Ye Olde Director of Poetry here.

This last year hasn’t found me in the kitchen all too often, which is a real shame. During grad school stress baking was a very real thing I would indulge in. Everyone around me gained weight. I enjoy the simplicity of following directions, of preparing the veggies, and, let’s be honest, of showing off. Ahem.

At any rate, I’m lucky enough to work for a publishing company that, though small, produces a lot of different types of books- notably for my nerdy little heart of late, a cookbook. A cookbook that, from the time I’ve spent browsing it (I wasn’t directly involved in the production of this item, mind, so I don’t know it backwards and forwards) is full of hearty, delicious, comfort foods. My favorites.

The super hot and also kitchen inclined boyfriend was coming down for a visit this week and I thought it might be nice to cook a meal together, on account of the fact that it’s something we enjoy doing. (Normal people go out to bars, I’m led to believe.) At any rate, I decided it would be a good time to try something from Astrid’s wonderful cookbook. That would be this one:

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The recipe I selected was the Beery Beef Stew from the second chapter of her book. I noticed right away that the ingredient list was easy to find, the directions were clear, and the candid tone of the presentation made it a pleasure to read.

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Off to the store I went to pick up some beef and veggies- as well as beer. Beer was important and possibly the main reason I settled on the recipe. (Look, I just discovered I liked beer this year. What more do you want of me?)

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True confession time- I have a bad habit of not always reading entirely closely through the directions before picking something to make. In this case, I was looking at it early enough in the day that it didn’t prove a problem- but this recipe needs to simmer for an hour and a half after the beef is browned and the beer added. (I also taste tested the beer by itself on the side, as one does.)

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To make sure we could eat before the wee hours of the morning, I just did all the cooking myself. I got precisely zero useful work done while the stew was simmering. I’d like to say I was distracted by how good it smelled- and it did smell good, even covered, but mostly I’ve been having a tough time finding my head with both hands this last year. Then, at the appointed time, I added the veggies and simmered for the appointed forty-five extra minutes. (Seriously, this recipe will take you a while.) Adding frozen peas is the last step, and then you wait another fifteen minutes. In this time, the gorgeous arrived and I was able to give him a precise time dinner would be ready.

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And it was. And let me tell you, while I’d already been optimistic about this recipe, it was even better than I’d hoped. The flavors blended together really well, the long cook time made the beef tender, the potatoes soaked up the sauce. It was great. And it made a lot, so I’ve been eating it since, and passing out leftovers to my bachelor father in a bid to secure myself as favorite offspring for all time. (Man cannot live by frozen dinners alone, I tell him. He seems to be trying to prove me wrong.)

While I can only speak from one experience using it so far, I’d say this is a pretty good cookbook. Fun to read and look through, easy to follow and understand, and the outcomes are excellent. I like cookbooks that allow simple recipes to be the focus- you don’t need to go to french cooking school to be a show off in the kitchen. Highly recommend.

Also, if you’ve tried this recipe and liked it, I will suggest from the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook the Beef Stew and Herb Dumpling recipe- my other favorite beef stew. Enjoy!

Pick up a copy of Astrid’s cookbook here!  I’m also going to recommend giving it as a holiday gift to those on your list who enjoy cooking.  This will only work out well for you as they experiment.