Art by Mike Jeffries

There are many reasons for eating less meat, including environmental concerns. I for one am preparing and enjoying more meatless meals all the time. I’ll share some of those recipes soon, but right now I’m sharing a meaty meal that I adore. Many years ago, my late mother was the owner/chef of a small, popular truck-stop diner. I know she would’ve approved of this easy, hearty recipe.

I know this recipe seems weird at first. I mean, canned soup poured over precious beef? What!? Mind you, it’s a short-cut recipe after all so bear with me. Still, the first time I made this it looked so strange that I thought, ‘Oh my gosh… Have I just wasted all these ingredients?’ But having gone that far I forged ahead, turned on the crockpot, said a little prayer, and voila! A few hours later my family and I were blessed with the best stew I’d ever made. The meat was SO tender, and the gravy… rich and flavorful. Years later and after many times preparing this recipe, I can tell you that this beef stew is foolproof to make and absolutely delicious. It’s just that easy.

One and Only Beef Stew

  • Servings: 8 generous servings
  • Time: 30mins + 6hrs
  • Difficulty: easy
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The long, gentle simmering time in the slow cooker turns this concoction into a delicious, succulent supper!


Ingredients

  • 1.5kg/3lb Bottom Blade (aka Chuck, rolled Pot Roast) boneless beef roast, cleaned and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped into a small dice
  • 5 carrots, washed, chopped medium
  • 1 can tomato soup, undiluted
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 1 cube of McCormick’s Beef-flavored bouillon, crumbled
  • Seasonings: sea salt, ground pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried basil, Steak Spice and Cajun Spice (about ½ teaspoon each or whatever you want… this is an example of what I add)
  • 4-6 dried bay leaves (removed before serving)
  • AT END OF COOKING TIME, JUST BEFORE SERVING:
  • Add slurry: 2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tablespoon of water
  • 1½ cups frozen peas, stirred in as you remove the bay leaves
  • Creamy mashed potatoes, for serving


Directions

Remove strings and pull roast into sections. Carve off fat/silverskin (see video link below), cut beef into 1-inch cubes, and add to 6L/5.7quart slow cooker. Add vegetables and cans of soup. Add seasonings except bay leaves. Stir the thick mixture to combine, and now push open a few ‘holes’ to tuck the bay leaves in without breaking them. This makes the flavorful, but inedible, dried leaves easier to remove at the end.

Put lid on tight (I weigh it down with silicone oven mitts). Turn crockpot to LOW for 6 hours (8 hours in an older slow cooker). No peeking for this all day simmer. The beef cubes will break apart when cooked long enough. Give it more time if the pieces don’t cut in half with a fork.

Once the beef is tender, stir the slurry into the stew, turn crockpot to High, and simmer 5 minutes to thicken the gravy. Turn off crockpot. Stir in frozen peas while removing the bay leaves, and the peas will be ready within moments. Enjoy this succulent stew with hot mashed potatoes.


YouTube – cutting up roast for stew
This video helped teach me how to cut up roasts for stewing. After practice and learning, I now clean and cube a medium blade roast in ten minutes.

Note: The so-called required step in many stew recipes of pre-browning beef cubes to ‘sear in’ juices is (IMHO) a myth. Searing adds flavor but this recipe has tons of taste. I cherish the low-stress, fast prep, and easy clean-up of this recipe. Also, terms ‘slow cooker’ and ‘crockpot’ are used interchangeably.
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[Copyright © 2017 Front Yard to Backcountry]

When campers live far north, like I do, enduring seven months of bitter cold and then five fast months when camping is possible, we do all we can to be ready to go as soon as the weather allows.

Here are 3 photos of my camp bin being unpacked, showing essential items that help make my home away from home as cozy and as safe as can be.

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Camp Bin includes: red first aid kit, small sleeping bag (an extra), blue camp hammock (a new fabric one!), mosquito jacket if bugs are really bad, two propane bottles, bear spray with belt holster, air horn (not shown), metal water bottle, bug spray, seat pad for picnic table, kitchen wash bin (see below), large tongs, green tablecloth, camp mirror, small dustpan set, lighter, bungee cord, solar shower, Off lantern with candles, LED lantern with batteries, shelter privacy wall (white shower curtain), small paper towel roll, 4 metal skewers, aluminum foil, fly swatter, and 14″ hatchet. Not bad for one bin!


