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My Petunias See Some Action And We Eat Irish Soda Bread

The greatest homework assignment I ever got was to collect “soft things.”  The plan was to hang the soft things in a mesh bag from a tree so birds could pad their nests with them.

I was in kindergarten.  For the second time.  It was important that I get this right.

So I went home and thought it over.

I asked myself: If I were a bird, how would I pimp out my nest?

And I decided that a clean, nice-smelling floor was a good place to start. 

My hair was clean and smelled like Winnie the Poo shampoo, so I got out the safety scissors and cut it off.

I brought my clippings to school in a little baggie and I added them to the class pile of ripped up t-shirts and tissue paper.

The other kids were all HOLY CRAP, YOU CUT YOUR HAIR OFF.



Check plus.

I continued nailing my homework assignments all the way through school, and now I don’t have to do them anymore. 

But today a bird started nesting in my hanging basket, and it’s stressing me out.

Now there are two of them, they’re occupying both baskets, and they’re pecking, preening and circling each other.

You don’t need to work at National Geographic to know this is going to result in some bird-on-bird action in my petunias.

Mourning doves have six sets of babies each spring.

Part of me feels responsible for these damn birds and their uncomfortable nest.  Another part of me says I’m not getting extra credit for this, so screw it.

And the part of me that is a special kind of genius is standing behind the door with a pair of scissors, waiting for Scott to come home.

Thankfully, I have Irish soda bread to withhold if he gets mad at me.

And this bread is for real.

It’s my friend Norah’s family recipe.  She says this one isn’t the most traditional because it has raisins and butter in it.  (For straight-up brown bread, check out The Bite House for a tasty-looking loaf.)

But guess what Norah’s mom’s name is? Eileen O’Callaghan.

That’s really all I need to know.  This bread is legit.

The best part is you can make it in one go.  There’s barely any kneading.  There’s no yeast, so you don’t have to wait for it to rise.

I can’t stand how good it is with butter.

Irish Soda Bread {Download & Print Recipe}

Family recipe of Eileen O’Callaghan and her daughter, Norah Cooney, reworded a little by me.


3 c. flour

1 c. whole-wheat flour

3 tbsp. sugar

1 tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

6 tbsp. butter

1 1/2 c. raisins (yellow or brown, as you prefer)

2 eggs

1 1/2 c. buttermilk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 2-quart round casserole dish or two smaller round dishes (I used a large souffle dish and a Le Creuset pot.)

Mix the first five ingredients in a large bowl.

Cut the butter into pieces and, with your hands, work it into the dough until the butter is in small crumbs.  (You can also use a pastry blender or cut it in with two knives, scissor-fashion.)

Stir in the raisins.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs slightly with a fork.  Remove 1 tbsp. of the egg and reserve.

Stir buttermilk into the remaining egg, and stir the egg mixture into the flour just until the flour is moistened.  The dough will be sticky.

Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead about 10 strokes to mix thoroughly.  Stop kneading as soon as you can shape the dough into a ball (or two balls, as you prefer).

Place in the casserole dish(es).  With a sharp knife, cut a 4 inch cross about 1/4 inch deep.  Brush dough with reserved egg.

If baking 1 loaf, bake 1 hr. and 15 or 20 minutes, until the loaf is golden and a toothpick inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

If baking 2 loaves, the baking time should be shorter.  I baked my two loaves at the same time, and they took about an hour.

Cool in the dish about 10 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.


The bread was a huge hit with Thunder, who went into her best stealth mode.

The photography session drove her bonkers.

She can’t eat raisins, but she was looking at it so wistfully that I gave her lots of treats.

We sat around eating treats and bread until we were tired.

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57 Comments Post a comment
  1. This looks great, but the dogs and raisins business… after a hundred dollar vet visit one time when a toddler threw some raisins out of a stroller, I hate to even have the things in the house. Perhaps I could invent something newfangled like Irish dried cranberry soda bread?

