Beef Stew Comfort Food For A Gloomy Day

Happy New Year. Welcome to 2019. The first day of a new year. A time for a fresh start. Beef Stew is on the menu today. Some of my readers have noticed that I haven’t been posting much lately. As you may recall, my mother was quite ill over the summer. I’m sad to report that she passed away just before Christmas. So, I thought I’d like to honor her memory and share some of my favorite dishes that she made. I awoke to snow, rain and wind this morning. It’s an overall gloomy, humdrum of a day, so it’s a perfect day for one of my favorite comfort foods.

Mother like Daughter…not exactly

My mother made the most excellent beef stew and her gravy was always perfect. It was never lumpy and always had the ideal consistency. I’ve never quite mastered gravy. It’s usually too thick or more likely, too thin because I’m afraid of the gravy becoming too thick, so I undercompensate with the flour or corn starch.

One thing I never quite understood was why she cooked all the components of the stew separately and then mixed them together. It always seemed like a lot of extra work and a lot more pots and pans to wash. Since I’ve been attempting to duplicate her stew, I’ve tried various methods. I’m not a fan of cooking in the crock pot, but in the case of stew, it does seem rather obvious that would be the easiest process.

Trials and errors…many errors

I’ve attempted to just throw all the ingredients in the crock pot, but after 8 hours the potatoes and carrots weren’t fully cooked. Plus, I didn’t like the texture of the beef…it was still quite tough. And the gravy was way too thin.

On the second attempt, I seared the beef before adding the meat to the crock pot and upped the slow cooking time to 12 hours. To my dismay, the carrots and potatoes still were undercooked. However, the meat was much more tender and we’re on our way to a win on the gravy.

Well, I was determined, and on my third try, I started it the night before and let the crock pot go for 16 hours. Finally, it turned out pretty good, but I came to realization that it is really quite ridiculous to cook anything for 16 hours. 16 hours…No wonder my mom didn’t like using the crock pot. I eventually chalked it up to the crock pot not working at its peak performance and thought I would buy a new one before I experimented again.

Some Christmas Wishes Do Come True

I have a very generous friend who always gives the best gifts. She is thoughtful and apparently remembers everything you tell her. One day I mentioned in passing about my 16 hour beef stew and we had a little laugh over it. Well, wouldn’t you know, she got me a crock pot for Christmas. It really made my day and my next experiment of beef stew only took 5 hours in the crock pot.

I may be starting to warm up to the idea of experimenting with other recipes in the crock pot. Stay tuned.

Beef Stew

This comfort food has onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, stew beef and gravy. Chop the vegetables to your desired size. The smaller the chop of celery and onions, the more likely they’ll cook away. If you like a heartier stew, leave the pieces large. Either way, they’ll add a wonderful flavor to your stew.

Course Dinner
Keyword Stew
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Cooling time 1 hour
Total Time 5 hours 20 minutes
Servings 8
Author Lisa York

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds stew beef
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 medium onion chopped to desired size
  • 1 cup celery chopped to desired size
  • 1 pound baby carrots
  • 5 large potatoes chopped to bite size pieces
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

Instructions

  1. Season the stew beef with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

    Beef Stew seasoned beef
  2. Chop the onion to desired size and layer on the bottom of the crock pot. (The order of the vegetables doesn’t really matter, but the vegetables should be at the bottom and the meat should be on top.) 

    Beef Stew onions
  3. Chop the celery to desired size and layer over the onions.

    Beef Stew celery
  4. Add the baby carrots.

    Beef Stew carrots
  5. Chop the potatoes to bite size pieces and add a layer to cover the carrots. You may need more than 5 potatoes depending on size.

    Beef Stew potatoes
  6. In a skillet, over high heat, melt the better and add the olive oil.

    Beef Stew prepared pan with oil and butter
  7. Add small amounts of the stew beef to the hot skillet, turn the pieces to sear each side. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan with the beef otherwise you’ll steam the beef instead of sear it. Searing the beef will lock in the juices and help the meat become tender during the slow cooking process.

    Beef Stew searing beef
  8. Remove the seared beef from the pan and set aside.

    Beef Stew seared beef
  9. Add a cup of the beef broth to the skillet to deglaze the juices and random pieces of beef from the pan. Pour the juices and broth over the vegetables in the crock pot.

    Beef Stew deglaze pan and add to crock pot
  10. Add one cup of flour to the seared stew beef.

    Beef Stew added flour to beef
  11. Stir the beef until each piece is well-coated with flour. The flour will thicken the broth while it cooks. 

    Beef Stew beef coated with flour
  12. Add the flour-coated beef to the crock pot. 

    Beef Stew beef coated with flour added to crock pot
  13. Add the remaining beef broth to the crock pot.

    Beef Stew added beef broth
  14. Be sure to cover all the ingredients in the crock pot. Add the Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Resist the urge to stir the pot. It’s best to keep the vegetables at the bottom of the crock pot where it will be the hottest.

