In honor of this extreme cold front that has attacked our nation this week... (Almost a whole week out of school! WOOHOO!...teachers like snow days even more than their students!) I'm sharing a family recipe for an easy, delicious meal that'll warm you up right down to your toes.
When the temperature starts to drop and a cold wind sends chills right through you, my family knows it's time for some homemade stew. I'm not sure how far back this traditional meal goes in my family line, or if it's a recipe my mom came up with on her own, but I know that it has long been a family favorite. There's just something very comforting in familiar foods, and in our family Mom's stew and cornbread happens to be one of the very best comfort foods around. Just a mention of this favorite dish draws everyone to the kitchen in anticipation of their very first spoonful.
I still remember walking home from school many a cold winter's afternoon, and as soon as my feet hit the porch steps I could smell the fragrant aroma of my mom's beefy vegetable stew floating out into the chilly air. I'd walk into the warm kitchen and even the windows would be dripping with moisture from the steam coming out of the slowly bubbling pot of rich, tomato(ey).. is that a word... beef and vegetable stew.
Every year, when the first cold day of winter arrives, my thoughts turn to making a big steaming pot of stew. Through the years, my daughter would come home with the same thought in her mind. Now that she's grown, she still calls me up when the first cold wind blows and asks if her stew is ready because she's on her way over to get some.
The recipe is extremely easy to make, but I hope I get the measurements right for you because when I learned to cook from my mom, she didn't really use a lot of measuring tools. It was more of a handful of this and a pinch of that, but it always turned out delicious. I've adapted the recipe a wee bit for our harried, hurried lifestyle. I don't do all the chopping and prepping she did back in the day because I just don't have the time to do this. Amazingly, (hmmm) grocery stores are very up on this new, modern concept, so they often have everything prepped and ready for you to use.
You will need:
- A large pot with lid (vented lid if possible)
- 1tbsp. olive oil (or vegetable oil)
- 1 lb. stew meat (I prefer chuck roast)
- 1 lb. of each of the following: (fresh, frozen, or canned) corn, green beans, sweet peas, diced carrots, and diced potatoes (you can add any other veggies you'd like, but these are our standard add-ins)
- 24 oz. tomato sauce or 16 oz. tomato sauce and 8 oz. diced tomatoes
- 1/2 c. diced onions
- 3/4 c. diced celery
- salt, pepper, and garlic salt to taste (I am liberal with all of these, especially the garlic salt) If I measured I'd say about 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, and 1 tbsp. garlic salt to begin with, then do taste tests as the soup cooks and add more seasonings as needed
- coat bottom of heated pot with the olive oil
- scatter onions, salt, pepper, and garlic salt in bottom of pot
- drop stew meat onto onions and cook until meat has browned (stir and keep an eye on the meat because browning doesn't take long
- add tomato sauce and vegetables
- stir and add enough water to fill the pot up to about 2 inches from the rim
- bring stew to a rolling boil
- reduce heat to low and cover with a vented lid (If you don't have a vented lid, you can leave the lid slightly askew so the steam can easily escape and the pot will not boil over
- cook on low heat for 2 to 3 hours or until all vegetables are soft and meat is fork tender (the longer the stew cooks, the more flavorful it will be -it's often even better the day after it's made)
- 1 1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 c. flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 2 eggs
- pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees
- mix all dry ingredients together
- add milk and stir until well mixed
- pour batter into well greased 9" skillet (cast iron works best for cornbread)
- bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the cornbread is golden brown
- for those of you with a sweet tooth add 1 tsp. sugar to the dry ingredients before mixing
- double the recipe to have plenty of cornbread on hand for the next day's supper