April 2, 2013

Cooking with my Rival Crock Pot

Cooking with my Rival Crock Pot

I’m getting ready to leave on a month-long adventure.  I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks tying up loose ends and making preparations.  This involved eating up some of the food in my freezer and pantry — a flurry of rhubarb pie baking to use up the last of the frozen rhubarb.  And cooking chicken in my crock pot with nine cloves of garlic, knowing that if it sat around for a month, the garlic would be old when I returned.

Stack of recently read books

Stack of recently read books

I hauled out the lawn mower and gave the yard its first shearing of the year.  Always something of a milestone for the year.

One of the more pleasurable preparatory tasks involved managing my library account — suspending my list of holds so that my reserved items would not come in while I am away.  And hastily reading the stack of books currently checked out.  There were some good books there —

  • Susan Wittig Albert’s journal from 2008 called An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days (I love that title)
  • Gretel Ehrlich’s book about traveling in Japan in the year following the devastating tsunami called Facing the Wave:  A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami (in which she stands as witness to the heartbreaking and excruciating pain of loss and the unexpected joys of survival)
  • Mary Coin by Marisa Silver, a fictionalized story about the lives of Dorothea Lange and the migrant mother in Lange’s famous WPA photo.
  • Eighty Days: Nelly Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman about two young women, journalists and single, who in  1889 – 90 travel around the world by steamship and train in an effort to match or beat Jules Verne’s ’round the world in 80 days.  One woman travels east, the other west, and both beat the fictional travel record set by Verne’s hero.
  • Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd, one of the best books about writing that I’ve read in a long time.  Kidder and his editor Todd have around 40 years of experience crafting nonfiction books and articles, so they are worth listening to.  If I ever were to write more seriously, I would write nonfiction, so I found this book very inspiring.

I expect that I will write more about my adventures when I am back home, but while I am away for the next month I plan to take a (needed) break from writing new posts for my blog.  I will not be leaving you in the lurch, however.  Starting tomorrow (April 3rd), my blog posts will feature a new project, which will unfold in serial fashion over the next 30 days.  So please do continue to check in daily.  And although I am taking a break from posting and writing, I will be reading Comments from the road.  Your comments will keep me from getting homesick, so write (often).

Take care.

Can of Guinness Draught in honor of St. Patrick's Day

I’m not Irish, but this year I wanted to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with food.  So I searched the internet and found a recipe for Corned Beef  with Guinness beer and Irish soda bread made in a cast iron skillet.  Both were delicious, and I’m sure I’ll make them again.

I made my corned beef in a crock pot set at high for 6 hours, and it turned out moist and tender.  Here is the link to the original recipe:, but I’ve copied it below for your convenience.  There were some helpful comments at allrecipes from other cooks who used crock pots, so you might want to read them before you start.

Guinness® Corned Beef


  • 4 pounds corned beef brisket
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle Irish stout beer (e.g. Guinness®)


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Rinse the beef completely and pat dry.
  2. Place the brisket on rack in a roasting pan or Dutch oven. Rub the brown sugar on the corned beef to coat entire beef, including the bottom. Pour the bottle of stout beer around, and gently over the beef to wet the sugar.
  3. Cover, and place in preheated oven. Bake for 2 1/2 hours. Allow to rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Corned beef in the crock pot with Guinness

I added carrots, onions, and cabbage for the final 2 hours in the crock pot.

I found the recipe for Skillet Irish Soda Bread at smittenkitchen (you can link here: I didn’t have enough buttermilk, so I added Guinness to make up the shortfall, and my bread turned out wonderful.  Here is the original recipe, copied from smittenkitchen:

Skillet Irish Soda Bread

Yield: 1 10-inch loaf.

Butter for greasing pan plus 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 cups raisins or currants
1 tablespoon caraway seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10-inch oven-proof skillet and line with parchment or waxed paper.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined. Do not over mix  . Stir in the raisins or currants and caraway seeds.

3. Pour batter into skillet. Brush top with remaining butter. Bake until golden and firm to touch, about 1 hour. Cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Skillet Irish Soda Bread