Once I got over the fact that most of them are what I like to call "can heavy," I was struck by how many of the recipes claim to be easy to throw together before work in the morning--something I never fail to remind myself when I spend 45 minutes browning meat and cleaning and chopping vegetables in order to prepare them for their day in the slow cooker. It wasn't until this weekend when I was freezing meat destined for slow cooker beef stew, however, that I realized the solution to busy morning prep work had been staring me in the face all along.
Oh yeah... You can freeze that! (Or not. This recipe is flexible like that.)
Slow Cooker Beef Stew
2 pounds stew beef
4 large red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, diced
3 cups green beans, chopped*
4 cloves garlic, minced
splash of vegetable oil
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp dark balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup beef stock
1/2 cup red wine (I used merlot)
additional salt and pepper, to taste
*If you want the green beans to look nice and bright in your bowl, you can use frozen green beans. Instead of adding them at the beginning, just mix them into your slow cooker an hour before serving; it also helps them maintain their texture. Yum!
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes, carrots, onions, and green beans, then boil for 3-5 minutes. Drain and then immediately transfer to a large bowl of ice water. Drain and then drizzle with vegetable oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray, then transfer veggies to two quart sized bags (gallon sized bags can be too big for the slow cooker) and freeze until ready to use, or up to one month.
Mix the beef, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, garlic, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Transfer the meat to two more quart sized bags and freeze until ready to use, or up to one month.
About ten hours before dinner, empty the contents of the bags into the slow cooker. Add the bay leaves, beef stock, and wine. Cover and cook on high for 8 hours. Before serving, fish out the bay leaves. Add additional salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar to taste, if desired.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the beef with a small amount of vegetable oil for about five minutes. Add all of the ingredients to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours. Before serving, fish out the bay leaves. Add additional salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar to taste, if desired.