Vegan Beef-less Stew

Crock Pot Vegan Beef-less Stew
Ah, the Crock Pot. One of my favorite time-savers. I LOVE my Crock Pot. It is one of the best purchase I ever made. And now that I am not only working full-time but also in grad school, I need even more help saving time and money without sacrificing flavor or an overall sense of yummy-ness. This weekend I made one of my husband's favorites: "Beef" Stew. I didn't write down what I was doing as I did it, so what follows is a rough approximation.

In 1 tablespoon of olive oil, saute the following ingredients over low to medium heat for several minutes:
1 chopped large onion
2 cloves garlic
3 stalks sliced celery
3 carrots, chopped

Throw in some fresh chopped sage leaves, some parsley, a little sherry, a little salt and pepper, and then finally 6 chopped small baby  portabello mushrooms.

Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook down a little longer, and then stir in one small can or jar of tomato paste. Cover again and then remove from heat.

Peeled and chop two potatoes into big stew-sized chunks, and put them in the Crock Pot with 4 cups vegetable broth--I usually like to use the 32 ounce cartons of Pacific Foods broth because I am frequently cooking when I don't have a lot of time and that broth has really great flavor.

Pour the contents of your pan into the Crock Pot on top of the potatoes and broth, and then add about 3/4 cup red wine. Turn the Crock Pot on low and set for about 6 hours.

When I make this stew, I like to test a potato to make sure its cooked just right, and then unplug the Crock Pot. I also stir in about 1/2 a bag of frozen peas and 1 bag of  frozen Gardein Beefless Tips. Once everything is mixed well, put the lid back on and let it sit turned off. I think the trick is to add the Gardein and the peas last because the heat from the cooked ingredients will cook them without over-cooking them. You can let this sit out for another hour for the flavors to blend even more and it will still stay hot, even turned off, or you can leave it on "warm."

The resulting stew is just right for satisfying a craving for  a warm and hearty stew. And if you don't want to use Gardein, then you can always add more mushrooms for your "beef." They are great at absorbing the rich flavor from the red wine as they slow cook.