This is a post from NF Rebel Chef Noel.
Hey Rebels! It’s been a while since we sat around the slow cooker and told harrowing tales of brave knights and powerful wizards.
(What? Do you not do that when you use a crock pot?!)
I think it’s just about time we had another slow cooking adventure, don’t you? The weather’s getting pretty chilly, at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere, so a low-maintenance beef stew will do just the trick.
Coming home to a ready-to-eat dinner is one of the best feelings (and smells) in the world, like finding a treasure chest in a dark, dingy dungeon.
This recipe comes with two choose your own adventure options.
- The first is a super easy chop, set, and forget recipe that takes about 15 minutes of active cooking time.
- The second option is a little more complex and takes about 25 minutes active cooking time.
Both recipes make an awesomely delicious crock of beef stew that will warm the weariest of warriors from the inside out. Plus, the recipe makes a decent amount of food so you can feed a group of people, yourself for several days, or you can freeze and warm it as needed!
Let’s get cookin’!
A quick note before we dig into this recipe.
This might look like a lot of ingredients, but don’t get overwhelmed! This is a Level 1 recipe!
The longest/most difficult part of the recipe is going to be gathering all your ingredients, I promise! All we’re doing is chopping them and tossing them into a crock pot. Boom. Done. Easy peasy!
2 Sweet potatoes
1 lb (.45 Kg) stew beef – This comes in packages pictured above. They packages will be labeled as “lean stew beef” or “extra lean beef stew meat.” This is pretty much meat that’s already chopped up into squares for us. Yay!
10 – 12 Mushrooms – If you can buy mushrooms in bulk where you shop, that’s best option for freshness. If you have to buy a pre-packaged bunch, no sweat! Just make sure the ‘shrooms don’t look slimy or smell weird/fishy. (It’s okay to be “that guy” in the grocery store who smells all your food!) If you hate mushrooms, omit this entirely!
1 Yellow onion – The type of onion doesn’t matter here. Buy your favorite! My favorite type of onion is whichever one is on sale at the time.
1 Box (32 oz or .95 L) chicken, beef, or vegetable stock – All types of stock are fine for this recipe. Legend has it that chicken stock gives stews the best flavor. Keep it simple, but be sure to read the labels and get one that doesn’t contain MSG or any weird chemicals in it.
2 Cups (236 ml) water – to cover the veggies in the pot with liquid
3 Tbsp (45 ml) tomato paste – This is most easily found in little cans, but it’s also sold in jars or tubes.
1 Tbsp (15 ml) dry thyme – Dried spices are totally cool, people!
6 Cloves or 1.5 tsp (7 ml) pre-minced garlic – Purists will tell you that pre-chopped garlic is a sin, but my mom bought some in bulk and gave me a ton, so that’s what I’ll be using! (Hi mom! Thanks for the garlic!)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil or ghee
Salt & pepper to taste – You may want to salt your stew AFTER it’s cooked and you’ve tasted it. Some store bought broths are more salty than others.
3 Tbsp (45 ml) worchestershire sauce – I was lucky enough to find one that is organic and low sugar!
3 Tbsp (45 ml) coconut aminos – An alternative to soy sauce that can add some interesting flavors.
1/8 Cup (30 ml) arrow root powder – if you want to thicken your stew. The recipe without arrow root powder has a pretty light broth. I’m cool with it.
1/2 Cup (118 ml) red wine – This will add some more flavor to your stew, but it will also make it not paleo. It’s your call and your stew. The power is YOURS!
- Knife – for choppin’
- Cutting board – for choppin’
- Crock pot – for cookin’ (Don’t have one? Here’s a great option!)
- Spoons and cups – for measurin’
- A spoon – for mixin’
- Frying pan & spatula – optional for the brown’ step
1. Wash and peel the sweet potatoes and the carrots.
2. Chop the carrots into medallions and cut the sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch – 1 inch cubes. Bigger is better when cooking veggies in the slow cooker. The bigger they are, the longer they take to cook, and since you’re cooking this stew for 8-10 hours, that’s a GOOD thing!
3. Dice your onion. (Refer to the shepherd’s pie post for instructions!)
4. Chop all of your mushrooms in half with the skill of a samurai.
Choose your own adventure!
If you have a limited amount of time or limited patience for cooking, skip to step 10.
Howevah! If you have more time and want to add some depth of flavor to this dish, proceed directly below to step 5.
5. Heat some oil in a frying pan. Oils with high smoke points will work best as you want your pan to be pretty darn hot to sear the meat. Ghee, duck fat, or light/refined olive oil are decent Paleo options. Refer to the list in the smoke point link for even more choices!
6. When the oil is hot, place your beef in the pan and let it sear (brown) on each side for 3-4 minutes. We don’t want it to cook all the way through. We just want it to brown on the outside. Why do we do this? That browning on the meat is something called a Maillard reaction. It adds depth of flavor and deliciousness to your dish.
