Guinness Beef Stew

The weather here in Dayton has taken a definite turn towards cool brisk days, with overnight lows dropping into the thirties. Weather like that makes me crave comfort foods, and with the big Irish win yesterday this Guinness Beef Stew seemed fitting.

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I used this recipe from the blog Blissfully Delicious, found via Pinterest. I had a moment of panic this morning as I loaded the Crockpot–the ingredients barely fit, even though I was using the same size as the author. The whole time we were at church, I was freaking out with worry that it had overflowed and flooded the kitchen counter with stew. But it didn’t overflow, and was quite delicious. I always follow recipes to the t the first time I make them, but the next time I make this (and there will be a next time!) I will chop the vegetables into smaller pieces (making them more spoon sized, versus fork sized) and add less broth. I’d also probably halve the recipe so that I don’t have to worry about a kitchen disaster again:)

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A weekend in the kitchen

Banana bread on its way into the oven: 

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After trying out a number of banana bread recipes, this one quickly became our favorite. It is from the Williams-Sonoma cookbook Bread, and is available online as well. What really sets this recipe apart from others are the nutmeg and buttermilk.

[Not pictured– Tilapia with Chipotle Orange Glaze from The Boston Chef’s Table cookbook, Parmesan Roasted Brussel Sprouts, baked potatoes]

Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream in the ice cream maker:

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I found this recipe from I Wash You Dry on pinterest, and was so excited to find an eggless pumpkin ice cream recipe (the raw egg yolks in most homemade ice cream recipes gross me out).  The ice cream is delicious, but almost too rich and thick for us. I can only eat a scoop at a time!

[Not pictured– Kevin made this Autumn Vegetable Soup with butternut squash, white beans, and swiss chard from one of our favorite cookbooks, Weeknight Fresh & Fast. I can’t say enough wonderful things about this cookbook, we use it weekly.]

Onion Parmesan Focaccia, fresh from the oven:

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I used this recipe, again from the Williams-Sonoma Bread cookbook, as the basis for my loaf, but added about a half a cup of grated parmesan before baking. This was delicious, though a bit greasy when the recipe is followed exactly. I would probably reduce the amount of olive oil drizzled on top before baking the next time I make it.

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Devil’s Food Cake with Fudge Frosting

In my opinion, things made from scratch taste better than store-bought 99% of the time. A homemade loaf of bread beats one made from a box, homemade cookies beat ones made from a mix, and so on.  Sometimes I look at the different boxes in the baking aisle at the grocery store and I wonder who would buy some of these things.

Well, this weekend I learned that homemade is not always better.  Sometimes homemade is a lot more expensive, a ton more work, and not really any better tasting than store-bought.  The next time Kevin asks for chocolate cake, he is getting one from my erstwhile friends Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker, rather than Williams-Sonoma.

I spent most of my day off on Monday making this Devil’s Food Cake and the fudge frosting.  It was a little dry, and the frosting was made with bittersweet chocolate so it wasn’t sweet enough for my taste.  I think when it comes to cakes, I am back on the packaged mix bandwagon.  For now, at least.

This recipe is from Williams-Sonoma’s Dessert cookbook.

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Apple Crisp

Sometimes I don’t want to bake something fancy.  Sometimes I just want to throw together a bunch of yummy stuff, without having to worry about exact measurements.  Sometimes I just want something warm and fruity for my afternoon snack.

Days like today, I end up making apple crisp.  And it was simple, yummy, warm, and fruity.

(Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook)

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Ciabatta bread

The soup recipe I was making tonight suggested serving it alongside “plentiful ciabatta bread for dipping.”  I remembered that my new Williams-Sonoma Bread cookbook had a recipe for ciabatta, so I figured why bother buying it when I could make it?

Well, I now know why people buy ciabatta.  Baking this bread is a lengthy and involved process.  First you mix a starter the day before, let that rise for a few hours before refrigerating overnight.  Then this morning I took it out of the refrigerator to get to room temperature, added the rest of the ingredients, and kneaded it in my KitchenAid stand mixer. Then it rises for a few more hours, is shaped into two loaf-like shapes, allowed to rise another few hours, before finally being baked.  I feel as if I spent my entire weekend working on this bread.

A part of one loaf, and the sausage-kale soup we had for dinner

On the plus side, my first foray into homemade ciabatta was delicious, and resulted in two very large loafs.  It was a great crusty bread to accompany our soup with.  However, I can’t say it is going to be a regular item on our menu.  Anything that requires that much work will be more of a special occasion treat. If you want to try this recipe yourself, it can be found online here.

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Italian Almond Tart

The problem with having a baking blog is that when stuff doesn’t come out right, you feel an extra dose of embarrassment. Bad enough Kevin saw how bad this tart was, but now everyone on the internet will as well.  True, I could just not write about the flubs–but that would make everyone think I was a much better baker than I really am.

Things that went wrong with our New Year’s Eve dessert, an Italian Almond Tart from Williams-Sonoma’s Pie & Tart cookbook:
– I think I rolled the tart crust too thin, so I had a lot of trouble transferring it to the tart pan. There may have been a few holes that I had to patch up;
– then I forgot that my pan has a removable bottom, and when carrying it to the oven held it right in the middle of the bottom, causing the sides of the pan to drop, bringing most of the crust dough with it;
– once I had the tart all assembled, I managed to overbake it;
–  oh, and remember that crust that I rolled too thinly? Turns out that an overly-thin crust will cook faster, and therefore burn.

One crispy almond tart, paired with a Chambord & champagne cocktail

The filling is not bad, and I think this would be an elegant teatime dessert if it weren’t for the blackened crust.  Maybe I will try this again someday…but not for awhile.  If you want to try the Italian Almond Tart for yourself, the recipe is available online here.

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Menu, week of 12/31-1/6

I love the holidays, but they are not exactly great for eating well.  I think we ate out more in the weeks surrounding Christmas than we did the rest of the fall.  It’s good to be back at home and back in our routine.  I’m also excited to try out some of the new kitchen toys I got for Christmas from Santa–there will definitely be a tart in the near future, now that I have a tart pan! Kevin’s favorite kitchen present was one he gave me–dishwasher-safe silicone muffin pans.  I don’t think there was a single other thing in our kitchen he hated washing as much as my muffin pans!

This week’s menu:
Saturday, 12/31: dinner out for New Years
Sunday, 1/1: Spinach and Roasted Red Pepper Stuffed Chicken in the Crockpot
Monday, 1/2: Special Sausage and Kale Soup and homemade ciabatta bread
Tuesday, 1/3: leftovers
Wednesday, 1/4: leftovers
Thursday, 1/5: Pork tenderloin with cider-glazed carrots and garlic mashed potatoes
Friday, 1/6: leftovers

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