Making stews that will warm your body and heart.

The key to making a savory stew is just like making soup, you must have a flavorful broth, or gravy, for the base.

For any stew you make, first prepare the meat or poultry and while it is cooking add some water to the drippings and use vegetables and seasonings to flavor it.

For a perfect beef stew, you should take cubes of stewing beef and coat them in a mixture of flour and seasonings such as salt, pepper, garlic powder and Italian seasonings. Once this is done, melt some Crisco into a frying pan and over medium heat start to brown the meat. You can cook it till it gets a nice brown color and is uniform in color all the way around each piece. You are browning it not only because it looks better, but mainly because it stays juicy when you sear the meat in this way. When you transfer the meat to a stew pot, or large saucepan, make sure you scrape all the drippings and brown particles in to the pot. That is where much of your flavor lies.

When you start to add vegetables to your stew pot, you can choose things you like best.  For a traditional beef stew, you should try onion and celery sliced thinly, potatoes cubed or cut into four to six pieces depending on size, sliced, or chunks of, carrot and any seasonings you wish to add to the broth.

You will then simmer this mixture till all is tender. Add water as needed and thicken it at the end if you wish to have a gravy base. Just use a couple spoonfuls of corn starch or flour mixed with cold water till smooth. Slowly stir that into stew while heat is turned off. Once mixed you can once again add heat till gravy is as thick as you like and all is well heated. It is hard to eat stew without good bread and butter to sop up all that delicious juice.

Another favorite wintertime stew is to make chicken and dumplings. Here again, you should start with the poultry. You will find the best juice comes from cooking a whole chicken and once cooked clean all the meat off the bone. It can take a couple hours to cook the chicken long enough so you have a tasty broth. The bones and the skin are what give it a great rich flavor. This is a time intensive project as you take all the meat off the bone, but worth it in taste. Everything that looks good will be saved for the stew. The pieces of meat that have too much fat or look discolored should not be used if you want a pretty looking dish. You can use other chicken parts, but this is the method preferred for a good chicken base. If you prefer, you can use wings and necks to make your broth, but then will also need breast to cut chicken pieces from to add to this dish.

When your meat is well cooked and prepared for the stew, add it back into the pot, discard bones and save other less pretty trimmings such as skin for the pets.

You are now ready to add the vegetables and you will enjoy the taste of thinly sliced celery and carrots cubed very small. Adding parsley seems to be necessary because it looks nice. It adds a flavorful touch so just decide how much you want in the stew and wash it and use a scissors to cut into small pieces. Just use the leaves not the stems for the prettiest look. You can add potatoes if calories are not of concern because you will be adding more starch in the form of dumplings. Cube these smaller than for a beef stew as they are more of an additive then a main player in this concoction. There are many recipes for dumplings, but using Bisquick baking mix and following their recipe gives good result. When you mix and drop these, use a light hand so they stay fluffy.

With dumplings, you may wish to forego bread, but a green salad would be a nice addition to your meal.

Another stew you may enjoy is almost identical to the beef stew, but made with pork cubes with the exception of some seasonings you may prefer, you can follow the above directions to the letter.

A stew that is very good and warming to the body and soul is a sausage stew. It is best with a smoked sausage and is very simple to make. The sausage is browned a bit with some onions. You can start this right in the stewing pot unless you have a large frying pan that accommodates it. You should add enough onion to give a fairly strong flavor, at least one whole one. It really complements the broccoli we will add. A whole bunch to a pound of sausage is about right. You will add potatoes in cubes to this dish. It is simple, but it should cook on low for an hour to meld the flavors. Experiment with the amounts of each item that you like best. Once again good bread will be welcome to enjoy the broth of this stew.

Stew can be basically anything you like. It should have a flavorful base broth, meat or poultry and veggies. You can run wild with your imagination and concoct something totally different from any recipe.

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