Brandied Cranberry & “Beef” Stew.

Second day of Vegan Mofo is a go! Just as a note, I really like how Jamie Oliver refers to all of his recipes as “lovely”. I use the word yummy a lot I guess. But I think today I’m bringing you a lovely recipe for Brandied Cranberry & “Beef” Stew.

Cranberries are native to North America and extremely seasonal. They grow in acidic bogs throughout the North, most notably (for us Americans) in the great state of Wisconsin. When cranberries are ready for harvest, beds are flooded, they are removed from the vines and then corralled into a corner and removed. Then they go off to be cleaned, sorted and packaged. 95% of cranberries are made into juice drinks, sauces, jams, sweetened dried berries etc. Only 5% of cranberry harvests are sold fresh in stores. Only 5%!

Dudes harvesting cranberries!

Cranberries also have some pretty amazing health properties as well as being beautiful and delicious. Cranberries contain certain phytochemicals and flavonoids that are currently being researched for “possible benefits to the cardiovascular system and immune system, and as anti-cancer agents…” Cranberries also have anti-clotting properties and the ability to treat and prevent recurring urinary tract infections, especially in women. Cranberries contain this amazing anti-adhesion property that prevents nasty bacteria from sticking to the walls of your bladder or urethra–oddly enough, they are also known to aid in the prevention of plaque formation on teeth. And here, for you lucky readers, is some TMI: I know firsthand that cranberries are what you want if you even have the tiniest suspicion that you have a UTI. I always have cranberry supplements on hand that I take for preventative measures and have used them to treat UTI’s in the past, without antibiotics*. They always work wonders for me and I love them. I buy freeze dried cranberries in vegetarian gel-tabs, so I know I’m getting straight up cranberry and not a bunch of other junk.

Cranberries also have notable levels of vitamin C, fiber, and manganese as well as lots of other essential nutrients.

But on to what is really important, how delicious cranberries can be!

Cranberries have a very tart taste and flavor, so eating them raw can be a challenge. Here, they are used in this delicious fall stew and while cooked, they are not cooked down nearly as much as they are for something like homemade cranberry sauce or relish–so you will still get a hint of that tartness when you bite into them, but they go perfectly with the richness and warmth of this stew.

Brandied Cranberry & “Beef” Stew

Veganized from Sunset Magazine

Ingredients:

4 packages Gardein Beefless Tips ( I know that is a lot of Gardein, but this recipe makes a ton of stew!–Alternatively, you can make a big batch of beef style seitan to use instead)

3 tbsp safflower oil, divided

3lbs kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks. To peel and seed a kabocha, I typically cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds (which you can save, roast and eat if you want) and then I slice the kabocha into wedges. I then use a very sharp knife (be careful!!!) to peel away the skin from each wedge. This is my preferred method, but there are less complicated ways of doing this. You can also heat your kabocha for a few minutes in the microwave to soften it, which makes the skin easier to peel

2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped

1/3 c unbleached all-purpose flour

4 cloves of garlic, minced

3 tbsp dutch processed cocoa

5 c No Beef Broth– I use 2 heaping tsp of Better Than Bouillon’s No Beef Base dissolved in 5 c of hot water. The package indicates to use 1 tsp for every 8 oz of water, but I find that much too salty. I typically always cut the amount I’m using by at least half.

1/2 c brandy

1/2 dried cranberries–use ones that have been sweetened with fruit juice if you can find them

2 tbsp crystallized ginger, minced

1 tbsp orange zest

1 1/2 c fresh cranberries– You can use frozen berries if you can’t find fresh yet. DO NOT use the stuff that comes in a can. For frozen berries, I like Stahlbush Island Farms Sustainable Cranberries

salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Method

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and saute your beefless tips until they start to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 500°F. Line a baking sheet with a silpat. Toss or brush your kabocha with a tbsp of safflower oil and place on the lined baking sheet. Roast for about 10-12 min and then turn off the oven.

Heat 2 tbsp safflower oil in a heavy bottomed pot (Le Creuset  or cast iron dutch oven would be perfect) over med-high heat. Add onions and about a tsp of salt and cook for about 3 minutes until onions have softened. Add the flour and cook a minute or two more, until the flour starts to turn golden. Stir in the garlic and cocoa and cook for just a minute. Now stir in the broth, brandy, dried cranberries, ginger, orange zest and fresh cranberries. Bring to a boil and cook about 20 minutes. Now stir in your kabocha chunks and beefless tips. Let the stew simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes–you just want your kabocha and beefless tips to absorb some of that warm, delicious fall stew flavor because they were both cooked separately. You also want to make sure that your fresh cranberries have cooked down just a bit, to counteract some of the tartness and bring out a little sweetness. Taste your stew and add freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste. It’s going to be really hot for a bit, so let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

Snuggle up with your doggies, kitties or loved ones and enjoy this stew on cold day. In front of a fire would be nice too. 🙂

Brandied Cranberry & "Beef" Stew

Sorry for the crummy picture. It’s a travesty because this stew is awesome. If the picture looks unappetizing, please just trust me that this stew is magnificent!

*I don’t mean for anyone to take my advice over a medical doctor, but sometimes docs forget about things like…well, healthy foods likes fruits, vegetables and whole grains and how those things can be very healing to your body when its sick. While I have been able to cure UTI’s in the past with nothing but cranberries, that doesn’t mean everyone’s body will react the same way as mine. So, if you feel like you may have a UTI that persists longer than a day or two after taking the correct dosage of cranberries, go to your doctor because you may very well need the antibiotics. 🙂

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