    February 17, 2012
    • Oh NO. Glad it turned out okay but that sounds awful. That kind of thing almost happened to us after Halloween– lots of reeces cups had been dropped in the neighborhood and I worried Thunder was going to find one. My anxiety level around poisonous things is through the roof– I sweep constantly when cooking with chocolate, onion, garlic, raisins, etc. We had a horrendous two-vet-visit experience relating to some unidentified berries in the back yard that I’d rather not repeat!

      Nuts might be good in this bread. A larger, meaty nut, like a walnut? Or chopped dates? I’ve grown away from dried cranberries (used to love them), but as long as they were sweet enough, they could be good.

      February 17, 2012
      • Wait, you know what – dried cherries. I love dried cherries in scones, and soda bread is sort of similar.

        You know one or two Reese’s would probably be no problem for a dog Thunder’s size. It needs to be a certain minimum amount to be dangerous (you can find charts of amounts by weight of dog online) and that much milk chocolate probably doesn’t approach it. It’s that unsweetened baking chocolate you really need to watch out for. Raisins, on the other hand, are not that well understood and they aren’t sure if it’s even dose dependent, for some dogs even very small amounts have made them sick.

        February 18, 2012
        • I LOVE dried cherries.

          Thanks for the reassurance about the Reese’s. I get so anxious about this stuff. I often cook with a lot of 60% chocolate chips whenever I make cookies or icings because I don’t like sugary frosting, so yeah–that’s closer to the stuff I need to freak out about. I did a little internet research on raisins and dogs and yeah, as you say, it doesn’t seem well understood, and that it varies a lot for the particular dog and may not be dose dependent. Interesting. I don’t ever want to find out how much it would make Thunder sick!

          February 18, 2012
  2. Brilliant post! Funny, witty pictures, of which Thunder is clearly the star, and the bread…don’t even get me started. I LOVE soda bread! Will definitely be making this. Thank you for sharing!

    February 17, 2012
    • WINE DAY? You mean to tell me in your latest post that Valentine’s Day has been WINE DAY in Bulgaria and I could have been celebrating that instead, ALL THIS TIME? Blerg.

      Thanks for the kind words! I look forward to reading more of your site, as I’ve already learned a lot of VERY IMPORTANT information.

      February 17, 2012
  3. I was worried. For a second. About the dog/raisin mix.

    On a related note, dogs and skittles don’t mix either. Don’t ask how I know.

    Also, if I were going to make a soda bread for my blog, I’d ask an O’Callaghan too.

    And lastly, your bread looks awesome. And so do your freaky birds.

    February 17, 2012
    • Dogs and skittles, eh? Thunder ate a gummy bear once and it was a total success, thank goodness. I am not embarrassed to tell you, Jen, that I actually googled it. It was not my finest moment.

      February 17, 2012
  4. teenagefreak #

    I haven’t been around here in some time, and I’d just like to let you know I love the changes. You have the classiest blog EVER.

    Awesome recipes
    + spot-on humor
    + professional photographs

    February 17, 2012
    • This means a lot to me. Thank you. The changes took a while, but I found a new theme that got me closer to what I wanted, and I personalized everything I could short of learning HTML and CSS, which I hope to tackle at some point.

      You know what I love about your blog? One of the things I love about it is that your titles are amazing. I really struggle with titling my posts after I’ve written them. Yours capture my attention in a way that few other post titles do. It’s really quite a talent– I think there’s a psychology to it that I haven’t learned yet.

      February 17, 2012
      • teenagefreak #

        Hey! Anytime! It’s so hard not to fall in love with this blog.

        A year or so ago, I had changed my theme and it was the most obnoxious thing ever because I had posted everything in this weird turquoise/robin egg color and the color scheme I have now is rust red and black so it looked so annoying. I feel like their was an easier way to change the color than individually editing like twenty posts, but after much searching, I just succumbed to monotony.

