an update: i dredged the chunks of meat in whole wheat flour, browned in evoo, then they went into the crcok pot. next, garlic and onions were browned, and in they went.
i deglazed the pan with a liter of cheap burgundy, scraping up the fond, and then cooked the wine down a few minutes. the result was poured into the crock.
finally, i added baby carrots, chopped swiss chard, cubed turnips, thyme, parsley, and basil, all from my garden.
i set it on low for about 6 hours.
the final stew was fantastic. the meat was unbelieveably tender, and the gravy was rich and hearty with a really earthy quality from the veggies. it was perfect with buttered noodles.
thanks to everyone for their advice!