If there is one thing this Midwestern girl loves, it’s fall weather. Fall is my favorite season! The smells, the colors, the tastes, the weather. PSL Opening Day is a big deal for me (that’s Pumpkin Spiced Latte) and serves as permission from our Lord Himself to shift all thing to FALL!!! Our house stops looking all summery and gets cozy in a hurry. The windows are open at night, blankets go on the beds, and the pile of throws moves back into the Living Room. Suddenly flannel and sweatshirts are my favorite things to wear.
I also read more books in the fall. The season lends itself to getting cozy with a blanket and cup of hot tea, and snuggling into my rocking chair to let my latest book transport me to another place. I LOVE that! My collection of teas also blossoms this time of year. I am a coffee girl to my core in the morning, but nothing beats a steaming cup of tea with just a splash of half and half. If you think that sounds good, maybe try spice, orange, or a fruit flavored tea. The half and half gives a hint of creaminess that you are sure to savor.
And then there’s the baking. I’ve made pumpkin pie, cinnamon coffee cake muffins, zucchini muffins, spice bar cookies, pumpkin muffins, apple cider donuts, beef stew, chili, homemade bread, dinner rolls, and chicken stew. That was all made this past week. Needless to say, I’m avoiding the scale. Thankfully, I bake and send it to work with Superman, to work with me, or to friends and neighbors. I am one of those people who cannot eat enough apples in the fall, so there’s been apples on the shopping list for weeks. And I made an apple pie with crumb topping a few weeks ago- it was insanely good. Next week I will be oven-baking butternut squash to eat as a side dish. Add some butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg and prepare to have your life changed.
So here’s the problem- Superman doesn’t do casseroles, and he’s not always a soup guy. I know, it’s a total deal-breaker for me too, but when he answers my phone call his first words are, “Hello, Beautiful,” so I choose to overlook this character flaw of his. At first I really struggled with meal planning, because I felt like most of my fall/winter meals were off limits. Then I realized that I can create a win-win. I make the casseroles and soups I want, and eat them all week for lunch, and I add the soups/stews he likes into our meal rotation. Everyone wins. If only every compromise in life was as easy as that…
Today was the day I chose to make one of my most favorite stews of all time- Campfire Stew. It’s a dish I grew up eating, and it is most likely written in my DNA. My mom made it every fall and winter, and always served it with bread of some kind. Sometimes she even baked up a couple loaves of homemade bread to go with it. Now that was a Heavenly smell to walk into! She even canned it so we could take a couple big jars with us when we went camping in Wisconsin or at the beach club we belonged to. I never realized what a smart lady she was to can it for camping. It was an easy, heat-and-eat meal, a family favorite, and there was no refrigeration necessary which meant we could have it whenever the day called for it. This meal is one of my go-to meals for taking to families after a baby, illness, death, or getting home from a long vacation. There’s no way you can’t enjoy this meal- it’s just too delicious! Campfire Stew is comfort food, and that is why it is a staple in our house during the cozy days of fall.
I texted my mom this morning to tell her I was making it today, and she said dad had already asked her to make it soon. Then I told her I was trying to decide if I was going to bake loaves of bread or make dinner rolls. She voted for dinner rolls. Sissay has been asking me to make bread, so I decided to do that since I just made rolls last week. Because I am a snot, I sent a pic of the bread fresh out of the oven. I was hoping she would show my dad and then he’d be all jealous- that’s the kind of kid I am. Within 2 minutes of the bread coming out of the oven I had buttered the top of the loaf, removed it from the pan, and burned my hands cutting the first slice of bread for myself. That first slice straight out of the oven is the greatest thing on the planet. Spread butter and some homemade strawberry jelly on it and you could probably just die right then and there. Superman was laughing at me burning my hands while he sat eating his breakfast before heading in for his midnight shift. He will be having stew and bread for his lunch tonight.
So where did this recipe come from, and how do you make it? Well, my mom said she learned how to make it at Girl Scout camp. They put the ingredients in a coffee can covered in foil, dug a hole in the ground, and put the coffee can surrounded by hot coals in there, then covered with more dirt. After several hours they came back and it was done. So the original recipe came from the Girl Scouts, but mom’s recipe was an edit to the original, and my recipe is an edit to her recipe, and she absolutely hates when I do that. I have said many times that I always take a recipe and make it my own, but she doesn’t like it when I mess with her recipes. Sorry, Mom. Mom uses hamburger, I use stew meat. I marinate the stew meat for a day, she doesn’t. I add a few more seasonings than she does. Whichever way you choose to go, it will be amazing, trust me. I love this the most when it cooks in the oven, but I don’t always have 4 hours to make it this way. I have made it in a huge soup pot on the stovetop, Crock Potted it, and Instant Potted it. The stew just tastes more “roasted” when it is in the oven, but you have to add more tomato juice because the liquid evaporates in the oven. Stovetop takes 2 hours, InstantPot takes 90 min, Crock Pot takes 8 hours on low, and oven takes 4 hours. Whatever time allows you, go for it!
Campfire Stew- Severely adapted from the Girl Scouts
- 1.5 lbs Marinated Stew Meat and juice
- 2 lbs peeled Red Potatoes
- 1 pkg. Baby Carrots, cut into thirds
- 1/2 large Onion, diced
- 3/4 head Celery, 1/8″ slices
- 1 large can Crushed Tomatoes
- 1 bottle tomato juice (2 bottles if cooking in the oven)
- 4 Bay Leaves
- Salt & Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Dried Thyme
- 1 sprig fresh Rosemary
Stew Meat Marinade
Quarter each stew meat chunk and put in gallon zipper bag. Add about 1C Red wine and 1/4 C Worcestershire, sprinkle a little salt and pepper. Press out all of the air, shake the contents of the bag, and refrigerate overnight.
Cut up all veggies, leaving potatoes larger than you would normally so they don’t turn to mush. Spray your large roaster pan, then add all ingredients. Cover with foil and place in 350 degree oven for 4 hours. After 4 hours, remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes before serving. (IF you can keep the wolves away from it)
This is also one of my most favorite things for leftovers. I will take it for lunch every day this week until it is gone, never growing tired of it. It’s that good! Superman reported that he really enjoyed it and it both filled him and warmed him up. Do not fear if you don’t have time to make a loaf of bread, grab one from the bakery at the grocery store, throw it in the oven for 5 minutes after you take out the stew, and it’ll be almost as good.
Almost an entire loaf of bread was gone after dinner. Little Guy had bread for dinner, just bread. I had way too many pieces, and Superman had a few in his lunch. Though I will eat stew all week for lunch, there’s no way the bread will keep pace. We like to toast it and eat it for a snack or dessert with butter and honey, or butter and Magic (cinnamon sugar), or butter and jelly. I have very fond memories of my mom baking bread, and I am continuing that tradition with my own kids. It is one of their favorite things to eat, and Little Guy even helps me make it sometimes. If you are looking for an easy recipe for delicious jam/jelly/preserves, click on the blue words to check out my blog post Biscuits for my Boys.
Happy Fall, everyone!