Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Sister-in-Law is a Bad Person

I got your attention, didn't I?  She's not a bad person, not by any stretch.  A bad influence? Yes, most definitely!

Back in May of this year, she started a blog Sue at Home, and the other day she wrote about the new Nate Berkus collection that was about to debut at Target.  You can read all about it here.  Back in the days when Nate used to appear on Oprah's show, I used to love watching him get excited about design ideas, room/house makeovers and the like.  His design philosophy is to choose things to decorate your home, things that you love.

So my bad influence, ummm....I mean my sister-in-law opened my eyes to something that I might have stumbled on, during a casual shopping trip to Target.  Today was debut day. I decided that the carrots & Q-tips that were on my shopping list, could be found at Target, where I would find the Nate Berkus Collection.  That was in a perfect world and clearly the Target just up the street from us is FAR from perfect.  I looked all around with little success.  Finally, I asked a sales associate, who radioed a supervisor who answered where I could find what I was looking for.  Off I went, only to be disappointed to find Nate's bath collection only.  Since I wasn't shopping for my bathrooms, I was very disappointed.  I kept looking around, found a huge selection of Clearance items, where I figured I might find Nate's goodies.  Nope.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  Harrumph!

Sadly I went home with just my bundle of carrots and box of Q-Tips.  I figured that was it and I sent a text to my sister-in-law saying how my Target stunk.  Later in the afternoon, I popped 'round to my folks house.  My dad is a consultant for his old company and part of his job is to review new legal cases as they come in.  Last winter when he was laid up with his knee replacement, he hired me to be his assistant to print things off, save them to the computer and set up the files.  I've continued to help him since and decided that today was a good a day as any to get caught up on my work.  There's some downtime while waiting for many page documents to print.  And I got thinking about the Nate Berkus Collection again.  And in my brain, I'm plotting out the various Targets in the area.  Meanwhile I had heard from my sister-in-law, she too had little luck finding what she wanted.  We agreed, if she found the brass bowls that I wanted she would pick them up and if I found the brass lamp she wanted (and that I was trying to talk myself out of) I would pick it up for her.

Yes, I wanted my little brass bowls, as well as a nifty wooden round tray.  After I finished working for Dad, I set off, determined.  As I approached the second Target, I decided that I wouldn't get a cart.  I wouldn't need one.  Sure enough, I would need one. I found the Nate goodies and started calling my sister-in-law, "Do you still need the brass lamp?"  We went on for a bit.  And the more I looked at this lamp, the more I fell in love with it.  But I didn't need it.  But I loved it.  Nate says to surround yourself with things that you love.  Conveniently, there was an empty, abandoned cart right by where I was standing.  And they had the hammered brass bowls that I had spied on Sue's blog.  I didn't find the tray that I originally wanted, but I did find one that I thought would look snazzy in my bedroom.  I even bought one of the white sea urchin looking things that you see in the picture.

I'd place the brass bowls in the tray with the urchin.  Where, that was to be determined.

When I got home, carrying my goodies, my husband said, "What are those?  I thought we were purging things, not bringing in more stuff?"  He's right.  We are in a purge mode, but I also want to freshen up our home, which hasn't had a make-over, beyond a coat of paint in the living room last November.  But my husband didn't stop there, he likened my funky, quirky lamp to something that would have been found in the yard of Sanford & Son.  Oh no, he didn't!  Oh YES he did.  We debated rearranging the lamps in the living room.  He likes everything we have and where it is.

So now, my Sanford & Son lamp is in our bedroom on my bureau.  Next to it is the tray with it's goodies. And I love it, all thanks to my bad influence and Nate Berkus!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Beef & Guinness Pie

One of our favorite meals at my house is called Beef & Guinness Pie.  The key ingredients, beef & Guinness beer are never considered a bad thing around here.

I adapted this recipe from Margaret M. Johnson's The Irish Pub Cookbook.  It's a fabulous cookbook that not only has wonderful photographs of the food, but of locations around Ireland as well.

The key to this dish is letting the beef marinade for 24 hours before you cook.

Day One:
2 pounds stew beef, cut into 1/2" chunks
2 cans Guinness stout
1 clove garlic (or more, we love garlic here)
2 bay leaves

Combine all this in a bowl and give it a good stir.  Refrigerate until you are ready to cook the next day.

Day Two:
2 cans Guinness stout
1 cup beef stock or broth
2 large carrots, peeled & diced
1 large onion, sliced
1.5 cups frozen peas
Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
1 bouquet garni (a cheesecloth bag containing 3 sprigs fresh parsley, 1 sprig fresh thyme, 8-10 peppercorns and 1 bay leaf)
Wondra Gravy Flour
Pillsbury All-Ready Pie Crust
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon of water

On cooking day, drain the marinade and put the beef into a stockpot.  Add the 2 cans of Guinness, and the beef broth.  Over medium heat, bring this mixture to a boil.  Skim any foam off the top.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 1-1.5 hours.  Add the carrots, onion, salt, pepper and bouquet garni and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the carrots are slightly tender.  Add the peas and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.  Sprinkle in the Wondra Gravy Flour, cooking & stirring until the liquid is thickened.

The book has you making a pastry crust, but I don't have time for that.  That's where the miracle product of a Pillsbury All-Ready Pie Crust comes in very handy.  Let it warm up in your kitchen for about 10-15 minutes before using it.

Meanwhile, you want to preheat your oven to 375°F.  Remove the bouquet garni from your stockpot and transfer the filling into a 10" deep dish pie plate, spooning some of the liquid into the pie dish.  Reserve the rest for later.  Cover the pie plate with the pastry, cutting a few slits in the top to allow steam to escape.  This is where I like to use my little decorative cutters.  I cut a few vents out of the pastry, and then attach the cut-outs to the pastry with a dab of your egg wash.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until it is a beautiful golden brown.  I always put a cookie sheet in the rack below the pie dish, because it sometimes wants to bubble over.  While this is baking, run the cooking liquid through a strainer, into a saucepan.  Put it on medium-high heat, adding a bit more gravy flour, bring to a boil, stirring until thickened.

I love to serve this over homemade Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, drizzling this with the gravy.

Hope you enjoy this as much as our family does!