Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ground Chuck Bounty

Ground chuck was on sale for less than $2/pound, the problem being that the minimum amount was 4 pounds. With only two of us to feed, a way to use this bounty of cheap meat was needed. So, time to feed the freezer again!

We need meals that can be nuked when I have to teach at supper time and I think it's safer to pre-cook any mixture including ground meat. So, when all was said and done, 4 pounds of ground chuck, 4 eggs, some bread crumbs, and a variety of flavorings yielded 8 meals of meat servings for two, ready to be eaten with a short stint in the microwave.

Ground chuck has a higher proportion of fat than other ground meats but much of that can be cooked off. Thus, no olive oil was added to these, unlike meatloaves and meatballs made with ground turkey or chicken, where the olive oil is needed to add the flavor strengthening of fat.

Meatloaf is a wonderful place to hide a green leafy vegetable like spinach. We all need to eat more dark green leaves and this is a good way to slip them in where they aren't even noticed.

  • Ground chuck separated into 1 pound lumps (each pound results in four servings)
  • 1 egg for every pound of meat
  • A different set of flavorings for each pound of meat
  • 1/4 pound of baby spinach or a bunch of parsley for each pound of meat
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs for each pound of meat.
  1. Preheat oven to 375 for meatloaves.
  2. Decide what ingredients you will use to flavor each meatloaf or set of meatballs.
  3. Whir the egg, flavoring ingredients, and spinach or parsley in a food processor until well chopped.
  4. In a large bowl, knead together a pound of meat with each one-egg mixture.
  5. Shape into meat loaves, meat balls or patties.
  6. Bake meatloaves until internal temperature reaches about 165°. Sauté meatballs or patties until no longer pink inside.
  7. Allow to cool and freeze in meal-sized portions.
Among the flavoring ingredients that work well added meatloaf are
  • herbs like basil, dill, or cilantro,
  • exotics like sundried tomatoes, pitted olives, jarred pesto or tapenade
  • vegetables like carrot, onion, celery, or shallots
  • sauces like ketchup, mustard, horseradish sauce, or barbecue sauce
  • Spices and garlic
Use your imagination to combine two or three of these together, for example
  • garlic, chopped basil and sun-dried tomatoes
  • Mustard, carrot and dill
  • Cilantro, olives and bell pepper
Then, all you need do for supper is pull out a meat loaf and heat it in the microwave. Add a bag of frozen veggies or a salad and voilà.

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Imprecise & Inexpensive

Two themes predominate in my approach to cooking. 1. Daily cooking of flavorful food need not be a precise art. 2. You can be an adventurous cook on a budget. Cooking and eating should be fun for both cookers and eaters.