Slow Cooking, Fast Life

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Here is a favorite slow cooker meal I haven't made it in ages. But on Saturday I had a full day (I took a Christmas card calligraphy class) and knew I didn't want to cook when I came home. Daddy-O was helping cook chicken stew at the fire department all morning. His only request for supper was "not chicken." So beef, it was.

This recipe takes a little more prep than some of the other beef stews I've made—because it calls for coating the beef cubes in flour and browning them before adding to the slow cooker. Not hard, but it takes a few more minutes to prep and you've got one more pan to wash. BUT that step, combined with the herbs and seasonings, creates a delicious, rich gravy.

We ate this "as is." Other times, I have served it over rice. And on Saturday I wished we had a nice crusty bread to go with it. But the stew is full of vegetables, so we called it complete.

It was awfully nice to walk into the house mid-afternoon and be greeted with the aroma of supper cooking. It was a perfect supper for a cold damp evening. Start it at breakfast time, so it's ready for dinner.


2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 to 2 lb. beef stew meat
2 tablespoons cooking oil (or more as needed)
2 medium potatoes, peeled & cut into chunks
2 or 3 carrots, peeled & cut into chunks 
1 onion, peeled & cut into chunks
2 teaspoons instant beef bouillon granules
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram or basil, crushed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
2-1/2 cups V-8 juice

Place flour in a plastic bag. Add meat cubes and shake until meat is coated with flour. In a Dutch oven brown half of meat in 1 tablespoon of oil, turning to brown on all sides. Brown remaining meat in remaining oil. Drain off any excess oil.

In a 3-1/2 to 4 quart Crockpot, layer potatoes, carrots and onion. Add meat. Add all seasoning. Pour vegetable juice over all.

Cover and cook on LOW for 10-12 hours (or on HIGH for 5-6 hours) until meat and vegetables are tender.  Discard bay leaf.

Because this needs an early start, you need to make sure you have everything ready in the morning. I set out everything I needed the night before. If I were a working mom, I would have even scrubbed the potatoes so they could be cut up quickly. The carrots and onion can be peeled and cut the night before. Just put everything in a freezer ziplock bag. (The heavier freezer bag keeps the onion smell in the bag—and not in your refrigerator.) You can measure out the herbs. And I'm sure if you really need to speed things up, you could skip the flour and brown the meat part. You just will have an "au jus" instead of a thicker gravy.

If you want something simpler, take a look at this recipe for Simple Beef Stew. No browning called for and it's also very good.

The goal at the moment—my goal, at least—is to get from here to January with calm and goodwill intact. To keep at the front of my mind what is important and what can be chunked by the wayside. To remember why we celebrate.

But let's be honest. This is a busy time of year. And it is also the time of year for colds and flu and other bugs that are more prevalent in the winter. When life and the to-do list starts to overwhelm you, have a plan. A minute of focusing on this view from my kitchen door helps me center and find my inner peace. How do you find peace? What do you do to restore calm? What is your "peace plan?" Do you have a 60-second secret? Let's share here and all help each other.