Thursday, April 8, 2021

The unrest in Belfast and what I learned while I was there


     I was excited to see Belfast when I went to Ireland in 2019. I knew I wanted to go to the Titanic museum and see the city, but I had no idea what Belfast was really like. While on my tour with PaddyWagon, only 4 of us opted for the trip to Northern Ireland, so we were pretty free to ask about seeing things not necessarily scheduled. Our driver suggested a Black Cab tour once we got to Belfast because it was the best way to learn about the more recent history of the city. We all agreed and set off on our tour.

     The driver was a local and very knowledgeable. He told us about all the problems back in the 60s when there were frequent bombings on both sides and what the problem stemmed from. While most people think it was a religious war, that wasn't the main problem. The  key issue was the consitutional status of Northern Ireland. Protestants were Unionists and wanted to remain a part of England, Catholics were largely Irish Nationalists who wanted Northern Ireland to be free like the rest of the country. Both sides were bombing and shooting at each other over those years until it all came to a head on Bloody Sunday Jan 30, 1972 when British soldiers shot 26 civilians during a protest march in Derry..  We all remembered the stories from that time, but of course being in America all we heard about was the bloodshed and Catholics and Protestants were fighting. I know I certainly didn't truly understand why.  There is a "peace"  wall erected between the two parts of the city - the Catholic side and the Protestant side. The wall was erected to stem the bloodshed and keep the warring factions apart. It was hard for us to understand how it could happen. 
 The wall still stands with large gates separating the two sides. On the weekend, only one gate is left open for people to go into the other area at 10 am Sunday and it closes at 3pm. It opens again at 6:30 am Monday morning along with all the other gates so people can get to their places of employment and closes again at 6:30 pm. 

     Our driver first drove us around the Catholic area and explained when the city started to build housing projects in Belfast, the Catholic side only got housing where they had a communal bathroom in a building outside of their housing. Since many families lived in these buildings, it was difficult for all. It reminded me of the council housing in Poplar, London as they initially had the same type of housing (If you watch Call the Midwife, you will know what I am talking about.) Meanwhile, on the Protestant side of town, the housing was clearly much better and each home had its own bathroom. The stores were nicer, the parks were nicer- and the Catholics could feel the the slight for sure. I need maybe to back up a little into Irish history here. Ireland was colonized by England and in the 1600's they sent Protestant families from Scotland and England into Ireland to take over the land and make ''plantations" which were clearly better for the  poor Irish Catholics who couldn't take care of themselves. The biggest settlement was in the area we now call Northern Ireland which is still under the rule of England. The two largest cities, Belfast and Derry had many of the same problems. The ruling English were called Orangemen and still are. Derry/Londonderry is a walled city where they also have a Catholic side and a Protestant side. I visited there as well, but that's for another day. Of course most of you know how hard the Irish fought for their independence, but at the treaty made with the English in 1921, they had to concede Northern Ireland to the English. The rest of Ireland is a free state and country of its own. 

This is  the Catholic side. Then he drove us to the Protestant side and there really was a difference!  I guess problems like segregation happens more than we would like to admit. 

They built the Peace wall to keep the two neighborhoods apart. It is interesting to see all the paintings on the wall. Initially they were all Irish oriented. Now they showcase places that still hold people down. You may not agree with all the places they paint their artwork for, but you certainly understand the meaning behind it all. 
     When I was there, I could fell the undercurrent of anger running through the city, it was that palpable, so it doesn't surprise me to read the recent news, but it does make me sad. Will we ever learn to respect each other and our differences. I think of my family coming here from Germany, Italy and Ireland. I am a third generation American. It was not easy for any of my immigrant families to get their toe hold in America and create good lives for themselves and their descendants. There was prejuduce - the old "No Irish need apply" , kids calling my older cousins dirty Nazis during WWII. Did you know they had internment camps for Germans here in America during that time? Most people don't because all they ever heard about were the camps for Japanese people. And the Italians in Little Italy in Manhatten, poorest of the poor eking out a living as shoemakers, tailors, barbers. I think every immigrant who ever stepped foot in America had to come here, learn a new language, send their kids to school to learn to read and write in English, and they were grateful for the opportunity, but prejudice of all types carves out a place to gain a foothold and we as people can be so blind to it.    

