Beef and Guinness Stew

Hey, look, I didn’t post for a month.  I promise you I was making good use of my time with finals, and then holidays and a close relative in the hospital.  The past few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind, and I’m just starting to feel like I can finally relax.  It’s a false feeling because in a few days my job search for the summer will kick into high gear and I’ll be juggling time between phone calls and trips to the city to meet people.  But, for now I am going to enjoy the momentary peace.

And write you all a blog post.

When my life is hectic, I come to enjoy the simple parts of my day more.  I love the few moments of silence in the morning when I’m still in bed and I can hear all the commotion downstairs.  No one knows I’m awake yet. and I usually read a few pages of whatever book I’m reading before trudging downstairs.  Those few moments are my favorite part of the day.

In times of chaos, I also appreciate a good meal.  There are certain foods for me that I find immediately soothing, and stew is one of them.  I think it’s the warmth and the heartiness.  Succulent beef paired with tender carrots and potatoes – all of it smothered in a rich brown gravy.  Just the thought of it makes me happy.

I used to make my beef stew with herbed dumplings a fair amount during school, but then I discovered this guinness beef stew, and I’ve been converted.  The flavor here is more complex, and the end result heartier.  It only uses half a cup of beer, but it really changes the flavor profile.  If you don’t have Guinness you can make this with Coca Cola – just omit the two tablespoons of brown sugar.

Beef and Guinness Stew for Kids



2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 pounds chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 onion, chopped

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 14-oz can chicken broth, more if necessary

1/2 cup Guinness (or Coca Cola)

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp ground sage

Juice of 1 lemon


6 yukon potatoes

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley

2 tbsp brown sugar (omit if using Coca Cola)


Heat the oil in a large dutch oven.  Add the meat and brown on all sides.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, scraping up the browned bits.  When the onion is cooked, add the flour and mix until combined.  Pour in the broth and Guinness and bring to a boil.  Add the meat and accumulated juices  back into the dutch oven and put in the lemon juice, tomato paste, sage, salt and pepper.  Reduce to a simmer and let it cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Add the potatoes, carrots, parsley and brown sugar.  Simmer for another hour, checking fairly often to add more broth when necessary.  You likely will have to add more liquid, so do not be concerned if it is looking dry – just add more broth and let it continue to simmer.

Source:  Harry Potter Cookbook

I Wish I Lived In A Period Drama

Last night I watched the ever-delightful PBS drama North & South, and while I wouldn’t want to work in a cotton mill and perpetually look like I was caught in a snow storm, there were other parts of the drama that made me reminiscent for the old days of which I have never experienced, but have dreamt of often.

Can we not twerk, please?

All I want to do is go to a dance where there is no twerking.  Really.  That is all I want in this lifetime and the next.  I want to go to a dance and do a reel, covert glances sent between a dashing business man and myself as we pass each other.  So much flirtation happens during reels.  In any period drama, that is THE SCENE where the heady romance is planted.

Give me the dresses, corset and all.

I realize that corsets were probably awful.  The closest I’ve been to them is control top pantyhose, and considering I once had to take those off in a train bathroom after an interview because of the searing pain in my abdomen, I don’t think I’d fare well with corsets.  I’d be that person who passes out at every dance.  Still, the dresses they wear in period pieces are stunning.  I’m sure wearing all that clothing would be burdensome after a while, but I don’t care.  I just want to prance around in my petticoat and gown.  And then promptly pass out from the corset impeding my breathing.

I’m off to gaze dramatically out of a window.

I don’t know if this was just a North & South thing but all the characters seemed to spend a lot of time staring dramatically out of windows.  They did it at least five times every episode, which led to me renaming the drama Staring-Forlornly-From-Windows-A-Lot.  However, even with the excessive window watching, North & South cannot beat the pivotal window-gazing-scene in Pride and Prejudice where Elizabeth, having just refused Mr. Darcy’s proposal, literally sees his face on the grassy knolls on the carriage ride home.  So much drama.  So many grassy knolls.

Now I want to go stare dramatically from a window.

I’m sorry for laughing at your top hat, but…you’re wearing a top hat.


I can’t even handle this.  I realize that if I lived during this time period top hats would be as normal as a suit and tie.  Perhaps the JT of the time would even pen a song about it all.

