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The Irish Boutique is an Irish import store that has been located in the Chicago land area for over 40 years.  The shop stocks a variety of products ranging from Irish jewelry, crystal, china, food, sweaters, caps, t-shirts and a wide variety of Irish gifts. 

Cooking Blog

Visit our blog to read about Michelle Barry's adventures in cooking and eating Irish cuisine and to learn about new products and upcoming events. 


Irish Food Before Potatoes and Apple Pie Baked Oatmeal

john barry


Oats must be one of the most ubiquitous Irish ingredients of all. Showing up in griddle cakes, breads, sausages - oats are everywhere in Irish cuisine. Due to lower summer heat requirements and greater tolerance for rain, oats have always been an important crop in Ireland where they grow better than other grains such as wheat, rye or even barley. Historically, oats, along with dairy products were the main sources of sustenance for the Irish, pre-dating the widespread consumption of potatoes that Ireland is known for today. Potatoes, which originated in Peru, were not introduced to the Irish until the late 1600s. Of course, it would be hard to imagine Irish food without Shepherd's pie, fish and chips, colcannon and so many other potato-based dishes, but the fact remains that before potatoes there were oats.


I love oats in both savory and sweet preparations (so it’s fortunate for me that I’ve got a hook-up in the oats department).  Granola, oatmeal cookies, porridge, white pudding, plain with butter and a little salt (like my mom), I even put oats in my meatloaf for body and to help everything stick together. In the summer, I make overnight oats, pack them in single serve jars and eat them straight out of the fridge. I also enjoy them the way they are most commonly served here in America, with fruit, nuts and brown sugar for breakfast.  Baked oatmeal is just a twist on regular breakfast porridge with toppings. I like how it bakes up a little custardy from the eggs, which, incidentally, provide some extra protein and help keep me (and the kids) full for longer.

More apples? Yeah, I know. Truthfully, I’m not getting that into fall yet, especially given the 80 degree weather, tomatoes and peppers still growing in the backyard and the grill still our primary method of getting dinner on the table. The reason I’m cooking with apples again this week is simply that I had a few leftover from last week.  And while they weren’t very good for eating out of hand, they were great in a fruit crumble.  Naturally, I figured they would work in baked oatmeal as well. I haven’t made baked oatmeal for ages and I have to say I’m loving that I made this big batch and have breakfast set for the week. Less thinking, less to do, especially in the morning, is always a good thing.  Consider this recipe a gift to your future self.

Here it is just before baking, the white chunks are coconut oil that hardened because the milk and eggs were cold.  This didn't cause me any problems and now that I think about it, a pineapple-coconut version of this would be delicious. 

Here it is just before baking, the white chunks are coconut oil that hardened because the milk and eggs were cold.  This didn't cause me any problems and now that I think about it, a pineapple-coconut version of this would be delicious. 

Apple Pie Baked Oatmeal

  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons apple pie spice
  • 2 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • ½ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 2 cups milk
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup coconut oil (or butter), melted
  • 4-5 medium apples, cored, peeled and sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Spray large baking dish with cooking spray or coat with butter and flour, tapping excess flour out of the pan.
  3. In a large bowl, mix oats, sugar, apple pie spice, salt, baking powder, baking soda, walnuts and raisins until thoroughly combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, maple syrup, eggs and coconut oil.
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir to combine.
  6. Allow oat mixture to rest while you peel, core and cute apples.
  7. Layer apple slices along the bottom of baking dish.
  8. Top apples with oat mixture.
  9. Cover and bake for 45 minutes.
  10. Uncover and continue to bake for 15 minutes.
  11. Serve warm or at room temperature.

You can make this with any type of fruit you have on hand, fresh or frozen. Sometimes I make it with frozen peaches and cardamom instead of apples and apple pie spice. Cranberries and orange zest would be great. Even though this dish doesn’t have very much sugar or fat in it, it still makes a nice dessert with a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. It also travels well.  What more can you ask of the humble oat?

Toasty. Oaty. Healthy. 

Toasty. Oaty. Healthy. 

