My adventures in pregnancy, motherhood and beyond

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Menu

I love having dinner guests. I love cooking for other people. I might go a little crazy sometimes; my first Thanksgiving had a giant turkey and probably 6 or 7 sides, plus 2 desserts. When we knew we were having dinner guests, I decided to try some of the recipes from my to-try binder. I just realized it would make the perfect St. Patrick's Day menu.

The stew recipe I used can be found on Irish American Mom, an Irish woman living in Kentucky, who shares Irish recipes using American ingredients. I had a little bit of trouble with some of the ingredients: frozen pearl onions and bittersweet chocolate chips aren't easy to find here (the clerk tried to tell me semi-sweet was the same thing.) But eventually, I found all the ingredients. I won't go through the whole recipe here since she has a really thorough tutorial with photos. I'll just tell you some of the differences:
  • I took the instruction to julienne the parsnips to heart, so mine ended up as shoestrings. Still good though
  • I would cut the potatoes smaller to ensure that they soften enough
  • Instead of using a bowl/plate to dredge the beef, I put the flour, salt and pepper into a gallon size ziploc bag, added the beef and shook to coat it
  • Between no prep the night before, dropping G off daycare and an emergency run to buy a larger crock pot, I had barely 6 hours to cook the stew instead of twelve. It was on high for 3 hours, then low for 2, then high again for the rest of the time
  • I had a slight panic attack because the stew tasted off when I tried it after combining all the ingredients. I was sure I had doomed our guests to an inedible meal and emergency delivery pizza. Luckily, by the time it had cooked, the flavours were rich and perfect. 
  • I don't like the taste of Guinness, but it was great in the stew. I used the extra stout bottle. Don't bother measuring out 1.25 C, just dump in the bottle; the head makes it impossible to measure.

I would highly recommend this recipe and will definitely make it again. The beef was fork tender, the veggies were soft and it was nice and filling. The leftovers are freezable and even the weather cooperated: nothing like a rainy night for warm stew.

As some of you know, I'm horrible at making sides, but what goes better with stew than bread? Since returning to the States, I've missed Irish bread so much, and this seemed a good opportunity to finally get over my hesitation and bake my first loaf of bread! Irish American Mom has a recipe for brown bread, but I didn't want to have to buy whole wheat flour, pastry flour, wheat germ, etc, so I searched for a soda bread recipe and found one from a Southern food website, of all places. But it used all purpose flour, and I had everything but the buttermilk and cream of tartar. You guys, this was SO easy! Why have I never made bread before?? It took half an hour to prep, less than an hour to cook and made the house smell delicious, as well as tasting delicious. The recipe is pretty self explanatory. The only thing I'd recommend is after melting the butter, stick it in the fridge, mix in the buttermilk first, then mix in the butter, otherwise you'll end up with little clumps of flour that don't incorporate. This happened to the first batch of dough I made and it was horrible, but the second batch was perfect. It was soft on the inside, crusty on the outside, warm and tasty. It also had the added benefit of making the house smell great. It's not sandwich bread, but it is delicious and the perfect accompaniment to the stew.

Again, if you make any of these, let me know how it goes and if you enjoyed it! Happy cooking!

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