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Recipe Swap: March 8, 2012

I grin each time I spot this recipe in community cookbooks, new or old. It is for Stay-A-Bed-Stew. Obviously, it’s an all-time favourite — but why?

Stay-A-Bed-Stew is from The I Hate to Cook Book published by Peg Bracken in 1960.

Bracken was an American advertising copywriter and a working mother in the late 1950s, nightly staring down a chore she detested. She hated to cook, felt she had better things to do with her time, and dared say so in an era women were allegedly basking in domestic bliss.

Her cookbook was a hit — once she found a female publisher to release it. It sold three million copies. A 50th anniversary, updated and revised edition was released in 2010.

With her vast wit and humour, Bracken mocked the status quo, all the while reassuring millions of mid-century women, equally uninspired by their kitchen duties, and domestic roles in general. Culture writers have dubbed The I Hate to Cook Book “our mother’s cookbook,” for the sway it held over a generation of women, influencing them to dump scratch cooking, switch to anything tinned, frozen or pre-mixed, and to love recipes requiring as little effort as possible.

Times have changed. Or have they? This is an era of Paula Deen and Rachael Ray, the locavore and food television. Yet, many still loathe cooking, feel they lack the time and skill for it, and want fast and simple options for preparing food at home. Stay-A-Bed-Stew will be with us for a long, long time. As Peg Bracken wrote, it’s a recipe “perfect for those days when you are en negligee, en bed, with a murder story and a box of bonbons, or possibly a good case of flu.”



Here is one of the versions of Stay-A-Bed-Stew passed along over the years. I tested this recipe, wondering if, after five hours in the oven, I’d have a revolting mess, or, as Peg Bracken would say “a rock pile.” But it is a very quick way to put a stew together and it tastes fine. I made it with the tomato soup and put a cookie sheet under the casserole.

  • 2 lbs. stewing meat, cut in cubes and dredged in flour2 c. potatoes, cubed2 c. carrots, sliced1 medium onion, chopped14-oz. can peas and juice10-oz. can tomato soup1/2 to 1 soup can of water1 tsp. salt1/2 tsp. pepper1 bay leaf

Combine all ingredients together in a large covered casserole. Bake at 275 F for five hours. In place of tomato soup, 2 Oxo beef cubes and 15 oz. of water may be used.

Hearty Pork Stew with Beer

Here’s another quick and easy recipe for a delicious stew.

  • 2 tbsp. canola oil2 lbs. lean pork cut into 3/4-inch cubes1 large onion, coarsely chopped2 garlic cloves, minced1/4 c. all-purpose flour1/2 tsp. pepper1/2 tsp. ground allspice1 – 12-oz. (355-ml) bottle dark beer or ale2 c. beef broth2 tbsp. red wine vinegar1 bay leaf2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced4 potatoes, scrubbed and cut into large cubesSalt and pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork cubes and cook until lightly browned. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is tender but not browned, about two minutes. Stir in flour and seasonings. Add beer, beef broth, red wine vinegar, and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes, or until pork is very tender. Add potatoes and carrots; cover and simmer 30 minutes more, or until vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 8.

Source: Great Tastes of Manitoba

Island Beef Stew

I found this recipe online a few years ago while searching recipes using molasses. This is singularly the best beef stew I have ever tasted. It has a sweet and sour flavour, thanks to the presence of molasses and vinegar. Enjoy.

  • 2 lbs. boneless beef chuck2 tbsp. flour1/2 tsp. dry mustard1-1/2 tsp. salt2 tbsp. vegetable oil1 14-oz. can tomatoes1/2 c. sliced onion1 tsp. celery salt1/4 tsp. pepper1/3 c. vingar1/3 c. Fancy Molasses1-1/2 c. water4 large carrots1/3 c. raisins1/2 tsp. ginger

Cut meat into 1-1/2-inch cubes. Combine flour, mustard and 1/2 tsp. salt; dredge meat with flour mixture. Heat oil in Dutch oven; brown meat on all sides. Add tomatoes, onion, celery salt, one teaspoon salt and pepper. Mix vinegar, molasses, and water; add to meat. Cover; simmer two hours. Peel and slice carrots. Add to meat with raisins and ginger. Cook 20 to 30 minutes longer or until carrots are tender.

Beef and Barley Stew

Another classic stew!

  • 1 tbsp. canola oil1/5 lb. boneless stewing beef1/2 c. pot barley11 c. water2 tsp. parsley2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce1/2 tsp. garlic powder7 pkg. beef bouillon (salt reduced)1 bay leaf1 medium turnip3 carrots2 medium potatoes, sliced1/2 large onion, diced2 stalks celery, sliced

Cut beef into 1-inch cubes. In a large pot, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add beef and stir until browned on all sides. Add barley and water and bring to boil. In the meantime, prepare other ingredients and add to water. Simmer 1-1/2 hours, until vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Source: Alberta Barley Commission

About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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