Southwestern Veggie Stew

It’s time to bring out the crockpot! Why? Because it’s the best invention ever. Hands down. Think about it… you toss everything into a pot and let it simmer all day, return home to an intoxicating aromatic house, and dinner is ready to serve. So simple and so sexy. I love it.

Ingredients:
1 med. sweet onion
4 stalks celery
4 med. carrots
2 med. parsnips
1/2 rutabaga
1/2 can corn
1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 c. red beans (soaked over night)
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
2 cloves garlic
bundle of fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
red pepper flake to taste
2 qt. organic vegetable stock (I make my own, but store bought is fine too)
brown rice (I cooked this separately and served the stew over the rice, but you can also add uncooked rice to your slow cooker and cook it up that way)

1.  Chop up celery, onions and carrots. If you notice I left my onions and carrots pretty coarsely chopped–this is a stew after all. For some reason I don’t care for large chunks of cooked celery but that is just me.

2.  Peel and chop rutabaga and parsnips.

3.  Pull out your slow cooker or Crockpot and set it on high. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom and add carrots, onion and celery. Top with bay leaves and add some fresh ground pepper.

4.  Add rutabaga and parsnips. Top with more ground pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt.

5.  Fill Crockpot with vegetable stock, leaving at least an inch from the top of the cooker.
6.  Add canned tomatoes and corn. Lightly smash garlic cloves with your chef’s knife and add to soup (these can be removed later).

7.  Add a little more freshly ground pepper, along with cumin, coriander, cayenne and a sprinkle of red pepper flake to taste.
8.  Add red beans. I soaked mine over night (this is a lot more than I actually used for the stew) and pulled out a 1/2 cup to toss into my slow cooker. I try not to use canned beans for stews like this because they can really turn into mush. The soaked beans will cook and soften up in the cooker for the next few hours until they are a perfect texture.
 9.  Last, add a few sprigs of fresh cilantro. These will add a nice flavor to the stew. I pull them out before serving because the stems are really stringy–but I still COOK with the stems because I think they have the best flavor! Save some cilantro for later (to be chopped up fresh and garnished on top).
10.  Close up the slow cooker and cook on HIGH (gotta soften up those hard root veggies and beans!) for a good 7 or 8 hours. Cooking time will vary depending on your cooker and possibly your altitude. 
**Fish out strings of cilantro, bay leaves and garlic cloves before serving! I use kitchen tongs for this operation :)
11.  Ladle stew over cooked brown rice, and top with fresh chopped cilantro for garnish. You can also add a squeeze of fresh lime juice and fresh/pickled jalepenos for flavor. 
I had one of my girl friends over for dinner tonight and she loved it! She even asked if she could take home some leftovers so she could have it for lunch tomorrow. yay! I did have a HUGE crockpot and needed some help eating it so I was happy she liked it. 

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