On Wednesdays, I like to have something in the crock pot for lunch. We have cottage classes here, teaching over fifty homeschooled students once-a-week classes, such as writing, English, biology, economics, and more. It is tons of fun–but a super busy day, so I put a stew or soup together in the crock pot that my co-teachers (first two sons, Joshua, and Jonathan) and Jakie (our only homeschooled student now 🙁 ) can eat whenever they get a break.
This week’s crock pot entree is Hamburger Stew. I originally got this recipe over twenty years ago when I began freezer cooking. It fit the bill perfectly then when hamburger and shredded-off-the-bone chicken were our main meats–and almost always used IN recipes to stretch them further (as opposed to chicken pieces or hamburger patties). It can be assembled then frozen before cooking (though the ingredients are all precooked). Then I can get it out of the freezer, defrost it, and either put it in the crock pot or oven. I no longer make it as a freezer entree because I have found that if I have precooked hamburger in the freezer, this stew comes together so quickly that I don’t need to even take up freezer space freezing it already assembled. However, if you are new to freezer cooking and looking for some satisfying, one dish entrees to start with (that are simple), this is definitely one to begin with.
Note: It is a tomato-based stew as opposed to many beef stew recipes that are gravy-based. It does have a lot of beefy flavor (not tomato-y like a red sauce or something), but the tomato sauce makes it a completely different stew than our beef stew recipe.
Also, I use small vegetables in this. I like smaller veggies with the hamburger but larger, chunkier veggies with stew beef. Just be sure if you use some larger and some smaller that they are fully cooked before assembling; otherwise, the vegetables will get done cooking at different times.
This is one of those “comfort foods” that can be made super “real”/whole foods or super fast/more convenience type foods. It can be made more caloric with fattier meat or less so with ground turkey. It can be made carbier with potatoes or less so with turnips or radishes or rutbagas. And the good news? Regardless of whether you are going less caloric or less carby, there are enough more “typical” flavors to dilute the flavors you don’t care for as much! (See “It’s All About Dilution”!)
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Here are some tips for various “healthifying” scenarios:
1) Fatty ground beef or ground sausage will be the most calorie dense/fatty meat choice for this dish. If you want to make a “keto stew,” you can definitely go with one or both of those. However, if you want to trim it down a little calorie-wise, ground turkey or ground chicken (ground without skin) are good low fat choices (which also decreases calories significantly).
2) I have experimented extensively with substitutions for potatoes (there are no real ones lol). My vote came in with turnips (which truly look like cooked potatoes and with the proper dilution from other familiar ingredients, they taste like them too. Radishes work well as potato substitutes and actually look like little red potatoes (their bright red color dissipates when cooked). However, we had some heart burn issues with the radishes, so I choose turnips. For a low carb stew, I would use turnips, carrots, and green beans. (Carrots aren’t as carby as most people think—no where close to potatoes!)
3) For a more family-friendly dish, you can use a combination of potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, and green beans. These are fairly typical ones.
4) For an easier stew (and don’t unsubscribe because of my “easy tips”—we all need easy sometimes!), you can even use canned mixed veggies or canned stew veggies (or frozen mixed/frozen stew). The stew veggies are chunkier, so I prefer them in beef stew, but for this stew with ground meat, I like the smaller ones.
- 5 to 6 lbs. raw ground turkey or hambuger (16 to 18 cups cooked and drained)
- 3 (15 oz) cans tomato sauce
- 3 cans mushroom soup or golden mushroom soup (You may make your own or make a beef gravy for this.)
- 7 cups beef broth
- 1 ½ cups milk (or cream or half and half)
- 6 cups cubed hashbrowns (or 3 cans potatoes)
- 6 lbs frozen mixed vegetables
- 6 TBSP minced onions
- ½ to 1 tsp garlic powder (I use a garlic-herb mixture and put more than this calls for)
- 6 bay leaves
- Extra beef base or powdered brown gravy mix, if desired
- Precook any fresh veggies that you substituted for the frozen (i.e. carrots, green beans, potatoes, etc.)---only if using substitutions.
- Brown meat and drain.
- Mix all other ingredients together. (If mixture seems especially tomato-y or thin, I will stir in a little brown gravy mix.)
- Place heaping amounts of stew in 3 (9 x 13) foil pans (deep ones or two shallow ones; or one gallon freezer bags if planning to cook on the stove top or in the crock pot).
- Freeze and label: "Hamburger Stew, Serves 10-12+, Thaw. Bake covered at 350’ for 45 – 60 minutes."
- May also place in freezer bags and label, then place in casserole dishes at baking time (or cook in crock pot).
- May also simmer on stove top for under an hour on medium, stirring frequently.
This recipe can be made more homemade (make own soup, use real potatoes that you cube and precook), etc. or less homemade (use all canned products), according to your time schedule and family's eating.
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P.S. I would love to hear your favorite fall/winter soups and stews! Ours are chili, potato, cheeseburger potato, vegetable, hamburger stew, beef stew, chicken gnocchi, creamy chicken “rice,” and beef “potato” rivel.