Nothing screams summer louder than burgers on the grill. But you can’t serve them up every night without subjecting your family to culinary boredom. How else can a frugal mom work ground beef, a relatively inexpensive protein mainstay, into the menu?
Here are some clever ideas for using this versatile ingredient from other Circle of Moms members. They range from quick and easy (Lettuce Wraps, Salisbury Steaks) to more elaborate (Shepherd's Pie, Reuben Meatloaf). Add your own ideas to the comments!
1. Lettuce Wraps
Combine the cool taste of summer’s fresh lettuce with ground beef. “They are so easy and so tasty,” shares Bristol. “You just need one pound of ground beef, one lettuce head, classic stir fry sauce and some soy sauce. If you want, you can make some white rice as well.” Bristol’s recipe calls for browning the meat using lemon pepper or whatever other spices your family likes. Drain the grease, add stir fry sauce and finish cooking. Rinse lettuce and pull off larger pieces. Spoon meat mixture into lettuce and wrap up like a taco serving rice on the side.
2. Stuffed Peppers
Summer is the best time to enjoy fresh peppers of any color — red, yellow, orange or green. Stuffing them with a mixture of ground beef, rice and cheese and baking in the oven or on the grill only enhances the flavor. Linda has a unique recipe that uses Parmesan cheese and rice (she prefers Blue Calrose rice, a medium-grain variety known for holding its flavor well). She combines ground beef, eggs, boiled rice, Parmesan cheese and sea salt a bowl, then places pepper rings on a cookie sheet. Then, says Linda, “Stuff bell pepper rings with hamburger mixture so it is slightly rounded. Brush top with tomato paste. Bake in a 350 degree oven until ground beef is cooked.”
3. Cabbage Roll Casserole
This is another simple recipe using “minimal ingredients," including a mainstay of summer’s fresh, healthy produce: cabbage. It's “a big hit in my house,” shares Jennifer, its creator. Her recipe: brown ground beef, cube one small head of cabbage and spread all across the bottom of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Sprinkle with garlic powder and one cup of cooked rice. Then stir one can of diced tomatoes with one can of tomato soup, add one tablespoon of brown sugar and pour over rice. Cover with foil, bake at 350 degrees for one hour. “Very easy,” says Jennifer.
4. Reuben Meatloaf
Nini's twist on the classic meatloaf generates two meals from one cooking session. “Reheat leftover meatloaf slices the next day and make sandwiches using pumpernickel bread.” Here's her recipe for an 8-serving meatloaf.
1 8-ounce can sauerkraut
2 1/2 cups bread crumbs soft
1 pound ground beef
1 12-ounce can corned beef
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic minced
1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded (4 oz.)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
Rinse, drain and coarsely chop sauerkraut. Place in a large bowl and add bread crumbs, ground beef, corned beef, 1/2 can of the tomato sauce, eggs, parsley and garlic; mix until well blended. Press one-half of the mixture into a 1 1/2-quart glass ring mold or use a 10-inch glass deep-dish pie plate that has an inverted glass custard cup in the center.
Evenly sprinkle cheese over meat mixture in mold or pie plate. Press remaining meat mixture on top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, piercing to allow steam to escape. Microwave at 100% power (700 watts) for 8 to 10 minutes or until meat is firm and has lost its pink color, rotating dish every 3 minutes. Remove from oven, cover with foil and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain off meat juices if necessary. Invert meat loaf onto a serving plate.
In a small bowl, mix remaining 1/2 can of tomato sauce, tomato paste and horseradish. Spoon over top of ring. Microwave at 100% power for 1 minute to reheat.
5. Shepherd’s Pie
"How about shepherd’s pie?,” suggests Danielle. If you want to increase your family’s daily intake of fresh vegetables, it’s easy to mix them right in. Danielle says to start by browning the ground beef and draining the grease. Add green beans, peas, carrots, corn, or wax beans, fresh or frozen, and gravy. Make a bowl of mashed potatoes. Then spread the ground beef, veggies and gravy mixture into a glass baking dish and cover with mashed potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. For a tasty addition, sprinkle some cheese — I like to use feta — across the top when you're ready to serve.
6. Salisbury Steak
Salisbury Steal is one of the most popular suggestions. “It’s yummy,” posts Beth. She adds onion soup mix to ground beef and shapes it into oblong or oval patties. She then cooks these in a pan on the stove top, adding 2-3 jars of brown gravy with mushrooms, and letting it simmer. She serves the patties with mashed potatoes, green beans or corn. (Fresh asparagus seasoned with lemon pepper would also make a tasty side dish.) Christina follows a similar recipe, serving the "steaks" with "mashed potatoes, French fries, or noodles. Really good.”
7. Cheeseburger Soup
“Soup is really easy and with some biscuits or crescent rolls [it's] a great comfort food,” writes Tricia. She’s right. Sometimes summer’s chaos begs to be counteracted by food that's easy, soothing, and family-pleasing. “I made a cheeseburger soup my kids actually asked for again,” Tricia reports. Brown and drain ground beef, then add chicken broth and water to cover, plus sliced potatoes, celery, peas and carrots. Let the mixture boil until the vegetables are cooked thoroughly. To make the soup thicker, mash the potatoes by hand or remove them to a blender. Finish by sprinkling your favorite cheese on top.
8. Taco Soup
Busy schedules sometimes require a meal in the crock pot. Soup is the perfect solution. Carol’s recipe gives a nod to summer’s festive side:
1 can pinto beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can corn (drained)
2 cans stewed tomatoes
1 can of diced tomatoes with green chiles (she suggests Rotel brand)
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet ranch dressing/seasoning mix
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
“Throw it all in a crock pot on low, mix well, cover and you have supper,” she shares. “Serve with tortilla chips and shredded cheese sprinkled on top.”
9. Tater Tot Casserole
Eileen’s recipe combines a few pantry staples. She browns ground beef with onions, adding in a can each of cream of mushroom soup and cheddar cheese soup. This mixture goes on the bottom of a lightly sprayed 9" x 13" pan. Then add frozen peas, cover with tater tots, and bake the entire mixture according to the instructions on the tater tot bag. “Check tots at the end of the time...to see that they are done.”
10. Mexican Lasagna
Vicki’s recipe makes yet another nod to south-of-the-border flavors. Brown one to one and half pounds of ground beef with chopped onion, and then drain. Add one can each of tomatoes, ranch-style beans, cream of chicken and cream of celery soups. Simmer for 20 minutes. Cut flour tortillas in quarters and layer in a 9" x 13" pan. Add a portion of the ground beef mixture, then a layer of shredded cheddar cheese and another layer of tortillas. Repeat until several layers are completed. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese melts and begins to brown. “Great for leftovers too,” she shares.
Back to Burgers
Of course, you still may want to cook burgers on the grill. After all, it's summer. To spice up the old standby, Kristy suggests frying hamburgers “in bacon grease to make more tasty." And MJ's funny face burgers will make your kids smile: "Make [the hamburgers] in a round ball peeking out from the bun. Put two green olives with pimentos and a slice of red bell pepper to make a face."
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