Thursday, January 6, 2011

Kitchen Sink Stew


There is a movement in the blogosphere for people to clean out their fridge and pantry this January, to resist the urge to constantly purchase new groceries, which allows great food to go bad. There is so much you can do with just a little creativity and as a food blogger, isn’t this what we should be inspiring? I rarely follow a recipe and if you ask anyone with basic cooking skill they will tell you the same thing. Do you want to know why? We’re creative out of necessity. If I was to purchase new ingredients for one recipe every single night I’d be broke; well, significantly more broke than I already am. Ours is a family without a lot of money but Mr. and I always ensure our children have good food and one of the ways we have been able to accomplish this is through our CSA share (community supported agriculture) in the Hutten Family Farm; for $20 a week we receive an incredible amount of vegetables (and fruit) that is local, spray-free and grown by a man we consider our friend. It would be an insult to Ted if we allowed those vegetables to rot in any way.

All these thoughts were swirling in my head yesterday morning when I opened the refrigerator door to find it absolutely full of vegetables. If you looked in our pantry, potato box and refrigerator you might begin to doubt that I actually feed my family, but I do. I really, really do. It was in this spirit that I began chopping parsnip and carrots, an entire leek and tearing apart a bag of kale to throw into the slow cooker. It didn’t take long before it was absolutely packed, including a can of corn because not only do I need to clean out the fridge, I need to attack the pantry.

I don’t use the slow cooker very often, even though I intend to do so which means that my slow cooker recipe skills are a little shaky. I was fairly confident about all the veggies and lentils swirling around in there but Mr. was not. Upon coming home Mr. discovered that my overzealous amount of kale had entirely overpowered the whole dish and if you are not careful, kale can be quite bitter. I had laid down for a rest so he was given free reign to do as he wished with what I intended to be a vegetarian dish. I was so serious about this vegetarian dish that I emptied what little I had in the way of lentils – note, usually a good idea to check you have the ingredients for a dish, resorted to one of those dried soup mixes of green and orange lentils and alphabet noodles and went on my merry way. Mr., so unimpressed with the mess of vegetables and lentils added a can of pulverized tomatoes and pork. Just your classic vegetarian dish with a smattering of pork.

I may have mentioned that I was a vegetarian for an extended period of time and Mr. joined me in that endeavor but that was before we were married and I’m not entirely sure how true his devotion was; he was the one who bought the lamb when we gave it up.

The dish, which Mr. calls chili and I think he is basing this on the presence of the crushed tomatoes turned out beautifully. If he hadn’t made the adjustments I think my moniker of “mean Mommy” might have stuck. I’m not really that mean but he’s definitely more fun for the kids. I make them bathe and pick up their toys. All that kale was toned down and the five spice he used on the pork added this unexpected depth to the whole dish even though he used very little of it. It’s an incredibly healthy dish based on the number of vegetables used and because I used just about everything I could get my little paws on, it’s open to all kinds of interpretations.

The recipe isn’t going to be exact for two reasons. First, my parents bought me this incredible slow cooker for me for Christmas and it is massive, seven liters massive. Second, the whole point of this stew was to use up as many vegetables as I could so it depends on the state of your own refrigerator, do, as your tummy desires. I’m really just trying to apologize for the disorganized state of this recipe but I’m doing this for you, novice cook (remember how I bathe my kids and make them pick up their toys?): I’m forcing you to be creative. You’ll thank me later.

Quick note: I’d like to list this recipe as gluten free but the only thing that is making me nervous is the 5 spice. Mr. picked up our (huge) bag at Tian Phat, an Asian grocer in Halifax and he is sure that is gluten free. It should be considering it is only 5 spices (heh) but you never know and if you are on a gluten free diet I don’t really have to tell you to read the label carefully.

kitchen sink stew

The Stew

3-5 carrots, sliced thick

1-2 sweet potatoes, sliced into medallions

1-2 parsnips

leeks, minced – I used 4 inch knob, about 1 inch diamter

1 onion

bag of kale, roughly torn apart off of stem

1 can corn kernels

4 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup white wine

1 ½ cup water

8 oz pork, cubed

1 can diced tomatoes

5 spice

S & P to taste

1. Add all of the ingredients expect the pork and tomatoes (this includes the liquid), salt and pepper to taste. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 2 hours. After the 2 hours, reduce to low for about 6 hours.

2. At the 6 hour mark, toss the cubed pork in the 5 spice and sear in a pan with a bit of oil. Add the pork and tomatoes to the slow cooker. Stir and cover. Keep on low heat for another hour.

You could serve this over brown rice to round out the meal, perhaps with a salad but in all honesty it’s very filling and you could do with just a bowl of it.


  1. I always think these things are good idea, but by the time I realize I have to use things up they've already gone bad :P

    I have ideas to do things like this but to make a curry instead. Throw in a can of chickpeas, can of tomatoes, spices, serve over rice. I have a crockpot too but it's just little.

    Something you can do when making any kind of crockpot recipe is to brown your veggies before putting them in the pot. Otherwise you can get a really raw taste, especially with onions and garlic. Plus most recipes have you brown your meat anyway (if you're adding any).

  2. Melly: I do the same thing so I'm make a concerted effort to use up the food. We have approximately a million carrots in the crisper so I'm going to bake with them.

    I wouldn't have thought of browning the vegetables. We brown the meat because otherwise it just looks boiled. I'll definitely try it next time!

  3. I think it sounds fantastic, actually. My husband is a bit like that with the vegetarian dishes, wondering if adding a bit of sausage or such would amp up the flavour.
    I do keep meaning to join a CSA. It's one of my NY resolutions!