        Well why thank you! I usually try to pick something so obscure that it has nothing to do with the actual content and guarantees the most spam. (Oh how I do love vortexes of chaos!) I think a lot of bloggers think they should name their titles like Crayola crayons, whereas I name mine like the evil spawn of a Superbowl commercial and a surrealist poem. If that makes sense.


        February 18, 2012
        • Madeleine, when I was switching themes, I played around with another one first and it was a disaster. All my old posts were formatted in a wacky way with weird spacing and fonts. I started fixing them all individually, was like THIS IS NUTS, and stopped. This one fell into place pretty well once I uploaded it.

          As I suspected, the philosophy behind your post titling is awesome.

          February 18, 2012
          • teenagefreak #

            Now that you tell me, it makes me want to pull out my own hair.

            Just mentioning surrealist poetry makes anyone sound good. Remember that one for the future.

            February 18, 2012
  5. Your bread turned out nice after all! I’m trying this one soon it looks delicious, I’m in soda bread mode.

    February 17, 2012
    • Bryan, my other one (the brown bread more like yours, recipe from the Ballymoe cookbook)– not so much. My oven is hot, and it called for starting at 450 and then decreasing to 400. That sent my oven into a state of smokey disarray, and the top of the bread turned out practically white. Should have known better. I’m hitting you up next time I need a good brown loaf!

      February 17, 2012
    the second to last photo is my personal fave.

    February 17, 2012
    • Hi, Stephanie! Well right back at you: I saw your photo for Belle Chevre today or yesterday and loved it. I’m excited she’s testing some new goat cheese goods.

      February 17, 2012
  7. a #

    I love soda bread, but I have not been able to find the recipe for the perfect soda bread. It can only be found at this little store called Winston’s Sausage in Chicago near Midway airport. They have a shamrock on their sign, so it must be authentic! (Also, it used to be a predominantly Irish, Polish, and Italian neighborhood, so that helps.) I emailed them and asked for the recipe, but they never responded. So, I will but some wheat flour and try this out and see how it goes.

    Dogs that I have had never had any problems with any kinds of food. One of my dogs would eat anything except raw mushrooms, and never had any problems. I’m sure I’ve fed them raisins. And chocolate. And likely chocolate covered raisins. Hmmmm.

    February 17, 2012
    • Yeah, when I was a kid, my dog loved to play with (and eat) frozen grapes, and they’re supposedly toxic. I am always a little relieved when I hear stories like yours. I WISH Thunder did not like mushrooms, but if I don’t watch her, she smells them in the yard, digs for them, and gobbles them up like she’s a prize-winning truffle pig.

      February 18, 2012
      • I forgot to say– I like the subtle richness that a little whole wheat flour gives to this bread, but it originally called for just all-purpose flour. Norah recommended 1 c. whole wheat, so that’s what I did. But you could totally make it with the white flour you already have. I’ll add a note about this (and how to make buttermilk if you run out) into the body of the recipe, for others.

        February 18, 2012
  8. Such a cute story. I’m so glad you made it through to first grade! How does Scott like his new do?

    February 17, 2012
    • I would ask him, but he’s at the dog park with Thunder, who is reportedly stealing everyone’s tennis balls, getting in wiggling competitions with a daschund, and generally taking that place to the next level.

      February 18, 2012
  9. I had NO IDEA that raisins were in the same verboten category as chocolate, onions and garlic! So, a great bread recipe and you have saved my dog’s life. How can I ever repay you?

    February 18, 2012
    • Hi Stacy! I’m still learning things too, and I grew up with a dog. You probably know all these, but we got this magnet at our vet’s office that lists the top 10 toxins in the kitchen for dogs: chocolate, grapes/raisins/currants, xylitol/sugar-free gum/candy/stuff, fatty table scraps, onions/garlic, compost, human medications, macadamia nuts, household cleaners, unbaked bread dough/alcohol.

      Don’t get me started on the ASPCA list on-line for plants. Yeesh- it may be thousands of items long. Lately I’ve had to look out for wild onions and daffodils in our yard.

