Friday, March 6, 2009

Stew Leonards

No, this isn't a new kind of stew, it's my favorite grocery store in Connecticut. I drove Myles to kindergarten today and met Arnie, the crossing guard as I walked him across the street. Later that morning Larry and I took Hunter to nursery school and then on to Stew Leonard's.

When you walk inside you're comforted by the warmth and intoxicating smells of the bakery. I realized I was hungry so we each bought a bagel that we could eat on the way home in the car. Then we came to the sample of warm Irish Soda Bread with some butter spread on it. Oh, was it good. We bought a loaf. Not too far away were the banana donut holes, sugar coated - YUM! Larry almost missed those. Next I came to the Pomegranate Juice fountain. Couldn't find Larry, he must have thought he was on a mission to race through the store, so I took a cup for him too. I found him at the next beverage sampler - 3 different juices. A fresh squeezed grapefruit orange combo, apple cider and an an orange drink. I sampled the cider and grapefruit orange. Now I needed a sample of something to sop up all that liguid. We didn't have to go too far before we came to the crab cakes with remoulade sauce. It was good but we had already bought some canned tuna for dinner. We thought tuna melts would be a good lenten meal for tonight. However, to go with that we found a 7 layer dip already made. Only 35 calories for 2 tbsp and there were 24 servings. That meant I could eat half of it for 420 calories. But then we came to the soup samples, New England Clam Chowder and Lobster Bisque.

Irish Soda Bread

It appears everyone has their favorite Irish soda bread recipe. Some with caraway seeds, some with raisins, some with both, some with neither. The essential ingredients are flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. The acid in buttermilk reacts with the base of the baking soda to provide the leavening for this quick bread. Soda bread dries out quickly so is only good for a day or two. It is best eaten freshly baked and warm or toasted.

Irish Soda Bread Recipe


  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups buttermilk


1 Preheat oven to 425°. Sift together 4 cups of flour, the sugar, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.

2 Using a pastry cutter or two knives, work butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal, then stir in raisins.

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3 Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add beaten egg and buttermilk to well and mix in with a wooden spoon until dough is too stiff to stir. Dust hands with a little flour, 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 some more flour. Do not overknead! Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into a round loaf.

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4 Transfer dough to a large, lightly greased cast-iron skillet or a baking sheet. Using a serrated knife, score top of dough about 1/2'' deep in an "X" shape. Transfer to oven and bake until bread is golden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped with a knife, about 35-45 minutes. (If you use a cast iron pan, it may take a little longer as it takes longer for the pan to heat up than a baking sheet.) Check for doneness also by inserting a long, thin skewer into the center. If it comes out clean, it's done.

Hint 1: If the top is getting too dark while baking, tent the bread with some aluminum foil.

Hint 2: If you use a cast iron skillet to cook the bread in the oven, be very careful when you take the pan out. It's easy to forget that the handle is extremely hot. Cool the handle with an ice cube, or put a pot holder over it.

Transfer bread to a rack to let cool briefly. Serve bread warm, at room temperature, or sliced and toasted.

Adapted from Saveur Magazine.

Then we came to the freshly made rice cakes. The second loop of the store had the rice cakes with roasted red pepper hummus.

We came home from the store after more samples which I won't enumerate and when it was time, picked up Hunter and Myles at school.

For dinner we had the soups, the New England Clam Chowder was the best.

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