Stir Crazy: When you want dinner fast, turn to ground meat

News-DemocratNovember 18, 2013 

Where would American cooks be without ground meat? It cooks up fast, incorporates quickly in sauces and such, goes a long way to feed a family and is generally inexpensive.

I grew up on ground beef, which my mom put in MANY things, from a spaghetti-style skillet dish to a cream-style macaroni casserole, which had melted slices of American cheese on half of the top because she didn't like any kind of cheese. (My siblings and I still laugh about it because it was like East and West Germany: You didn't dare cross that line when slicing into it so cheese spread where it shouldn't!)

I switched to ground turkey decades ago, but rarely use ground meat.

Still, these two recipes sound very tasty for quick meals, and feel free to switch out what kind of ground meat you use.

Hamburger Rice Soup is a good meal on nights when you've got people coming and going for meetings and practices, says food writer Janet Keeler, of the Tampa Bay Times. Plus, it reheats well.

Hamburger Rice Soup

1 pound ground beef

2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes

2 cups cubed potatoes

2 sliced carrots

1 chopped onion

1/2 cup uncooked rice

6 cups water

Salt and pepper, to taste

Brown ground beef. Drain fat, return meat to pan and add tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onion, rice, water and salt and pepper. (A dash or two of Worcestershire sauce adds extra flavor, if you family likes it.) Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for about 25 minutes.

This recipe is from a new cookbook, "Come Home to Supper" by Christy Johnson. She is a young author who also wrote the best-selling cookbook "Southern Plate" and is publisher of SouthernPlate.com. If you want to buy a cookbook for someone who has a family, "Come Home to Supper" is a great choice. Visit her website for terrific recipes.

TACO CASSEROLE

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)

1/2 cup milk

1 packet (1.25 ounces) taco seasoning mix

2 cups instant mashed potato flakes

1 pound ground beef

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 can (15 ounces) refried beans

1/2 cup barbecue sauce

Favorite taco toppings, such as shredded cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped fresh tomatoes, diced onions or sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the milk and 2 tablespoons of the taco seasoning. Remove from the heat and stir in the mashed potato flakes. Press the mixture into the bottom and slightly up the sides of an ungreased, 10-inch ovenproof pie plate.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef, sprinkle it with the salt and pepper, and cook, using a wooden spoon to break it into small, crumbled pieces, until fully browned, about 10 minutes. Carefully drain off and discard the grease. Add the refried beans, barbecue sauce, 1/4 cup water, and the remaining taco seasoning to the skillet and cook, stirring until the mixture is bubbly, 10 minutes.

Turn the beef mixture out into the prepared crust. Bake, uncovered, until the casserole is bubbly, 30 to 35 minutes.

Cut the casserole into wedges and serve with whatever taco toppings you enjoy. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Recipe is easily doubled to be made in a 9-by-13-inch pan.

Here's how to reach me: Phone, 239-2664; e-mail, sboyle@bnd.com; or write, Suzanne Boyle, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.

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