Beef and Lentil Stew

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Someone told me I cook a lot of chicken. I’ve never noticed, but I do. I love chicken. What’s not to love? It’s inexpensive and easy to work with. Thighs happen to be my new favorite meat because they are completely forgiving and the hoarders have mostly left them alone. But I do love beef so let’s branch out a bit.

I had a bag of brown lentils that I bought when the shelves were bare of canned lentils and most beans (hoarders!). I never used them because I found canned lentils a few weeks later that I used for another recipe. So I felt obligated not to waste these lentils and use them. But I’m actually really unfamiliar with lentils. It turns out that lentils are the easiest thing to make. They’re a legume and a cousin to the bean. You don’t need to soak them overnight like beans plus they are loaded with fiber and other good stuff. I thought lentils were just another bean, but not so.

With my trusty dried lentils, I made Beef and Lentil Stew from A Spicy Perspective. I made this during early summer, but I plan to make it again this fall when I need something super comforting.

I changed the recipe up a little based on what I liked and had in the pantry. Start by gathering and prepping your ingredients.

Beef and Lentil Stew

In a large pot (like a heavy Dutch oven), saute beef chuck and onions together until the onions are soft. Then throw in some minced garlic and cook for another minute or so. Season the meat mixture with some salt and pepper and cook until beef is browned.

Beef and Lentil Stew

Add your veggies, those lentils, beef stock (not broth), and seasonings. I used a half a cup more stock than the recipe called for because I wanted a slightly thinner stew, but mostly these cartons have 4 cups in them and I didn’t want to keep track of a half of cup of stock.

Beef and Lentil Stew

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and then simmer for at least an hour. Curl up with your favorite beverage and go watch an episode of Tiny House Nation. Episode 3 of season 1 on Netflix was particularly good. Just saying. You’ll even have time to spare.

The stew is ready when the beef and lentils are tender. Fish out those bay leaves if you can. Add some tarragon, salt, and pepper. You’re done.

Beef and Lentil Stew

This stew is fall in a bowl. The soft texture of the lentils with the hearty chunks of beef makes it both luscious and substantial. The veggies round out the dish, giving you all your food groups. Treat yourself to dessert, which is perfectly acceptable after eating this healthy meal.

Beef and Lentil Stew

Beef and Lentil Stew

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds beef chuck cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 carrots sliced
  • 2 celery stalks sliced
  • 3/4 cup dried brown lentils
  • 14 ounces finely chopped canned tomatoes
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped tarragon
  • salt and pepper

Instructions
 

  • Prepare your ingredients, such as cut beef into cubes and slice vegetables.
  • Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Saute the beef and onions for 3-5 minutes until the onion are soft. Add garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until beef is browned.
  • Add the carrots, celery, lentils, tomatoes, beef stock, bay leaves, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and cayenne pepper.
  • Bring to a boil. cover, reduce heat, and simmer, for about 60-75 minutes until the beef and lentils are tender. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the tarragon Add salt and pepper to taste.
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Campfire Stew

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This summer has been a strange one so when our annual camping trip came around, I was both nervous and excited. Nervous…the virus…need I say more? And excited…I really needed to get out of the house before I lost my mind.

If you do have the opportunity to go camping this summer, go for it. Easy to physical distance and just wear a mask if you do come in contact with others, which wasn’t very often. Camping cleared my mind and gave it a rest from the sensory overload that is my life. I spent a week without news, emails, social media, and work, and gained a week of books, floats on the river, and s’mores, which leads me to the point of this blog. Cooking!

Cooking at camp has been a love/hate relationship for me. I want to try all these fancy meals (oh someday I’ll make a dutch oven cake!), but there are a few complications. The dust. The wind. The bees. Oh, the bees! My nemeses while cooking. Plus our camp stove takes forever to heat up anything. What’s this girl to do?

My strategy is to make our dinners at home and heat them up on the stove. I found the perfect recipe for such a situation: Campfire Stew. I made it for this past camping trip for the first time and it was delicious. I just wish I had remembered to take pictures of me heating it up on our old-school Coleman camp stove, but I was distracted by the dust, wind, and bees. “Damn you bees!” as I shake my fist at them.

Start out by cooking whole chicken thighs seasoned with salt and pepper for about 7 minutes until there’s a nice golden brown sear on them. Flip and throw in some chopped onions and minced garlic.

Campfire Stew

Cook for another 7 minutes until the thighs are cooked through. You will be cooking them a little more, but they shouldn’t be raw. BTW, thighs are really forgiving, especially compared to breasts, which dry up if you cook them just a tiny bit too long.