      February 18, 2012
      • Wow! I knew about most of those but unbaked bread dough? Who’da thunk?

        And for plants, the oleander which grows all over the South is a big no no, as are azaleas and their relative, the rhododendron. And I had to get rid of my philodendrons when the first Boxer was in the puppy, chewing everything stage. As you say, there are probably a thousand more!

        On the good news front, we’ve been married 26 years next month and are on our third Boxer, who will turn five in May. The other two died of natural causes, despite my apparent ignorance of things they could poison themselves with. 🙂

        February 19, 2012
  10. The pup is too cute!

    February 18, 2012
    • I know, right? Thanks. I still can’t get over it.

      February 18, 2012
  11. Remember when Kanye tweeted: “I hate when I’m on a flight and I wake up with a water bottle next to me like oh great now I gotta be responsible for this water bottle.” Remember? THOSE BIRDS ARE YOUR WATER BOTTLE. Do the right thing, or they’ll dive bomb your head.

    Also, the bread looks wicked awesome.

    February 18, 2012
    • Dammit, why didn’t I think of that? I know why. It’s because I forgot to pre-order Kanye’s book, and I don’t feel that close to him right now anyway because he hasn’t tweeted.

      My hope is that someday, the little baby birds will grow up to say– as Kanye did– “I’ve known my mom since I was zero years old. She is quite dope.”

      February 18, 2012
  12. Ack – soda bread can’t have raisins!!!! I’m Irish I should know LOL
    But without the raisins, it looks yummy
    I hope you put good Irish butter on that bread – Kerry Gold is sold in most American grocery stores – makes all the difference – although you may eat so much bread and butter that you pass out…..
    I won’t be made responsible for a butter induced coma!

    February 18, 2012
    • I know, I am a traitor for using raisins. My Monahan (formerly Monaghan) ancestors are probably appalled, but I’M APPALLED AT THEM for not giving me red hair.

      To add insult to injury, I put Amish butter on it, not Irish. There’s an Amish community nearby in Tennessee and they make amazing butter, but I will get some Kerry Gold–thanks for that suggestion. I had peas, and then just bread and butter for dinner. A lot of it. It was amazing. Then I went to bed exactly as you predicted. My carb overload is making me really productive today, though, so win win!

      February 18, 2012
  13. Hilarious! You can’t blame you for using your hair as project materials. You were being resourceful. I’m sure your parents thought the exact same thing.

    February 18, 2012
    • My parents were probably like “well, at least we made two kids, so we can always hope her brother turns out better.” He did, in fact, turn out better.

      Hee hee.

      February 18, 2012
  14. April was in CT now CA #

    After making too many desserts lately I’ve been put on dessert making restriction for an indefinite amount of time by my other half. When I protested that it’s my LIFE to make desserts (not really, but I get dramatic when sugar is involved) he said “Well, you can make it, but JUST GIVE IT TO THE NEIGHBORS.” So, what I’m getting at is that this soda bread isn’t a dessert, but it’s still baking and it’s got cute little raisins in it so it might work. Until he puts me on bread making restriction. I know he just wants to make sure his pants will continue to fit. *sigh*

    When we lived in CT birds nested and had babies in some baskets I had on our front door and it was horrible. We couldn’t come in/out without getting attacked. It looks like your bird guests are nicer though and I hope they have many happy babies.

    February 18, 2012
  15. April, do you remember that post about the hard-boiled eggs and my drive to Virginia via the Unclaimed Baggage Store? All I’m saying is that throwing hard-boiled eggs at Scott worked for me.

    See, your bird experience is exactly what I’m talking about. My birds are nice NOW, of course. But I’m worried about after the babies come, when they haven’t slept in forever and their evolutionary instinct to peck at me goes into overdrive.

    I’m going to need specialty bird-poop-removal shampoo and conditioner, aren’t I? This is the worst.

