I ate an entire vat of Campbell’s chunky beef stew as a young adult. It was one of the few canned soups I actually liked.

But wow, the salt. Just one cup of it is a whopping 33% of your salt intake for the whole day. Unfortunately, this is typical for most canned soups and also soups in restaurants. It’s great to learn to make classics such as these at home so you can control the salt level.

What’s wonderful about stew is the satisfying gravy, achieved here by adding a bit of corn starch through a slurry at the end to your desired consistency. It can be made in a slow cooker or Instant Pot, but I can never wait that long to dive in. This stove-top recipe can be done in two hours. It’s versatile. Try adding other veggies or other proteins such as seafood or pork.

I’m just fine with some crackers on the side of my stew (oops, there’s the salt). But today, I’ve thrown in a wonderful recipe for pimiento cheese that’s a perfect accompaniment. This is not a healthy recipe, so be sure to eat in much moderation. And it’s addictive, so watch out. It’s a treat, especially on pumpernickel toast.

These two recipes are classic and worth perfecting and adding to your meal rotation during the winter. Feed your crowd. Your family will love you for serving these. Enjoy!

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Beef and veggie stew

1 1/2 pounds chuck roast or sirloin, cut into bite-sized pieces (Chuck roast will be more tender but also fattier.)

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

2 cups low sodium beef stock or bone broth

1 cup red wine (Wine lends a great complexity; replace with more stock if not using.)

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces

8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, halved or quartered (Mushroom gives a great umami punch; if you don’t like the texture, try adding soy sauce or Trader Joe’s Mushroom & Co. multipurpose umami seasoning blend.)

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 large carrots, diced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 bay leaves

2 to 3 tablespoons cornstarch (plus 2 to 3 tablespoons stew liquid)

Stir together ingredients. Add the steak, beef stock, wine, potatoes, mushrooms, onion, celery, carrots, tomato paste, Worcestershire, balsamic vinegar and bay leaves to the bowl of a large dutch oven or slow cooker. Toss briefly to combine.

Cook. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours (slow cooker), or 2 to 3 hours stove top in a dutch oven, until the steak and veggies are tender. Remove and discard the bay leaves.

Add thickener (optional). In a separate bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and stew liquid until combined. Add the mixture to the still-simmering gravy a few tablespoons at a time, until it reaches your desired level of thickness. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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1919 pimiento cheese

3 cups (12 ounces) bagged grated mild white cheddar

1 cup (4 ounces) bagged grated sharp cheddar

4 ounces bagged grated Velveeta

2 cups mayonnaise, preferably Hellman’s

1/2 cup drained diced pimientos

1/4 cup minced green onion, light and dark green parts

1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans (optional)

Note: I rarely use pregrated cheese; there is an added anti-clumping chemical, and grated cheese tastes much better. But it is easier to mix in this recipe.

In a large bowl, combine the cheddar cheese, Velveeta, mayo, pimientos, green onion and optional pecans. Stir gently until well mixed. Cover and chill at least one hour before serving. Serve on pumpernickel toast or with crudité. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Recipe from Magnolia Table in Waco, Texas, via Deborah Stinnett and Allyson Miller.

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