Irish Stew with Guinness, Beef, and other Yummy Goodness

Last month I took a wonderful week-long trip to Ireland. While many people look forward to seeing the sights, I may be the only person to ever look forward to Irish food. In a perfect world where calories don’t matter, pub grub would be my main food group. While in Ireland, I ate an abundance of fish and chips, mashed peas, shepherd’s pie, and Irish stew while I listened to musicians play traditional Irish music in cozy little pubs – of course, all paired perfectly with a rich, delicious pint of Guinness. As the trip came to an end, so did my lavish eating of hearty, tasty pub grub. But with St. Patrick’s Day only two days away, I’m bringing it back for the special occasion.

You may think I’m crazy and think that Irish food is bland, but I will prove otherwise. This Irish stew has an amazing depth of flavor, layered with the smokey, chocolatey Guinness, fruity red wine, earthy thyme, spicy garlic, and sweet onion and carrot. Of course, you couldn’t have a hearty Irish stew without potatoes. It takes a little bit of time and love, but this dish is really easy to make. Whether you’re Irish or not, throw it on the stove this Sunday and celebrate the holiday.

Delicious, hearty goodness.

Delicious, hearty goodness.

What you’ll need:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 teaspoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
6 cups beef broth
1 cup of Guinness
1 cup of red wine
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
1 large onion, chopped
5 carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons parsley (optional)

What you’ll have to do:

Find the biggest pot or Dutch oven you have, at least 5 quarts. Heat the pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Salt the beef and add to the pot. Spread them out as much as you so that they make up one layer. Brown the meat on one side for about 3 minutes and then use tongs to turn the pieces over to brown on the other side. Continue cooking in this manner until all sides are browned.

If the pot is crowded (like mine), turn the heat up to high and cook for a shorter amount of time so the meat browns, not steams.

If the pot is crowded (like mine), turn the heat up to high and cook for a shorter amount of time so the meat browns, not steams.

Add garlic to the beef and saute for one minute. Add the beef broth, Guinness, red wine, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaves. Stir the mixture to combine. Bring it to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.

This looks super brothy, but it will cook down while it simmers a bit. The potatoes also thicken it up later.

This looks super brothy, but it will cook down while it simmers a bit. The potatoes also thicken it up later.

**You only need one cup of Guinness, so enjoy the rest while you’re cooking!

While the meat and stock are simmering, put another large pan or pot over medium heat and melt your butter. While the pot heats, peel and chop your potatoes.  Add your potatoes to the pan in batches as you chop them. Turn the potatoes in the pan every few minutes to evenly cook them. As soon as you get the potatoes in the pan, start on the carrots. Peel and chop your carrots and fold them into the potatoes so the mixture can evenly cook. Once the carrots are in, chop the onion and add it to the mixture. Let the potato, carrot, and onion mixture cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes or until soft.

Use a much bigger pan than I did! Turn the veggies over constantly so that they evenly cook.

Use a much bigger pan than I did! Turn the veggies over constantly so that they evenly cook.

**I like to get the potatoes in the pan as early as possible. If there’s one thing I hate more than anything else, it’s an undercooked potato.

After the beef and stock have simmered for one hour, add the vegetables to the stew. Simmer uncovered until the vegetables and beef are very tender, or for about 40 minutes. If the stew looks really thin or watery when you first add the vegetables, have no fear – the starch from the potatoes thickens it up. Add salt and pepper to taste, and top with parsley for a pop of color.

Enjoy!

If you’re looking for other fun St. Patrick’s Day recipes, try my Sweet Potato and Turkey Chili Shepherd’s Pie or my Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes!

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Skinny Scalloped Potato Gratin

White potatoes don’t have to be super sinful, and Thanksgiving is bad enough with all the other starches and sweets. So this year I wanted to take a healthy twist on the traditional Thanksgiving mashed potatoes. And since I was already making a version of mashed sweet potatoes, I wanted to change it up with scalloped potatoes. I found this healthy recipe on another cooking blog I follow, and it looked so tasty I had to try it.

Potatoes are my ultimate comfort food, and these are dripping with gooey sharp cheddar cheese and spiced with fresh thyme. You would never guess that it’s on the lighter side of the menu! This potato dish is sure to become a Thanksgiving staple in my family.

Yes, it is as delicious as it looks.

Yes, it is as delicious as it looks.

What you’ll need:

6 medium yukon gold potatoes
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup fat free milk
1 bay leaf
pinch nutmeg
2 teaspoons fresh thyme

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray an 11×7″ baking dish with cooking spray.

Peel your potatoes, then slice them as thinly as you can get them – aim for 1/8 inch thick.

In a large bowl, combine potatoes, butter, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

Use a large sharp knife to cut the potatoes. If you have a good mandolin, you can use that instead to make thin slices.

Use a large sharp knife to cut the potatoes. If you have a good mandolin, you can use that instead to make thin slices.

Arrange half of the potato slices in the baking dish, then top with 1/3 cup cheese. Add the remaining potatoes.

In a small saucepan, bring milk, thyme, bay leaf, and nutmeg to a boil. Pour over potatoes. Top the potatoes with the remaining cheese and bake uncovered for about 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Potatoes drenched in milk mixture before I added the cheese.

Potatoes drenched in milk mixture before I added the cheese.

Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Chips

I love carbs. A meal doesn’t feel complete without a protein, veggie, and starch. But carbs and starches can be the worst calorie offenders of the meal, offering empty calories and a sugar crash that makes you feel hungry sooner. But I crave carbs with my meals, so I’ve had to figure out how to enjoy my favorite carb-goodness while filling myself with healthier foods. Sweet potatoes are a more nutritious starch swap that’s just as satisfying as that hunk of bread or giant scoop of white rice.

