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Beef Barley Stew

1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 (14 ounce) cans peeled tomatoes, with juice
1 (14 ounce) can water
1/2 cup uncooked barley
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 cooked and peeled potatoes, cut into chunks (optional)

Brown meat in olive oil in skillet over medium heat, about 3 minutes.

Remove meat from pan and set aside.

Add carrots, onion and celery to pan and cook until slightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add vegetables to crock pot. Place meat on top of vegetables. Add tomatoes, water and barley. Stir in sugar, salt and pepper.

Cover and cook on LOW for about 7 hours, adding cooked potatoes to stew during last 30 minutes of cooking.