When the meat has browned, transfer it to your slow cooker.
7. Next, we’ll sear the carrots and onions. Let the pan heat up again with some oil in it. Add the carrots and onions to the pan and let them brown for a couple of minutes. Stir them a couple of times so that they brown sufficiently on all sides.
If you are impatient and don’t let the pan heat up enough before throwing on your veggies, they may look like the below picture. So, let the pan heat up enough first to get that nice sear!
8. Now throw your seared veggies in the crock pot with the beef.
9. Take your pan off the heat. Pour 1/2 cup of your broth/stock into the warm pan and use a spatula or whisk to mix it around. This is called deglazing the pan (the bits of flavor that stuck to the pan when you were searing your meat and veggies is called “fond”). This will steam a lot, but don’t worry about it. Scrape all that stuff from the bottom of the pan. That’s the flavor. Get it.
Once you feel like you’ve gotten the bulk of the stuff suspended in the liquid, pour that liquid into the slow cooker along with everything else.
10. Add the mushrooms and sweet potatoes to the crock pot.
11. Now pour the remaining stock from the box into your slow cooker.
12. Add the tomato paste and thyme.
13. Add a couple more cups of water to cover the veggies and mix everything up well.
14. Place the lid on the slow cooker, set on low, and cook 8-10 hours! Your house will fill with irresistible mouthwatering smells as this cooks!
Set and forget!
Someone recently told me that they didn’t believe crock pot or slow cooking counts as real cooking.
I DEFINITELY disagree. Slow cooker recipes are some of my absolute favorites. They make incredibly tasty dishes with very little work. Plus, you have so many options to customize your meal. Here are just a few ways to customize this meal:
- If you want to add more veggies to your stew, consider other hearty root vegetables like rutabagas and turnips – or even celery!
- Love spinach, leafy greens, peas, or other veggies? Add them to the stew too! Just wait until it’s about half way done before throwing these in the pot. This will keep them from getting too soft and mushy. These types of veggies aren’t as sturdy and won’t stand up to slow cooking for long periods of time very well.
- Are you vegetarian? To make a hearty vegetarian stew, use vegetable stock instead of beef or chicken, and more veggies and maybe even a can of diced tomatoes.
Depending on the size of your crock pot, they can make a TON of food for the week! As long as you are willing to plan ahead and have the patience to wait a few hours for your meal, slow cooking can be super rewarding. And it is TOTALLY cooking!
So, what are your favorite stew/soup ingredients?
Have you tried crock pot cooking? How do you feel about it?
Beef stew is the last recipe of the year for Nerd Fitness! What progress have you made in your cooking this year?
Are you looking forward to improving your skills in 2015? Share your triumphs and new goals in the comments!
PS: We’ve been adding these recipes and a few dozen more to our Nerd Fitness Academy, which has recipes, meal plans, workout plans, and the ability to complete quests and missions and level up as you get healthier. Check it out!
Photos by: Ocarina of time: Vizzed.com
- 2 Sweet potatoes
- 4 Carrots
- 1 lb (.45 Kg) stew beef
- 10 – 12 Mushrooms
- 1 Yellow onion
- 1 Box (32 oz or .95 L) chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
- 2 Cups (236 ml) water
- 3 Tbsp (45 ml) tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp (15 ml) dry thyme
- 6 Cloves or 1.5 tsp (7 ml) pre-minced garlic
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) refined olive oil or ghee
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Optional additions:
- 3 Tbsp (45 ml) worchestershire sauce
- 3 Tbsp (45 ml) coconut aminos
- 1/8 Cup (30 ml) arrow root powder
- 1/2 Cup (118 ml) red wine
- Wash and peel the sweet potatoes and the carrots.
- Chop the carrots into medallions and cut the sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch – 1 inch cubes.
- Dice your onion.
- Chop all of your mushrooms in half with the skill of a samurai.
- Choose your own adventure. For a level 1 recipe, skip to step 10. For a leveled up recipe, continue to step 5: Heat some oil in a frying pan.
- When the oil is hot, place your beef in the pan and let it sear (brown) on each side for 3-4 minutes. When the meat has browned, transfer it to your slow cooker.
- Next, we’ll sear the carrots and onions. Let the pan heat up again with some oil in it. Add the carrots and onions to the pan and let them brown for a couple of minutes.
- Now throw your seared veggies in the crock pot with the beef.
- Take your pan off the heat. Pour 1/2 cup of your broth/stock into the warm pan and use a spatula or whisk to mix it around. Once you feel like you’ve gotten the bulk of the stuff suspended in the liquid, pour that liquid into the slow cooker along with everything else.
- Add the mushrooms and sweet potatoes to the crock pot.
- Now pour the remaining stock from the box into your slow cooker.
- Add the tomato paste and thyme.
- Add a couple more cups of water to cover the veggies and mix everything up well.
- Place the lid on the slow cooker, set on low, and cook 8-10 hours!