March 25, 2015

Irish Soda Bread and Mischief Fairies

Bet you thought Irish Soda Bread was just good food. It’s delicious but did you know that the “x” at the top of the bread can also ward off pesky mischief fairies? Legend has it that putting the “x” on top before baking “lets the mischief fairies out” so they won’t jinx your bread; that “x” brings good luck. The original reason was most likely that it helped the bread expand while baking and made it easier to slice the hard crust into four quarters after baking, but scaring away “mischief fairies” and ensuring good luck is certainly an added benefit! Something to think about while you’re enjoying a slice with butter or jam.

To celebrate my part-Irish heritage this month, I made Irish soda bread and came upon the fascinating tidbit about mischief fairies while researching a little history to go with my recipe. Here are a few more crumbs of trivia:
  • Traditional Irish soda bread was baked in kitchens in cast iron pots called "bastibles" over open hearths rather than ovens. Offering freshly baked bread to your guests was considered a sign of respect. The Irish like to serve it with "lashings of butter." (now I know why I love butter so much, it's the Irish in me!)
  • The original recipe called for sour milk (the acid in sour milk mixed with baking soda would cause the bread to rise without yeast). Buttermilk has replaced sour milk in modern recipes.
  • Although versions of soda breads can be found in many cultures (it did not originate in Ireland), it became popular in Ireland during the potato famine of the 1800s because it could be easily made with few ingredients and was filling. Today, soda bread is often most associated with Ireland.
  • Another legend has it that Irish farmers' wives would wrap loaves of soda bread sometimes filled with fruit and/or whiskey and take them to those working in the fields, along with sweetened tea (or methinks something a tad bit stronger than just tea!).

One day I may explore why "mischief fairies" are bothering bread (hungry? bored?) but for now, here's a simple recipe I used when I made Irish soda bread. And don't forget the "x" on top or "mischief fairies" may visit!

Fairy Rings and Toadstools, Richard Doyle 1875 (image in public domain from wikiart)
After all that dancing those hungry fairies may be looking for your soda bread! 

Irish Soda Bread

Easy to make, no yeast. This is the traditional recipe using just four ingredients.


  • 4 cups flour (any all-purpose flour or gluten-free alternative)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk (suggest 1% buttermilk for lighter texture since it’s a dense bread)


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda.
  3. Slowly stir in the buttermilk, mixing until dough is firm enough to be gathered into a ball (dough will be a little sticky). If dough crumbles, add up to ½ cup more of the buttermilk, one tablespoon at a time, until dough holds together. 
  4. Place dough on a lightly-floured board. Dust hands with a little flour and lightly knead to shape into a somewhat round but flattened loaf (similar to the shape in my photo of the baked bread). Don’t overprocess, just shape, a light touch works best. 
  5. Transfer loaf to the baking sheet. Using a small, sharp knife, make a deep X in the top of the dough (about ½ inch deep). If desired, brush top of loaf with melted butter or margarine.
  6. Bake at 425 degrees for about 35 to 45 minutes, or until top of loaf is a golden brown. (I found that 40 minutes worked well for me, but ovens vary so you’ll know when it’s done by the golden brown color.)
You’ll have a loaf that is crusty on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside. A dense, rustic bread, perfect as a companion to stews or with jam or honey spread on it. Soda bread is best eaten in two days. Day-old slices can be warmed for a few seconds in the microwave.


  • For a slightly sweet flavor, add a cup of raisins to the dough. This non-traditional version is called "Spotted Dog."
  • Make biscuits by breaking off equal portions of the dough and placing in a muffin tin (don't fill to the top, leave room to rise). Toss some raisins in the dough and you have "Spotted Pups."

Enjoy, and if any mischief fairies should stop by, just offer them some freshly baked bread and they'll be happy! 

