When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Slow-cooker beef and vegetable stew

The boys' swim practice schedule this year calls for us to eat dinner early three nights a week (and by early, I mean eating by 4:30 pm at the absolute latest.)  It's a little challenging some days to deal with school agendas and notes, unpacking lunch bags, making sure the boys complete their homework, and getting a healthy, home-cooked meal on the table in the hour and fifteen minutes I have once the boys get home from school.  This is where the slow cooker becomes a good friend in the kitchen.  At least once a week, I plan a meal that I can prepare in the morning when I'm not so rushed.  Once the prep work is done, dinner simmers away all day, making the house smell wonderfully inviting and allowing me to simply dish out a bowl of goodness once it's time for everyone to eat.

This beef and vegetable stew recipe is one of our family's favourite slow-cooker creations.  The combination of tender morsels of beef and flavourful vegetables is hearty, nutritious, and satisfying, and it warms everyone up on a chilly fall day.

Slow-Cooker Beef and Vegetable Stew

1 pound stewing beef, cut into one-inch cubes (I use pasture-raised beef we order every fall from a local organic farm) 
1 tbsp olive oil
4 red potatoes (unpeeled), scrubbed and cut into one-inch pieces
3 carrots, peeled and cut into one-inch pieces
half a red onion, chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper, chopped
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
1 cup water
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
sea salt and pepper, to taste
2 dried bay leaves
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Early in the day, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the beef cubes and brown them all over. 
While the meat is browing, chop the potatoes, carrots, onion, and bell pepper and place them in the slow cooker.  Add the minced clove of garlic.  Once the meat is browned, add the beef to the slow cooker as well.
Pour in the red wine, water, and balsamic vinegar.  Add sea salt and pepper to taste, and stir the mixture carefully to combine all of the ingredients.  Toss the bay leaves into the slow cooker, put the lid on, and simmer the mixture for 7 to 8 hours on low.  In the last half hour of cooking time, add the chopped fresh parsley to the slow cooker and stir it in gently.  Place the lid back on and cook for the remaining time.
Serve the stew in shallow bowls.  We like to enjoy ours with some crusty rolls (Will loves the little gluten-free ones we get from Organic Works Bakery) and a mixed green salad.

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