This week our weekend family dinner was smaller than usual, but still plenty of fun. Julie, Gary and little Lilia came over. Lilia is almost ten months old and her new tricks never fail to awe us. Our current favorite is watching Julie sing, “If you’re happy and you know it…” and then Lilia claps her hands.
She crawls so quickly that we can’t take our eyes off of her for one second. Luckily she is also one of the best little eaters we’ve ever encountered. So far she loves all food and eats a lot more than her tiny size would suggest. It makes planning family dinners easier when no one is picky.
On Sunday, I decided to make an old-fashioned pork pot roast the way my grandmother used to. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and browned it on all sides. Then I sautéed lot of onions and garlic and put it all in a covered baking dish with a little water. Three hours later it was pull apart tender and the resulting juices made the amazing pork gravy I remember from my youth.
That gravy needed a good vehicle, so I served mashed potatoes and cauliflower. The kids all loved the slightly sweet taste the addition of cauliflower added. A green salad fulfilled our veggie needs quite nicely.
Despite the lovely weather over the weekend, I was in full baking mode. I made a wonderfully moist cornbread in a cast iron skillet and brownie sundaes for dessert.
Brownie sundaes were an unusual choice for me, but the idea arose out of a challenge. I’ve been working on creating the perfect moist brownie this month because my daughters didn’t think a homemade brownie could beat a box mix in terms of moistness. This recipe turned that myth on its head.
I also wanted to try a cool trick I saw online to make brownie cups by filling a muffin tin hallway with brownie batter and then placing a well-greased second muffin tin on top so the brownie baked into a cup. That experiment was not successful. The end result was little brownie discs that tasted great but looked pretty dismal.
While Lilia dazzled everyone with her awesomeness in the living room, I whipped up some homemade hot fudge and whipped cream in the kitchen. This is a decadent recipe, but every once in a while decadence is just what you need. Of course, Julie couldn’t resist sending a photo of it to her sister Melissa to tease her about what she was missing while she vacations in Florida. With that in mind, I suspect I will be making these again soon.
In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate, stirring frequently. When melted, add vanilla extract and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs on high for 10 minutes until light and very creamy. Remove bowl from mixer. Add chocolate mixture and stir to blend. Add flour and stir by hand only long enough to blend it in.
Pour brownie batter in a well-greased 9 by 9 square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. When brownies have cooled slightly, cut into squares.
Place chocolate chips in a medium bowl.
Place water, sugar, butter and corn syrup in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and boil hard, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes.
Pour hot liquid over the chips and whisk until chips are fully melted.
Place a small but tall mixing bowl, the beaters from an electric mixer and whipping cream in the freezer for five minutes to thoroughly chill
Pour whipping cream into the mixing bowl and beat on high with an electric mixer.
Pour whipping cream into the mixing bowl and beat on high with an electric mixer.
Beat about two minutes until soft peaks form.
Place a brownie square on a plate. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Top with a drizzle of hot fudge and a dollop of whipped cream.
We love cooking for a crowd, so pretty much every weekend we invite as many of our clan over for dinner as possible. But we also cook for other crowds on a regular basis because we believe that all people deserve good food.
This month marks the one year anniversary of the Northside United Methodist Church’s Community Dinner. The dinners were the brainchild of Kate LaCroix, the former assistant to the pastor at our church. She is still the heart of what we do.
Kate started an outreach committee at our church with the intent to feed people’s bodies and souls. It has been a very successful venture. On the third Tuesday every month from 5 to 6:30 p.m., we serve dinner to anyone who walks in the door. The dinners are open to the public and most of the people who show up are not members of our church.
Even though the dinners are free, there is a basket for a free will offering. That money is used to pay for the food for the following month’s dinner as well as the other food ministries we do each month, such a serve dinner at the Champ Homes in Hyannis and make soup, sandwiches and cookies for the Salvation Army’s Miracle Kitchen. We recently added the Faith Miracle Kitchen, sponsored by the Cape Cod Council of Churches, to our repertoire once a month and have become “the chili church” for that ministry that serves 200 dinners to those in need in Hyannis three nights a week.
We are by no means the only church participating in the Faith Miracle Kitchen. Since the ministry began in April 2012, about 18 different churches have volunteered to help out, including Cape Cod Covenant Church in Brewster, Brewster Baptist Church and Faith Assembly of God in Hyannis, where the dinners are actually served.
It is truly rewarding work to feed so many people each month. In the past year we have served about 1,500 people at the various venues. Each month our committee meets to decide what we will serve each group and who will be in charge of what food.
At last month’s Community Dinner we served pancakes, sausages and fruit salad in honor of Mardi gras. Breakfast for dinner was amazingly popular with both young and old. In keeping with a holiday theme, this month we decided to serve Guinness beef stew with a nod towards St. Patrick’s Day.
Since you never want to experiment with a recipe on the day you serve it to others, I decided to cook it for us at home over the weekend. I had a package of stew beef we bought from Seawind Meadows Farm at the Orleans Winter Farmers’ Market.
Our usual beef stew recipe is a bit fussy. It’s made with lots of red wine and we roast pearl onions and baby bella mushrooms separately in the oven to layer in extra flavor. We usually serve it over mashed potatoes.
For this stew, I wanted something more old-fashioned, but also simpler to make. Simpler doesn’t have to mean less flavor, so I began with some diced bacon, because everything tastes better with bacon.
The Kitchen Genius has cooked mashed potatoes for over 100 people before, but for this stew we decided to cook the potatoes right in the stew with the carrots. We chose Yukon gold potatoes for their creamy flavor and their beautiful color.
The resulting stew was a winning recipe. Red wine creates gravy that is quite rich in flavor. Swapping in Guinness created a whole different flavor profile: earthy, deep and delicious. This is a recipe I will be making again.
If you want to try this stew without cooking it yourself, you are more than welcome to come to the Community Dinner at Northside United Methodist Church on Tuesday night. KG will be in the kitchen keeping the food rolling. Even though I won’t be there this month because I have a prior obligation that evening, you will be in wonderful hands with the amazing crew that shows up every month to serve.
4mediumYukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat and cook diced bacon until crisp and fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon transfer bacon to a bowl.
Pat stew beef dry with paper towels and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Turn burner up to medium high and sear beef in two batches (you don’t want to overcrowd the beef or it won’t brown) until it is lightly browned on both sides. Remove beef and add to bowl with bacon. Turn burner back down to medium and add the onions and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes until tender and caramelized. Add garlic and cook for 1 additional minute, until fragrant.
Pour Guinness into the pot and stir well, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom. Add beef stock, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, beef and bacon. Cover and simmer until beef is tender, about an hour and a half.
Add carrots and potatoes and cook uncovered until tender, about 30 minutes. Bring to a boil and add peas. Combine cold water and flour in a gravy shaker (or whisk in a small bowl until there are no lumps). Add flour mixture to stew to thicken gravy. Cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes to cook flour.