Monday, October 8, 2018

Keepers: Extremely FAST From-scratch Meals With Minimal Cleanup Part 2

I'm back with the second installment in this month-long series on FAST from-scratch meals with minimal clean up and this week, we are talking about Beef!

If you shop Costco or watch the sales at your local grocer's butcher block, beef can be found at some great prices to rival chicken and pork.  It is a pretty forgiving meat, especially in it's ground or roast form, and it has so much pairing potential.  Let's take a look at a few fast recipes for anyone not bent on avoiding red meat (slow cooker variations to come in part 4!):

Super easy and cost-effective meal.  I've shared the recipe before but just in case you missed it then:
1.5 - 2 lbs ground beef (or ground turkey), fry with some chopped onion (or add onion powder after draining), drain off grease when meat is about half-done, sprinkle on about 1tsp garlic powder, and a few dashes of salt and pepper to taste.  Spritz in some Worcestershire sauce.  Once meat is browned, add 2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup, 1/2 can beef stock (I use water and half a teaspoon beef bullion and the mushroom soup can filled half way with water) and 1-2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce. Stir and warm well over medium heat.

(You can add parsley and/or fresh garlic when cooking for additional flavor)

I serve this mixture over mashed potatoes or egg noodles with a side of green beans. 

Dishes: Frying pan, pot for potatoes or noodles, strainer for potatoes or noodles, spatula, optional pot and spoon for green beans or other side.  (If making potatoes you will also need a potato peeler, knife, and cutting board for scratch -or- measuring cups and spoons for boxed instant)

Cook time: approx. 20-25 minutes if served with noodles or instant potatoes... 30-40 if making potatoes from scratch

Tacos/Burritos/Taco Salad
Fry up 2lbs. ground beef.  I add about 1 tsp each of cumin, garlic, onion powder and, when it is almost done, salsa (approx. 1/4 to 1/2 per pound).  Chop (or buy pre-chopped) lettuce and tomatoes.  Serve with pre-shredded cheese and, if you like, sour cream, salsa and olives. Beans are optional.  You can do canned or you can cook homemade beans in the slow-cooker.  I make a whole pot of beans at once and then freeze in portions to thaw and warm up when I need them for dinner.  If you freshly grate cheese by hand it will add to time and clean-up.  You can grate a supply of cheese ahead of time to be kept for various uses and stored in the fridge or freezer.  I buy mine in bulk, pre-grated, at Costco or on sale at the grocery store.

Tacos and Burritos shells can be store-bought and are quick.  Homemade shells take a bit longer.  This is where taco salad can be a great alternative.  Make your salad and throw the beef (and optional beans) on top.  My family likes to crumble Doritos into their salad!

Dishes: Frying pan, cutting board, spatula, knife and spoon if having sour cream.

Cook time: approx. 20-25 minutes if you are multi-tasking and/or have help  (you can chop veggies while meat and beans cook).  Much longer if making tortillas from scratch.

Beef Italiano
Simply put, any variation of spaghetti/rigatoni/goulash!  This meal can be as fast and low mess as you choose.  All options listed below assume some form of noodle is cooked  and that meat is fried while the sauce is being made.(multi-tasking)....

Multi-task step one: set water on burner  set to medium-high to high setting.  Keep an eye on it and, once it starts to boil, add in noodles if choice (approx. 1 handful per adult/half handful per child) and stir every minute or two to keep noodles from sticking.  (I add a dash of olive oil to my water to aid in non-sticking noodles)
Dishes: cook pot and spoon to stir/serve with and strainer Cook time: approx 20 minutes.

Muti-task step two: while the water is doing it's thing, throw 1lb ground beef in frying pan set to medium-high and fry away!  (unless you took my advice last week and pre-cooked ground beef, then skip to next step!) I like to add a few dashes of garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper after grease has been drained.
Dishes: Frying pan and spatula Cook time: approx 10-15 minutes.

You don't need to stand and stir the meat constantly, just every minute or two.  So while the meat is cooking you can start on one of the sauce options below and, once your meat is done, you can combine the two to finish simmering while the noodles wrap-up cooking.

Option 1
Sauce in a jar = add into ground beef once it is cooked and warm.
Dishes: none Cook time: none

Option 2   
Sauce (mostly) from scratch = I use a 1-2 cans of tomato sauce and/or stewed tomatoes broken up.  I heat on medium to medium high with approx. 1 tsp each of powdered garlic and onion, parsley, and basil, 1/2 Tbsp oregano and a dash of salt, pepper and sugar (a small dash of sugar helps neutralize acids in tomato sauces)  I cook until it is well heated through, having added in my meat whenever it was ready, and then serve over noodles with some Parmesan cheese.   
Dishes: cook pot and spoon to stir/serve with Cook time: approx 20 minutes.

Option 3
Sauce dressed up = using one of the above two steps, add in chopped green peppers, onions, fresh garlic, mushrooms and/or sliced olives.  This will add about 5 minutes to prep-work and cutting board and knife to the dish pile... but it will provide a heartier, more filling dish.

*Note: an interesting thing about sauces is that you can cook them any time, even in the morning or while littles nap, then let cool and refrigerate... it actually produces a tastier sauce because the flavors have more time to marry!

WHOLE MEAL Dishes sum-up combined:  cook pot, strainer, spoon for stirring/serving, frying pan, spatula, bowl or saucepan to make sauce in, whisk or spoon to stir sauce with.

WHOLE MEAL Total Cook time combined: approx.25-30 minutes.  If any of the steps were pre-cooked then shave off as much as 10-15 minutes!  Add about 5 minutes if you choose sauce option 3.

