Vegetable Stews: Keeping Meat to a Minimum

            One of the best side dishes for any winter meal is a vegetable stew. Notice I say vegetable as opposed to meat. Meat is good but with costs and cholesterol always on our minds, vegetables as the main ingredient is a good thing. Vegetable stew can have some meat, just not as the primary ingredient.

Vegetable stew can have as many incarnations and varieties of ingredients as there are country farm stands and grocery stores with decent produce sections. Vegetable stew usually consists of carrots, potatoes and sometimes meat or meat bones, often with dried fruits like prunes and apricots. The stews are also sometimes called tzimmes. The word tzimmes is a variation/canibilization of the German “zum essen,” to eat. The word tzimmes has also come to mean the making a big fuss over something.

Making a fuss over food is totally necessary and what we’re supposed to do as the temperatures drop and we start to bundle up. With potatoes and winter vegetables front and center these days it’s always good to have a few new recipes to add to the table JUST in case there’s not enough food for the entire lacrosse team or book club stay for dinner. The following recipes have been shared with me by readers, family and friends so what are you waiting for, time to get out the carrot peeler, pull out the roasting pan and start mixing up the stew.

POTATO STEW

2 pounds of large carrots, peeled and cut down to 1″ slices

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut to 1″ cubes

2 pounds white potatoes (any work fine, I use russet) peeled and cut to 1″ cubes

5 cups water

1 cup coarsely chopped prunes

1/4 cup honey

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 large lemon’s rind, finely grated

1 cup water

1 tablespoon butter or margarine
Preheat the oven to 350. Cook the carrots in boiling water for 5 minutes.

Then add all of the potatoes to the pot and boil for an additional 5 minutes.

At this point the vegetables will barely seem tender – don’t worry. Drain the potatoes and carrots well. Add the prunes, honey, nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon rind and 1 cup of water to the mix. Pour the mixture this into a greased 3 Qt. baking dish (should be shallow rather than deep). Dot the top with the butter or margarine. Bake for 1/2 hour. If you feel it is browning cover it loosely with aluminum foil. Serves 8 to 10

 ROASTED VEGETABLE STEW

 9-10 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces (about 1 pound)

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (about 2 pounds)

1/4 cup dates

1/2 cup dried pitted prunes

1 cup dried apricot

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup orange juice (fresh is best)

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil, and add sweet potatoes and carrots until just beginning to get tender (but not yet tender), about 10-15 minutes. Drain well. Add to a large mixing bowl with all remaining ingredients, and mix well with a wooden spoon. The carrots and potatoes should still be a little hard, and mixing shouldn’t cause them to fall apart or mush. Cover with foil, and bake approximately 30 min, basting with pan juices midway. Uncover foil and broil for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, and serve immediately. Warmed over leftovers of this dish are delicious. Serves 8 to 10

APPLE VEGETABLE CASSEROLE

6 cups raw sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
6 cups sliced, unpeeled cooking apples
1 1/2 cups carrots, peeled, sliced
1 cup small, pitted prunes, cut in half
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/4 cup unsweetened orange juice
1/4 cup honey (optional)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 350. Coat a 9×13 baking pan with a non-stick spray. Layer half of the potatoes in the bottom of the pan, overlapping the edges. Repeat with half of the apples then spread half of the carrots and prunes over the top. Repeat layers. In a bowl combine the orange peel, orange juice, honey, brown sugar cinnamon and ginger and mix well. Drizzle the sauce evenly over the top and then tilt the pan to make sure it covers all the layers. Cover tightly with a sheet of aluminum foil. Pierce with 8-10 one-inch slits so steam may vent. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until dish is steamed and tender. Serves 10 to 12

BARLEY APRICOT CASSEROLE

4 cups water, boiling

3/4 cup dried apricot

1 cup egg barley

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup oil

1 teaspoon salt

In a pot, pour boiling water over the apricots; cover and soak for 1 hour. Place the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Stir in egg barley, honey, oil and salt. Pour into a 2 quart casserole. Bake, covered, at 375 for 45 minutes; uncover and bake another 15 minutes. Serve warm. Serves 6

