Aunt Ellen’s Tomato Beef Stew

From birth to age 18, I lived in a three-bedroom log cabin surrounded by acres of thick woods. While there were neighbors on the other side of those thick woods, “the cabin” and its surrounding forest were the polar opposite of your typical suburban neighborhood.

One consequence of living in the country as a kid was, of course, the inability to go trick-or-treating! With houses a half-mile apart, it wasn’t happening. My dad never let this damper my Halloween spirit and always made sure that if I wasn’t trick-or-treating with grade school friends in their neighborhoods, I was able to go to my Aunt Ellen’s (very suburban) neighborhood.

My most distinct memories about these Halloween outings at my Aunt Ellen’s are not of costumes or candy. Instead, I remember so well this tomato beef stew: a classic stew with vegetables and beef, but drenched in a flavorful and rich tomato sauce.

I recently emailed my Aunt Ellen to ask her if she knew the recipe for this stew. Coincidentally, she had just made a big pot of the stew before she received my email! Ellen said that her mom (my grandma) used to make this stew often. When I tried the recipe myself, I couldn’t help but get that warm-and-fuzzy feeling that comes from knowing I’m making a much-loved family recipe.

From my family to yours:

Aunt Ellen’s Tomato Beef Stew – from the Byrne side of my family!

2 TBS flour
1-1.5 lb beef stew meat
1 TBS canola oil
3 potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
3 carrots, cut into 1-inch slices
2 stalks of celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
16 oz tomato sauce
1/2 C water
pinch of salt, pepper
1/2 TBS sugar

1. Toss stew meat in flour. Heat canola oil over med-high heat in large pot and sear meat until browned.

2. Add tomato sauce, water and vegetables to the beef. Add salt, pepper and sugar. Stir well. Cover pot and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Serve with warm, crusty bread.

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