©JerseyLils2Cents 2015

January 28, 2015

New Year and a Short Story Contest

The start of a new year always feels hopeful. It’s the beginning of a new cycle and a good time to look forward and set new goals. One of my goals for 2015 is to be more actively involved with my writing and complete other planned creative projects. With that in mind, I was delighted when one of my blog friends posted about a short story contest. I’ve been writing to some extent since childhood but it’s been many years, well, more like a couple decades, since I’ve actually written a short story. I’m excited about the challenge of writing a story for the contest and this is exactly the prompting I need to start seriously writing again.

The contest is for fiction short story writing, any genre, and writers from all over the world can participate. There is no reading fee. The prize is $100 and publication in the Southern Pacific Review. Deadline is March 30, 2015.

If you're interested in submitting a short fiction story, you can find information and a link at Julia Hone's post on her blog, My Writing LifeJulia is an exceptional writer and the poetry editor of the Southern Pacific Review.

Southern Pacific Review Short Story Contest

Good luck to those entering the contest!


I’d like to close this post with a special video for the new year: The Mountain by TSO Photography, filmed over seven days from a mountain in Spain. The time-lapse images are stunning and it’s accompanied by beautiful music. Makes you pause and appreciate the planet we live on. 
 The Mountain by TSO Photography, Music by Ludovico Einaudi “Nuvole Biache”

©2015 JerseyLils2Cents 

December 25, 2014

Tidings of Good Cheer and Spiked Eggnog

Bah, Humbug! As enjoyable as the December holidays can be, it can also be a stressful and sometimes lonely time of year. To help ease the "bah, humbugs!" I'm bringing tidings of good cheer for the holiday season...for Christmas, Chanukah, and let us not forget Festivus!

So take a break and have a relaxing mug of holiday eggnog topped with nutmeg and spiked if you like with a bit (or more depending on the day) of rum or brandy. Sit down in a cozy chair by the fireplace ...or just close your eyes and pretend you're by a warm fireplace with the glowing embers dancing as the logs burn. Just enjoy the moment. Now don't you feel better already?  

Christmas Cheer

Something traditional and perfect for sitting by the fireplace (or your pretend either way!).

 Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days...and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!
~Charles Dickens

Christmas Bells 

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.
      ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

from Snowball by Shel Silverstein

The Grumpy Old Punks make a Christmas song! 

Posted with thanks to Linda of Elleroy Was Here 

I'll close the Christmas part of my post with a poem in memory of my sweet pups, Roscoe and Coco, both gone now (Roscoe March 2013, and Coco April 2014) but never forgotten. 

Christmas Dog
Tonight's my first night as a watchdog, 
And here it is Christmas Eve. 
The children are sleeping all cozy upstairs, 
While I'm guardin' the stockin's and tree. 

What's that now---footsteps on the rooftop?
Could it be a cat or a mouse?
Who's this down the chimney?
A thief with a beard---
And a big sack for robbin' the house? 

I'm barkin', I'm growlin', I'm bitin' his butt.
He howls and jumps back in his sleigh.
I scare his strange horses, they leap in the air.
I've frightened the whole bunch away. 

Now the house is all peaceful and quiet again.
The stockin's are safe as can be.
Won't the kiddies be glad when they wake up tomorrow
And see how I've guarded the tree.
~ Shel Silverstein


Miss my pups, they really loved getting treats in their Christmas stockings! 


Chanukah...the Festival of Lights

Eight days the light continued on its own: A miracle, they say, but not more so than ordinary lives of flesh and bone, consuming wicks burned ashen long ago. ~Nicholas Gordon

A Chanukah classic!


Festivus began as a holiday parody introduced on a December 1997 episode of the TV sitcom, Seinfield, and quickly became a holiday classic with the slogan: A Festivus for the rest of us!  Festivus features an unadorned aluminum Festivus pole, the "Airing of Grievances," a holiday dinner, "Feats of Strength," and a Festivus miracle.

Festivus explained
Wishing you a Happy and Peaceful Holiday Season and New Year!

©2014 JerseyLils2Cents