably was plenty “petticoat government” in my granny’s house, but really she was more of a wellington boot, than a petticoat kind of gal.

And so, after a little bit of petticoat history, it’s time for my Irish Shortbread Petticoat Tail recipe …..

Ingredients for shortbread or petticoat tailsIngredients:

  •  4 oz (1 stick) of butter
  • 1/4 cup of fine sugar (reserve 1 tablespoon to sprinkle over the top when baked)
  • 2 tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon of corn starch

Traditional Scottish shortbread recipes use caster sugar and no corn starch. I like to use a little confectioner’s sugar and corn starch for texture. I find it best when using American flour, which is not as soft as Irish flour.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Butter and sugar in a bowl for shortbread

Sift the confectioner’s sugar into a mixing bowl, add the caster sugar and butter, together with the salt.

For most baking recipes salt is added with the flour, but I find it best to add the salt to the butter for shortbread. Only 1/8 of a teaspoon is required for this recipe and creaming it with the butter makes sure this miniscule amount is spread evenly throughout the dough.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy

Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.

This step takes quite a few minutes. The butter should be a few shades lighter by the time it is ready.

Adding flour to shortbread dough

Sift the flour and corn starch together. Next add half the flour and blend it in to the butter mixture.

Add the remainder of the flour use your hand to form a soft dough.  This dough will be very brittle and crumbly.

Pressing shortbread into baking pan

Use your fingers to press the dough into a 7-inch round spring form pan.

Flattening the top of shortbread with a rolling pin

To flatten the upper surface of the shortbread, I remove the sides of the spring form pan and press the top with a rolling pin.  Now don’t roll the top of the dough because it will roll over the edges and you won’t be able to replace the sides of the pan.

Scoring shortbread for petticoat tails

Now it’s time to get creative with your petticoat tail pattern.  I use a fork to imprint a light pattern all around the edge of the dough.  You can create pastry frills if you wish, but I find that much easier to do with shortcrust pastry for a pie or tart. This dough is so soft and buttery I find fork marks are the easiest.

Then I use a tooth pick to indent the dough in circular patterns.

Marking shortbread dough for breaking into biscuitsThe final step before baking requires using a knife to divide the dough into eight triangles, leaving cutting guidelines on the shortbread.

Next replace the sides of the spring form pan.

Cook in a 300 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 275 degrees Fahrenheit for a further 15 minutes.

Cutting shortbread or petticoat tailsWhen baked the surface will be a light golden brown.  Sprinkle one tablespoon of sugar over the top of the warm shortbread, shaking the pan to spread it evenly.  Cool completely before serving.

Butter shortbread

Shortbread is just lovely with a hot cup of tea.  Rich and buttery it’s a perfect accompaniment for afternoon tea.

Petticoat tails - shortbread triangles

And don’t forget shortbread is a perfect base for many desserts.

Wishing everyone happy Christmas baking days.

 

Here’s the printable recipe:

Shortbread or Petticoat Tails

Serves 8
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 35 minutes
Total time 55 minutes
Meal type Dessert
Misc Serve Cold
Region British
Shortbread is a favorite cookie or biscuit in the British Isles, and is made with simple ingredients - butter, sugar and flour.

Ingredients

  • 4oz butter (1 stick)
  • 1/4 cup fine sugar (reserve one tablespoon to sprinkle on top of cooked cookies)
  • 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • butter (for greasing the baking pan)

Directions

Step 1 Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Cream the butter, sugars and salt together using an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Step 2 Sieve the corn starch and flour together. Add to the butter mixture and combine to form a soft dough.
Step 3 Press into a 7-inch round spring form pan. Remove the sides of the pan and use a rolling pin to lightly press the top surface of the dough flat. Use a fork to impress the outer edge of the dough. Prick the surface in evenly spaced circles using a tooth pick. Using a knife indent the dough in 8 equal triangular sections.
Step 4 Replace the sides of the spring form pan. Bake in a 300 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 275 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes.

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

 

 

Carrot And Parsnip Mash

Mashed carrots and parsnips were a frequent dinnertime side in our house when I was a little girl.  And let me confess, I hated the mixture. 

But no matter how much I begged my Mom to spare me this weekly “treat”, these root vegetables regularly appeared alongside my roast chicken and potatoes.

Bowl of carrot and parsnip mash - Thanksgiving side dish

“Just one bite!” I can still hear her instructions. Dutifully, I let a miniscule amount pass my lips, before grimacing in disgust. But believe it or not, her persistence paid off.  Today I love this earthy veggie combination.

