Easy Crockpot Beef Stew!

Sorry folks, I don't have exact measurements for this recipe. This is a dump recipe for me - what I have goes in the pot. It's always a little different each time - sometimes better than others, but always tasty.  I have a LARGE Crockpot - 7 quart I think - and all I do is just make sure I have a solid single layer of each ingredient.  You'll have to make some guesses as to exact amounts.

What you need - cubed beef, onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes, 1 can condensed beef broth, your choice of seasonings, 1 cup regular strength beef broth and 2-3 T Cornstarch for thickening. Other additions could be mushrooms, peas, yams squash, Spinach, etc.  I would add these around the time you put in the carrots and potatoes, but be sure and adjust the amount of carrots and potatoes to compensate. You want to keep roughly the same ratio between meat, vegetables and liquid.

All you need to do is just follow the list below, putting each item in your crockpot in the order given. You should have enough of each ingredient to make a pretty solid single layer in your large crockpot - no  stacking extra of a single ingredient.

First layer - Onion
You can use sweet or regular.  2- 3 should do it depending on size.  Peel, cross cut in half, then top to middle to cut it into quarters. Each onion ends up in 8 wedges. Layer these across the bottom.

Second layer - Garlic
You won't have a full layer of this one.  2-3 cloves are about right depending on size.  You can mince, press or just peel and throw in whole (my normal shortcut to make it easy). If you do the last be sure and remove before serving.

Third Layer - Beef
You could buy the pre-cut package of stew meat OR get a inexpensive pot roast and cut it into cubes. My best guess is you'll need around 1-1/2 lbs. of meat to will create a single layer in your crockpot, but you'll have to experiment. I cut off any extra fatty bits. Some recipes like to brown the meat first. I think that's a great idea, but honestly, I just don't like taking the time and making the extra mess. NOTE - the meat gets fall apart tender. If you want the beef chunks to stay more intact, make the cubes larger. If don't mind if it falls apart, cut them smaller.

Fourth Layer - Carrots
Illustration from Moms Organic Bohemian Foodie Fun Website
I bought a package of New World Farms Sweet Baby Carrots at Costco the other day so this made prep easy. I used about 1/2 the 680 gram package (so about 340 grams of carrots). I took the little green stub off the top and cross cut them into quarters. The pieces were about 1-1/2" long. If you use regular carrots and they are large and thick, you might have to cut them in half lengthwise first before cross cutting into bite size pieces of roughly 1/4 or so inches.

Fifth Layer - New Potatoes
How easy is this one. A single layer of new potatoes comes next.  If they are really small leave as is, If some are a bigger, cut them in half. I used the tri-colour package as I like the mix of red, white and blue potatoes. Can't find new potatoes, you can use regular potatoes.  Cut in 2-inch chunks.

Sixth Layer - Seasonings
Here is where you get to mix it up and make it your own. I used salt, pepper and Italian Herbs this time around.  What you choose will give your stew your own personal flair.  In looking at other recipes, optional additions include - Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste (I would add this to the broth in the next step), soy sauce and more. The sky's the limit.  Be brave!

Final Layer - Condensed Beef Broth
Okay, it's not really a layer per se, but it's your final step.  I have tried many things, including regular beef broth, but it always ends up shy on taste. As juice will come out of the meat as well as all the vegetables, I decided to go with a single can of Campbell's Condensed Beef Broth.  I slowly poured it over all the other layers so the seasonings would wash down into the broth. It doesn't look like enough liquid at first, but that will change.

Now you're ready to cook.  Standard cooking times show to cook on low 7-8 hours (my preference) or on high 3-4 hours.

How to finish - Mix 2-3 T Cornstarch (more if you want a thicker broth) with 1 cup regular strength beef broth.  Pour it into the crockpot. GENTLY combine this with the broth in the pot while mixing up the meat and vegetables.  Note -The meat is REALLY tender and will fall apart so use a very light touch here. Let cook for 3-4 minutes uncovered to thicken and then serve in big bowls with crusty bread, cheese scones or cornbread.

It's in your court now!  What variations on this can YOU think up? How will you make it your own? If you do experiment, I'd love to hear in the comments what your version included.