    February 18, 2012
    • April was in CT now CA #

      I do remember the egg-tastic story and we are going on a trip next weekend so maybe I’ll use it to threaten him. Wait, we’re going on a trip which means I HAVE to bake cookies. We can’t be in the car for 14 hours and NOT have cookies. If he starts complaining I’ll just hand him a hard boiled egg while I enjoy my cookies, problem solved. I think you’ve got a marriage counseling blog going on here and you didn’t even know it!

      Have your little birdie guests laid eggs yet? If they haven’t you could move the nest and take the baskets down for a while and see if they move on? I did that the first year they showed up and it averted the crisis…until the next year when they came back and laid eggs before I realized they were there. If they have laid eggs you may have to use a window to come and go until after the babies leave the nest.

      February 18, 2012
  16. Alexis #

    I have plans to use human hair as squirrel deterrent – either mine or my friend’s 2-year-old. One of us is headed for a bad hair day, I just have to figure out which one of us can handle it better!

    February 18, 2012
    • Alexis, thank you for speaking up. I am so glad to see that I am not alone in this and that in fact PEOPLE ARE IN NEED OF SQUIRREL/BIRD REPELLENT EVERYWHERE.

      February 18, 2012
  17. socalsally #

    So if the mourning doves make their nest there and have babies, know that they’ll come back to the same spot every year. Ours did. We had a set that built a nest on a very precarious ledge under the eaves of our porch. Don’t ask how I know they were the same birds, I just got the feeling that they were. The first year, I got tired of cleaning up broken eggs, and even a broken tiny baby *sad face*, so my loving boyfriend hammered an extra board to the ledge to make it just a little bid wider. Problem solved, baby doves every year!

    February 18, 2012
    • Oh WOW. This is getting serious. Thanks for the heads-up about the dangers of the precarious ledge. Um. . . we’re dealing with a *hanging basket* over here. It swings all over the place. It’s risky, like your precarious ledge. The fact that the birds picked the hanging basket as opposed to anywhere else in the neighborhood makes me wonder if maybe they’re not the smartest doves out there. They’re definitely going to hatch a bunch of idiot bird babies. Not ideal.

      February 21, 2012
    • doodle_bug #

      Oh yes, they’re the same birds. We have a pair that nests on top of our freaking chimney every spring. Do you have any idea how that well that “WooOOOooo” travels down a chimney? When I was pregnant it nearly drove me to madness. Mine aren’t at all aggressive though.

      February 21, 2012
  18. Hi Katherine-
    I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Your blog is great.. humor, good food and good pics. Love it. And me like so many are getting attached to your 4-legged friend. You should make him his own FB page like pioneerwoman did. Thunder would rock it!

    February 19, 2012
    • Wendy, that is so very kind of you! Thank you so much. I love writing on this site–it makes me really happy–and I feel very lucky that you like reading it!

      Also, Thunder says hi. A facebook page for T-dog is a great idea! I have to wait a while, though–sometimes it’s all I can do to keep up with the eggton facebook page, try my hand at twitter (which I do not understand) and not set the house on fire by accident. A little touch and go at times. 🙂

      Talk to you soon!

      February 21, 2012
  19. Thunder looks like she’s crying over the raisins bit in that last picture. Hilarious.

    February 20, 2012
    • Ha. Thunder already gets practically EVERYTHING she wants. I cannot imagine what she’d get if she knew how to cry. If she looked up at me with actual tears coming down her face, I would probably freak out and buy her a pony.

      February 21, 2012
  20. sarah #

    One day, my youngest dog, a bassett hound, who is seemingly going to remain a puppy forever, was laying under a blanket, wiggling and wriggling and having a good old time. Suddenly, I thought to myself, something is not right here. I flung the balnket off of her to find she was snoot deep in a container of yogurt covered raisins. I have no idea how many she ate, I assume it was quite a bit. So I googled it and determined, she would either be alive in 48 hours, or dead. We let nature decide and it turns out that she has quite a raisin tolerance.
    The moral of the story is kids are unreliable.

