Thoughts on crockpot cooking, with a side of beef stew

For some reason, I almost never use my crockpot in the summer. It just seems like a winter sort of thing to me -- thick, hearty stews and chowders, chili on a cold day.

Then it hit me today -- summer is really the perfect time to use a crockpot. Think about it -- there's nothing worse than sweating in a hot kitchen
when you're cooking dinner in the summer, oven and stove going full-blast. Crock pots eliminate all that. Dump everything in, turn it on and leave -- and your kitchen stays nice and cool all day. The other day, I dumped a pork tenderloin in with some barbecue sauce, and at the end of day, all I had to do was heat up some corn and bread to go with it. Wonderful!

One of my favorite crockpot cookbooks is "Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook: Feasting with your Slow Cooker". (I recommend buying the spiral-bound copy so it can lay flat when you're cooking -- I've seen them at Sam's and Wal-Mart.) I recently bought "
Fix-It & Forget-It Lightly : Healthy Low-Fat Recipes for Your Slow Cooker", but I haven't had the chance to use any of its recipes, yet.

Here's one of my favorites, from the original cookbook:

Layered Herby Stew
(Elizabeth Richards, Rapid City, SD)
Makes 8 servings

2.5 lbs. lean beef chuck, cubed
1 medium to large onion, cut in 1-inch pieces
8-12 small red potatoes or potato chunks
4-6 carrots, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 large ribs celery, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup red wine, or water
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
2 bay leaves
6 Tbsp. minute tapioca (use only 5 Tbsp. if using water instead of wine)
28-oz. can of diced tomatoes (I use the Italian-seasoned)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Layer all ingredients except parsley in slow cooker in order given.
  • Cover. Cook on High 6 hours.
  • Immediately before serving, garnish with parsley.
Now, I have to admit, I skip the carrots, celery and parsley. I don't like the first two all that much, and I don't like buying a bunch of parsley for just one dish. I also add a little bit more on most of the spices, along with a dash of steak sauce if I'm in the mood. But it's one of my husbands favorite dishes, and it's a great company dish -- put it on in the morning, then serve with your favorite bread on the side.


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