Because it’s that time of year. Fresh off the cookie, chocolate, decadent, savory / sweet train. Aka: the holidays. As you may know, I am a firm subscriber to the mantra of moderation. Which means that when it’s the holidays? One indulges in (not vacuums up – but it happens), the treats. The fat-laden savoury goodness that is the celebratory, feast and entertainment cuisine of the season. G’won, go for it. I did. That and fatty mc-fatterson Bailey’s too.
Which all went directly to my….face. Not my ass. Oh how I wish it all went to my butt. I’m a fan of some junk in the trunk. On myself and other women. It’s true. All hail the curves. Boo hiss to weight gain in the face. At the drop of a dime. Woe is me. Does that stop me from sampling life’s finer pleasures? Uhm no, I’m not that vain. I just partake in some extra diligent, healthy eating come the New Year. Like countless others.
So. Join me in my quest for creating heathy, yet damn tasty dishes. This time of year begs for warm soups and stews, rich in colour, texture and taste. Brimming with the root vegetable bounty of the season. Oh, c’mere. It’ll be good. I promise.
What You Need:
- 3 large celery stalks, cut ‘em up however. Although I do suggest some smaller symmetry, because that’s good for presentation and fitting spoonfuls into your mouth. Same goes for the rest of the things you need to chop up. Think stew.
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 3 cups of organic baby spinach, (sounds like a lot but spinach reduces immensely)
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunk-ola’s (use half and freeze the other half for your next stew…any stew or soup will welcome this sweet addition with open arms)
- 6 medium carrots, peeled and halved and diced
- 1 small turnip, diced into 1-inch chunkers (if you can only get a medium or large turnip, save half of the chunks to bag and freeze with that butternut squash)
- 1 carnival squash peeled (oh yes all this squash peeling s a bitch, but so worthit) and diced into 1-inch chunk-quita’s (use half and freeze the other half for your next stew)
- 2 cups of this. Tru Roots organic sprouted bean trio. Which is a delicious mix of lentils, mung and adzuki beans. We get ours (as well as their pasta and quinoa), from Costco
- 1 cup of organic quinoa. Whatever kind you dig, you already know what we like. No one says you have to choose organic either. That’s just our preference, as often as our pocket-books allow
- 1 cup of frozen corn (peaches & cream but of course)
- 2 cup(s) water
- 1 large can(s) of organic whole plum tomatoes (or diced). Just know that you want them to end up diced. Or squashed through your fists all Jamie Oliver rustico-styles
- 1 large mason jar or 1 carton of organic vegetable stock. Or chicken stock
- 2 kashmir chili’s
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 6 generous glugs of worchetershire sauce
- 6 generous glugs of Frank’s hot sauce (optional)
- About 20 (more or less, as you wish) peppercorns tied up in a little cheesecloth sack. (To avoid picking them all out lest you want to bite into them repetitively)
- 2 bay leaves
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- 1 ounce(s) shave or grated Parmesan or Romano or Asiago cheese, shaved
How You Do:
If you don’t have a cast iron pan yet, purchase one. Sautée those chopped onions in a drizzle of olive oil and dollop of butter till translucent. Sprinkle with salt, add garlic. Stir and sautée for a couple more minutes till things starts to get sticky and you need to de-glaze. So use some beer or wine for that. Be generous with it. I don’t suggest cocktails however, but hey. Wouldn’t kill it. Beer and wine however would enhance it. Add the chopped celery.
Stir and sautée till it all smells lovely and looks brown and starts to caramelize and crisp up ever so delicately here and there. This is key to starting up any good soup base, also known as a mirepoix. Some say carrots should be part of this mirepoix business. And bacon fat. (!!!) To each their own mirepoix business I say. Besides, we’re adding chunks of carrots in the stew. Although I do add in the bacon fat when I’m making a meaty stew. So.
Now that we’re clear on that myriad of things…you’ve got a good thing going on. Scrape and scoop all of that goodness into your dutch oven or crock pot. Me? I crock this action up. Start it mid morning and let it simmer on low all day. Sometimes, if I’ve got my shit together extra BOOM POW that day, I put my bread maker in action. Or I started a loaf of dough – the night before all, ‘Mark Bittman no knead styles’. (Takes mere seconds that turn into a couple of minutes people. Serious). Which brings me to a key point. If you are baking your bread this way, you should be using a crock-pot for the stew and saving your dutch oven for the bread.
Moving right along…now that everything’s been prepped, (the real time is in the washing, cutting and peeling). Basically you can dump the ingredients into your crock willy nilly. Nothing will combust. Cover and simmer on low for about 6 hours, 8 will only make it better, 4-5 will be just fine. This stew is an easy lay. In that it can be had at various times and is always willing and ready. So enjoy!
And for heaven’s sake. Slop it up with *a piece, mayyyybe 2* of fresh baked bread, it’s really not as hard as y’all think. Top it off with modest (remember there is point to this healthy stew), shavings of one of those 3 cheese choices up there. Lastly don’t forget the beer. Yes beer is fattening, but again. I’m all about moderation, not complete denial. Something crisp, blonde and imported – to compliment the sweet heat that this stew begs for. Crack a Labatt product and I’ll kick your arse.
(I’m only a snob when it comes to the important stuff. Like wine, beer and chocolate. Never Coach, Burberry or fancy diamonds shall I yearn for.)