Beef stew is good any time of the year — meat, vegetables and a tasty gravy all in one pot — and my preferred method of preparing it is in the oven, after browning the meat. The disadvantage is that it does heat up the house on a warm day, like last Saturday.

I'm currently in what I term a month of plain air — no heating, no air conditioning — so the house was a little warm. I did turn on the furnace one evening last week, but I'm not counting it. The granddaughters were visiting and they were cold — I would have toughed it out and found a sweatshirt or an afghan if I were sitting down.

I have an alternative that I call skillet stew or steak stew. By the time I'm through cutting vegetables, it's nearly done.

Pace helps out with the seasoning. They got it right in their picante sauce and I'm happy for the assist. Use your favorite brand.

The meat can be sirloin or chuck steak, even round steak, although I think it's not as flavorful, and I don't like the mouth feel.

I grew up on round steak — pounded, floured, fried in lard and the drippings made into milk gravy. I don't ever recall pouring off excess grease, so it all became part of the gravy that was served on potatoes mashed with top milk and a big chunk of margarine.

I cook leaner these days.

Also, if you're a regular reader, you may have noticed a lack of salt in recipes. Usually other ingredients contribute enough, and you're free to bring the shaker to the table — a little salt at first bite may be all that's needed.

David and I have both needed to control sodium at different times and have found we can get by with a lot less.

Steak Stew

1 pound chuck or sirloin steak, cut in 3/4 inch pieces

1 Tablespoon oil

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced green pepper

1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes

2/3 cup mild picante sauce or salsa

2 Tablespoons lime juice

2-3 medium carrots, sliced

3 medium potatoes, peeled and scrubbed and cut in 1-inch chunks

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

6-8 inch zucchini, cut in 1/4 inch slices

Brown steak pieces in a large skillet. Push to one side, add oil, sauté onion, celery and pepper until softened. Stir all together, add tomatoes, picante sauce, lime juice, carrots and potatoes. Season with pepper. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes or until vegetables are nearly tender. Add zucchini, cook about 10 minutes more, until it begins to look translucent.

Add more liquid if needed.

Serves 4

Carol Bronson is the editor of The Pratt Tribune, and a former home economist for K-State Extension.

She can often be found in the kitchen. Follow on Twitter @CarolB_Tribune