December 4, 2012

Classic Slow-Cooker Beef Stew

I'm trying something a little different today! My friend Marie does this every Tuesday, and I love it. Just a post with prompts from The Simple Woman's Daybook. It's a fun way to think of new things to write, new bits of life to share!

For today, Dec. 4...
Outside my window...It is a bit cloudy, a bit chilly, but warming up fast. Sigh. December in Colorado is not supposed to be this warm!

I am thinking...I have GOT to find a babysitter for the boys for tomorrow! It's our first dress rehearsal with the bells and the symphony, and it is THREE hours long! It also is our ward's Stake Temple Day, and all the babysitters are booked. Ack!!

I am going...Off to my chiropractor for a massage! I know many of you are thinking "Oh, how wonderful! A weekly massage! How relaxing!" Um, nope. We're working 11 years of knots, tension, and damage out of my shoulders, and it hurts like the dickens. NOT relaxing. But it's working!!

I am thankful...For my chiropractor! He's amazing. Their office works on every possible angle to fix your problems. Stretches, exercise, therapy, ice, massage, adjustments, roller tables, electro-something or other... I'm so grateful to finally be fixing my poor neck.

I am pondering...Mental knots. It's a metaphor I came up with last night. When your muscles are constantly tense for one reason or another, they form knots that take quite a bit of effort to work out. I think we can develop mental knots too. You know the feeling after a long period of stress, or worry, when you find yourself thinking "there must be SOMETHING to worry about!" even after it's over? I have a few of those. After spending the last 3 years working towards "the next step", internship, thesis, move... I'm finding it hard to just be right now. Just be here. Make here our home, instead of being desperate for a house. I need to breathe, and release some of those mental knots!
Source: Pinterest

I am wondering...Whether or not our Christmas tree will recover. We let it dry out... This is our first real tree! We took everything off and re-cut it last night, but I don't think it will resurrect. Oh well! Live and learn. :)

I am reading... The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. It's weird, and dark, but fascinating and addicting and I flew through it in a day the first time, so I'm re-reading it. It made me cry. It's otherworldly, about racing wild, carnivorous water horses. I know, that just sounds bizarre. But somehow, it's captivating. Even though it is about fictional horses, it's packed full of real-horse-loving feelings and thoughts and... it's hard to describe, but I loved it.

I am hoping... That I can FINALLY get back on track with Pilates everyday!! It's so hard to make it a habit. But it's the only thing that really works for me, so I keep trying!

I am looking forward to...Our dress rehearsals!!! Finally practicing with the instruments! I can't wait!!

Something new about me... Since I was 18, I've worked in 4 different flower shops. It was my favorite job, and we had some crazy adventures! For example, one mother's day (which is actually bigger than valnetine's day, did you know that??) the cooler we had rented to keep all the arrangements overnight malfunctioned and FROZE all our roses and lilies! We had to replace them ALL, and were there till 3 o'clock in the morning!! I loved working in a flower shop, and as soon as the boys are both in school all day (1 1/2 years!) I'm planning to get a floral design certificate. If that goes well, then I will get an English Literature degree. I'm a bit intimidated by college, because I never went before getting married, so if the floral design course doesn't scare me to death, I'll get a degree then!
Source: wendysmedly via Pinterest

Guilty pleasures... Project Runway. I love seeing the things people can create as clothing! It makes me laugh when the judges LOVE a garment that I think is just awful. Fashion truly is subjective!

Pet Peeves...BOYS SOCKS!!! Little Stephen's socks have been driving me nuts lately! All floppy and stretched out and falling down and slipping off... *shudder*. I like my socks tight. Fitted. Stay-in-place. His socks give me the willies. I guess I'm a bit OCD that way!

Classic Slow-Cooker Beef Stew (adapted from Cozycakes Cottage)
Printable Recipe

2 pounds of chuck roast, trimmed and chopped in 1 to 1.5 inch pieces
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 to 3 cups beef broth
2 Tb Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp red wine vinegar
2 stalks of celery, diced
4-6 medium red potatoes, peeled (or not!) and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh (or dried) thyme
2 tablespoons plain gelatin or tapioca (For thickening. You can skip it if you'd like!)
1 cup frozen peas (optional)

Pat the meat dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.  Toss to coat each piece well. Heat oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Add half of the meat in a single layer and brown just the outside.
When the bottom is browned, flip it and brown again. You don't want it cooked through, just well-browned on the outside. This helps with the flavor, and somehow the texture of your meat.

Remove the meat and place in the slow-cooker.  Brown the other half of your meat, and add it to the slow-cooker. 

Turn the heat down to medium and add more oil or a few tablespoons of butter. Add onions and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Cook till translucent and softened, scraping browned beef bits up to cook with the onions. Those bits are an important part of your flavors! 

Add the Worcestershire, 2 cups broth, vinegar, and tomato paste to the onions in the skillet. Mix and cook until it begins to boil. 

Place the celery, carrots, potatoes, bay leaves, peas (if using) and thyme in the slow cooker. Pour broth mixture over everything in the slow cooker. Add gelatin/tapioca to the slow cooker and stir everything together. Add a few pinched of salt and black pepper. Cover and cook for 6 hours. About an hour before you want to serve, check the stew, season if needed, stir gently, and add more broth if necessary. Continue to cook for one more hour. Remove bay leaves and enjoy!
I've never managed to get a beef stew right. You would think it would be easy, right?? Thank heavens this recipe is simple, homey, and delicious!! We loved it. In fact, The Geologist commandeered all leftovers for his lunches.
The veggies didn't turn to mush, they're soft and tender,  the gravy thickened perfectly... simple warm flavors throughout... Too bad it wasn't chilly outside. 
This, my friends, is why we do that silly browning step at the beginning. You get chunks of juicy, flavorful, spoon-tender beef! It just flakes apart deliciously! If you just toss it in there raw, it will get tough and dry. Take the extra few steps at the beginning to develop the flavors, and you won't be sorry!


  1. First of all April . . . that stew. FAB U LOUS! One of my favourite things. Second . . . you need to SIMPLE WOMAN-IT every week!! I loved this post. It gives me an even deeper glimpse into the wonder that is YOU! You really make my heart feel all warm inside, in a good way, not a giddy way . . . you know what I mean. Kismet, Kindred spirits, lifelong friends. FRIENDS . . . that is such a fabulous word don't you think? Oh, I stuck something in the package for the boys. I was sent these straw thingies. They have NEVER been used, so no fear. I thought the boys would enjoy making something magical to drink with ! xxoo

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  5. My mom went back to school when I was 14 and her youngest was 8, and went from a B/C student in college to As. There are so many things you can do if you want to do them, follow your heart, and I love your idea to do a floral certificate first if that helps you to feel more comfortable, but either way, you can definitely figure out college! My mom did classes through National Uniceristy designed for working people (she didn't work outside the home yet though) and it was a very nice way to do it, one class at a time, same work load but organized in a nice way for first time mature college students too! And you ARE mature in your thirties or late twenties, and it really helps with school!


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