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Day 17 -Double Chocolate Nutella Cookie Truffles


 This recipe comes from Betty Crocker and its amazing!


pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker™ double chocolate chunk cookie mix
Vegetable oil, water and egg called for on cookie mix pouch
oz cream cheese, softened
cup Nutella™ hazelnut spread with cocoa
cups dark chocolate chips
tablespoons shortening
tablespoon Betty Crocker™ Decorating Decors chocolate candy sprinkles 


  • 1 Heat oven to 375°F. Make cookies as directed on pouch. Cool completely, at least 15 minutes.
  • 2 In food processor, process half of the cookies to fine crumbs. Remove and set aside; continue to process remaining cookies to fine crumbs. Mix all of cookie crumb mixture in food processor. Add cream cheese and Nutella™ spread. Process until well combined and mixture can be pressed into a ball, 1 to 2 minutes. Shape cookie mixture into 52 (1 1/4-inch) balls; place on cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
  • 3 In medium bowl, microwave chocolate chips and shortening uncovered on High 60 to 90 seconds or until mixture can be stirred smooth.
  • 4 Remove half of the cookie balls from refrigerator. Using 2 forks, dip and roll chilled cookie balls, one at a time, in melted chocolate. Return to lined cookie sheet; immediately decorate top with sprinkles. If chocolate has cooled too much, reheat. Refrigerate truffles about 10 minutes or until coating is set. Repeat with second half of cookie balls. Store covered in refrigerator.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Day 16 -Eggnog Biscotti

  • ½ cup Land O'Lakes Butter (1 stick, softened)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup eggnog
  • 2 teaspoons rum or 1 teaspoon rum extract
  • 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon rum or ½ tsp rum extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons eggnog
  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar, and eggs with a mixer for about 1 minute or until well blended. Mix in eggnog and rum or rum extract, just until blended.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. Working in small batches, mix the flour mixture into butter mixture until all of the flour mixture has been added to the butter mixture and is well blended.
  4. On a floured cutting board, divide dough in half. Shape each dough half into a long roll, approximately 14" long. Carefully place rolls on prepared baking sheet, about 3" apart from each other. With your hand, press down each roll so that they are approximately ½" high.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Carefully remove from pans and place on cooling racks. Set aside baking sheet, as it will be reused. When biscotti had cooled enough to handle, but is still warm, carefully move them to a cutting board and cut crosswise slices (approximately ½" in size).
  6. Place slices, cut side down, back on original baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn slices over and return to oven to bake for another 10 minutes or until somewhat firm and lightly browned. Transfer to wire racks to completely cool, with tops upwards.
  7.  To drizzle with glaze: with biscotti pieces no more than 1" apart from each other on either the wire rack or your baking sheet, tip tines of a fork into the glaze, allowing some of the excess to drip off. In a back and forth sweeping motion, about 6" above biscotti, allow the glaze to fall in lines on top of the biscotti. Continue until glazed as desired or until all glaze has been used.

  1. In a small bowl, mix together powdered sugar, rum or rum extract and 2 tablespoons eggnog. If needed, add more eggnog to achieve desired consistency (I use 3 tablespoons total of eggnog).

recipe courtesy of gourmet magazine

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Day 15 - White Chocolate Rocky Road Bark

This is a nice change from the typical chocolate barks we see at Christmas

14 oz. white chocolate chips
2 oz pistachios, lightly toasted
2 oz. macadamia nuts
6 oz. multi colored marshmallows
3 oz. fruit flavored multi colored jelly candies - similar to "chuckles", not the spice kind
3 oz dried cranberries

1. Line the base and sides of an 8x8 pan with wax paper and set aside
2. Roughly chop macadamia nuts and jellied candies and place in glass or stainless steel bowl
3. Add toasted pistachios and cranberries and mix gently
4. Place white chocolate chips into microwave safe bowl. Microwave for approx 30 seconds and stir, continue microwaving in 20 second increments, being careful not to burn the chocolate, stirring each time. When there are only a few chips remaining, remove from microwave and stir one last time till all is melted
5. Pour the melted chocolate over the fruit, nut and candy mixture and mix well to make sure all pieces are thoroughly covered in chocolate.
6. Pour into prepared pan and level with a spatula
7. Refrigerate for a few hours 9preferably overnight), then remove from fridge, place on a cutting board (the paper will come right off the candy) and cut into small squares.