Most recipes recommend a vegetable pureé when pairing carrots and parsnips, but in Ireland the texture is seldom silky smooth, with a slightly lumpy mash preferred. I’m really doing a bad job of making these veggies sound appetizing.  By now, you probably have visions of me being force fed “lumpy” mash.

But honestly, this combo is truly satisfying and is wonderful alongside roast turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas, or to set off a Sunday roast beef.

So how about a tutorial on how to cook this popular side dish – Irish carrot and parsnip mash.

Ingredients for carrot and parsnip mash

Ingredients

 

  • 3 large carrots
  • 2 medium parsnips
  • 2 oz butter
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • salt and white pepper to season

 

Irish parsnip and carrot mash doesn’t have any fancy onion or garlic flavors added. It’s simply the two veggies combined with butter, cream, salt and pepper.

I use white pepper for this recipe since that’s what my mom always used. I only discovered black pepper when I came to America. So, I stick to white pepper and, truth be told, I don’t like black speckles in the middle of this lightly orange colored mash.

Sliced carrots and parsnips

Carrots are harder than parsnips and take longer to cook.  To make sure your parsnips don’t go mushy while you wait for your carrots to tenderize you have a few options.

  1. First, you can just chop the carrots into smaller pieces than the parsnips, and boil the vegetables together in the same pot for the same amount of time.
  2. Or you can give the carrots a head start before adding the parsnips. If boiling the vegetables a 7 minute lead time is good, but if steaming, the carrots need at least 10 minutes extra cooking.
  3. Or you can do what my mom always did, and cook the parsnips and carrots in two separate saucepans, and only combine them when they are tender, drained and ready to mash.

 

Steaming carrots

I find option 1 difficult, since I can never accurately estimate the right size for each vegetable.

Since I don’t like cleaning too many saucepans, I usually go for option 2 and give my carrots a little head start on the parsnips.

I also like to steam the veggies, so I don’t risk burning my fingers when adding parsnips to simmering water.

Steam carrots and parsnips for mash

So steam the carrots for about 10 minutes, then add the parsnips and steam them both for about 20 more minutes until they are fork tender.

Mashing carrots and parsnips together

Drain the vegetables and return them to the bottom pan. Mash them together using a potato masher.

Adding butter and cream to carrot and parsnip mash.

Add the butter and cream and mash together a little more.

Seasoning carrot and parsnip mash

Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

Carrot and parsnip mash or purée

Transfer into a serving dish and garnish with a nice knob of butter.

Feel free to add a little green with some parsley if you like. You’ll have all the colors of the Irish flag, green, white and orange.  I never saw fancy parsley on my carrot and parsnip mash as a child, so I just stuck to a nice piece of melting butter to garnish this dish for its photo shoot.

Hope you all enjoy this ever so Irish vegetable side dish. Here’s the printable recipe:

Carrot And Parsnip Mash

Serves 4-6
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 35 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Meal type Side Dish
Misc Serve Hot
Occasion Christmas, Thanksgiving

Ingredients

  • 3 Large carrots
  • 2 Medium parsnips
  • 2oz butter
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • salt and white pepper to season

Directions

Step 1 Wash and peel the carrots and parsnips. Cut evenly in 1/2 inch slices.
Step 2 Place the carrots in a steamer, add water to the pan base. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Step 3 Add the parsnips to the carrots in the steamer. Simmer for a further 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
Step 4 Drain the vegetables. Return them to the pot. Add the butter and cream and mash the vegetables together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 5 Serve warm and garnish with butter and parsley if desired.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

 

Parsnip and Apple Soup

Parsnips and apples, with a hint of curry, compliment each other perfectly in this creamy soup.

The pairing of parsnips with apples intensifies their sweetness, with an added underlying warmth from the curry powder, making this soup truly satisfying.

I love curry flavor, like many Irish people.  A teaspoon of mild curry powder, a hint of ginger and black pepper create a mildly spicy flavor level, but rest assured, this isn’t an overly hot soup, merely one that tantalizes the taste buds.

Parsnip and apple soup with curried parsnip chips

Heavy rain and blustery winds are always a reminder the season for hats, scarves and gloves is just around the corner. But as the colder days of winter beckon, there’s always comfort to be found in the kitchen.

The right soup is perfect comfort food. There is something reassuring about holding a mug of warm soup, blowing gently to cool it before it works its magic, warming the heart.

