December 2012, the weekend before Christmas, my oven decided to die a slow death. I was in the process of making three types of muffins as part of a gift for my aunt, five types of cookies and my mom and I were making the different parts of the enchiladas we were taking over to my cousin’s house. No big deal, right? Just the main course and dessert for our Christmas dinner.
As I was baking late into the night, all the cookie dough made and chilled, the muffins cooling, the oven slowly began getting colder and the smell of natural gas arose. My mom and I had noticed that our oven was being funky and wasn’t getting hot like it used to, but we could always get it to work. Luckily, I was just about done baking for the night and we turned the oven off. Over the next couple of days, the oven took longer and longer to get warm, and would not stay hot for very long. I was able to finish the rest of the cookies, but that Christmas was the Christmas our oven died. After looking into it, we found that as that model ages the heating element that ignites the fire in the oven goes wonky and decides to quit.
Since that December, I have found approximately 2,904,785,249,852 different recipes that I want to try, but it seems at least 90% of them have something done in the oven. The challenge over the last year or so has been to either learn to adapt recipes so that they don’t have to go in the oven, or find delicious things to make in our dutch oven, slow cooker or on the stove top. Fortunately my mom and I are resourceful and have done a great job doing this, but there are sometimes when I just want a batch of homemade cookies or to roast meats or vegetables for dinner. These are the moments where you realize how lucky you are to have such a problem, but these are the same moments that make it frustrating when you’re trying to start your own home baking business. We’ve been saving, so hopefully a new oven is in our near future. Until then, it’s experimenting with all the different things you can make outside your oven.
In the mean time, I’ll leave you with this beef stew/pot roast goodness that makes your house smell really good, and while it is made in the slow cooker, it heats up your house rather nicely. In writing this recipe down, I realized how freely I cook, not really knowing how much of different things are added to a dish, so here’s my rough version. There’s a lot of flexibility here, add more of what you like and less of what you don’t. Make it so that you like it and so that you’ll eat it. That’s what makes food so magical. (Oh, this recipe uses two dried gravy mixes. I’m working on a way to make my own dried gravy mix so that I can control what goes into this a bit more.)
Get a package of stew meat. We usually get about two pounds of meat (the family pack size) so we’ll have leftovers. Just get as much as you need, you know how much you eat.
Beef stew meat
1 brown onion, cut into 1-2″ pieces
3-6 celery stalks, cut into 1-2″ pieces
3-6 carrots, cut into 1-2″ pieces
(I added a yellow bell pepper and a tomato cut into eighths because they needed to be cooked, but it’s still good without, basically whatever veggies you want)
2-3 dried bay leaves depending on how big they are
2-3 garlic cloves, or dried garlic
Whatever spices you want
Brown gravy and Onion gravy mix (or two brown gravy) for this amount, we use two of the little dried packs.
Enough water to cover about 2/3 of the stuff. Probably about 2-3 cups of water. If you want to get a fair amount of gravy, add more water.
Cook on high for 6-8 hours or low for 8-12 (depending on your slow cooker and the amount of food)