Crock-pot Beef and Butternut Squash Stew

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Inspiration for a recipe can strike anytime, anywhere. I’ve learned to be ready and instead of saying to myself “oooh, I will have to remember to make that” which, by the way, hardly ever happens, I’ve begun jotting down notes and recipe ideas to store in my phone or purse. Too many good ideas have been wasted on my poor memory since the start of this blog and, being that the focus is seasonal produce, I sometimes feel the pressure of an expiration date.  There may or may not be 4 yellow sticky notes crumpled at the bottom of my purse right now…

My style of cooking and recipe notes have changed with the seasons ushering in ideas for Crock-pot meals and low-fuss casseroles. A lot of my recipe inspiration comes from weekly trips to the local Farmer’s Market. I may be a little bias, but Ann Arbor houses the absolute best market I have been to; the farmers continue to amaze me with their dedication and work ethic. I cannot imagine caring for and tending to the gigantic amount of produce they lovingly display each week. I am truly grateful to live in a city that appreciates the value of local, seasonal produce and has nurtured the market into a Saturday morning attraction for both townies and visitors. If they promise to continue producing some of the most beautiful vegetables around I will continue to purchase and transform them into healthy meals for my family.

Cooler weather also has me reaching for root vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, rutabaga, onions, and yukon gold potatoes. It has also refreshed my excitement for dark greens like kale, swiss chard, and spinach. I actually turned to my husband at the grocery store and said, “I cannot wait to use this parsnip!” with a huge smile on my face. He looked at me and smiled; in that moment I realized I’m such a food nerd. I’d imagine for him it was simultaneously the moment that affirmed what a great decision it was to marry me. Ha! :)

So, out came the Crock-pot, the lovely parsnip, and a lot of other veggies and Indian spices to create a delicious and hearty beef stew. The first inspiration for this recipe is a vegetarian slow cooker recipe from several years back. When my husband and I started eating meat again I adapted it to include chicken thighs, and I am adapting it once more to include grass fed beef. The second inspiration is from “The New Indian Slow Cooker” by Neela Paniz. I found this cookbook while perusing the selections from the genius site Blogging for Books. Visit the link to find out more; if you are a blogger I highly recommend the website; you can get free books!

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“The New Indian Slow Cooker” is a breath of fresh air for Crock-pot cooking. The Crock-pot is an approachable appliance that can remove the intimidation for a home cook that is unfamiliar with preparing Indian dishes. By combining fresh vegetables and meat with an array of exotic spices Neela explains how to get traditional Indian flavors in a low-maintenance way. The beginning of the book offers a crash course in Indian cooking, including explanations of all the traditional spices. Some of the spices may be hard to find in the regular grocery store; she recommends visiting an Indian grocery store, if needed. (Note: all the spices used in the following recipe can be found at any local grocery store.) I have been obsessed with Indian food since 2009 and couldn’t get enough of the history of spices and their applications. Again, food nerd! There are quite a few recipes I have bookmarked to make this winter! For now, I will enjoy my interpretation of easy Indian food in the Crock-pot.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, skin removed and minced
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 1/4 c. beef stew (preferably grass fed)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes; depending how spicy you like it
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 4-6 cardamom pods
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (I use no-added salt)
  • 2 c. low-sodium vegetable broth (or beef broth) 
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • Baguette, for serving (leave out to make the recipe gluten free)

Begin by peeling and slicing your veggies. This is a hefty ingredient list, but fear not, all of the ingredients are layered in the Crock-pot and then forgotten about for several hours.

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Chop the onion, carrots, and parsnip into bite size pieces.

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Peel and cut sweet potatoes into bite size pieces…

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Then the butternut squash.

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Add the onion, garlic, ginger, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, parsnip, and carrots to the Crock-pot insert. Add the beef stew meat on top of the vegetables. Next comes the spices; I love dishes that allow me to use my extensive spice collection! Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes, turmeric, cinnamon sticks, caraway seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom pods, and coriander.

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Season generously with salt and pepper, and stir to combine the spices with the meat and veggies. Stir in the diced tomatoes and broth. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 7-8 hours until the meat and vegetables are tender.

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The house will smell heavenly while the stew cooks; the spices are seriously intoxicating. Remove the cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods then ladle into bowls to serve. Sprinkle with a few leaves of parsley or cilantro, if desired. 

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This stew is not only delicious, it is extremely healthy…lots of lean meat and vegetables without a touch of oil. Perfect for cool fall nights; don’t forget a big chunk of baguette to soak up all the broth! Enjoy! :)

* Blogging for Books supplied a free cookbook in exchange for a review, however all thoughts and opinions are my own *

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