    Maybe not. Maybe the moral of the story is Lizzy loves raisins now and anytime we have them in the house she sniffs them out and bays because she wants them so bad.

    I don’t think that’s a moral at all actually.

    Have you ever had brown bread baked in cans? It is so dense and ever since I read the phrase “irish butter” above it’s all I can think about.
    Also, do you like corned beef? I adore it and am already excited that the official corned beef day is almost here, even though we eat it year round.

    February 21, 2012
    • I LOVE basset hounds. I bet Lizzy has amazing ears.

      I saw brown bread in a can at the grocery store the other day– I sometimes pause in that aisle because I love hobnobs–those oaty British cookies coated in chocolate. Anyway, I saw that can of brown bread with raisins and wondered what the heck was going on with it. So you’ve had it? Was it good?

      I don’t think I’ve had corned beef in years. I bet I could have gotten it in New York far easier than here in Alabama– have you made it yourself? I am not much of a meat cooker, for no particular reason. We made an awesome top sirloin steak the other day, but we don’t do it often. I love it in stews–that’s probably how it eat it most often.

      February 21, 2012
      • Sarah #

        Lizzy does have awesom ears, but when she chews on her rawhide sometimes her ear gets in there too, but she doesn’t realize it. And you can tell anytime she gets a drink because she leave two wet line across the floor from her ears dragging.
        Okay, so, I must’ve miscommunicated the brown bread. My grandma baked it heself, but you had to bake it in a can. And we loved it. The day after it was baked (and half gone) she would slice it into rounds and brown it in a skillet with butter. It was great both ways. I might have to email my grandma tomorrow and get the recipe for you.
        Yes we make our own corned beef. When we used to own a bar we made it from the prepackaged ones and it was darn good. We made over a hundred pounds of it each year with potatoes and cabbage. We are meat centric here, and I have developed a boatload of recipes based on hamburger. Anyway corned beef is worth your time, we do it in the slow cooker, which is actually a good way to do any brisket.

        February 21, 2012
  21. Gosh, you are hysterical! Is my dog the only one who can consume raisins, chocolate, onions, and still live to tell the tale? I sweep and clean as much as I can, but that mofo always manages to get into the trash. I swear that dog is immune… Or an alien posing as a dog… Men In Black status… I dunno. Thunder and I share the same look over your soda bread. ’nuff said…

    February 21, 2012
    • That is one bad-ass dog you have there, woman. It doesn’t sound like you even need pet insurance on that guy. Eventually, I look forward to hearing that he got shot by a bullet but it bounced off.

      February 21, 2012
  22. I just found your blog through Heather at Girlichef…I love it! I also love the salmon couscous recipe you mentioned…looking forward to exploring the rest of your blog.

    February 21, 2012
  23. Sue, your photos are awesome. AWESOME, do you hear me? I am in love with the chicken in the pot. Does that pot have different-colored handles? One blue and one green? The view looking down into the pot is lovely.

    Same goes for that orange tart–is that a wooden cake dish/plate you’ve got it on? Good grief, woman, I could look at this stuff all day.

    I am so glad you found your way here. I am really excited to follow your work from now on.

    February 21, 2012
  24. This was a very enjoyable post! I am now thinking about the purple martens that nest every year around our porch. Besides the adorable photos of your dog, I am now craving a hunk of that bread. Enjoy the day!

    February 22, 2012
    • I just googled purple martens– that’s one handsome bird! Would you like to exchange?

      February 22, 2012
  25. I am going to make this today, thank you for a great recipe!
    Also… this post contains my (as of this moment) most favorite dog photos ever! You are a great photographer, and Thunder is so beautiful she makes my heart ache.

    March 2, 2012
  26. Forgive me, I’m just finding your blog. I know, the internet has only helped a very small quotient of individuals get better at finding stuff quickly. I am not among them. Anyway, I love your blog, and admire your wit, and I down right gaga over the recipes. And by the way, Thunder rocks!

    March 3, 2012

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