Having an organized camp bin helps make the difference between enjoying a great getaway, or surviving an ordeal. Here’s my kitchen bin unpacked:

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1 – white plastic wash bin
1 – plastic cutting board
1 – wire rack (upcycled baking rack, to grill on fire pit grate)
1 – red silicone cutting/heat mat
3 – kitchen towels (1 cotton, 2 microfibre)
1 – cleaning supplies mesh bag (Biodegradable Camp Soap & dish brush, plus Pine-sol & Irish Spring as repellents only – not for washing)
1 – plastic water glass (with 1 silicone oven-mitt rolled inside)
1 – melamine cup (with a week’s worth of plastic bags for daily campsite garbage trips to the Bear Bins)
1 – camp cook stove attachment for propane
1 – small flashlight plus some extra cordage
7 – clothespins
2 – metal plates
1 – melamine bowl
2 – stacking pots with lid, black mesh bag
2 – extension fire pit forks
1 – cutlery bundle: steak knife, paring knife, 2 forks, 1 tablespoon, 1 teaspoon, small tongs, metal spatula, military can opener

Beyond this collection of smaller items packed in to one main bin, there are other essential items for comfortable SUV camping that I’ll share about in upcoming posts. Bring on the milder weather!

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[Copyright © 2017 Front Yard to Backcountry]

Matches To Go

2017-03-27 — 5 Comments

by Sheena Kohlmeyer

As a wilderness traveler and advocate of being prepared, I appreciate those small boxes of ‘strike anywhere’ matches. They’re inexpensive yet can be life-saving if one’s vehicle breaks down beyond cell reception. They’re in my camping gear, kayaking bin, emergency evac go-bag, bedside table, and in my kitchen ‘everything’ drawer. I also keep a box of these matches in my vehicle. In the vehicle is where it’s especially important to pay attention to the amount of matches remaining in the box. In my world, travel bins and tins with wooden matches have a qualifying feature: matches are secured.

Years ago a friend showed me the burn scar caused by a fiery eruption in his shirt pocket while driving on a pitted backcountry road. He’d tucked a box of a few remaining ‘strike anywhere’ matches into his shirt pocket as he headed down a bumpy road. He had no idea the friction from the constant jarring could shake those match-heads enough to ignite them against each other. He recovered thankfully, and his story can help others. I certainly ensure my matches ‘to go’ cannot jostle. No accidental fireballs on my person or in my vehicle! Hopefully not yours either. So let’s keep them snug.

Transfer matches out of your homestead supply into the travel matchboxes to help keep those boxes full. Using an elastic band around the box keeps it handy for securing matches together into a bundle as their numbers dwindle and bumpy roads are ahead. Then you can rest assured that no matter how rough that backcountry road, your bound matches will not rub against each other and ignite. That’s my little tip today to help us all stay safe.

Waking up to snow flurries and freezing temperatures puts a damper on any northerner’s mood. After all, it’s officially spring now, right? Mother Earth will just take her own sweet time, and up here in the chilly Zone 3, gardens are still sleeping beneath frozen ground.

Braving the cold wind this morning, I pulled on my parka and my wool hat and stepped out to look for any bulb tips after a few warm days melted back the snow cover. Nothing in the front but it did have deeper snow. But in the backyard it’s more sheltered against the wall of the garage and… JOY!

A dozen tulips poking above the surface of the cold soil. Only a half an inch/couple of centimeters, but their brave presence delights me nonetheless. Then another gust of wind whips more tiny ice pellets at my face, chilling my ungloved hands until I retreat back indoors to warm up.

Looking out at the bleak, grey skies I realize I must go see my local florist. I need more evidence of spring, and I need it now!

Store-bought tulips, to the rescue. I made the sales clerk laugh with my standard silliness. She asks, ‘How are you today?’ ‘Well,’ I said somberly but with a twinkle in my eye, ‘I’m having a flower emergency.’ She laughs, ‘A flower emergency?!’ ‘Yes! Here I am out at a store, haven’t done my makeup or hair (I gesture to my toque covered head) and I feel like I can’t get anything done on this miserable day until I get some flowers.’ Like I said, tulips to the rescue!

Since the ones growing in my yard are still weeks away from blooming, these tulip blooms are brightening my home today, and my mood. Now, after sharing with you my dear readers, off I go to get some more work done. Thank heavens for florists!

My front yard, today. . .

My front yard last summer!