    Beef Stew added beef broth to cover all ingredients
  15. Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8 hours . Turn off approximately 1 hour prior to serving. The stew will remain hot, but the gravy will continue to thicken. Stir prior to serving. (Cooking times may vary depending on manufacturer make and model.) 

    Beef Stew cook on high

What’s your favorite kitchen gadget or appliance that you got for Christmas? Tell me in the comments below and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest by clicking on the links provided.

Nacho Casserole – The Best Football Food

There’s nothing like a big plate of nachos while watching your favorite football team. I know! It’s super early to be thinking about football. I mean the draft is just barely over, so there’s still a few months to go until preseason. But, my team was just awful last year. So, I’m so stinking excited about one of my team’s draft picks for this season, I just can’t wait for the season to start.

Speaking of nachos, do you know what I like the most about nachos? You can load on all of your favorite ingredients. Anything goes. Among other things, I usually use my homemade taco seasoning with ground beef for these nachos (you can find that recipe here) but, there are no rules. You can substitute seasoned beef for seasoned chicken or pork or use barbecue sauce instead. I shared one of my favorite sauces here if you want to check it out.

Do you know what I don’t like about nachos, though? Soggy tortilla chips. They’re the worst. I always make a ton of nachos so there are enough leftovers for lunch the next day, but those pesky soggy chips ruin it for me every time.

Another thing that is almost as bad as soggy chips is when you a get a piping hot plate of nachos and you grab a tortilla and all you get is a plain tortilla with nothing on it. Such a bummer. It’s virtually impossible to get all the toppings on every chip. Until now.

I got tired of soggy and bare tortilla chips. I knew there had to be a way around these tribulations. Since I love a good casserole, I thought “why not make a nacho casserole?”. Well, I made it for family, friends and co-workers and everyone loved it. It is now a regular dinner item and it is standard football fare as well.

It’s a dish that can be easily put together. Sometimes I like to use my fresh homemade salsa instead of sautéed or steamed peppers and onions with tomatoes. But, for the purpose of sharing the easiest nachos ever made, I’ll wait to share the salsa recipe another time. (FYI, it’s an easy salsa recipe too, it just makes this dish a little more time consuming.) The point of this recipe being a quick snack or meal when you don’t want to miss a minute of the game.

My favorite tortilla chips are the kind with the scoop in it. They’re served on the side, so you can just take a chip then dig into the casserole without needing a fork. The best part is, that with every bite, you get a little bit of everything on one tortilla chip. You can’t do that very often with regular nachos.

nacho casserole bite
nacho casserole bite

Nacho Casserole

A quick and easy meal or snack with many variation possibilities.

Course Appetizer, Casserole, Dinner, Lunch, Snack
Keyword Nachos
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 10
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 packet taco seasoning*
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 16 oz cans refried beans
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 1 large green bell pepper diced
  • 1 medium onion diced & divided
  • 2-3 large tomatoes diced
  • 1 bag your favorite tortilla chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Dice the green bell pepper, onion and tomatoes. Divide the onion - 1/4 cup to add to the ground beef and the remainder for the topping.

  3. In a large skillet over medium/high heat, brown ground beef and add about 1/4 cup of diced onion (if desired). Drain the fat.

    nacho casserole ingredients2
  4. Reduce the heat to medium/low. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning or 2 tbsp of homemade taco seasoning to the ground beef. Thoroughly mix the taco seasoning until the meat is well coated. Add 1/2 cup of water, mix thoroughly and allow to simmer until the sauce has thickened a bit. You can use more or less water depending on how saucy you like the seasoned beef. 

    nacho casserole ingredients
  5. Place the green bell pepper and onion in a microwave safe bowl. Cover with water and microwave (approximately 3 minutes - depending on your microwave) until the vegetables are tender. This step is optional as you can just add the raw vegetables as the topping, but I prefer them cooked a bit. 

    nacho casserole bean layer
  6. Spread the refried beans in the bottom of a large casserole dish.

    nacho casserole bean layer 2
  7. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over the refried beans.

    nacho casserole 1st cheese layer
  8. Spread the seasoned ground beef mixture over the cheese.

    nacho casserole seasoned beef layer
  9. Sprinkle another 1/3 of the cheese over the seasoned ground beef.

    nacho casserole 2nd cheese layer
  10. Drain the liquid from the peppers and onions then spread over the 2nd layer of cheese along with the tomatoes.

    nacho casserole veggie layer
  11. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the vegetables.

    nacho casserole 3rd cheese layer
  12. Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly.

    Baked nacho casserole

Recipe Notes

  • If you're feeling adventurous, make some homemade taco seasoning. You can find my recipe here.

nacho casserole serving suggestion 2
nacho casserole serving suggestion

I recently found a pulled pork nacho dish at a little restaurant not too far away from me. I’m looking forward to trying to duplicate that in my restaurant “Challenge“. Don’t forget some other classic toppings of sour cream, salsa, olives, jalapenos and guacamole for added flavor. What are your favorite toppings for nachos? Let me know in the comments below.