WINTER SQUASH AND CHICKEN TZIMMES

9 cups cubed peeled butternut, buttercup or hubbard squash

1 cup small pitted prunes
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced and separated into rings
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 to 10 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (about 3 to 4 pounds), trimmed
1 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice

 Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl combine the squash, prunes, garlic, shallots, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper and mix well. Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle chicken with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and place on top of the vegetables. In a bowl combine the broth, orange zest and juice and pour it over the chicken. Cover the baking dish with foil.  Bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through, basting often, approx1 hour. Serves 6 to 8

APRICOT AND SWEET POTATO STEW

4 cups apricot nectar

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

6 tablespoon margarine

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

2 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 cup Honey

1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

5 lb Sweet potatoes; peeled and -sliced 1/4″ thick

4 lg Carrots; pared and sliced

1/4 cup Pitted prunes
Preheat oven to 400. Generously grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. In a large sauce pan combine the nectar, broth, margarine, apricots, brown sugar, honey, salt, cinnamon and pepper  and heat until the margarine melts. Add the sweet potatoes and carrots; bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a slow boil, cook until potatoes begin to soften about 15 minutes. Using slotted spoon transfer the potatoes and carrots to the prepared dish. Add the prunes. Pour the juices from pot over the potatoes and cover with heavy duty foil, press the foil firmly to the potatoes and seal the edges tightly (you can do this in a large covered casserole dish as well)l. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until potatoes are tender and beginning to brown on top about 55 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes. Serves 8 to 10 as a side dish.

            One of the best side dishes for any fall meal is a vegetable stew. Notice I say vegetable as opposed to meat. Meat is good but with costs and cholesterol always on our minds, vegetables as the main ingredient is a good thing. Vegetable stew can have some meat, just not as the primary ingredient.

Vegetable stew can have as many incarnations and varieties of ingredients as there are country farm stands and grocery stores with decent produce sections. Vegetable stew usually consists of carrots, potatoes and sometimes meat or meat bones, often with dried fruits like prunes and apricots. The stews are also sometimes called tzimmes. The word tzimmes is a variation/canibilization of the German “zum essen,” to eat. The word tzimmes has also come to mean the making a big fuss over something.

Making a fuss over food is totally necessary and what we’re supposed to do as the temperatures drop and we start to bundle up. With potatoes and winter vegetables front and center these days it’s always good to have a few new recipes to add to the table JUST in case there’s not enough food for the entire lacrosse team or book club stay for dinner. The following recipes have been shared with me by readers, family and friends so what are you waiting for, time to get out the carrot peeler, pull out the roasting pan and start mixing up the stew.

POTATO STEW

2 pounds of large carrots, peeled and cut down to 1″ slices

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut to 1″ cubes

2 pounds white potatoes (any work fine, I use russet) peeled and cut to 1″ cubes

5 cups water

1 cup coarsely chopped prunes

1/4 cup honey

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 large lemon’s rind, finely grated

1 cup water

1 tablespoon butter or margarine
Preheat the oven to 350. Cook the carrots in boiling water for 5 minutes.

Then add all of the potatoes to the pot and boil for an additional 5 minutes.

At this point the vegetables will barely seem tender – don’t worry. Drain the potatoes and carrots well. Add the prunes, honey, nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon rind and 1 cup of water to the mix. Pour the mixture this into a greased 3 Qt. baking dish (should be shallow rather than deep). Dot the top with the butter or margarine. Bake for 1/2 hour. If you feel it is browning cover it loosely with aluminum foil. Serves 8 to 10

ROASTED VEGETABLE STEW

9-10 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces (about 1 pound)

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (about 2 pounds)

1/4 cup dates

1/2 cup dried pitted prunes

1 cup dried apricot

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup orange juice (fresh is best)

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil, and add sweet potatoes and carrots until just beginning to get tender (but not yet tender), about 10-15 minutes. Drain well. Add to a large mixing bowl with all remaining ingredients, and mix well with a wooden spoon. The carrots and potatoes should still be a little hard, and mixing shouldn’t cause them to fall apart or mush. Cover with foil, and bake approximately 30 min, basting with pan juices midway. Uncover foil and broil for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, and serve immediately. Warmed over leftovers of this dish are delicious. Serves 8 to 10