When the chicken is cooked, chop it up into large chunks. At this point, I let it cool and put it in a Ziploc bag. At camp, I will heat up the chicken, add the rest of the ingredients, dodge the bees, and serve. You could do this at home, which for purposes of this blog, I’ll show you what comes next.

Place the chicken back in the skillet, and add seasonings and canned tomatoes. Stir. Add sliced olives and beans.

Campfire Stew

Stir again and simmer until it’s heated through. Take a picture. Ignore that your kid photo-bombed your photo. The food still tastes good.

Campfire Stew

For camp cooking, some might say this looks fancy (work with me here…it looks fancy when served in a disposable plastic bowl along with the finest white plastic cutlery).

Campfire Stew

It’s not the same as grilling a hot dog on a stick (which is amazing in its own right), but this stew is very tasty without a lot of work. I’m impressed at how the flavors meld together without a lot of cooking time. Just a few basic ingredients becomes a quick, delicious meal. Now I have more time to float in the river.

Campfire Stew

Campfire Stew

Ingredients
  

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large onion diced
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 15 ounces diced canned tomatoes
  • 2 1/4 ounces canned sliced olives well drained
  • 15 ounces canned cannellini beans do not drain

Instructions
 

  • Heat oil in a skillet. Salt and pepper the chicken. Cook chicken for about 7 minutes. Flip and add onionis and garlic. When chicken is cooked through and the onions are slightly softened, remove chicken from skillet and cut into large chunks.
  • Add the chicken back in the skillet. Add thyme, mint, oregano, and tomatoes. Stir. Add olives and beans. Stir. Simmer until heated through.
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Beef Stew

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Beef stew is comforting. Don’t deny it. It’s also really easy to make. Mix all your ingredients together and let it do its thing. No babysitting. The problem is that it takes sooooo long to cook for the meat to become tender. Then again, it’s called stew for a reason. By definition, it means to cook something…slowly. Stewing is not fast.

There are a lot of methods to make stew, like using a slow or pressure cooker, which I do like, but the best stew I’ve ever had is braised in the oven for at least 2 hours. You could make this during the week if you had the time. Right. I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have two hours between work (or taxiing the boy around to various extracurricular activities) and dinner time. Therefore, I like to make this dish on a lazy Sunday afternoon when I can smell the homey deliciousness of beef and veggies. There needs to be a candle for that.

For stew meat, I’ve learned to avoid the stew meat packages like the plague. Yes, it’s all pre-cut and very convenient, but you really have no idea what cuts of meat you’re ending up with. It could be a combination of different types, all that cook at separate times, so in the end, you end up with some tender pieces and some tough ones. Blah. Instead, buy chuck meat and cut it up yourself. I’m sorry, but trust me on this one.

Don’t forget to season the meat liberally with salt and pepper. Unless you are on a medically prescribed low salt diet, you do not need to avoid salt. It brings out the flavor of meat. It’s also better to season as you go instead of all at the end so start now.

When you’re cutting up your veggies, try to cut them in similar sizes. Your carrots don’t need to be the same size as your celery, but your potatoes should be the same size to each other. I tried that here by cutting in half and then in quarters.

After you’ve chopped your meat and veggies, toss it all together in a baking dish.

Combine tomato juice (the secret ingredient!) instead of beef broth, water, tapioca (your thickener instead of flour), and seasonings. Pour it over the meat and veggies. Cover it with foil (to braise it) and pop it in the oven. Then, go find your happy place. Maybe that’s watching a TV show or reading a book. For others, it’s hiding in the closet, taking a nap. Not judging.

A couple hours later, check on it. The meat should be tender and your vegetables fork tender, but not falling apart or mushy.

Eat with bread. Yum. This is also a great dish to make ahead, chill, and bake later.

Beef Stew

Beef Stew

Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 2 pounds chuck beef cubed, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 medium potatoes halved and then quartered into 1" pieces
  • 4 medium carrots cut into 1/2" chunks
  • 2 stalks celery cut into 1/2" chunks
  • 1 medium onion large dice
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Coat a 9×13" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In the baking dish, combine beef, potatoes, carrots, celery, and onions. Mix well.
  • In a large bowl, combine tomato juice, water, tapioca, sugar, salt, and pepper. Pour over beef and vegetables.
  • Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 2 – 2 1/4 hours.
  • To make ahead, follow the recipe and then chill. Bake for 2 1/2 – 3 hours.
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