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Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!!  Yesterday was my first day in partial retirement.  Well, really more like part-time work!  Not only do I get to work part-time, I also get to bake…I mean work, from home!  So what did I do on my first afternoon free?  I spent a few hours reading about food – blogs, articles, cookbooks.  And I no sooner dropped it all when I read an article from last year’s Bon Appetit Magazine, A Slice of Ireland.  Andrew McCarthy, the author, talks about his trip ’round Ireland in search of the perfect brown soda bread.  He transported me to Ireland guiding you through the chewy and spongy soda breads to the dry and crumbly.  I was intrigued by his discussion of traditional soda bread becoming increasingly difficult to find in Ireland due to the invasion of caraway and raisins into the dough.  And thinking back on all of the traditional Irish food I have had during my lifetime, I had never had traditional brown soda bread.  And in an effort to not be a green beer drinking american on Saint Patrick’s Day (I’m wearing my pink UConn sweatshirt) I did it up the traditional way…

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When I think of carrots, I think of a vegetable normally coated with butter and served as an afterthought with a holiday meal.  Yes, my mind wandered back to the holidays as I prepped the carrots with snow flurries falling out the window over the kitchen sink yesterday.  But, I smirked at Mother Nature as I remembered all those little tomato and herb plants germinating in my indoor greenhouse.  She had me convinced New England would not make it through the winter of 2010, but we preserved despite the ice dams freezing our front doors shut, water leaking into our basements and snow banked narrow roads causing held breath each time a car (especially snow plow) came the other way.

Reluctantly thinking of the holidays and the under appreciated carrots I had sitting in my fridge, I thought it was time to up the ante.  Carrots serve as the basis for many stocks, stews and French dishes.  A component of one of the first French words a culinary student will easily roll off their tongue – Mirepoix.  Carrots add flavor to so many other dishes, yet are rarely highlighted on their own – unless in baby carrot form, maybe with some ranch?!

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With Saint Patrick’s Day right around the corner and the anticipation of the much awaited for Girl Scout cookies, Thin Mints have weighed heavily on my mind and stomach.  And the feeling became urgent when I discovered Cakespy’s Homemade Thin Mints on Serious Eats.  Thus the journey to the perfect minty cookie began last week in my kitchen and a mere two pounds of butter and much of the refrigerator space were consumed in the process!

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A post, with an animal involved! Yes, thanks to my dear friend’s request for pasta and meatballs for her birthday dinner. And I could only oblige as the little Italian compartment in my stomach started to speak to me in incoherent grumbles.  Translation – Mmmeatballs, you couldn’t find a better present to give your friend. Plus, those veggie balls, they  just didn’t do it for me.

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So I go from posting about homemade crackers to making a cheese spread made with store-bought cream cheese.  From Martha to Sandra Lee in a day, what a downgrade.  But if you make this, I promise you wont be thinking Sandra at all, you will be just lost in creamy, cheesy, garlic goodness and forget about the cream cheese base.

The desire for this comes from last summer spending time at my Mom’s house in North Carolina.   I can remember having this spread out by the lake where we were sure to keep it in the shade to keep it from melting.  Yes, those nice warm summery days we long for as the snow begins to melt here in Connecticut.

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I was on a business trip at the beginning of January and over dinner talking to my coworkers, all male, about how I limit myself to mostly whole ingredients when I go to the grocery store – veggies, fruits, cheese, yogurt, plain rice.  And therefore make my own crackers.  There was silence at the table.  They already knew I was mostly vegetarian and thought I was crazy, but to them I had just crossed the line to being clinically insane. To further paint the backdrop, we were in the land of excess, Las Vegas, across the street from the Bellagio fountains, eating flown in sushi and I was talking about being healthy to a bunch of sales guys.

“…You make your own crackers?” – if you could see his face!

“Yes – it’s very simple.”


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Baked Egg Napoleons

Baked egg napoleons, or more like baked eggs with toasts or maybe just baked eggs as a way to use up your leftover pesto from the pesto succotash you made over the weekend.  This dish is a bit pretentious with the name napoleon, it isn’t hard to make, unless you forget to pesto your ramekin!

I had been trying to come up with one of the 50 ways Food Network did not think of using pesto and thus, the breakfast caprese stack.  It started to make me think about how pesto is great in everything – succotash, pasta, breads and even eggs.  And how pesto is a great multi-use tool, even to grease your ramekins (leave the door jams to WD40).

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