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Giving a winter dinner party

We don't entertain much, and when we do our guests are usually family. But we're acquainted with a couple whom we'd like to know better, so we asked them to come for dinner last night. It worked out perfectly since my son and his family are coming tomorrow for the weekend: Clean once, entertain twice!

In years past, if we didn't have company over the holidays, I didn't bother to decorate or put up a tree. Yesterday, after the floors were tidied and the tables dusted, we hauled my ancient fake tree from the storage shed. Dotted with white lights and pink and silver ornaments, it screamed festive. Oh, and I had to pull a real bird's nest from the branches before I decorated it. Seriously!

I also put a glittery burgundy-and-gold candle arrangement on the coffee table.

Of course the best part of a dinner party is dinner. I made beef stew in the slow cooker, along with a spinach salad (with clementines, goat cheese and pine nuts, dressed with a lemon vinaigrette) and biscuits. And a peanut butter pie for dessert. Because cookies aren't enough.

I didn't get an after picture of the stew, because I felt awkward about shooting dinner in front of people we don't know well. But the before one gives you a pretty good idea of how HEALTHY it was. Proof that healthy doesn't have to taste, well, healthy. It tasted rich and savory and YUMMY!

Grass-fed beef, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, turnips, beef stock, spices. 

Using the slow cooker is a great strategy for a cold-weather party. Pop everything in first thing in the morning and then get the house ready, get yourself ready, set the table and you're done. Well, except for making the salad. And the biscuits. And dessert. But you can see how not having to fuss over the main dish totally saved a lot of time. Heh.

Here's the recipe, which was merely jumping-off point for me. I noted my changes.

Today's Beef Stew
Crockery Favorites
[Note: I doubled everything because I started with a 3-pound rump roast instead of stew meat.]

10 small new potatoes, halved but unpeeled [I used two large peeled baking potatoes.]
12 small white onions, peeled [I used two large yellow onions, peeled and cut into chunks.]
30 baby carrots [I used four large organic carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces.]
1 red or green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces [Ewww! Pepper in stew? I don't think so!]
2 cups beef broth [I used stock.]
1-1/2 lbs. stew meat [I cut a grass-fed rump roast into stew-meat-sized pieces.]
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano [I used dried.]
1/4 teaspoon paprika [I used smoked.]
1 tablespoon chopped parsley [I used dried from my garden.]
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt [I used parsley salt.]
1/8 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water

Place potatoes, onions and baby carrots in slow-cooker. Add bell pepper and beef. Combine broth with oregano, paprika, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Pour over meat and vegetables. Cover and cook on LOW 9 to 10 hours. Turn pot on HIGH. In small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in water; stir into cooked stew mixture. Cover and cook on HIGH 15 to 20 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Serves 6.

Other changes I made were to add a turnip and a sweet potato, each one peeled and cut into chunks. It's a good thing my slow cooker is BIG!

Enjoy! What did you have for dinner last night?


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