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Old-fashioned no-chicken stew
Cook once. Eat for days!
There’s a touch of autumn in the air here in the hills of Cortland County NY, so I was inspired to make my favorite stew!
I make this in my crockpot. You can do it on the stovetop and it would be faster, but would require more attention. I like the set-it-and-forget-it convenience of the crockpot.
The recipe calls for one processed food item that contains oil and is high in sodium, a product called Better than Bouillon (affiliate link) in its “No Chicken” flavor.
I use two generous tablespoons for about 4-quarts of stew, so that’s about 1/4 of a teaspoon of Better than Bouillon per 1 cup serving of stew.
It adds about 165 mg of sodium per 1 cup serving.
You do not need to add salt to this recipe!
3 quarts low sodium veggie broth*
3 medium or 5 small yellow potatoes, diced
3 to 5 carrots, diced
1 medium or 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
4-5 stalks of celery, diced
5 white button mushrooms, sliced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
1 & 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1/2 cup pearl barley
1/4 cup dry lentils, any kind
2 generous tablespoons Better Than Bouillon “No Chicken” flavor
2 generous teaspoons quality poultry seasoning
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup water
Wash the living hell out of your veggies, especially the spinach. Wash it leaf by leaf. Do not just rinse it. Rub each leaf with your fingers to physically remove any bacteria. If you doubt this is necessary, hop your hiney over to Netflix and watch POISONED before you cook another crumb of food.
Dice all those nice clean veggies (except frozen peas) and pour into your crockpot. If using frozen peas, thaw them first, and add them two hours into the cooking process.
Pour some veggie broth into a separate bowl, just a cup or so, and heat in the microwave. Then add the Better than Bouillon. Whisk until combined. Pour over veggies. Then pour remaining veg broth over the veggies deeply enough to cover them.
Pour in the lentils and barley. Add the poultry seasoning. Stir everything in.
Cook on high for about 5 hours, until the carrots are fork tender. Add more broth if needed to keep the veggies covered.
As soon as the veggies are done, make a thick’nin’ as Granny called it. I think the current term is “Slurry” (where I live among dairy farms, that word has a whole other meaning and it is not appetizing.) So make a thick’nin’ by mixing a couple tablespoons of cornstarch into some water. Stir out the lumps, and pour right into the piping hot stew in the crockpot, stirring with a big spoon as you do. It’ll thicken your remaining veggie stock into a rich gravy.
No-chicken noodle soup, skip step 6. Do not thicken the broth. It’s perfect as it is. Take out just the amount of soup you want to eat for a meal, and add cooked noodles to it, then simmer on stovetop for a few minutes and cool to let the noodles absorb the flavor.
I have tried adding noodles to the whole crockpot full. It’s great on day 1, then the noodles turn to mush and thicken your broth into gravy. Not a great loss, but still.
To make your own veggie broth, save veggie scraps, washed and refrigerated, for a few days max. You can even use the ones you chopped up for the soup, all the celery leaves, onion skins, potato peels — if you have washed them thoroughly before chopping. Throw them into a big pot full of good water. Add a few whole veggies too, in chunks. Season it with rosemary, sage, celery seed, parsley, whatever you like. Simmer slowly for about an hour, strain out the veggies, and voila! Broth.
*Alternative to broth you can just cover the vegetables in your crockpot with water instead of veggie broth. I mean, water cooking in a potful of veggies turns into broth, plus you have the Better Than Bouillon base in there.
Add any vegetables you like! I’ve added kidney beans or cannellini beans or black beans, kale, summer squash, etc. I only add a few lentils because they tend to take over any dish (but they’re a superfood so I add them to many recipes.)