These will keep very well for two weeks, then will soften slightly if kept at room temperature.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Day 14 - Peanut Butter Munchies

Here is a nice little cookie -rich chocolate outside and creamy peanut butter fondant inside. Once again thanks to Judith Hannemann for photo
Makes: 32 servings 
Yield: 32 cookies
Prep 40 mins 
Bake 350°F 8 mins  per batch

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F. In a medium mixing bowl stir together flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda; set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl beat together butter, the 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and the 1/4 cup peanut butter with an electric mixer until combined. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; beat well. Beat in as much of the dry ingredients as you can with mixer. Stir in remaining dry ingredients by hand with a wooden spoon. Form chocolate dough into 32 balls about 1-1/4 inches in diameter. Set aside.
3. For peanut butter filling, in a medium mixing bowl combine powdered sugar and the remaining 1/2 cup peanut butter until smooth. Shape mixture into 32 (3/4-inch) balls.
4. On a work surface, slightly flatten a chocolate dough ball and top with a peanut butter ball. Shape the chocolate dough over the peanut butter filling, completely covering the filling. Roll dough into a ball. Repeat with the remaining chocolate dough and peanut butter filling balls.
5. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Lightly flatten with the bottom of a glass dipped in the 2 tablespoons granulated sugar.
6. Bake cookies in preheated oven for 8 minutes or until they are just set and surface is slightly cracked. Let cookies stand for 1 minute. Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool. Makes 32 cookies.

  • Place in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Facts
Peanut Butter Munchies
Servings Per Recipe 24

Amount Per Serving

Calories 171
Calories from Fat 73

  • % Daily Value
  • Total Fat 8.5 g
  •     Saturated Fat 3.5 g
  •     Trans Fat 0.2 g
  • Cholesterol 18.1 mg
  • Sodium 67 mg
  • Total Carbs 22.2 g
  •     Dietary Fiber 1.3 g
  •     Sugars 14.2 g
  • Protein 3.5 g

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Day 13 - Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

I am a huge fan of biscotti - but its always so expensive, so I decided it was time to make my own. This is how they turned out - i am  thinking of maybe dipping them in chocolate for the holidays. In a few days I will be making eggnog biscotti and will share those with you as well.

  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups pistachio nuts
Add all ingredients to list

   Prep 25

  Cook 45 m
  Ready In 1 h 20

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
In a large bowl, mix together oil and sugar until well blended. Mix in the vanilla and almond extracts, then beat in the eggs. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder; gradually stir into egg mixture. Mix in cranberries and nuts by hand.
Divide dough in half. Form two logs (12x2 inches) on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Dough may be sticky; wet hands with cool water to handle dough more easily.
Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until logs are light brown. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).
Cut logs on diagonal into 3/4 inch thick slices. Lay on sides on parchment covered cookie sheet. Bake approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until dry; cool.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Day 12 -Lacy Brandy Snaps


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons brandy
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • Grated chocolate, optional


  1. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, sugar and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium heat until butter is melted. Remove from the heat. Stir in the flour, brandy and ginger.
  2. Drop by teaspoonfuls, three at a time, 3 in. apart onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 7-8 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. Cool for 30-45 seconds. Working quickly, loosen each cookie and curl around a thick wooden spoon handle. (If cookies become to cool to shape, return to oven for 1 minute to soften.) Remove to wire rack to cool completely. 
  4. For filling, in a large bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add confectioners' sugar and brandy; beat until stiff peaks form. Just before serving, pipe cream mixture into cookies. Sprinkle ends with chocolate if desired. Yield: 4 dozen.
  5. Unfilled snaps will hold in the refrigerator for 2 -3 days in an airtight container
Optional filling:
Eggnog Whipped Cream
Pour cream into chilled bowl (also good if you put the beaters in y our freezer for a few minutes)
and mix on high for about 2 minutes when all cream will be fluffy. Beat in the sugar until it has stiff peaks.  Slowly add the extracts and nutmeg one at a time making sure there are stiff peaks before you add the next ingredient. Using a star tip for your pastry bag, slowly fill brandy snaps. You can leave ends plain or use chocolate sprinkles on them.