It’s time for another theme week at DinnerCakes! From time to time we like to devote a week to a particular style or genre of cooking, a holiday or anything really that strikes our fancy. Past theme weeks include Rainbow Week, Halloween Week and Smoothie Week. Welcome to Slow Cooker (ie Crockpot) week!
When I say slow cooker, do visions of fatty, salty stews pop into your head? Slow cooker meals can be unhealthy when all you’re doing is opening a bunch of canned food into the pot and letting it simmer. Canned food contains a great deal of sodium, which is great to keep it fresher in the can… but not so great for your heart, blood pressure, etc.
So the trick is to use fresh ingredients when possible (watch the canned food), add spices and seasonings liberally (but create your own flavors instead of relying on flavor packets and premade seasonings) and get creative!
I’m starting out the week with the cliched beef stew, but I jazzed it up a little bit. Instead of adding russet potatoes, I used two sweet potatoes that I had in the kitchen, emphasizing the savory and sweet flavors of a stew. I also relied more on veggies than beef, using only a handful of leftover cubed beef that I had from my fondue experiment. Lastly, I didn’t measure any seasonings that I added to the pot. I’m sorry, Julia Childs, but slow cooker meals simmer for hours in the added spices, and I think trying to be too precise about measuring it would lead to a bland stew. Trust your own hand!
Though I was grumbling while preparing the ingredients in the morning, it’s so nice to be able to just walk over to the slow cooker and spoon out dinner in the evening!
Approx. one pound of beef stew meat, cubed
Approx. 1/2 cup flour (for dusting the beef)
2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and diced
Approx. 5 whole carrots, peeled and diced
Approx. 4 whole celery hearts, diced
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 cup frozen peas
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
32 oz. low sodium beef broth
salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder (for sprinkling on beef)
salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, celery seed, paprika, thyme (to taste)
In the morning, prepare ingredients – season beef, cut carrots, celery, onion, potatoes, etc. Add vegetables to the bottom of the slow cooker.
Dredge beef cubes in flour. Heat a skillet on medium heat. Add cooking spray or a small amount of oil and lightly brown beef, then add to slow cooker. Add a small amount of beef broth to the pan and add onions. Saute until lightly browned, then add onions and deglazed beef broth to the slow cooker. Add all remaining ingredients and beef broth to the slow cooker. Toss to combine ingredients and spices.
Cook on low approximately 6-8 hours. If stew needs additional thickening, add more flour or cornstarch and stir. If this is the first time you’ve used your crock pot, try to monitor the cook time as cookers vary in temperature (mine tends to be on the hot side).