I’ll get to the recipe in a minute but first I have an important announcement: I’ve given up coffee. Yes, you heard me, I, Sara Hendrickson, coffee drinker of nearly 15 years (and I’m only 27) is coffee-free going on 3 DAYS. I can’t believe I’m actually doing it but I must say that I feel excellent. I haven’t had any alcohol either and my goals are to stay off the coffee forever (tea instead–I’m doing the green tea thing now) and wait till I get to Paris on October 4th before I have any wine or other booze.If you’re wondering why: I’ve been feeling kind of “off” (digestive/skin/mood stuff) and having trouble getting a good night’s sleep for awhile now (thanks a lot, being a teacher/adult). But lately, probably because it’s summer, my sleep patterns have been ridiculous and I’ve been getting HEARTBURN. Seriously! So last week I was like “I’ve HAD IT with you, My Body. What do you want from me???” and, not surprisingly, it said, “stop giving me so much coffee, wine, and spicy junk food.” And I was like, “Ok, fine. You’re not 17 anymore I get it. Sorry for pissing you off.”
So for two days now (today is the third) I’ve been eating clean and haven’t had any alcohol or coffee. I have slept GREAT and feel pretty good during the day except for these random moments of intense grumpiness where I want to yell and shake my fist at everything. I’ve been really active, I want to go to bed earlier, and I naturally wake up earlier which is a relief because I feel like I’m starting to actually get stuff done during the day. (Raise your hand if you feel like not being productive is Enemy #1? Me too.)
Here’s hoping I can keep it up. I will definitely keep you posted. My hope is that with coffee and alcohol out of the mix it will be easier to have a healthier diet and lifestyle overall. We’re also on a pretty extreme budget so stay updated for $50/week meal planning and YouTube exercise video reviews! Lots of good stuff coming up here and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.
Now, the beef stew. I’ve been working on a good recipe for quite awhile and never could quite get the right balance of flavor. I’d put some meat and veggies in the crock pot with some broth and hope for the best, but what I got out of it was usually tough, dry meat and bland veggies in a thin broth. Highly disappointing, right? Then my husband’s grandmother gave me a subscription to Taste of Home magazine (amazing) and I found this gem–Stephanie’s Slow Cooker Stew Recipe–in a feature for how to use bay leaves. I don’t know who you are, Stephanie, but THANK YOU. Every time I’ve made it I’ve adjusted things a bit (initially it was VERY salty) but I’m continually blown away by how amazing it is: totally flavorful, tender meat, and non-mushy veggies. A total win all around.
Regarding the meat: if you eat meat, please consider looking for 100% grass-fed, humanely raised, organic beef! It’s better for you, the cows and the earth. Did you know that organic grass-fed beef is actually highly anti-inflammatory, and contains a lot of healthful omega fatty acids? I’m not saying eat it everyday but if and when you do it’s a great choice.
If you do not eat meat: I haven’t tried them but there are a number of things that I think you could use instead of meat for great results. The best would probably be a combo of mushrooms (I’d use crimini mushrooms, quartered) and either cubed seitan or tempeh. Tofu would, I think, get very crumbly. Or you could try just adding more veggies at the end with the green beans!
Here are my modifications:
- “Better Than Bouillon” instead of beef broth: cheaper, easier to store, tastes better in my opinion, and allows you more control over how salty the dish is.
- Organic tomato sauce instead of V8 juice: 1) it’s organic and 2) I think it’s less salty.
- Yukon Gold potatoes: Russets just disintegrate and get all mealy and gross.
- 3 celery ribs instead of 2: I just really love celery in stew!
- Omit salt, season to taste before serving: I just really don’t think it needs the extra salt.
- Added 3 cloves of smashed garlic: Because, why not? Garlic is amazing.
- Omit corn and peas: Nobody needs that extra starch. Plus, corn is kind of creepy these days.
- Added fresh green beans: from my garden! But you could use fresh from the store or frozen.
- Reduced the amount of cornstarch: You may be corn-skeptical like me. This is a good thing. However, the cornstarch in this recipe is pretty indispensable. I tried using tapioca starch and it was a gluey, gummy disaster. (Sad face.) The best I can do right now is to reduce the amount that was stated in the recipe.
If you’re like my husband and need something crunchy to offset all the softness of the stew, make some toast to go with it. Or a salad! Or both! Or, if you’re like me, just eat three bowls and fall asleep.
Crock Pot Beef Stew
Time commitment: 20 minutes hands on, 6-8 hours cooking
Makes: About 4 dinner servings
- 1 pound beef stew meat (100% organic, grass-fed, and humanely raised!) or vegetarian meat alternative
- 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
- 2 teaspoons Beef-flavored “Better Than Bouillon,” reconstituted in 2 cups of boiling water
- 1 14.5-ounce can tomato sauce
- 3 celery ribs, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- lots of fresh ground pepper (less if you’re not a pepper fan)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and halved, or frozen cut green beans
- salt and pepper
- Combine all ingredients EXCEPT cornstarch, water and green beans in your slow cooker. (Mine is 3 quarts. If yours is bigger I think that’s fine but smaller would be too small.) Cook covered on low for 6-8 hours.
- Once you’re home from work and the meat is tender, take out the bay leaves and throw them away. Combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl and stir till smooth then add to the crock pot. Add beans. Turn up to high and cook for about 15-30 minutes or until thickened to your liking. Serve and enjoy!