Parsnip and apple soup is smooth and creamy, and for me is certainly one of the best comforting soups in my recipe box.

Parsnips appear to be far less popular in America than they are in Ireland. They are a staple on most Irish dinner menus, and I remember eating them at least once a week when I was a kid in Ireland.

And so, I decided why not make a parsnip soup…. or for some crazy reason, my brain keeps saying parsnip snoup.

Anyway, here’s my recipe …..

Ingredients for parsnip and apple soup

Ingredients:

 

  • 2 oz butter
  • 3 large parsnips
  • 1 medium apple (Granny Smith or a cooking apple if you’re in Ireland)
  • 1 medium potato (or 2 small potatoes)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • salt and plenty pepper to season

 

Directions:

 

This is a very simple soup. Start by peeling and chopping the shallots into slices. Peel and dice the potatoes and parsnips into 1 inch pieces.

Sweating vegetables - parsnips, shallots and potato

The first step involves sweating the vegetables. If you need to learn more about the technique of sweating vegetables, check out my post on soup making tips.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the chopped shallots, parsnips and potato.

I use shallots rather than an onion, since their flavor is a little milder, but if you can’t get your hands on shallots, one onion will work just fine.

For this soup in particular I like to add the spices before sweating the vegetables. This helps deepen the spicy flavors in the finished soup.

So, stir in the curry powder and ginger and mix the vegetables so they are completely coated in the spices.

Cover the pan and sweat the vegetables over medium heat for 10 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally to prevent sticking, but avoid lifting the lid and allowing the trapped steam escape.

Adding broth to parsnip soup

Add the stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

I like to add a good dash of pepper to this soup, but seasoning is a very personal step in any recipe. For my palate, pepper seems to compliment the flavor of the parsnips.

Adding chopped apple to parsnip soup

Next, add the chopped apple and simmer the soup for a further 10 minutes.

Parsnip soup prior to blending

Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly.

I love how the apple pieces just bob and bounce on the surface of the soup.

Adding cream to parsnip and apple soup

Purée the soup until the texture is completely smooth using an immersion blender or in batches using a liquidizer or blender.

Add the cream to the soup and mix through. Reheat gently, without boiling, before serving.

Parsnip, apple and curry soup in a shamrock bowl

And there, you have it – a simple soup made with a favorite Irish vegetable. I love to serve this soup with curried parsnip chips as a garnish – they’re simply delicious.

Here’s my printable recipe:

Parsnip and Apple Soup

Serves 6
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 50 minutes
Total time 1 hours, 10 minutes
Meal type Soup
Parsnips and apples, with a hint of curry, compliment each other perfectly in this creamy soup. The pairing of parsnips with apples intensifies their sweetness, with an added underlying warmth from the curry powder, making this soup truly satisfying.

Ingredients

  • 2oz butter
  • 2 shallots
  • 3 parsnips
  • 1 apple (Granny Smith or a cooking apple)
  • 1 potato (1 medium or 2 small)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder (add extra for increased spiciness)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • salt and pepper to season

Directions

Step 1 Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the chopped shallots, parsnips and potato.
Step 2 Stir in the curry powder and ground ginger. Cover the pan and sweat the vegetables over medium heat for 10 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally to prevent sticking, but avoid lifting the lid and allowing the trapped steam escape.
Step 3 Add the stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Step 4 Add the chopped apple and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
Step 5 Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly. Purée until smooth using an immersion blender or in batches using a liquidizer or blender.
Step 6 Add the cream to the soup and mix through. Reheat gently, without boiling, before serving.

Wishing you all happy soup making during these chilly days of fall and winter.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

 

P.S. My Irish shamrock soup bowl was made by Colm De Ris, an Irish potter.

Soup Making Tips For Fall Or Autumn

Once Labor Day has passed, and fall is in the air, it’s time to start thinking about soup. There’s nothing like a bowl of chunky, satisfying soup on a nippy day, to warm the cockles of your heart.

Soups come in all colors, textures, and tastes. In fact, I think it’s safe to say there’s probably a soup to to suit every palate.

Bowl Of Carrot And Coriander Soup

In Ireland, we describe a chunky soup by saying:

 

“There’s eating and drinking in that.”

 

Remember, in this case, the word “eating” is usually pronounced in a manner similar to “eightin”, as in the number 8.