Simply Beef and Rice  
Use beef broth with a sprinkling of powdered garlic, onion and parsley for rice, make portion for 4 cups cooked rice (any rice variety will do).  (I have a pressure cooker which takes about 15 minutes to make my rice beginning to end.  I always start this first since it is the longest part of the dinner making process for this dish.  I make 2 cups rice to 2 cups water in it.)

While rice is cooking, fry 2 lbs ground beef or steak/beef strips as suggested in other beef frying recipes above.  Add in 1/2 of a medium fresh onion chopped and 6 cloves garlic minced OR (quicker and less mess...) 2 tsp. powdered onion, garlic, and dried parsley, 1 tsp. basil and 1/2 tsp paprika.  Throw on a generous shaking of salt and pepper.

Once both meat and rice are done, combine and serve!  You can serve with a side of your favorite veggie or as a one-dish meal on it's own.

Dishes: Frying pan, spatula, cook pot and lid, spoon for stirring rice and serving (cutting board and knife if using fresh onion and garlic)

Cook time: approx. 20-25 minutes (add 5 minutes if using fresh onion and garlic)

Pepper Beef and Rice  
This dish is very similar to the one above with a few variations.  Also, cook using the multi-tasking method to accomplish more in less time (or enlist a helper!)...

Cook rice plain (no broth or seasoning)

Season beef with same garlic and onion POWDER (not fresh chopped) and about 1 tsp basil along with salt and pepper

Biggest difference: empty  2 cans stewed tomatoes into a medium to large saucepan.  Lightly crush the tomato chunks with your hand to break them up.  Slice into strips for steak or chopped for ground beef and add in: 1-2 green and/or red peppers.  Do the same with 1/2 an onion and 4 cloves garlic (optional, you can used 1-2 tsp each of dried onion and garlic in the tomato mixture if you like).  Cook tomato mixture on medium to medium-high heat about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasional.  Green peppers should become slightly tender but NOT soggy.  If it starts to bubble too much, turn down to medium and put a lid on to avoid too much moisture escaping.

Once the tomato mixture is finished, combine with meat and simmer a few more minutes.  Serve over rice.

Dishes: Frying pan, spatula, cook pot and lid, spoon for stirring rice and serving, saucepan and possible lid (you can use the same spoon as with rice), cutting board and knife

Cook time: approx. 30-35 minutes (add 5 minutes if using fresh onion and garlic)
*In all honesty, this meal is probably the messiest and longest to cook.  I don't recommend it if you are in a real hurry!!  But I threw it in here for it's ease.  You can pre-cut the peppers, onions and even garlic and freeze.  If the meat is pre-cooked as well then all you need to do is combine these ingredients into the stewed tomatoes, bring to a boil on medium high, then cover and turn down to a simmer on medium to medium low for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, while rice cooks.

Burgers Dressed... or undressed!
Burgers are just.that.simple.  Whether you pan fry or grill, you can't beat their convenience.  You can make patties as soon as you get the meat home from the store.  To store, separate the individual burgers with freezer or wax paper and lay flat inside of Ziploc bags.  Or you can just pat them up when you are ready to cook. 

Burgers are our go-to for quick and easy.  I like the grilling option because it gives me a break from cooking since my husband loves to do the outdoor cooking!  He has even trained our 18 year old in the art of "perfect" grill marks and he handles the grill quite well as a result!

If you are pan frying, however, it can get a bit messy.  I keep a lid on my burgers for the first half of cooking and vented for the last bit to cut down on splatter.  This is also helpful if you have littles toddling around while you cook.  Some splattering will still happen but it isn't quite as bad and is fairly quick to clean up.  To cut down on splattering, choose ground beef with lower fat content.  Too lean (93%) or turkey burgers will need a dash of oil in the skillet to fry without sticking.  Roughly 89% lean is a good in-between of lower splatter with a bit of fat for flavor!

Serve burgers with chips and basic condiments for lowest mess.  You can also warm corn or baked beans.  Other sides can include salads; green, pasta, potato, or coleslaw.  If you do these from scratch your time and mess will drastically increase. You can make ahead and keep in fridge or grab some pre-made from your grocer's deli. 

Dishes: Frying pan (or, if grilling, a plate to hold meat when it comes off from cooking), spatula.

Cook time: approx. 15 - 20 minutes.  Basic sides can be prepared while cooking burgers.  More complex sides should be approximated accordingly.

Variations on the basic burger which wouldn't require anymore time and only marginal additional mess:

Mexi-burger: cook with salsa in the last half of cooking (or mix into ground beef before forming patties) and top with cheddar cheese, sour cream and shredded lettuce.  Avocado is another favorite garnish as well.  Serve with tortilla chips and/or black beans.

Ranch burger: top with ranch dressing, bacon bits (whole bacon is better but takes longer and is messier!), shredded cheddar, cucumbers, lettuce and tomato.

Italian Burger: season meat with oregano and/or Italian seasoning while cooking, top with mozzarella and a dab of spaghetti or pizza sauce

A-1 burger: cook patties with A-1 sauce in the last half of cooking.  Top with Havarti or Provolone and shredded lettuce

Pan Swiss Mushroom Burger: In the last few minutes of frying, throw sliced mushrooms (use fresh or drained can) and onions in to cook with the burgers.  Top with a slice of Swiss cheese on each patty just before removing from pan.  Once burger is on bun, scoop mushrooms and onions on top.

That is all I have for today!  What are your FAST, from-scratch, easy to clean up beef dinner ideas?  I would love to hear!  Next time we will talk Chicken!

Whether you have a chef's heart or reluctance in the kitchen, I pray you find each meal prep an opportunity to serve and love your family as God's out-pouring of love through you!


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