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Published: Tuesday, 10/2/2001

Beef on a budget

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

Dust off those ground beef recipes. If you're looking for economical dinner entrees, ground beef recipes can help stretch the food dollar.

As some families deal with employment layoffs, preparing dinner at home also helps to cut food costs.

Economical recipes are often the favorites that we call comfort food. They take a little longer to cook, bake, or simmer. Be it a casserole or stew, a soup or a one-dish wonder, when a starch, a vegetable, and a protein source are teamed in one dish, it is a convenient meal full of nutrition.

It should come as no surprise that many entrees use staples such as rice, potatoes, pasta, and other grains and vegetables. What's more, the meat in the recipe is often ground beef. However, most recipes using ground beef can be adapted to ground pork, lamb, veal, turkey, or chicken.

Ground meat can be browned quickly and then added to other ingredients. It can be used in a sauce for spaghetti or lasagna; used to top pizza in place of pepperoni and then baked; made into meatballs that are flavored with marinara or a barbecue sauce, and added to classics such as chili.

Meatballs are a favorite entree and are extremely versatile. They can be flavored with Italian spices and served with spaghetti, covered with barbecue sauce for an American bake, or flavored with sour cream and served with noodles for Meatball Stroganoff. Meatballs are a favorite entree and are extremely versatile. They can be flavored with Italian spices and served with spaghetti, covered with barbecue sauce for an American bake, or flavored with sour cream and served with noodles for Meatball Stroganoff.
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Meatloaf is another favorite. Many recipes today use two pounds of ground beef, but the meatloaf mixes in the supermarket meat case are likely to include ground pork and/or ground veal added to the ground beef.

A good meatloaf should be firm and juicy. It should not crumble or fall apart when sliced, advises the Joy of Cooking. Most often it is cooked in a loaf pan, which gives it shape. But it can also be molded into a free-form loaf and baked.

Meatloaf is usually bound with egg, bread, or cracker crumbs, and spiced with different ingredients for flavor and texture.

Southwest ingredients add a popular flavor not only to meat loaf but a variety of other entrees.

Meatloaf Mexicana is laced with taco sauce, jalapeno if desired, and cheese. An Italian version could include spices such as garlic and oregano, mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese.

Ground beef is versatile when making tacos and taco salads. For the salad, prepare the ground beef VJ Block Fits: Block Depth: 9.51i Expansion .08i ###### Flowing Text Overset ####### as directed using a package of taco seasoning. Add one can of drained beans (kidney, black, or pinto). Place the cooked beef-bean mixture in a large bowl and refrigerate 10 minutes or until cooled. Add 1 16-ounce package of salad greens, 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges, and black olives if desired. Serve with tortilla chips, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, and bottled French dressing as desired.

If you don't have taco seasoning, but you do have a pot of chili, use the chili to flavor the salad greens and serve with tortilla chips and condiments.

The variations on chili are celebrated locally each June at the Great Chili Cook-Off sponsored by Mobile Meals of Toledo. The chile with meat that is said to have originated in Texas, where it is known as a “bowl of red,” has no beans.

Equally popular among Toledoans is Chili Mac, a rich pasta dish that is laced with the ingredients common to chili, topped with cheese, and baked. There are likely as many recipes for this dish as there are chili recipes.

Classic meatballs are so versatile that you could call them an international dish. Doctored with Italian spices and served with spaghetti; slathered with barbecue sauce for an American bake, or flavored with sour cream and served with noodles for Meatball Stroganoff, meatballs are a favorite entree. They are also popular as an appetizer.

Beef stroganoff originated in Russia in the 18th century. There have been many variations with sauted beef slices in a cream-based sauce served with onions and mushrooms.

Shepherd's pie originally was made with finely chopped or ground lamb covered with mashed potatoes. This favorite pub food in England and Ireland can be made with fresh or leftover lamb. In the United States, often chopped or ground beef is substituted for the lamb.

To make all of these dishes, select lean ground beef. Lean to fat ratios vary. In the past, the standard for ground beef was no more than 30 percent fat and at least 70 percent lean.

However, the demand is for even leaner ground beef. “Currently 27 percent fat to 73 percent beef has become industry standard for tubes of ground beef or 20-80 [percent],” said Jim Meads of K & J House of Meats in Toledo. “We sell an 85 percent ground beef that is our lowest grade of ground beef. We sell 90 percent ground chuck. Ground round or ground sirloin would be 95 percent beef. Because that's what the consumers demand.”

The higher the percentage of meat, the less waste there is in browned ground meat. If ground beef has no fat, however, it will stick and burn more quickly and it will not have the mellow flavor a little fat lends it.

Labels also indicate the cut of meat that has been ground: chuck, round, sirloin. Check the “sell-by” date on the package label. Buy before or on the date printed. The label also may include a grade and preparation and cooking information.

Several packers and retailers now offer branded beef such as Certified Angus Beef or Laura's Lean Beef. Information brochures on these products are often available.

A 3-ounce serving of ground beef provides more than 10 percent of the recommended daily allowances for protein, iron, zinc, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. The leanest cuts of beef are from the round and loin.



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