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Recipe: Stew Beef with Rice

Like most decisions in my life, I like to fly by the seat of my pants. Sometimes (okay, many times) it comes back to bite me in said seat. But when it comes to cooking, it has always served me well. I love making things up as I go, adding a pinch of this or a dollop of that. Rarely do I follow an exact recipe, except when I'm baking. I also love cooking family recipes, like Grandma Virginia's potato salad, Grandma Ruth's Christmas dinner, or Grace's fried chicken.

This dish I got from my mother-in-law (I'm not married anymore, but I still consider her my MIL). She is an amazing cook, although she's in her 90s now and doesn't cook any more. Sunday lunches after church were an event! She made enough food to feed the entire congregation, even though it started out as just six of us. Barbecue, baked beans, and chicken salad were ALWAYS homemade the night before. Stew beef and rice was always one of my favorites, and I've been making it ever since. Simple, but sooooo good.

You can buy beef already cut up for stew, but I like to buy a chuck roast and cut it into cubes myself. I hate to admit it, given my current health drama, but the extra fat that is on a chuck roast adds so much flavor.

Once the roast is cubed, I salt and pepper it and put it in a pot and cover it with water. I don't measure it, I add enough for the amount of gravy that I want to end up with. I have about four of these pots,

which were my grandmother's, and they are the absolute best. They don't make them like this anymore, and if they did, I sure wouldn't be able to afford them!

My mother in law got large containers of powdered gravy mix at Sam's Club, but I can't find them in the regular grocery stores, so I bought seven packets of McCormick's brown gravy mix. Yep. Seven. Unless you prefer watery gravy, you're going to need them. Don't make the same mistake I did, though, and not stir it well enough to break up all the gravy mix. That's what I get for trying to cook and watch Jaws at the same time.

I bring it almost to a boil, turn it down to medium low heat, then let it simmer til I'm 3/4 of the way through Jaws 2. Seriously, though, let it simmer for several hours at least, because the meat isn't cooked ahead of time, it cooks in the gravy. Stir occasionally so that the gravy doesn't clump.

Once the gravy is to the consistency you want, and the meat is cooked through and tender, spoon over rice and serve with whatever side you prefer. This time I went with a tomato, onion, and mozzarella salad with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and fresh chopped basil.

I will be the first one to tell you that I don't like leftovers, but this is one meal that just gets better over the next couple of days. I would say it feeds about four. Enjoy!!

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