One of my favorite sweet potato recipes is my sweet potato chips. They’re kind of a hybrid between sweet potato fries and the crispy potato chips you’re used to. So instead of having soggy fries (because I bake them) or by painstakingly slicing them on a mandolin for thinner chips, I just slice them with my knife, throw them on a baking sheet, spray with cooking spray, and bake. What you’re left with is a super healthy, crispy-on-the-outside and softer-on-the-inside, flavorful side dish.

I served my sweet potato chips with my citrusy kale salad and basic lemon chicken. You’d never guess that such a delicious dish was so healthy!

What you’ll need (makes 2 servings):
1 sweet potato
Salt and pepper

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and then spray with cooking spray.

Slice your potato in thin circles and layer them on your baking sheet. Once all your potatoes are sliced and on your baking sheet, spray them with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Sliced and ready to go in the oven. You can see that my slices are thin enough to qualify as chips, but not so thin that they’re a pain to cut!

Bake for about 20-25 minutes (you’ll know they’re done when they’re golden brown around the edges).

You can see that they’re just barely brown on the outside. If you flip them over, you’ll see that the other side is much darker. These actually look better if you flip them halfway through the cook time, but in the essence of simplicity, I don’t flip them. They still taste just as good!

Simple as that! They’re great to pop in the oven before you start cooking chicken or make a salad.

For those of you who are interested, let’s break down the nutrition. In a head-to-head comparison of white potatoes versus sweet potatoes, you’ll find that these two tubers seem very similar. In a 100-gram portion, the white potato has 92 calories, 21 grams of carbs, 2.3 grams of dietary fiber, and 2.3 g of protein. The same amount of sweet potato, on the other hand, has 90 calories, 21 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein.

The difference comes in the nutrients. Sweet potatoes have twice as much vitamin C as white potatoes, and sweet potatoes have 380% of the daily recommended value of vitamin A. Furthermore, sweet potatoes are loaded with antioxidants, they’re rich in beta-carotene, and vitamin E. Basically, you’re getting a lot more bang for your buck by swapping out the sweet potato without sacrificing flavor.

Sweet Potato and Turkey Chili Shepherd’s Pie

St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. I’m not sure if it’s because of my Irish heritage, if it’s because the city I live in gets so swept up in the holiday (they dye the river green, for goodness sake), or if it’s because I finally have an excuse to eat potatoes and drink beer all day without judgment. Either way, I always go all out. And St. Patrick’s Day wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day without some delicious shepherd’s pie.

This shepherd’s pie, however, is a little nontraditional. It’s actually a slightly healthier spin on the more conventional shepherd’s pie, which is loaded with white potatoes and lamb. Instead, I use the nutrient-loaded sweet potatoes and lean ground turkey. Not only that, but the depth of flavor in this dish is unbelievable. It’s spicy, sweet, creamy, crunchy, cheesy, and with a hint of citrus. It’s to die for.

Potatoes, chili, and cheese? It's comfort food in a pan.

What you’ll need:
4 large sweet potatoes
1 orange to zest
4 tablespoons margarine
1 cup sour cream (or you can use Greek yogurt)
2 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
1 large onion
1-2 chili peppers (depending on how spicy you like it) – I used 1 jalapeno
1 red bell pepper
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1 small 5 ounce can of tomato paste
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups shredded sharp yellow Chedder
Salt and pepper to taste

Get all your ingredients ready to go, because once you start you won't have much downtime with this dish!

What you’ll need to do:

Start by putting a large pot of water on the stove to boil and preheating your oven to 400 degrees. Then, peel your sweet potatoes and cut them into manageable cubes so they’ll cook faster (about 2 inches in diameter will do just fine). Once they’re cubed, get them in the pot of boiling water.

While the potatoes cook, put your ground turkey in a very large pan sprayed with cooking spray over high heat and break apart with a wooden spoon. Seriously, use the biggest pan you have or you’ll run out of room – I resorted to using my wok. While the turkey cooks, peal and chop your onions. Once your turkey is cooked through, add the chopped onions and turn over with the wooden spoon to mix.

While the turkey and onions are cooking, start chopping your peppers. Add your chopped peppers and the garlic to the turkey and onion. Then, stir in your spices – the chili powder, paprika, cumin, and coriander. Remember, when measuring your spices, one palmful equals one tablespoon! Lastly, add your chicken broth and tomato paste, and let it simmer on the stove until your potatoes are done (around 10 minutes or so).

This chili would be good even by itself. But paired with the creamy potatoes, it's phenomenal.

By now, your potatoes should be tender when poked with a fork (that’s how I know they’re done). Drain, and return to the hot pot or a large bowl to mix. Because I always love an excuse to play with kitchen gadgets, I use my electric hand mixer to mix the potatoes, margarine, sour cream, and orange zest (ooh! I get to use the zester too!).

If you don't have an electric mixer, good ol' elbow grease can do the trick, too. I like to leave my potatoes a little chunky for pops of sweet potato.

Prepare a 9×13″ pan by spraying with cooking spray. Then, smooth your potatoes on the bottom of the pan first. Follow by layering on the chili, and then top with the cheese.

I can barely wait to dig into this cheesy, potato-y wonderfulness.

Your shepherd’s pie is almost done! The last step is to pop the pan in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese bubbles. After that’s done, all that’s left is to scoop a giant heap onto your plate and dig in!

I must give credit to Rachael Ray, who inspired my version of this dish. So in her words, YUM-O!