Thursday, December 28, 2006

WCC & Comforting Easy Oven Stew

Winter is here, in case you haven't noticed. Personally, I'm more of a Spring and Fall person - Spring for new buds and new life after long dismal days (I love little crocus blooms peaking their heads out of the ground); Fall for the riotous colors and piles of crackling leaves to jump in. Don't get me wrong, I love the first snow (which we haven't had yet), but those cold biting winds and grey, grey days don't rank high on my list of favorite things. One thing I do love about winter though, is spending time in front of a roaring fire in the fireplace. My Honey used to be a boyscout and his fires are awesome.

Another thing that helps me through long winters (I tend to hibernate as much as possible) is making slow cooked soups and stews. So I was thrilled that Sara of I Like to Cook and keeper of Weekend Cookbook Challenge (one of my very favorite blogging events) asked Shaun of Winter Skies Kitchen Aglow (another great food blog) to host this time around. He's chosen stews as the theme - my favorite winter fare.

I decided to share a recipe from my own cookbook - Every Kitchen Tells Its Stories, Recipes to Warm the Heart. I found it hard to choose just one, since there are quite a number of stews and chili dishes and some soups so thick and chunky they could easily be called stew. But I chose this one that I called "Easy Oven Stew" because, once you sear the meat and peel the veggies there's nothing to do but pop it in the oven for a couple of hours and do whatever else you want to do.

When my girls were little, I created this dish out of desperation...first and foremost because I was a single mom who, not only worked full time, but also was back in school, finishing my degree. Honestly, there was little time to spend creating fancy meals that needed lots of hands on time and many pots and pans that would need cleaning. I wanted to spend as little time cooking as possible - more time for kids and studying. The second reason this dish was created was that my girls, who have thankfully outgrown being finicky about what they eat, didn't really like a lot of things, vegetables in particular. And so this dish was concocted to disguise as many kinds of veggies as I could. Slow cooking infused them with the flavors of the gravy and they'd lick the bowls clean without ever realizing what they were putting in their cute little picky mouths!

I'd throw it all together on a Saturday or Sunday morning and we'd go outside and make snowmen and snow angels or do more mundane things like running errands. When we'd get back, the aroma had us all drooling and heading straight for the kitchen. All I had to do was break out some crusty bread to serve along with the steaming bowls of stew sprinkled with some parsley (the girls would do that - they liked the color and then they would say they did the cooking. Who was I to argue if it got them to eat!!!). Oh, and did I mention, it was great to just heat up during the week after a hard day at the office, running around for after-school activities, time needed for homework - theirs and get the picture. Nowadays, when I make this stew all those wonderful times (now the frenzy looks like fun, then, it just felt chaotic!) flood back and make me smile.

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Sara said...

Sounds like a totally delicious stew Ruth! I really like the celery with leaves and broccoli! I'm adding this to my list. Thanks for being such an important part of WCC!!!

Katie said...

I love stews of any sort and one that cooks with no attention eeven better! Great recipe!
Happy New Year!