But whether you prefer drinking a clear, soothing broth, or eating a thick, substantial stew, I’m quite certain there is an Irish soup for you.

In the next few weeks and months I plan to share some of my favorite soup and stew recipes.

I know some people feel a recipe is unnecessary for concocting a perfect soup, sticking to the motto:

 

“You can’t go wrong with soup.”

 

Truthfully, you can and you can’t go wrong with soup. For some all-in-the-pot, mix-it-all-together kind of soups, they taste delicious no matter what. But on the other hand, you can go very, very wrong with more delicate, puréed soups, that require the perfectly flavored stock, the right amount of seasoning, or a dash of cream or milk to add depth, and an underlying richness.

An Old Famine Soup Pot

To prepare for the “soup making season” I thought a post on some basic tips for soup success is in order.

 

1. Fresh is Best:

 

Any soup is only as good as the ingredients used to make it, and with that in mind, my motto is “fresh is best”. Fresh vegetables and good quality stock are keys to tasty soup.

Now don’t think I’m not known for opening a bag of frozen peas for a quick soup. I do use frozen vegetables frequently, since they are flash frozen at peak freshness, but I tend to steer clear of canned ingredients in my soups. The canning process adds way too much sodium for my taste buds.

2. A good stock:

 

Stock dictates the underlying flavor and ultimate taste of each and every soup. Choosing between vegetable based stock, chicken, beef or fish stock is the most important decision for any soup.

I often use store bought stock, but truly they don’t come close to the flavor of a good home-made stock. Recently, I have been paying quite a bit of attention to food labels and try to steer clear of any ingredients I can’t pronounce. Some cheaper stocks are full of preservatives, and are laden with salt.  Organic stocks are twice the price, but worth it for flavor and goodness. However, the budget friendly decision is to make homemade stock.

In the coming days and weeks I’ll share my stock making tips with a few basic stock recipes. With a crockpot you can simmer a good stock even while you’re out and about.

 

3. Herbs and spices:

 

Herbs and spices can lift a soup from ordinary to extraordinary. They’re my soup pot heroes. They add flavor, working away busily spreading their magic in the pot. Fresh or dried herbs work well, but the general rule for dried herbs is to use one third of the quantity of fresh.

Saute leeks, potato and onion

4. Make sure the vegetables do the sweating, not you! 

 

Many soup recipes start out be telling you to ‘sweat’ the vegetables. The term does sound a little gross for those not used to culinary lingo, but to tell you the truth, it’s a very accurate description of what is going on in the soup pot.

When “sweating” vegetables, they are gently cooked in a tiny bit of fat, to get their juices to leak out, and to release their inner flavors.  You get their juices flowing, so to speak.

To promote this process, the pot is covered to trap steam, which helps soften the veggies. It’s important to keep the steam trapped in, so lifting the lid is not recommended. Instead, lift the whole pot and give the veggies a good, old shake to stop them sticking.

This “sweating” usually takes about 10 minutes. The ingredients shouldn’t be browned or caramelized, but slightly pale after their time in the pot sauna.

Iron Viking Soup pot over open flame

5. Simmer, don’t boil:

 

Simmering is vital for good soup. When vegetables are boiled they end up tumbling all over the pot, hitting off the sides, damaging their texture and spilling all their flavor into the stock. So simmer, to avoid somersaulting peas and carrots.

Similarly, when reheating a soup it’s important to simmer without boiling. This is especially true for soups with added cream. When the cream boils it separates and creates a fatty film on top of the soup. So, my rule of thumb is, gentle heat for luscious soup.

Using Immersion Blender To Puree Soup

6. In praise of hand held blenders:

 

In my granny’s day smooth soups were achieved by mushing and sieving the cooked vegetables. No such work for today’s cook. Liquidisers or blenders do a fine job of puréeing soup, but ladeling the liquid in batches is slow, not to mind the risk of splattering hot liquid all over the place if the jug is overfilled.

My best soup-making friend is my hand-held blender. I take great satisfaction in blitzing a soup with a quick dunk of its all-powerful blades. There’s nothing like a quick whizz with a hand held blender for a perfectly textured soup. I highly recommend one of these gadgets.

Potato and Leek Soup

And so there you have it! A few good soup-making tips, to whet your appetites for some delicious soups over the coming months. As I type this blog post, a tasty chicken stock is simmering away in my crock pot. I’ll share my recipe in the next few days.

Stay tuned for plenty of stock and soup recipes in my upcoming recipe posts.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom