Monday, March 26, 2012

2 Basic Ground Beef Dinners

Ground beef has unfortunately gotten itself a bad reputation. This is in great part I think to the constant ads we all see on TV for things like "Hamburger Helper".

Is there anything more disgusting than a company making money from poor people by selling them a box of junk noodles and a package of seasonings for ten times what they would pay if they put it together themselves? Considering it doesn't include the only part of the dish which has any nutritional value - the meat - to my mind this should be considered criminal.

But I will put my ravings aside. Today I want to help ground beef get it's good name back by giving you two terrific basic recipes.

Good quality ground beef, whether grass fed, hormone-free, or just the best hamburger meat you can afford is another one of those great "peasant food" basics and for good reason. While the rich feasted on the tender cuts the poor man made do with what was left over, grinding it together to make it more palatable. Thankfully most of us don't need to do that today, but good quality ground beef is still usually the best meat buy and should join your menu staples and be served regularly.

This first dish is full of great vegetables. the only catch normally is that it uses mashed potatoes - but that is easily fixed with a just-as-tasty substitute. Sheppards will make sheppard's pie. That make's sense to me. But when you use beef instead of lamb why is it still called sheppard's pie? That makes no sense to me so I'm calling my version Cowboy pie. More appropriate I think as well as more fun.

Cowboy Pie

4 servings Ingredients :

- 1 lb. ground beef
- 2 large onions chopped
- 1 cup beef stock
- 2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
- 1 cup cooked sliced carrots
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 cup cooked green beans
- 1 serving cheesy mashed cauliflower or sweet potatoes (see below)
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar or parmesan

Directions :

- Preheat oven to 375'F In a large skillet brown the meat and the onion. Remove and place in a greased baking dish (I use a 9x9 glass one)
- Whisk together the arrowroot powder and the beef stock and add to the skillet, deglazing the pan. Continue cooking until the mixture starts to thicken. Pour over the meat and onion.
- Add the carrots, peas and green beans to the baking dish and mix everything until it's all well combined.
- Cover the top evenly with the mashed cauliflower or sweet potatoes, then sprinkle with the cheese.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until top is bubbly and browned.

(will freeze )

Slow Cooker Version

Spread the meat mixture in the bottom of your slow cooker and then cover with the creamy mashed cauliflower and the cheese.  Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or on high for 3 to 4.  Uncover for the last half hour of cooking so excess moisture can evaporate.

Cheesy Mashed Cauliflower or Sweet Potatoes

This is a great basic recipe that you can use in any meal where you would have used mashed potatoes.

Ingredients :
- 1 large head of cauliflower or 3 large sweet potatoes cut into small pieces.
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 1 tablespoon of heavy cream
- 1/2 cup of grated cheddar or parmesan
- salt and pepper to taste

Directions :

- Steam cauliflower or sweet potatoes until very soft.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and process until smooth.

(will freeze )  Freeze in meal size containers and reheat in microwave.

You can made this in a food processor, but rather than having all that clean-up you might want to consider investing in an emersion blender.  These are very useful for making cream soups as well, and you can finish the dish right in the same pot which saves the time and effort of transferring from one utensil to another.

Many also come with other attachments such as whisks and even small processors, and you might find that this small compact appliance can take the place of a whole shelf full of others - saving you storage room as well as effort. (I have the Cuisinart CBS79 model and I love all the options. Having this and my Vitamix blender means I never have to use my large processor now, or deal with all that clean-up

Variations :  You can mix in chives, bacon bits, fried onions or garlic - in all kinds of combinations.

To round out our basic ground beef recipes we can't afford to leave out your basic burger. Like with most basics the variations are endless. We don't eat them with wheat buns of course but you could use nut or seed bread.

I personally prefer to top mine with mustard, pickles, red onion slices, mayonnaise, tomato and wrap the whole thing in a large lettuce leaf. Many people suggest Romaine for this but I've found Butter Lettuce to be more flexible.

Basic Beef Burger

makes 4 large burgers

Ingredients :

- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon coconut flour (I find it help it hold together but you can leave it out)
- salt and pepper to taste

Directions :

- Mix all ingredients in a bowl and form into 4 burgers.

 (will freeze ) These can be made ahead and frozen, then thawed the day you want to use them. Only do this if you're using fresh ground beef.  It's not safe to refreeze raw meat.

Stick to recipes like these that stretch your meat dollar and grass-fed beef suddenly looks a lot more affordable.

 “Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.”   - George Bernard Shaw

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