Fiona’s Luck: a Book Review

Fiona's Luck

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, I’ve seen a few book recommendation lists that include Fiona’s Luck, which is written by Teresa Bateman and illustrated by Kelly Murphy.

I love seeing this book recommended at any time of year, however, because it is simply one of my very favorite picture books.

Both of my children love it, but of course it is my eldest, Fiona, who gets especially excited about it.  My girls love to find their names in books or movies, as most children do, and that was what attracted me to Fiona’s Luck in the first place.

And I am so happy I decided to buy it.

Not only does it give me a chance to have fun playing around with my horrible Irish accent (which is possibly more entertaining to me than my kids), but it delivers a wonderful lesson in the form of a fun and engaging story.

Fiona is a young woman in Ireland, living in a time after the Leprechaun King has stolen all the luck that used to be floating freely around the country, and locked it away in a big wooden chest.  He was upset that all of the luck floating around out there was getting attached to the Big Folk, and so he decided to keep it all for himself.

But he took ALL of the luck, every bit of it, and with no luck left floating around Ireland, a famine developed.  The cows wouldn’t let down milk, the hens weren’t laying eggs, and the potatoes rotted in the ground.

Fiona uses her wits to trick everyone into thinking that she is in fact very lucky by pretending to harvest potatoes and be overloaded with baskets of eggs and buckets of milk.

Her ruse works, and the Leprechaun King magically transports her to his throne room to demand that she return the luck.  Since she knows she is not lucky, she uses that to her advantage when he challenges her to tests of luck.  And though she fails all of his tests, she wins something much greater:  a little bit of the luck that he had locked away.  And as it turns out, a little bit is enough.

Fiona's Luck

Illustrations © Kelly Murphy

Amidst this tale of a woman who would rather have her “wits about her” than all the luck in the world, are gorgeously painted illustrations.  While reading the story, there is so much for kids to look at, and so many beautiful details for their eyes to peruse (like tiny sparkles of luck or hidden leprechauns).

The mood of the story comes alive against the soft natural colors, with the gloomier parts reflected by more subdued shades, and the lighter moments highlighted by the playful twinkling of the luck.  The friendly faces set against the sprawling Irish countryside makes for gorgeous viewing for adults and kids alike.

I highly recommend this book.  You won’t regret sharing the brave and spirited Fiona with your own amazing kids!

Happy Reading!

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Mini Irish Soda Bread with Guinness Recipe

Mini Irish Soda Bread with Guinness Recipe

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

This Paddy’s Day, we made some Irish soda bread to accompany our corned beef and cabbage.  But not just any Irish soda bread – Irish soda BEER bread.

The Irish half of my heritage was very excited about this.

And I was right to be excited, because these things were amazing!

Seriously:  little loaves of sweet, warm goodness with thick, crusty exteriors crackling open in my hands to reveal a velvety soft smoothness.

Yum.

And you could technically use any brand of beer you like, but I strongly recommend Guinness.  Although, I must admit, I’m tempted to make these again with chocolate stout…

But I digress.  Point is, these things are crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, have just the right amount of sweetness, and taste wonderful smothered in butter.

And they’re easy to make.

They are a wee bit on the heavy side, though, so one is more than enough per person (the recipe makes 12 mini loaves), and you could probably even make it into a batch of 16 instead.

Mini Irish Soda Bread with Guinness Recipe

Also, Irish soda bread usually calls for caraway seeds, but, since I don’t like caraway seeds, when I put this recipe together, I left them out.

If you’re a fan, however, feel free to throw in a tablespoon while mixing the flour with the sugar.

Mini Irish Soda Bread with Guinness Recipe

And, like I said, it’s easy.

Essentially, you throw everything together in one bowl, then knead for a minute, then bake.

Mini Irish Soda Bread with Guinness Recipe

The dough can be a little sticky, but that’s an easy fix.  Make sure to knead it on a floured surface, and coat your hands with flour.

Mini Irish Soda Bread with Guinness Recipe

Also, when cutting the loaf into tiny loaves and rolling them into balls, if they start to stick to your hands or the counter, just pat on a little more flour.

Mini Irish Soda Bread with Guinness Recipe

Kitchen shears or sharp scissors are the best way to make the X in the top of the mini loaves, although I suppose you could use a sharp knife if you don’t have shears.

Mini Irish Soda Bread with Guinness Recipe

Brushing egg over the tops adds a nice texture and color to the loaves.

Plus, make sure you bake them on parchment paper, or a some sort of nonstick baking mat.   Alternatively, you could grease the pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Mini Irish Soda Bread with Guinness Recipe

Was I wrong?  Do these things not look amazing??

Mini Irish Soda Bread with Guinness Recipe

And the aroma, the texture…

You won’t regret trying these.  I’m definitely going to find more excuses to make these.  And not just for Paddy’s Day.

Mini Irish Soda Bread with Guinness Recipe

Mini Irish Soda Bread with Guinness

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups stout Guinness
4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 cup raisins
1/4 cup melted butter
2 eggs

Pour the beer into a measuring cup and let sit for about a half hour at room temperature, until flat.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Stir in raisins. Then, stir in beer, melted butter, and 1 egg until a dough forms.

On a floured surface, knead dough until smooth. Coat your hands in flour to prevent the dough from sticking to you.

Shape the dough in a ball. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into quarters. Cut each of these quarters into three equal pieces. Shape each of these 12 pieces into balls and place on a cookie sheet that is lined with parchment paper.

Using kitchen shears, cut an X in the top of each loaf. Then lightly beat the remaining egg and brush it over the loaves.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Cool on a wire rack.

(Note: Traditionally, Irish Soda Bread contains caraway seeds. I’ve omitted them from this recipe, due to personal tastes, but if you’d like to add them, simply stir in a Tbsp. of caraway seeds when combining the flour, sugar, baking powder, and spices.)

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Click here for your FREE printable PDF:  Mini Irish Soda Bread with Guinness

Enjoy!  :)

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