The Perfect Winter Comfort Food: Beef Stew

Another timeless classic that warms the body and soul of generations simply cannot be beat.  One of the quintessential comfort foods is beef stew.  This dish has come a long way from simmering for hours on a stove, with your grandma carefully tending the pot.  I have a great recipe for a slow cooker beef stew, so it does the work for you, while you get on with your busy life.  Once you come home on that cold evening, you can warm up with a hearty serving of the good stuff. 

Culinary Cara's Savory Beef Stew:

- about 1.5 to 2 lbs stew beef or lamb, cut into cubes.
- about 4 medium potatoes or 2 large baking potatoes, unpeeled and cubed
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 yellow onion, cut in half and sliced
- 3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups water or beef broth
- 1 beef bullion cube
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch

optional veggies: Squash, bell pepper, mushrooms, pearl onion, cabbage.

In a microwave safe dish, dissolve beef bullion cube in 2 cups of water.  Add too slow cooker vessel.  Add wine, salt, pepper, thyme, paprika and whisk together.  In a separate cup, whisk cornstarch with a little bit of water so that it dissolves and add to liquid mixture, whisking to combine.  Add meat, veggies and bay leaves.  Stir everything together so that the veggies and meat are coated with liquid.  Cook on low setting for about 8 hours, or on high for about 5 hours.  The low setting is best, because the longer it cooks, the better it tastes!  Garnish with freshly chopped parsley, if you'd like.

Feel free to tinker with this recipe, nothing is set in stone.  Try different combinations of veggies, and even try some different herbs.  You can try other herbs such as marjoram or rosemary, but I think thyme has the perfect balance for this dish.  Remember, when cooking with wine, only use wine that you would actually drink!  I enjoy making this meal during the week, because I can prepare it before work, and it's ready when I get home.  The entire house smells wonderful, and I have the satisfaction of putting a delicious heart-warming meal on the table, without even being home!  Enjoy this classic comfort food and let the slow cooker do the work for you.

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