Stew is one of those foods that belongs in the fall and winter :). I love a good homemade stew, especially during the aforementioned seasons. My family enjoyed a tasty homemade stew tonight with homemade bread and biscuits. Mmmmm, good. The bread was made with fresh-ground whole wheat flour and honey, so it was healthy as well as good. The biscuits, well, let's just say they tasted good :).
I love cooking and baking, and I especially love to find recipes that are all from scratch. I have long fought against the tide of prepackaged, processed, "meals in a box." I avoid recipes with cream of mushroom soup like the plague. Have you ever taken a look at the quantity and quality of ingredients listed on a can of cream of mushroom soup? And who needs chicken buillion cubes when one can make chicken broth from scratch; oh, so much healthier, and the flavor will actually be chicken and vegetables instead of sodium. Run-of-the-mill canned chicken broth actually sets my heart racing from the high salt content.
Cooking from scratch is becoming a lost art in our society. Sad. I heard of one homeschool mom who, when communicating that she cooks for her family every night, was asked by other homeschool moms if she was Amish. I've known people to be surprised to find that I actually make foods like cake, gravy, and lasagna from scratch, rather than from a box or packet. Then there are my experiments with homemade pasta, admittedly varying in success and definitely a waste of time in the eyes of most people. When it works, though, it is far superior. There is also a sense of satisfaction from making a food or a whole meal with basic ingredients, rather than pouring some water over powder, stirring, and popping it in the oven.
Now, I am not above occasionally using processed food of some sort, but if it was up to me it would be limited to very little or none. I admit that brownies from a mix are often equal in taste to the real deal, albeit less healthy - but then who's going for health with brownies anyway? Few other foods can be matched, though, by processed or boxed imitations.
The overwhelming problems Americans have with their health today is largely due to poor eating habits. I'm not just talking about Big Macs and Coke (term used generically in Atlanta for any soda) here. Just look at all the chemicals listed on the back of most food packages today. Processed foods contain so many by products. By putting unnatural products into their body systems day in and day out, Americans are eating themselves into a plethora of health problems and an early grave. For example, 40% of all cancer is caused by lack of fiber, easily treatable with a well-balanced, natural diet.
Ironic that a chocoholic is writing this. . . But then, I'm also a carrotholic. Three pounds of carrots in one day is my record :). Some day I'll be able to see in the dark. . . and I'll have very healthy teeth.
I have not even touched on the toll America's fast-food lifestyle has taken on family life. For most people, daily family meals are all too scarce today, replaced by individual heat-and-go meals as members of the family run from one event to another. The family table was once the hub of American family life and the focus of each evening. I'm thankful and blessed that my family still enjoys dinner together more often than not. If you are feeling inspired to cook a little from scratch, may I suggest the excellent beef stew that my family enjoyed tonight?
1/2-3/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
2-3 t salt
1/4 t pepper
2 lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 T oil
4 c water
4 cups cubed potatoes (I leave on the skins)
1 t parsley
1/2 t thyme
1 bay leaf
3 carrots, cut into small pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 stalks celery, cut into small pieces (about 1 cup)
1-2 onions, sliced
frozen peas and corn
Mix flour, salt, and pepper and use to coat beef. Heat oil in stockpot until hot; add beef and remaining flour mixture. Cook and stir until beef is brown. Add water. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours. Add remaining ingredients except peas and corn. Cover and simmer 1-2 hours, adding peas and corn 10 minutes before serving. Remove bay leaf before serving. Enjoy!