Wednesday, August 6, 2014

How-to: Make a Basic Stew

I grew up with two southern grandmothers, both of which taught me some basics of country cooking.  I have a fantastic recipe from my maternal grandmother that grew up on Montgomer, Alabama for Chicken and Dumplings, which may be included in another meal plan post later on :)

What I wasn't taught as a young'un, I have since taught myself through research and with help from the Internet (and Pinterest, oh how I love Pinterest).  This has been more of a passion of mine in recent years with my health transformation, because I've also been trying to "get back to my roots" and live as sustainable a life as possible.

There are some basic things that all people should know when it comes to food.  How to make a good bone broth, which is one of most nutrient dense things we can consume for our bodies, and how to make a good basic stew.

If you have never made your own bone broth before, it is very simple and easy to store for when you want to throw together a quick stew.   This is my method:

Crystal Groves' Bodacious Bone Broth

Ingredients for Bone Broth:
About 2 pounds of bones, marrow preferred
Vegetable scraps from the week
Apple Cider Vinegar

I don't measure exactly any of this, but the general idea is this:

- Put 2 pounds of bones in the crockpot
- Fill crockpot with water
- Add any vegetable scraps from the week, or even during the cooking process if you make dinner and have bits of onion, zucchinni or potatoes to discard.
- Add some spices like garlic, onion, all-purpose seasoning, cumin
- Add about a tablespoon or two of vinegar to help leech the nutrients out of the bones
- Let all this stew for a week in the crock-pot. (yes, a week!)
- Every two days empty out the "broth" and put it in quart sized bags (labeled so you know what bone broth you are cooking) and refill the crock-pot full of water.

After about a week I figure I've gotten everything I can get out of the bones, so I throw them out.  A good way to judge this is if they feel rubbery then they are probably done.  The longer you let the broth sit in the pot (instead of emptying out every 2 days) the darker and more rich your broth will be, but also the less you will have.

I like to keep broth of every type of meat in my freezer if I can so I know what flavors are going into my stews.  Chicken (if I roast a whole chicken I save the broth and put the carcass in the crockpot with the broth to simmer down some more), Pork, Beef, Lamb, even Fish-head broth for fish stew are all labeled neatly and thrown in the freezer for later use :)

A good bone broth becomes the starting point for a good stew.

This recipe is intended to be a guideline for you to create any type of stew that you want.  You can mix and match any type of meat, veggie, broth, or spices and come out with a glorious, nutrient-rich, easy stew that will provide you with not only health benefits, but excess stew to store for lunches or dinners later on.  It's a complete time-saver, and it's something I cook literally almost every week in different forms.

Basic Slow Cooker Stew Master Recipe

A basic beef stew
Basic Ingredients:

1-2 pounds of meat (frozen or fresh doesn't matter)
3-4 cups of veggies chopped into bite-size pieces
1 quart of broth
1 onion (whole or half, depending on preference)
1/2 bulb of garlic (adjust depending on how much you love garlic), or just a tbsp of garlic powder
1/4 cup of varied spices (ideas: cumin, red pepper flakes, all-purpose seasoning, thyme, cayenne pepper)
A tbsp of sea salt
A tsp of black pepper
(Optional) 2 cups of sauerkraut for extra flavor

Put all of this in a crock pot for approximately 6 hours on high, or 8 hours on low.  Come home from work, pour in a bowl, kick up your feet, eat, and enjoy.

The combination of vegetables, meats, and spices doesn't really matter.  You can mix this up in so many different ways that you can create dozens of new meals, all while you're away for  the day, and then you can freeze the excess in quart Ziploc bags to re-heat and eat during the week.  This is a very basic but very delicious guideline for creating some great stews, and it doesn't take a lot of work or know-how to do.

Note: I use sweet potatoes instead of red or white potatoes because I have a skin condition that is susceptible to nightshades.

Experiment with your recipes.  Try some lamb shanks with rosemary instead!