As long as I got my top hat on…

But, come on guys.  Top hats are ridiculous.  Look at the picture.  The top hat is bigger than the basket of food he’s carrying.

All the dramatic hand touching.

Following all that dramatic staring out of windows, it’s only natural that there’d be some dramatic hand touching.  This is definitely not just a North and South thing as every period drama has some scene with characters inwardly losing their shit when they brush hands with the object of their affection.  Note – they usually suppress their feelings for said object of their affection until after the dramatic hand touching, because obviously it gives them the green light to go and propose, like, twenty minutes later.

This…just this.

This has absolutely not relevance to the post.  It’s just cute.  And from North & South.  And is a little spoiler-ey, but we all know couples get together in period dramas.  Unless, of course, they’re floating in the ocean following a ship wreck and someone won’t share their more-than-able-to-fit-two-people-floating-debris. (cough…Titanic…cough).

Pumpkin Layer Cake with Butterscotch Filling

This cake taught me a very important lesson.  Always read through a recipe completely before you start baking or cooking.  Otherwise, you will put off making your frosting – whose one hour chilling time you are unaware of – until an hour before your party is scheduled.  And you will try to make it work by putting it in the freezer, which won’t work because shortcuts never work, and you’ll end up passive aggressively shoving your cake in the refrigeratory while yelling to your roommate about how you refuse to serve substandard desserts.


I did this.  All of this.  Thankfully, I came to my senses before I left and saw how ridiculous it was to waste a cake that I had literally spent three hours making.  The frosting, while incorrectly made, hardened into a nice sort of brown-sugar-icing-shell around the cake.  I ate the last piece at the party, and while I would have preferred the lighter whipped frosting, it ended up turning out relatively well.  I was also told it was the best dessert I’d made.

So, the moral of the story (as opposed to the lesson) is that sometimes a complete kitchen disaster ends up being the best thing you’ve ever made.  How about that?

Pumpkin Layer Cake with Butterscotch Filling



I refused to let anyone touch this at the party until I took glamor shots with my phone.

You can’t take us food bloggers anywhere.



For the cake:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp of cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

For the filling:

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 stick butter, cut into four pieces
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts

For the icing:

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 sticks butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar


For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and prepare two cake pans.  In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices and salt and then set aside.  In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin puree and buttermilk until smooth.  Cream together the butter and sugars.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until combined.  Next, add the flour mixture and pumpkin-buttermilk mixture, alternating between the two.  Mix until just combined.

Pour into the prepared cake pans and smooth the tops.  Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool completely before frosting.

For the filling:

Heat the cream in a medium saucepan until it is hot.  Do not let it boil or simmer.  Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a separate bowl on the side.  Next, caramelize that sugar in a separate sauce pan for 4-5 minutes.  Stir constantly to break up lumps and to keep the sugar from burning.  After the sugar is caramelized, remove the saucepan from heat and add the hot cream, one half at a time.  Add the butter, one piece at a time, whisking each piece in until incorporated.  Let cool in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes.

When you’re ready to dress the cake up, remove the bowl from the fridge and mix with a handheld mixer until it turns into a light consistency.  Fold in the chopped nuts.

For the icing:

Heat the brown sugar, heavy cream,  1-2 ounces of the butter, and cream of tartar in a saucepan.  Stir frequently while you bring the mixture up to a boil.  Allow it to boil for around 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Pour the mixture into a bowl and let sit at room temperature for one hour.

Next, mix with a handheld mixer for one minute.  Increase the speed and add the remaining butter, one piece at a time.  Mix until light and fluffy.

To assemble the cake:

Spread the filling on the top of one of the pumpkin cakes.  Place the other cake on top and then frost the entire cake with the icing.  For those of you not well versed in frosting cakes, I find it easiest to sort of plop all the frosting on the top of the cake and then work my way down.  An off-set spatula is pretty great for decorating, but you could even use a butter knife.

Place the full pecans decoratively on the top of the cake.  If you want something more rustic than what I did, I think just sprinkling some chopped nuts on top would have worked really well.

Source:  Joanne Eats Well With Others (just noticed the name of this blog and I LOVE IT)