Back in the Saddle: Apple Crumble

john barry


Despite the balmy weather, we’ve been doing a lot of fall activities lately, including a trip to the pumpkin patch and driving around the neighborhood to see which houses have their Halloween decorations up.  Emmett LOVES the latter, and memorizes which houses have which decorations.  He remembers them all from last year too, so he knows which streets to check for his favorites.  “Scary kitty cat with head that moves” is his #1.  


I left September to making sauce from the last of the good tomatoes but now that it’s October, I think I’m ready for some baking.  Apples. Pumpkin. Warm spices.  All that stuff. What better way to get back in the saddle after a failure then to have a little help? My brother-in-law gave me this fruit crumble mix the other day and it was the perfect re-introduction.  Fail-proof. Fast. And a good excuse to get out the old apple peeler-slicer-corer that the kids love to use so much. The concept is: mix the crumble topping from the box with a splash of milk and cover your fruit filling with it.  Pop it in the oven until it’s all bubbly and golden and eat.  With ice cream, of course.


It turned out to be a good project for baking with little ones. They were able to peel, core and slice the apples (with the help of our little gadget), toss them with a little lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar, and mix the crumble topping with the milk.  As a loss reduction strategy (and to avoid a crazy mess), I was in charge of putting the filling in the baking pan, topping it with the crumble mix and putting the whole thing in the oven. About 50 minutes later the whole thing was bubbly, the topping browned and the house smelled like fall.


Crumble, like pie, really benefits from a chance to rest and cool before digging in - so the juices are absorbed back into the filling instead of seeping out all over the bottom of your pan. For this reason, I try to bake these types of desserts when I’m actually hungry for real food and prepared to wait awhile before sampling. This crumble stayed warm for hours.   We hung out, ate dinner, then played monopoly before tucking into it a few hours later and it was still slightly warm. Perfect with a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream.  


Eve probably enjoyed it the most. She and I shared some for breakfast the next day topped with plain greek yogurt and salted almonds.  Notice I took no photos of the actual eating part. I guess we were all just focused on the food.

Oven ready.  At this point I had probably invested about 15 minutes in the entire dish (including supervision of little helpers). 

Oven ready.  At this point I had probably invested about 15 minutes in the entire dish (including supervision of little helpers). 

Apple Crumble

  • 1 box of Green’s crumble mix, available at Paddy’s on the Square in Long Grove
  • 20 ml milk (which roughly equals a splash, I was surprised at how little you need, so start small)
  • ⅓ cup almonds, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 5 medium apples, peeled and sliced, I used a mix of Gala and Golden Delicious
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon or apple pie spice
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350F.

  1. Mix apple slices with lemon juice, spices, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
  2. Mix crumble mix with chopped almonds and milk.  
  3. Place apple mixture in a baking dish and top with crumble mixture.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes or until apple juices are bubbling and crumble topping is nicely browned.
  5. Allow to rest for 2-3 hours.


Browned beauty. 

Browned beauty. 

A couple of notes on using the mix.  I didn’t follow the directions on the box which called for a higher cooking temp and shorter cooking time. I did this for a couple of reasons.  First, since I added almonds to the crumble part, I was afraid that they would start to burn at the 400F directed so I lowered it to 350.  Second, I cooked the whole crumble for about 50 minutes which was significantly longer than the 20-25 prescribed on the box.  This was because I used apples, which take longer to cook than some fruits, like berries or peaches. If, for example, I were to use this mix to make cherry crumble with cherry pie filling and no nuts in the topping, I would probably do it exactly as directed.

This crumble mix will go in my pantry from now on. It wasn’t too sweet and came together in seconds with just a splash of milk.  I can already think of a million other ways to use it - on top of coffee cake, banana bread or muffins, in lieu of a top-crust for a pie, on baked oatmeal or even donuts.

And just like that, I’m excited about baking again. What a difference a week makes.

Kitchen Fail! Rainbow Cake

john barry


So when you cook a lot, like almost every day, because you have to feed people, then more on weekends and for holidays, parties and friends because you enjoy it, there are definitely highs and lows. Recipes where the payoff is HUGE for a small amount of effort and dinner makes you look like a pro. Times when everything is just so-so and you kinda wish you just ordered Thai food. Then there are abject failures. That’s just life. It happens. It also sucks. Especially when, inevitably, the biggest failure took a lot of time and effort to make. I try to roll with the punches and not get too upset when something goes wrong.  And truly, I’m so busy being a perfectionist in my day job (occupational hazard), I’m far from it at home. Still, failures in the kitchen, like failure everywhere else drives me nuts.