APPLE VEGETABLE CASSEROLE

6 cups raw sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
6 cups sliced, unpeeled cooking apples
1 1/2 cups carrots, peeled, sliced
1 cup small, pitted prunes, cut in half
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/4 cup unsweetened orange juice
1/4 cup honey (optional)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 350. Coat a 9×13 baking pan with a non-stick spray. Layer half of the potatoes in the bottom of the pan, overlapping the edges. Repeat with half of the apples then spread half of the carrots and prunes over the top. Repeat layers. In a bowl combine the orange peel, orange juice, honey, brown sugar cinnamon and ginger and mix well. Drizzle the sauce evenly over the top and then tilt the pan to make sure it covers all the layers. Cover tightly with a sheet of aluminum foil. Pierce with 8-10 one-inch slits so steam may vent. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until dish is steamed and tender. Serves 10 to 12

BUTTERNUT SQUASH STEW WITH BEEF

2 lbs boneless stew meat, trimmed of fat

1-2 tablespoon oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 to 4 large carrots, peeled and cut in 1 inch chunks

salt and pepper

2 to 2 1/2 cups water

2 lbs butternut squash

2 tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/4 cups prunes, pitted

Cut beef in 1 1/2- 2 inch pieces and pat them dry. Heat 1 tablespoons oil in a heavy stew pan. Add beef cubes in 2 batches, browning each lightly on all sides over medium-high heat and removing browned meat with a slotted spoon to a plate. Add remaining oil if pan is dry and heat it. Add onion and saute over medium heat, stirring often, until brown, about 10 minutes. Cover if pan becomes dry. Return meat to pan with any juices on plate. Add carrots, salt, pepper and enough water to just cover. Bring to a boil, skimming occasionally. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours or until beef is tender. Peel the squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Discard seeds and stringy parts. Cut squash in 1 inch cubes. Stir honey and cinnamon into sauce. Add squash and stir to make sure the squash is totally incorporated into the liquid. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Mix well. Add prunes.Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until squash is tender. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve stew from a casserole or deep serving dish.

BARLEY APRICOT CASSEROLE

4 cups water, boiling

3/4 cup dried apricot

1 cup egg barley

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup oil

1 teaspoon salt

In a pot, pour boiling water over the apricots; cover and soak for 1 hour. Place the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Stir in egg barley, honey, oil and salt. Pour into a 2 quart casserole. Bake, covered, at 375 for 45 minutes; uncover and bake another 15 minutes. Serve warm. Serves 6

WINTER SQUASH AND CHICKEN TZIMMES

9 cups cubed peeled butternut, buttercup or hubbard squash

1 cup small pitted prunes
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced and separated into rings
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 to 10 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (about 3 to 4 pounds), trimmed
1 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice

 Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl combine the squash, prunes, garlic, shallots, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper and mix well. Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle chicken with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and place on top of the vegetables. In a bowl combine the broth, orange zest and juice and pour it over the chicken. Cover the baking dish with foil.  Bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through, basting often, approx1 hour. Serves 6 to 8

APRICOT AND SWEET POTATO STEW

4 cups apricot nectar

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

6 tablespoon margarine

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

2 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 cup Honey

1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

5 lb Sweet potatoes; peeled and -sliced 1/4″ thick

4 lg Carrots; pared and sliced

1/4 cup Pitted prunes
Preheat oven to 400. Generously grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. In a large sauce pan combine the nectar, broth, margarine, apricots, brown sugar, honey, salt, cinnamon and pepper  and heat until the margarine melts. Add the sweet potatoes and carrots; bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a slow boil, cook until potatoes begin to soften about 15 minutes. Using slotted spoon transfer the potatoes and carrots to the prepared dish. Add the prunes. Pour the juices from pot over the potatoes and cover with heavy duty foil, press the foil firmly to the potatoes and seal the edges tightly (you can do this in a large covered casserole dish as well)l. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until potatoes are tender and beginning to brown on top about 55 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes. Serves 8 to 10 as a side dish.

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