I once mentioned to a friend how nice warm stew on a chilly night was, and they replied “… almost as good as warm chili on a stewy night!”. Ha Ha
Well, Mother Nature seems to have tricked me and decided to bring back summer again. I really thought fall was here to stay, and now we’ seem to be hitting record highs for this time of year. It really is a little warm for my liking, but I won’t complain because I know what I have to look forward to just a few months from now (I promise not to utter that nasty 4-letter word for the fluffy white stuff).
In keeping with my idea that fall was in our midst, I set about making stew on the weekend. Can I share with you how much I love two things I use to make stew?
My Crockpot. I used to have one of those old 70’s crockpots that I bought second-hand at a yard sale. It worked well enough, but the metal sides got really hot and I always felt like I had to banish my crockpot to a big empty counter space, because it didn’t play well with others. A couple of years ago, I finally broke down and bought myself a nice new stainless and black oval Crockpot. I just love it! It looks nice out on the counter (where it stays, because it’s kind of too big and heavy to lug in and out of the kitchen cabinet), and it works great. The oval shape is nice for fitting bigger cuts of meat (like roasts or even a whole chicken). I especially like the digital countdown timer, and the fact that it automatically switches to “warm” mode once the cooking time is done. No more babysitting the crockpot!
Club House Slow Cookers Beef Stew Seasoning Mix. I am sure many of you may cringe at the thought of using a mix to make, well… anything. While we have made great strides in cooking from scratch this past year, there are just some things I haven’t given up yet. This is likely because I am either intimidated by what would be involved (using yeast for example), or I have just not been able to find an equivalent substitute. I have tried some beef stew recipes from scratch, and my “gravy” just never seems to turn out the way I’d hoped. This is where the Club House seasoning mix saves the day for me. It’s so easy to use, and my stew always tastes just the way I expect.
I forgot to take a picture of my stew, but just wanted to mention that I always use a pound of ground beef instead of stewing beef. It’s really easy, and a lot more economical. To be honest, I am actually shocked at how much they want for stewing beef these days. I always thought the beauty of the crockpot was the ability to use cheaper (i.e. less tender) cuts of meat, that would benefit by the slow cooking. Someone must have forgotten to tell that to the grocery stores!
I also really like to stretch this recipe by adding at least double the amount of veggies. On the package, they recommend 5 cups of diced vegetables (potatoes, carrots, celery and onion). This last time I used about 4 cups each carrots and potatoes and a cup of diced onions. I like to buy the small new or red skinned potatoes and leave the skins on. I only occasionally have celery in the house, so I skipped it this time. I added some extra water to the seasoning mix (maybe another 1/3 – 1/2 cup). Then, about 30 minutes before the stew was done, I tossed in 2 cups of thawed frozen green beans (I have used canned before too). Even with all the extra veggies, it seems to turn out fine.
Well, I’m off to have some warm stew on a (really) warm night….