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Converting from oven to slow cooker saves time and energy

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I got up Sunday morning and before setting off to church, I put together a recipe for No-Peek Beef Stew. But although the original recipe specifies leaving it in a low oven for around six hours, you can do the same thing if you set it up in a slow cooker on LOW heat and leave it for a few hours. That was what I did.

I also made a substitution in the recipe, in that I used tomato sauce instead of diced tomatoes. I like diced tomatoes in things like chili con carne, but in any kind of beef stew I would prefer the sauce rather than actual pieces of tomato. This kind of substitution makes no difference in how the recipe comes out; it would be much different if I left out an ingredient like the broken bread, because that would influence the final texture.

The basics of the No-Peek recipe are: no potatoes; no added salt; the use of tapioca as a thickening agent; and finally the no-fooling, don't-do-it practice of not opening the baking dish until serving time, at least six hours after you put the stew on to cook.

With the slow cooker, I knew that it would be hot enough to boil if I used the LOW setting, so I did and the stew was ready right on time, six hours later. This stew goes great with mashed potatoes or bread and butter, both of which I had around, so you can just make whatever you like to go with it; rice or pasta would be fine as well.

My slow cooker is on the small side, and I must say that the stew filled it up. You will see my version, a small Crock Pot, on sale in many of the Fry's Supermarket stores around town; that is where I bought it. It worked out, in that the stew came out just fine, but if your slow cooker is larger than my round one that holds about a gallon, you will have more room. So marshal your ingredients and try this prep method on a busy day. You will not have to leave your oven on for hours.

By the way, I have included a video here for a basic introduction to the typical beef stew. You will find the techniques demonstrated, and if you try it you will find that beef stew in a Dutch oven is a delight as well.

NO-PEEK STEW IN A SLOW COOKER

From Margot Fernandez

Ingredients:

2 pounds beef stew meat
1 can of tomato sauce, 14-1/2 ounces
1 small onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
3 carrots, in chunky slices
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1 slice of bread, broken into small pieces
2 Tablespoons tapioca (the small-grain size)

Place everything into a slow cooker and stir. Do not add salt.

Turn the slow cooker to LOW heat and go off to do whatever is going to keep you out of the house all day. When you get home, turn off and unplug the slow cooker if it has been at least six hours since you put the stew on to cook.

Serve the stew hot with bread or mashed potatoes. A light wine goes well with this, and keep it on the sweet side because a harsh contrast between a dry red wine and the stew will not flatter either one.

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