freezer friendly and crowd pleasing beef stew

There's no denying it.  Ok, maybe if you live in the South you can deny it.  Here in Virginia it's cool and rainy and even if it warms up again, everyone will know it's Fall.  With the knowledge of what was ahead for us I took to stocking the freezer.  I've found freezer meal making isn't always simple, and sometimes it means long hours in the kitchen.  The beauty I find is that when I don't want to cook, I have something prepared.  When we decide to host or go somewhere last minute, I either have something already made or something to bring.  When I do want to cook I can have something like this beef stew made, and time to decide on making a new take on biscuits to go along side it.

Do you cook in big batches and then freeze the rest? Our family doesn't plan on meals out each week.  They happen a couple times a month, but they aren't a given or part of the meal plan I set for the week.  Eating in is where it's at for us in this season, and I'm a.o.k with that.

When I saw Joanna had a beef stew recipe packed with lots of vegetables I knew I wanted to try it.  I also knew I wanted to double it and freeze some.  I ended up tweaking her recipe just a bit and froze 3 gallon size bags in our freezer. 

Tip: make sure your soup cools before you transfer it to the bags.  Lay it flat on a cookie sheet to freeze, then stack the flattened bags in your freezer!

Like I said, I tweaked the recipe a bit.  I didn't add as much salt or seasoning.  I knew I could always add those things, but I couldn't take them away.  I'm happy with how this turned out!

My recipe below- based on the Original Recipe from the Magnolia Table 

Ingredients You'll Need:
  • 1 pound beef stew meat
  • kosher salt + pepper
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  •  1 white onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut or 2 cups chopped baby carrots
  • 5 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 32 ounces beef broth.  I love better than bouillon because it's one less thing in my pantry!
  • one 14.5 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes.  Don't use fire roasted if you don't like the spice!
  • 1 can corn- and it's liquid
  • 1 large baking potato
  • 2 cups frozen peas
1. Season your meat with salt and pepper then heat the butter and let it melt, then add your beef and saute it.  You could cut some of the fat here and half the amount of butter.

2. Add the onions, carrots and celery and saute about 10 minutes and then add in the flour, garlic powder, and more salt- about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon.  Again, you can always add more salt, you can't take it away!

3. Add you broth, tomatoes, corn and it's  liquid, and the potato.  Add a cup of water if you want to make sure everything is covered and then bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook for an hour.  Once it's been hanging out for awhile, you'll add in the frozen peas at the end and turn up the heat for about 5 minutes so they're cooked.  Now it's time to serve it up!

That was easy right?  I'm tempted to try this out in the Instant Pot for dinner tonight.  Hmm...

everything but the kitchen sink stuffed peppers

I'm all about working smarter, not harder and this recipe is one of those I think you should have in your back pocket.  The thing is, you don't even have to use the exact ingredients I have, you just need to realize that stuffed peppers are a good weeknight go-to. 

I hear your thoughts right now.  You aren't sure the whole family will love them.  My tip? Put in things you know they like, then serve them like you would tacos, with some chips, sour cream, cheese. Maybe you go a route that calls for pita chips and hummus or maybe you just want a big salad along side it like this one with creamy maple dressing that I'm about to start making on repeat.

In this case I opted for a filling of quinoa, mushrooms, chicken sausage, onions and peppers.  You could easily do a version with ground beef or turkey or keep them meat free by focusing more on veggies.

Peppers are pretty affordable in bulk and what I like about this recipe is it's something the health conscious parents can enjoy, but the kids can eat it too.  Better yet it's all done in the slow cooker so it hangs out while you're at soccer or helping your kids with homework!
Here's what I did.  For a meat version you could try these turkey ones from Skinny Taste or  opt for the traditional ground beef and tomato with rice version that I remember by grandma making. 

I don't have exact measurements for you but here's my tip.  Whatever I had left over from this mixture I saved and continued to eat throughout the week for lunch, minus the peppers and maybe with some chips and hot sauce.

The Kitchen Sink:
  • Cooked 2 cups of quinoa
  • 1 package of chicken sausages, chopped and sauteed
  • sauteed onion- 1
  • 1 pepper, chopped and sauteed
  • any tomatoes that were going bad, chopped and thrown in. If using roma just use the meaty part
  • any other sturdy veg
  • a bag of spinach, wilted down.  Great way to sneak in more veg
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  • cheese to top them with before placing the lids on - not required but I had it!
  • Spray the bottom of your slow cooker and make sure your peppers will stand up.  If they won't you may want to level them out on the bottom so they'll stand, but without causing a hole to form!
  • Put about 1 cup of water in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • If you add cheese, wait until about the last 30 minutes to an hour otherwise it'll get too melted and you won't even recognize it!
I don't think these need 8 hours on low.  You're essentially steaming and warming them.  Sure you could throw them in an oven for 45 minutes to an hour at 350 until tender and warm, but I like the slow cooker because it's one less thing to think about.  Try high for 4-6 and I bet you'll be all set!

I hope that helps.  Try them in your rotation soon.  Get the kids used to peppers- they really are an unappreciated veg and great way to add more nutrients into your family's meals!