Crafting with modge podge, the last of an old box of rigatoni, stale cereal and sprinkles while I bake.  Later - they ate their art. I wish I was kidding. 

Crafting with modge podge, the last of an old box of rigatoni, stale cereal and sprinkles while I bake.  Later - they ate their art. I wish I was kidding. 

This weekend I planned on making the cutest cake for my brother-in-law’s birthday.  My sweet and stylish brother-in-law who is the best uncle and playmate to the kids, who is always happy to help when called upon for anything from babysitting to reorganizing the garage, carrying anything heavy, giving someone a ride, you name it. Uncle John.  

Ever since Emmett was old enough to be captivated by the thought of a birthday Uncle John has had a birthday cake.  The kids usually decide the theme. This year Emmett wanted to make him an “Irish cake” and Isla wanted something bright and childlike, so we decided on a rainbow.  I was thinking Leprechauns, pot of gold, rainbow - Emmett didn’t get what the rainbow had to do with being Irish but he was still game.  I looked through all of my my baking books and decided on a devil’s food cake and cream cheese frosting from a new book that I had been excited to try out. Truth be told, I was hesitant and thought maybe I should just use my go-to chocolate cake recipe.  I poo-pooed myself for being overly conservative and forged ahead.

Do not try this at home. It is indescribably difficult to apply runny frosting in a rainbow of colors to a small cake. 

Do not try this at home. It is indescribably difficult to apply runny frosting in a rainbow of colors to a small cake. 

I think I sort of sabotaged myself.  In my attempt to be more organized than usual, I measured out all of the ingredients ahead and put them in little bowls, everything that is, except the baking soda. Woops. Yes, I forgot the baking soda. So while the cake tasted good, it was gummy and dense. I was too distracted to notice because once I started the buttercream, I had bigger problems.

The buttercream recipe called for making a vanilla custard with milk and eggs first, then whipping butter and cream cheese together until fluffy and slowly adding the cooled custard. I have no idea what I did wrong but this was a D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R. At first it was sort of grainy and loose, then runny. I tried my best to save it and then decided that the only thing to do was to keep the cake refrigerated (which only exacerbated the texture issue). I really should have thrown the whole thing out and just made regular cream cheese frosting with butter, cream cheese and powdered sugar.  Sometimes I’m too stubborn for my own good.

I ended up completing my unleavened disaster-piece, runny frosting and all just in time for dinner. The only upside was, surprisingly, the the kids still loved it. Isla thought it looked like something out of Trolls, her favorite movie. Emmett and Isla were both beside themselves with excitement, opening the fridge every few minutes to catch a glimpse of it.  And when it was time to eat, Emmett happily scarfed down two pieces.

That night as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, I wondered to myself what happened to the cake part of the cake? Why was the texture like that? Then, suddenly it dawned on me, the baking soda. Ugh.  I could have strangled myself.  Of course this is not the first time I have forgotten the leavener.  It’s actually one of my most common mistakes in the kitchen, why I’m not much of a baker and prefer cooking - less precision required.  

It took me about a day to get over this birthday fail, which I know sounds silly, especially when there are hurricanes and earthquakes and so many people with real problems in the world. In my defense, I think it was the fact that I wasn’t 100% healthwise,  feeling run down and overwhelmed and letting it get the best of me mentally.

I hate to think how many marshmallows Emmett consumed...I HATE marshmallows but he loves them. 

I hate to think how many marshmallows Emmett consumed...I HATE marshmallows but he loves them. 

Sharing it here actually makes me feel better.  Now I see how the whole thing is inconsequential and funny and how the cake is still cute in it’s own silly way. I also think that it’s wonderful, magical even, to see things through the eyes of my children who still believe that cake was beautiful and delicious despite all evidence to the contrary.

No recipes today - for obvious reasons - just a message to everyone who’s had a big fail in the kitchen.  Carry on! You’re doing great! Failures and all.