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Start with Ground Beef

By Angie Sutton

Ground beef is one of the most versatile go-to staples in a Midwest Kansas kitchen. It provides 10 essential nutrients your body needs like zinc, iron, protein and B vitamins. Because it is affordable and easy to prepare, it’s often the base for many casseroles, soups and appetizers. In a busy household, these types of dishes find their way to the table fairly often, so I’m always on the look-out for a new twist!

Understanding the type of ground beef you need for a particular dish is essential. The lowest cost option is typically the 80 percent lean/20 percent fat ground beef which is great for making burgers on the grill. One step up is 90 percent lean/10 percent fat, which I select for meatballs or meatloaf. It holds shape nicely while retaining flavor with some fat content. The 93 percent lean or leaner ground beef meets government guidelines as a lean cut according to the beef checkoff at www.BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com. I will choose this percentage for casseroles that are baked in a glass baking dish or for sauces that call for browned ground beef.

I like to buy in bulk, watch for sales and freeze a supply of browned ground beef. I season a batch with onions and a batch with onions and green peppers. Before browning, pat the meat with a paper towel to remove any excess liquid. I add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper for each pound of beef once the browning process is complete. My friend, Rachel, prepares a lot of Tex-Mex dishes so she likes to brown her ground beef with taco seasoning before freezing it.

After browning, let it completely cool in the refrigerator and then scoop it into portions in small freezer bags. One pound of ground beef generally serves three to four people. Squeeze out as much air as you can and seal tightly. These will be good for about 4 months. Label each with the contents and date. When I’m ready to use a bag, I defrost it in the microwave but you can also thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. To be safe please reheat it to 165 F.

If you are forming your raw ground beef into a patty or a loaf, handle the meat as little as possible. Add your seasonings and other ingredients and lightly mix them to avoid an end product that is too firm and compact. This is particularly important for meatloaf and meatballs.

Ground beef is a great staple to stockpile as the base for quick-to-the-table meals. Here is a collection of Sutton Central favorites. Visit www.mothersapronstrings.com for more ideas.

Italian-Style Salisbury Steaks

Makes 4 servings

1 egg
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 lb. ground beef
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic, undrained
1 can (8 oz.) Italian tomato sauce

In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients. Crumble the beef over the mixture and combine. Shape into four oval patties. In a hot skillet with canola oil, brown both sides of the patties. Drain if needed. Combine diced tomatoes and tomato sauce in a bowl. Pour over the patties in the skillet. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until meat is no longer pink. This pairs will with buttered noodles or mashed potatoes.

Greek-Inspired Ravioli

This recipe is designed as a “dinner for two”and can be on the table in less than 30 minutes.

12 frozen cheese ravioli
1/3 lb. lean ground beef
1 c. canned diced tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic, undrained
1 c. fresh baby spinach
1/4 c. sliced ripe olives, drained
1/4 c. crumbled feta cheese

Cook ravioli according to the package directions. Meanwhile, in a skillet, brown ground beef until no longer pink; drain if necessary. Add tomatoes to skillet, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Drain ravioli. Add ravioli, spinach and olives to the beef mixture; heat through. Plate and sprinkle with feta cheese.

Pepperoni Pasta Casserole

1 lb. ground beef
1 (8 oz.) box of elbow macaroni
1 (64 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce
1 small onion, diced<
1 (8 oz.) package shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 package mini pepperoni

Cook noodles according to the package directions. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, in a skillet, brown ground beef and onion until beef is no longer pink; drain if necessary. Add spaghetti sauce and 1/2 package pepperoni to skillet and stir. Add noodles and stir. Pour into a 9- by 13-inch glass baking dish. Spread remaining pepperoni evenly on top, pushing one edge of the pepperoni into the meat mixture. Top with cheese. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until heated through.

Recipe adapted from Sharon Staggenborg, Marshall County.

7 Layer Magic

5 Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced evenly about 1/4” thick.
1 carrot, finely sliced
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 cup frozen peas
1 lb. ground beef, browned and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 c. milk

Layer in a 9- by 13-inch glass baking pan: potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, peas and ground beef. Dilute cream of mushroom soup with milk and pour over content of casserole. Cover and bake 80 minutes at 350 F. Uncover and bake 15 minutes longer.

Recipe adapted from Diane Meisinger.

Cheeseburger Soup

1 lb. ground beef, browned
3/4 c. carrots, diced
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
4 c. potatoes, diced
1 1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. sour cream
3/4 c. onion
3/4 c. celery
3 c. chicken broth
8 oz. processed cheese, cubed
Salt and pepper to taste

In a 5-quart stock pot, brown ground beef and onion until beef is no longer pink. Add carrots, flour, potatoes, celery and chicken broth. Simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender. Stir in milk and cheese until cheese is melted. Stir in sour cream.

Spice it up by adding a can of diced tomatoes and green chilies, undrained.

Recipe adapted from Megan Behrens, Marshall County.


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