Family Cooking: There’s No Exact Way to Make a Stew

posted on: April 18, 2012

One of the great joys of family life is cooking together and then devouring all the yummy food you’ve made.  Creating as a family, encouraging the input and imagination of your loved ones, and then sitting down to eat, imparts a festive atmosphere to any meal.  Yes, some of us have specialties of things we love to do.  My grandson loves cutting up strawberries!  My granddaughter thinks my fancy apron is right up there with princess dresses, stands on my little stool and stirs away. My daughter is the champion vegie roaster.

Perhaps it’s the sense of team that develops when the family joins together to produce for each other.  A team that enjoys a fun activity, and it’s delicious reward can carry over to less delicious activities: cleaning up, gardening, putting toys away, etc. Most of us have definite ideas of which items are tasty together.  I don’t agree with all of my family’s suggestions, but in the spirit of fun and encouragement, I’ll try almost anything.

A few months ago, I did a poll on Facebook asking whether my fans preferred to follow recipes or improvise. The great majority preferred a combination of both.  Unless there’s a question of chemistry (making preserves, bread, cookies, etc.) when I follow the proportions of the ingredients, I always experiment. Each dish is a one time event.

This recipe from A Gift for My Sister commemorates real life: making a stew for a brownie potluck with my daughter.

It really was the best stew EVER!!  Hope you have fun making a variation of this with your family.


 Marnie, Sky, and Tara’s Girl Scout Stew

Tara joined the Brownies when she was in second grade and they had a final potluck dinner at the end of the first year.  She generously signed Marnie up to bring a main course, not thinking that Marnie needed to be consulted. Tara came home thrilled that they were going to make the entree.

“Do I have to come?” Sky rolled her eyes.

Tara glanced at her shoes and then watched Marnie’s face.

“No, you don’t have to.  But that’ll be our dinner tomorrow night and we all can make the stew tonight.  It’ll be better the second day.”

So Marnie seasoned three pounds of stew chunks with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Sky cut up 3 big onions in chunks.  Marnie browned three gloves of garlic in a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and added the meat, browning the cubes on all sides.  When brown, she put the chunks in the largest casserole dish she had.

She turned the oven to 300.

Then, she added the onions to brown.  She gave Tara a colander and told her to put a pound of mushrooms in it and wash them well. The onions were browned so they went into the casserole, while Tara watched the mushrooms sautee.

Marnie put in a packet of beef onion soup mix, parsley, and a bay leaf in the casserole. Then the mushrooms. She added some water (if this wasn’t for kids, she would have added wine) and scrapped the brown bits of meat, onions, mushrooms from the bottom of the pan.  That went into the casserole, too.

“Okay, what else for our stew?”

“Ketchup!” Tara loved it and squeezed some in.

“Yeah!” Sky said. “And mustard.”


Sky put in a heaping tablespoon.

This is going to be some stew, Marnie thought.  She had never done that before.

“How ‘bout some molasses?” Sky suggested.

Marnie poured a bit of that in, stirred it all up, added some water.  And then got a spoon to see how they thought it tasted.

“More ketchup.”

Marnie put in more ketchup.

“Carrots,” Sky said. “And potatoes.”

So they took three large carrots, scrapped them, cut them in chunks and threw them in, too.
“We’ll put the potatoes later.”

“How ‘bout some honey and soy sauce?” Tara asked and that went in, too.

They put it in the oven and let it bake for an hour and then added small red skinned potatoes and let it bake for another hour.  That night, after the kids were asleep, Marnie tasted it and thought it was the best stew she ever made.  Partly because it was so much fun for each of them to add whatever they thought would taste yummy. But mostly because their ideas made a wonderful blend.  There’s no exact way to make a stew.

The Brownies and their families loved it, too.




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