A couple of my absolute favorite stews are:

Basic Beef Stew

2 pounds of stew meat, grassfed
2 medium sized sweet potatoes, chopped or 1 large sweet potato and half a head of cauliflower
1 quart beef bone broth
1/2 onion, chopped
1 sweet pepper, deseeded and chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, deseeded and chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
2 cups of sauerkraut
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp all-purpose seasoning
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning

Cook on low for 8 hours in a crock-pot.

Glorious Ham-hocks and Green Beans

1 fresh or frozen ham-hock
1 pound of Canadian bacon (not traditional bacon)
1 quart pork bone broth
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 quart fresh green beans
1/2 onion
3-4 carrots, chopped
2 cups of sauerkraut
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp all-purpose seasoning
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning

Sit all night on low for 8 hours in a crock-pot.  The bacon and ham-hock infuse an amazing flavor into the green beans and sweet potatoes.  The meat will fall right off the bones and the bacon will pull apart with just a fork. Traditionally white potatoes are used in this recipe, and the flavor is to die for.  A sweet ambrosious death of pork and broth goodness.

Note: If a quart of bone broth doesn't look like it's enough, trust me it is, but it won't hurt to add more.

If you experiment with some combination stews, let me know in the comments.  I'd love to try out some new ideas!

To round things out, here is our week's dinner menu:

Monday: Moroccan chicken skewers with lemon
Tuesday: Ham-hocks and green beans stew
Wednesday: Chicken and Broccoli Casserole with Butternut Squash "cheese-less" sauce
Thursday: Rosemary Chicken with roasted mushrooms and a side of dill sweet potato fries
Friday: Hot Italian sausage with steamed broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower topped with BBQ sauce

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  1. This all sounds delicious! I need to do better about saving and using my veggie scraps.

  2. I love stew! I am excited for fall for this very reason. I have soup in the summer, but not as much since I am so hot all the time!

  3. I completely agree that learning to make broth is a basic cooking skill. I'm so glad you shared! I must say, I've never tried sweet potatoes in stew but I believe I will give it a try. You have great recipes. Thanks for sharing with us at The Yuck Stops Here #19. Please come back next week with more of your wonderful foodie posts.

    1. Thanks so much Shirley! Yes I love sweet potatoes in stew, they give it a slight sweetness but still that hearty starchy flavor that goes so well with the richness of the stew :)

  4. Thanks Crystal for sharing at Foodie Friends Friday!

  5. This looks so yummy! I have never tried making beef broth (only chicken) since I don't eat a lot of red meat with bones. Any suggestions of where to get bones from? Also, I have been trying to start up a weekly link party (What's Cooking Wednesday) that involves all things cooking and would love for you to link up! This week's party is still open. Hope to see you there!

    1. Hi Danielle,

      You can always ask your meat department at the grocery store if they save marrow bones for you. I get mine form a local butcher, they always have extra bones for sale!

  6. Stew season will be here before we know it and this will be a great recipe to use! Thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and have a great weekend!
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  7. Hi! I'm stopping by to let you know that I'm featuring this awesome post full of recipes and tips as one of my favorites on The Yuck Stops Here recipe link party next week! Come see it on Hot Momma's Kitchen Chaos and pick up your "I've Been Featured" button anytime after 8pm ET Tuesday evening! CONGRATULATIONS & HUGS

  8. Nothing says Fall more to me than a hearty stew. Looks delicious! I can smell it cooking, Yum! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  9. Such an important dish to have a foundation for. Pinned.

  10. Great recipe! Thank you for sharing this post at City of Creative Dream's City of Links last Friday! I appreciate you taking the time to party with me. Hope to see you again this week :)

  11. Fab nourishing and tasty recipe! Thanks for linking up to #tastytuesdays

  12. This looks great! I love stew especially when the fall comes and the weather starts to change...thansk so much for sharing it with us at the Mommy Monday Blog Hop!

  13. Delicious stew, thanks for sharing with Hearth and Soul blog hop. Pinning.

  14. I love using my slow cooker for stew.....definitely happening for tomorrow's dinner. Thanks for the recipe, love trying new versions of a hearty classic!