I have to admit it. I’ve been disingenuous. Truth be told, I’ve made several slow cooker meals this winter and none of them have made it into a post. Why? Frankly, my slow cooker meals, as delicious as they are, are a bit blah when it comes to presentation. The long slow cooking dulls the coloring of some of the veggies and the final product doesn’t photograph well. So, I’ve been avoiding the posts. Then, as I was drafting this post and looking over last week’s meal plan and planning for this week, I decided it was time to fess up. The reality of my eating in definitely includes my slow cooker.
Another confession: I love my slow cooker. Back in the days when I was working 60, 70, 80 plus hours a week, the slow cooker was our savior. There are few things more comforting than returning home after a 12-hour workday to a house that smells warm and cozy from a stew that’s been simmering all day. I have more reasonable work hours now, but I still rely on it to make great soups and stews during the week, allowing me to work out after work instead of making dinner. Our slow cooker is the Hamilton Beach Set N’ Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker. I prep the meal the night before (usually this involves chopping up veggies and throwing it into the pot) and I place the entire ceramic pot into the fridge. In the morning, I take out the pot, set it in the cooker, and turn it on. The Set N’ Forget has two key features for me. First, it has an automatic-warm mode that allows you to program the cooking time and keeps the meal warm after the set cooking time. Second, it has a cool power interruption feature that keeps the cooker on during brief power outages. I suspect this feature has saved at least two meals that would have otherwise been ruined in strong Indiana storms.
Now that I’ve confessed, I’ll leave you with the beef stew I made on January 7th and my meal plan for this coming week. As for last week’s meal plan, I shuffled some of the meals around, but stuck closely to the plan to make sure we were eating in instead.
SLOW COOKER BURGUNDY BEEF STEW
2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 ½ inch cubes (bottom round, rump roast, will work. For other cuts for beef stew go to: thekitchn.com)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup celery, sliced
1 ½ cups baby bella mushrooms, quartered
1 red bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 sweet potato, washed and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
1 ½ cups green beans, trimmed
½ teaspoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried crushed rosemary
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bottle (750 ml) red wine
1 cup chicken or beef broth
1 bay leaf
freshly ground black pepper
Salt and pepper the beef and coat with flour. Add the vegetables, meat, spices, tomato paste and oil in the ceramic pot of a 6 quart slow cooker and stir to combine. In a perfect world, you should add the green beans at the end of the cooking to keep them fresh and crispy. I know this and yet I always throw them into the mix so I don’t need to worry about it. The result is a soggier and less “green” green bean, but it’s yummy just the same. Add the wine, broth and bay leaf. Cover and refrigerate overnight (this also allows the beef to marinate in the wine overnight).
Cook, covered, on high setting for 6 hours. Serve with couscous, quinoa or rice.