Create the quintessential autumn meal

Autumn evokes all types of cozy images. There are the chilly evenings spent around the fire pit outdoors or nights spent by the fireplace sipping warmed cider. Afternoons strolling through crunchy leaves or seeking out the perfect apples in the orchard also make autumn a special time of year.

Comfort foods are popular in fall, and many people have their tried-and-true recipes that they prepare when temperatures starts to dip. Perhaps no fall meal is as coveted and enjoyed as beef stew.

Simmered for hours, stew meats fall apart, and soft potatoes and carrots perfectly complement the rich beef. This recipe for “Harvest Beef Stew” from “Crock-Pot® 365 Year-Round Recipes” (Publications International, Ltd.) from Crock Pot® Kitchens is a make-ahead-then-forget recipe that promises all of the flavors that make beef stew so delicious. Serve it with a fresh-baked loaf of crusty bread to soak up the mouth-watering sauce.

Harvest Beef Stew

Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

11/2 pounds beef for stew

1 quart canned or stewed tomatoes, undrained

6 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 celery stalks, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 medium onion, sliced

1 cup apple juice

2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

1 tablespoon dried basil

2 teaspoons salt

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (optional)

1/2 cup warm water (optional)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Brown stew meat on all sides. Drain excess fat.

Placed browned meat and remaining ingredients except flour and water in Crock-Pot® slow cooker. Mix well. Cover; cook on high 6 to 7 hours.

Before serving, thicken gravy, if desired. Combine flour and warm water in small bowl, stirring well until all lumps are gone. Add mixture to liquid in Crock-Pot slow cooker; mix well. Cook 10 to 20 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Remove and discard bay leaves before serving.

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