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Thursday, October 1, 2015

October 1: Boo Stew

Clockwise from left:  Boo Stew; bat salt & pepper shakers, TJ Maxx; witchy place mats, Target

I am kicking off the first day of this month of tricks and treats with an adorable meal that's so easy to make it practically cooks itself! 

I don't know what it's like where you live, but the nip is back in the air today (yay!) AND it's overcast--oh wait, now it's raining. Well, either way, it's the perfect type of day for a slow-cooker meal. (See? I told you it practically cooks itself. hahaha!)

I found this recipe in the copy of Taste of Home Holiday Halloween magazine I bought way back in, oh wow, August 2010. I know, I know. That's forever ago. But I've certainly gotten my money's worth out of that one. (Including, I might add, the recipe for THE BEST Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting I made in 2010 for my former colleagues that happened to win our department's Cupcake Wars competition. Boo-ya! They're on my calendar to make again later this month so stay tuned!)

Anyway, since it's unlikely you're like me and stockpile old periodicals, I'll let you in on a tip: you can likely find some of the recipes I'm using this year in the seasonal options on sale now. I've found the annual versions of the themed mags tend to have a lot of overlap in content from year to year. They are not exact duplicates by any means, but certain recipes seem to show up every time they're published, so there's a good chance you can will find some oldies and goodies in print. However, for your convenience, I'll post the recipes (well, my adaptations of the recipes) here for your convenience.

The original title of today's fare is "Beef Stew with Ghoulish Mashed Potatoes." However, I've officially renamed it "Boo Stew." That's way cuter, plus it rhymes. And since it's my blog, I can do what I want. Naturally, you're welcome to call it whatever you like.

(I suppose you are also welcome to think the mound of potatoes looks more like a melted snowman and less like a ghost. But if that's the case, think how easily this one can be adapted for a winter-themed meal. Throw a carrot in that little guy's nose and call it dinner! In that case, though, call it Boo Hoo Stew.)

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Boo Stew
A classic beef stew with a dollop of ghostly mash on top! Adapted from Taste of Home Holiday Halloween, August 2010.

Servings: 6 
Active prep time: about 20 minutes
Slow cook time: about 9 hours, 10 minutes


2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes and sprinkled liberally with salt and pepper
1 pound fresh baby carrots, halved
3 parsnips, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cups beef broth
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (if you don't prefer the taste of cloves, feel free to cut it back to 1/4 tsp or eliminate altogether)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 1/3 pounds potatoes, (about 3 large), peeled and cubed
2/3 cup sour cream (I used light sour cream)
6 Tablespoons butter, cubed
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup frozen peas
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons water


1. In a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker, combine the first 10 ingredients. Cover and cook on Low for 8-9 hours, or until the beef and veggies are tender. (I set mine to 9 hours and the texture of everything in the stew was perfect.)

2. Approximately 30 minutes before serving, place cut potatoes in a large pot and cover with about an inch of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, then cover and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes or until tender. (Mine took the full 20 minutes.) Drain. Return potatoes to pan and mash, stirring in butter, sour cream, and salt. Once smooth, set aside.

3. Set aside 12 peas for garnish (2 each for 6 servings). Add remaining peas to slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine flour and water, whisking until smooth. Stir into stew. Cover and cook on High for 5-10 minutes, or until stew is thickened and peas are warmed through.

4. Divide stew among 6 bowls. Spoon mashed potatoes into a large resealable plastic bag; cut a 1-2 inch hole in one corner. Squeeze bag gently in a circular motion to pipe mashed potato ghost mounds in center of stew portions; insert peas as eyes for each ghost.

**Note: The original recipe also called for 1 pound fresh mushrooms, halved. My family doesn't care much for mushrooms so I left them out. If your family likes them, you should add them with the rest of the ingredients in Step 1.**

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It was an easy meal to pull together. In fact, since I knew I had a ton of things on my to-do list today, I did all my prep last night. All I had to do this morning is plonk the ingredients in the slow cooker. (Plonk is not an appetizing word, is it? Hmm...) Anyhoo, if you have time, I suggest doing this. I chopped my veggies and stored them in the fridge overnight in a large resealable baggie and airtight container (raw onion and garlic stink up the fridge otherwise). I also measured out my tomato paste, spices, and Worcestershire sauce into a ramekin. (I don't know about you, but any time I say "Worcestershire sauce" I always feel like Dana Carvey saying  "judicial system." (about 00:12-00:40 in this clip)) It came together in under 5 minutes this morning!

When it came time to serve, I added salt and pepper to taste. The girls giggled when they saw the ghosts. I shared some with my parents, too, and don't mind telling you my dad, a soup and stew connoisseur, said it was delicious.

I was concerned about the ground cloves in there because cloves can be a strong flavor, but nobody made any negative remarks about them. (In the world of cooking for kids, "no negative remarks" is high praise!) In future, I might use 1/4 teaspoon instead just to try it. Obviously, feel free to experiment.

Overall, I'd deem the first treat of the month a smashing success. Plus, a hearty meal made in the slow-cooker while I ran errands? For me, that's a boo-nus. ;-)

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