Hearty Beef Stew

This yummy dish is a fall and winter favorite at our house.  It is is a one-pot wonder, using a 6-quart Dutch oven (this one from Lodge is my absolute favorite).  You start this stew on the stovetop, and then finish by cooking it on low heat in the oven for 6-8 hours.  Remember to start it early on a day you plan to be home, or try this recipe in a slow-cooker if you'll be out and about.  This beef stew always reminds me of a camping trip we went on with the military to Yosemite: the guide from Outdoor Recreation who headed up our expedition was a phenomenal cook, and whipped up a beef stew similar to this one while we were off scaling El Capitan (just kidding...we watched rock climbers scaling El Cap. Does that count??). His beef stew was made with fresh bay leaves, which he'd picked that morning from a bay tree growing in the campground.  Phenomenal.
 

Serves 6-7

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup whole wheat flour, plus a shake of salt & pepper
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, paper skins removed, left whole
2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
5-10 Baby Bella mushrooms, washed and quartered, (about 1 cup when chopped)
2 1/2 cups peeled, cubed potatoes (can substitute with cauliflower, fresh or frozen)
1 cup frozen green beans (the kind that are pre-cut into pieces)
1 cup frozen corn
2 1/2 cups tomato or tomato-vegetable juice (I like R.W. Knudsen, most of a 32-ounce jar)
2 1/2 cups beef broth (low sodium), more as needed (Pacific organic broth is great)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried or fresh oregano
1 bay leaf

DIRECTIONS

Prep the mushrooms and onion, and sauté with garlic in olive oil in a 6-quart Dutch oven with lid (please watch out! never leave hot oils unattended or in reach of children, and don't set the heat so high that the oil "pops" and burns you).  While those are cooking, cut up stew beef into bite-sized pieces (if necessary). Place stew beef in large bowl with the whole wheat flour, salt and pepper; toss gently to coat all the pieces.  Place the floured stew beef in the Dutch oven, turn heat up to medium-high, and cook with the mushrooms, onions, and garlic, stirring frequently, until the beef is a little bit browned on all sides and everything smells great. (Note to self: don't turn the heat up too high or the flour will start to scorch on the bottom of the pan.)  

Turn off burner under the Dutch oven, preheat oven to 250°F, and add potatoes (or cauliflower), green beans, and corn to the pot. Stir everything together, then pour the liquids (tomato juice, beef broth, and Worcestershire sauce) over the veggies and meat. Add oregano and bay leaf.  Put the lid on, and carefully place the pot in oven (the pot plus lid will be pretty heavy at this point...and always watch your hands/arms on that upper oven element.  I use these oven mitts to protect my hands and arms from burns).  Cook for 6-8 hours, checking every hour or so to make sure the broth hasn't all cooked off--add more beef stock and/or filtered water, as needed.  The stew is done when the meat is very tender, and practically falls apart when you poke it with a fork.

Delicious when served with Grandma's Cornbread.  Enjoy!