In Need of a Little Comfort

So here are some things that have happened in the last three days:

1. Two days before we left Washington, our then-four-year-old was riding his bike and holding a stick and scratched a neighbors car. Through the paint, from front to back. Accident? You be the judge. Anyway, they just got the estimate to fix it. Ranges from $900 to $1400. Merry Christmas, you little hooligan.

2. I forgot my Costco card and didn’t realize it until I got there. The nice folks there finally found our member info and gave me a temporary pass. I used it to buy orange juice, among other things. When I was carrying the box with 4 half-gallon cartons into the house, one valve started leaking and dripped OJ through the garage, across the kitchen, down my pants leg, and onto my new pale tan suede Dansko clogs. Thank goodness for baby wipes.

3. I had two hours alone to go to the Scholastic Warehouse sale today. Finally. I got there, shopped for 10 minutes, and the fire alarm went off so we had to evacuate the building. No fire, but the firetrucks had to come verify, so we were out in our cars for about 30 minutes. Did some speed shopping afterward and got amazing deals, but still.

4. Dropped my favorite coffee mug and broke it on the way in from the car. The one that is ginormous and says “Keep Calm and Carry On.” There’s some irony for you.

Bear in mind this is but a small sample of my week. Thus, I need comfort food. My mom’s beef stew and pub bread, to be exact.

bread

First, the stew. This is an approximation, as my mom made it a little differently each time and so do I.

Beef Stew

2 lbs round steak, cut in 1” cubes
4 Tbsp flour, sprinkled on meat
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can beef broth
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Throw it all in a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. If you like your stew soupier, add another can of beef broth. Or anything else you like…it’s adaptable!

Pub Bread

This is great if you’re feeling the need to work out some aggression. Or knead, I should say. Start this about 3 hours before you want to serve it. It makes two loaves and freezes well, so it’s a great rainy or snowy day project. It’s really only about 20-25 minutes hands-on time, but the rising requires some patience!

1 bottle dark beer
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup butter (unsalted and softened)
1 package dry yeast ( 2 1/2 tsp)
1/3 cup very warm water
5-6 cups flour

In small saucepan, heat beer to boiling. In large bowl, combine oatmeal, salt, butter, molasses and hot beer. Let cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in water and add to oatmeal mixture. Stir to blend, then stir in flour, 2 cups at a time, stirring well after each addition.

Turn dough onto well-floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat entire surface. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft free place for about an hour, until doubled. I preheat my oven to 175, then turn it off before starting the dough. Then I set my bowl in there to rise.

Punch dough down, shape into loaves, and place in 2 ungreased loaf pans. Cover and again let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 (remove the loaves if they’re rising in there!). Bake 30-45 minutes, until loaves sound hollow when tapped on top and the sides start to pull away from the pan. Remove from oven and cool in pans 10 minutes, then remove from pans and let cool on a wire rack.

Smother it with butter while a little warm and enjoy!

I’ve also shaped this into rolls and baked them to cut down on cooking time. They were yummy.

I hope you’re not in need of comfort, but if you are, this is a great meal!

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