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  • Written by Madelaine Bullwinkel




More supermarket shelves were bare here in America’s heartland over the weekend.  It came as a shock to see rows of empty self-serve steam tables and display cases vacant of fresh fish and meats.  What’s going on?  

 We can only surmise that food supply and delivery systems are disrupted as workplaces close to protect employees from the spread of the coronavirus. What if I can’t find my favorite brand of steel cut oatmeal next time I shop?  In the face of this level of uncertainty, I have only one recourse.  I bake bread.

You may be surprised to learn that a simply delicious loaf of Brown Soda Bread takes less time and effort than baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  (You will thank me for this advice if you take it.)  Soda bread has street creds too.  Before the Irish attached their name to it, a soda bread recipe had appeared in America’s first cookbook, The Virginia Housewife in 1824.  Today the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread (they’re for real) insists that the true recipe consists of flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk.


 Soda bread dates from a time when bread was baked in a covered pot over an open fire or  nested among hot embers.  I spent a morning some time ago watching a black cook prepare an entire meal over a spacious hearth in the George Whyte House at Colonial Williamsburg.  Cooking as if conducting an orchestra, she worked intuitively, shifting the height and distance of various pots from the fire while simultaneously monitoring its heat.

That kind of intimate interaction led to the discovery and formulation of chemical leaveners in the 19th century,   At some point an attentive observer realized that the hissing sound from liquid spilling onto hot ashes was a chemical reaction worth containing.  The baking powder we purchase today contains bicarbonate of soda (from ashes) and two mild acid compounds that combine in the heat of the oven to create carbon dioxide bubbles that cause the bread to rise.  Voila!


1 cup unbleached white flour

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar stirred into milk)

1 large egg

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place your largest, heaviest Dutch oven (cast iron is the best) in the oven with its cover on.

Stir together the flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl.  If using milk acidulated with lemon juice or vinegar rather than buttermilk, let the mixture stand for 10 minutes before blending in the egg.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the buttermilk and egg liquid as well as the melted butter. Mix the liquids briefly then fold the dry ingredients into the wet until combined.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Dust your hands with flour, and lightly knead the dough for a minute or so adding more flour by the tablespoon until you can work it and keep your hands almost dry.  Shape the dough into a cushion, transfer it to a sheet of parchment and score the top 1/2” deep.

Remove the pot from the oven, uncover and carefully drop in the dough into using the parchment as support.  (Generously spritz the dough with water if you have a mister.)  Cover the pot and return to the oven for 40 minutes.  Remove the Dutch oven, uncover, lift out the bread and parchment liner.  Slide bread off the paper onto a rack and allow it to cool to room temperature. 

Serve in thin slices with butter and homemade jam.


 Ingredients for 1 1/2 cups

1 pound fresh rhubarb, trimmed at both ends and cut into 1” long pieces

1 cup sugar

3 strips lemon peel

2 slices ginger root, unpeeled, the size of quarters

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup diced crystallized ginger (optional)

Jam:  Combine and stir together the rhubarb pieces, lemon strips, ginger root slices and 1/3 cup sugar in a 4 quart saucepan.  Cover the pan and allow to stand for 30 minutes.

Bring the fruit and accumulated juices to a simmer and cook, barely simmering for 10 minutes.  Add the remaining sugar in two installments allowing the jam to return to a boil before adding more. Stir regularly to prevent sticking.  Add the lemon juice and continue cooking until almost all of the excess juices have reduced, before the jam starts to stick to the bottom.  Off the heat, pour the jam into a two cup measure.  

Pour the jam to within 1/2” of the rim of each jar.  If the edge has a drop of jam on it, wipe it clean with a paper towel dipped in the hot water bath.  Attach the lid, screw the cap on tightly and invert the jar for 15 seconds (to sterilize the air remaining in the jar) before returning it right side up to the rack.  Store cooled  jars in dark, cool place  The jams taste best if consumed within 6 months.  They make great gifts!  You can also store jam in unsterilized jars in the refrigerator.

Prepare preserving jars in advance:  3 quarter-pint quilted jars, or 1 1/2 pint and 1 quarter-pint jar.  Submerge them in boiling water for 15 minutes.  (A pasta pot with an slotted insert is the best container because jars won’t bounce around on the bottom.)  Let jars cool on a rack, dip the jar lids in the boiling water and then cool on a rack.  Screw caps do not have to be sterilized.

Link to more recipes for baking powder breads 



  • Written by Madelaine Bullwinkel



Our stay-at-home status has forced everyone to confront the contents of their refrigerator.    I suspect that resulted in the senseless stampede to the supermarket to buy toilet paper and bottled water rather than deal with cooking leftovers.  What recipe includes toilet paper and bottled water?  I’d rather not think about it.

Happily for readers of this blog, Katheryn Weiss, responded swiftly to my call for easy recipe for the homebound with  Empty-the-Refrigerator Fried Rice.  Thank you, thank you Katheryn. 

 The proportions of the ingredients, order of their addition and quick timing are more important than the ingredients when making this dish.   Rice is the usual base but another grain or dal would work.  I substituted striped bass for meat and salad vegetables (carrots, cucumber and radish) in place of mushrooms and asparagus.  You will need an egg or two and soy sauce. 

