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January seems like the perfect month for stews. After a couple of months of festive and fancy foods, enjoying a good stew feels like returning home after a long trip. You may have enjoyed the traveling, but it feels so good to be back home with all that's familiar. Also, cold weather and snow drifts make it hard to argue with the ultimate in comfort food.
What makes stew an even more welcomed treat is how easy it is to prepare when you have a crockpot on hand. How can you argue with a meal that cooks itself while you are at work or play? All you need to do to make the recipe below -- and many others like it -- is coat the beef in flour and brown it, put it in the crockpot with the other ingredients and add water, mix and cover in the morning. Heck, you devote more effort to getting up in the morning!
The recipe featured here makes 8-10 servings, which is likely to be a bit much for most dinner tables out there. Never fear, for there is a reason that it makes so much. In addition to being very easy to make, this beef stew is also ideal for freezing. So make the entire amount, serve half for dinner and freeze the other half for another rushed weekday meal. Who says you can't save time in the middle of the week?
While this is truly a meal in itself, I like to serve it with crusty bread or, if I have a little time on my hands, roasted red potatoes. Add your favorite beverage and, if you're really hungry, a side salad and you've got a meal that's truly fit for any soul that's weary of fussy food.
3 T. olive oil -- I like to use garlic and rosemary-infused oil
1 medium onion -- chopped
4 carrots -- sliced
3 stalks celery -- sliced
2 cloves garlic -- minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
4 c. water
Dredge the meat in the flour and brown it evenly in the oil over medium-high heat. Transfer the meat to your crockpot liner. (If your crockpot does not have a removable liner, place the meat in a large sealable container.) Add the remaining ingredients, except for the water. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, add the water and stir. (Or transfer the ingredients to your crockpot and add the water and stir.) Cover and cook on the LOW setting for 10 to 12 hours or on the HIGH setting for 5 to 6 hours. Discard the bay leaves before serving.
Yields: 8-10 servings
Preparation Time: 15 minutes plus 5-12 hours unattended cooking time