The photo at the top of the page illustrates my ‘test drive’ of Katheryn’s recipe. The directions worked as did the timing,  The results were delicious.

 What’s on your table?  Please feel free to contribute.  A recipe and photo of the finished product is all that’s required.  While I wait, I’m going to clean my refrigerator.


1 cup cooked white rice, cooled
2 tbsp cooking oil divided (peanut, olive, whatever you have)
1/4 cup or more of dry white wine or chicken stock
1 leek (white part only) sliced in half and then sliced thinly (or sub onion or shallots)
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 cups of cooked meat, chopped. I used some leftover steak, chicken and pork loin
1-2 cups of vegetables, chopped into bite-sized pieces, if necessary. I used some asparagus and a package of mushrooms that were on their last legs.
1 tbsp soy sauce
1-2 eggs, lightly beaten (I only used one because I'm rationing)
3-4 green onions, sliced
Prepared Asian condiment, if desired

Prepare a cup of white rice and set aside to cool.
Dice leftover meat, mix with soy sauce, add pepper to taste and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet.  Add leek and sauté on medium until golden. Add wine or chicken stock and stir. Add additional vegetables and sauté until brown (2-3 minutes). 

Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Stir in egg(s) and quickly scramble them. Fold in diced meat with soy sauce and rice. Cook on medium heat until rice is heated through and ingredients are well blended. Season with salt. Add a spoonful or two of Asian condiment, if desired. I had some fermented chile sauce in the 'fridge.

Fold in half the scallions and scatter remaining scallions on top. Serve.









  • Written by Madelaine Bullwinkel

Mastering the Art of Stay-at-Home Cooking



The announcement for citizens to shelter-in-place to avoid exposure to the coronavirus will arrive in your area soon if it hasn't already.  Here in Illinois, schools, restaurants and virtually all social gathering places were closed in domino fashion on orders of Governor Pritzker over the weekend.  For those of us who are always thinking about the next meal, the prospect of spending two weeks (at least) in isolation feels like forever.  Our choices are limited.  There's supermarket fare of pre-cooked foods and order-in pizza. If you decide to do your own cooking, well, I happen to have a plan for that (without having to consult Elizabeth Warren).

Since a bonafide stay-at-home cookbook for the current situation has yet to be written, we might as well write our own.  I propose we improvise a collection of simple dishes using staples already in our refrigerators, cupboards and spice collections. The results will contain unusual combinations, but these unusual times require a spirit of adventure.  As luck would have it, I have a sample recipe to share.  You probably saw that coming. 

If you have eggs in the refrigerator, an onion of any kind, a few spices and six cherry tomatoes you can make what I think of as one of the 'real foods' of India.,  Parsi Scrambled Eggs is a staple dish on hotel breakfast buffets on India's west coast.  It checks all the boxes for our needs in quarantine conditions:  It is healthful, delicious any time of day, highly receptive to improvisation, and it’s easy to prepare.  The term Parsi is the name Indians gave to the followers of the Persian prophet Zoroaster in the 7th century when they  emigrated from what is now Iran to avoid persecution.  The Zoroastrian belief that the egg is a symbol of fertility and new life inspired a number of interesting egg dishes.  You may want to check them out.

Let's start a  collection Shelter-at-Home recipes.   Send me three photos: 1. the interior of your refrigerator, 2. your food pantry and 3.your spice collection.  (Don’t bother to clean beforehand.)  I will then send you a recipe to try using the ingredients you have on hand.  If we both agree it's a winner, I will share it on this blog.  You can also send me a photo and a recipe that you've prepared from your supplies on hand.  If it tests out, I will share it online. 

Working in concert,  we can make the most of life at the table while we stay at home.


3 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter or oil

1/4 cup minced onions of any variety

1/8 teaspoon powdered cumin

1/8 teaspoon powdered turmeric

1 - 3 finely chopped green chilis or up to 1/2 teaspoon powdered chili

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or 1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger

4 large cherry tomatoes, each cut into 6 pieces

3 tablespoons fresh minced cilantro, parsley or dill (1 tablespoon if dried)

Optional: 6 cooked asparagus stalks cut into 1” lengths or left whole 

Beat the eggs together with the salt in a small bowl, and allow them to stand 15 minutes while preparing the rest of the recipe. ( Food Geek Alert: Salt will denature the yolks and the cooked eggs will not ‘weep’ on the plate.) 

Cut and measure the remaining ingredients, then heat the butter or oil in a non-stick skillet.  Saute the onions until they soften, stir in the  cumin, turmeric and chili peppers. Cook the pepper for a minute or two before adding the ginger. If all the seasonings are dried stir them briefly and add in the tomatoes  When the tomatoes juices have reduced.  Sprinkle on the freshly minced or dried herbs and pour the eggs into the skillet.  As the eggs begin to set, circle the pan with a spatula turning the eggs in toward the center.  Shake the pan and break up the curds while cooking them to the desired firmness. Turn the eggs out onto a plate and serve immediately.

Optional Vegetables: Boil or steam the asparagus in advance.  Add cut pieces to the skillet just before the eggs, folding them in as they cook or pile the scrambled eggs over warm, whole cooked spears before serving.  Other delicious vegetable additions include peas, chopped broccoli or cauliflower.