Friday, February 6, 2015

Food Friday - Budget Meals With Hamburger

From Tracey G

To me there are some meals that are budget meals and some that just happen to be a budget meal without intending to be ;-) To me, this recipe is one that's kind budget-wise but wasn't intended to be a budget meal, lol. 

My mom had a few pocketbook-friendly recipes in her repertoire, but this one, Mexican Stew, is and was my favorite. She made a goulash that was very budget friendly and unfortunately growing up we ate it a lot - didn't help that it was one of my dad's favorites either, lol. So, that was another reason seemed like it was on the menu all the time, well on weekends anyway, as he was an over-the-road truck driver and only home on weekends. Later on, after I was well into adulthood, my mom worked the day shift at the local Eagles Club (as well as being a member and usually some form of officer for years upon years), and she was always asked to make her goulash as a lunch special - and all I could think was "what is wrong with these people??" LOL. It is good, but it's one of those things that after you've made and eaten it so many times, you just don't want it anymore, lol. So, I suppose now after chatting about it, I'll have to figure out a "recipe" for it and save it for some future budget meal post, because as I said before, it really is good, lol. ;-) My mom was making this Mexican Stew recipe long before I was born, and I think I know where it came from, one of her best friends, but I can't quite be sure - a lot of recipes she made took on elements from different sources all the time, lol. 

 However, the Mexican Stew recipe I never seem to get tired of, ever. And I really don't know why, but there's just something about it. It even elicits a "Oh yum!" out of Harry when he asks me what's for dinner and I tell him. It's so simple it's crazy, and it's one that's even better the next day. This wasn't too easy for me, there's never been a set "recipe" for this stuff, just something I always "knew" how to make - just like my mom did. I know how it's supposed to look and smell and taste and added what I needed to get it there. Not exactly a "one tsp of this, one tbsp of that" kind of thing, it was sprinkle smell taste, sprinkle smell taste, lol. That seems to be quite the trend with anything my mom made that was "famous" or something that was a favorite. None of them have recipes. I know how to make her stuffed cabbage because when I was old enough I'd help her and learned the smell the meat mixture is supposed to have and how it's supposed to feel to know if there was enough rice in it or not.

So, beginning from the beginning is what I did to come up with the recipe for this, I'd measure, and measure out more if more was needed, it was slow going, but something I've been wanting to do for years, so while tedious, it was a good a thing!! :-) Now there is one ingredient I've left out, because to be honest, I've never used it so wouldn't even know how to give a measurement other than "to taste", but even that I'm not sure what it would be as it was something my mom never even added after I was born because I didn't care for it as a kid, and that would be - red pepper flake. You can give this heat if you like, or not, by adding it or, like myself - not adding, lol. But now it's got me thinking I may have to experiment with it ;-)

So, here we go:

This recipe is all about burger and canned goods, lol. It's two cans of green beans, two cans of diced potatoes and one large can of tomato sauce.

 Add about a tablespoon of olive oil into a large Dutch oven over med-high heat. Add your beef and your garlic powder, onion powder, salt if using and pepper. Break it up and brown it up ;-)

Once meat is browned up, add the cans of green beans, liquid and all...

Same goes for the potatoes - add the 2 cans, liquid and all....

Once you do that, add in the canned vegetables, this is what your mixture will look like.

Add your tomato sauce and beef broth (or chicken) next. Mix to combine things well, and now add in your last amount of oregano, about 2 tsp. I like to put it in the palm of my hand and lightly crush/rub it to release the oils before I throw it in the pot. Stir it up well - now let it simmer for at least 30 min, the longer the better though - it really helps develop the flavors. ;-)
That's it. It's so easy it's crazy. I like to serve it with some nice crusty bread and a green salad, seems to round it out nicely. I've also been known to add some corn to this too just to mix it up a little, lol. And now, here's the "recipe", ;-)

Mom's Mexican Stew

2 lbs lean ground beef
1 tbsp olive oil
11/2 - 2 tsp garlic powder (or less if you like)
1 tsp onion powder
3 tsp oregano, divided
1/4 - 1/2 tsp kosher salt (optional)
1/4 tsp pepper
2 14.5 oz each cans green beans, undrained
2 14.5 oz each cans diced potatoes, undrained
1 29 oz can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz can beef (or chicken) broth

In a large Dutch oven, heat the tablespoon of olive oil. Add the beef, the garlic powder, onion powder, 1 tsp of the oregano, salt and pepper; brown the beef. Once the beef is browned, add the green beans and potatoes - liquid and all to the pot. Add the can of tomato sauce and the can of chicken broth. Stir to combine, then add the remaining 2 tsp of oregano. Simmer for at least a half an hour or longer. Serve with a green salad and nice loaf of crusty bread. 

From Kris B

I'd like to be able to tell you that I always prepare perfectly balanced meals using only the most fresh and wholesome ingredients.  Well, I suppose that I could say these things,  but I would be telling you an outright lie, and I'm not going to do that.  We are all about keeping it honest and real here.  So in light of full disclosure, let me just admit uproot that one o my favorite meals is hot dogs, with mustard only, and Fritos.  I'll eat this for lunch or dinner.  We also have pizza delivered a couple times a month.  Yes, I make homemade pizza, but that takes forethought, which I don't always have.  And, I believe whole-heartedly that frozen vanilla yogurt with fresh berries and graham cracker crumbs constitutes a perfectly acceptable and nutritionally sound meal - breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Why did I share all of these things with you?  So that you can see where I am coming from when I tell you that this week's recipe uses Velveeta as one of its ingredients.  I know, I know...many people think that Velveeta is not real food, but admit it, in some recipes, there is no substitute.  The Cheeseburger Casserole recipe is one of those.

In defense of Velveeta, here is a bit of its history.  Velveeta has been around since 1918.  It was developed by the Monroe Cheese Company in Monroe, NY.  Velveeta then became its own company before being acquired in 1028 by Kraft Foods, its current owner.

Velveeta is called "liquid gold" by its fans.  This is because it melts to that smooth creamy consistency that no other cheeses afford.  This unique characteristic is due to the way that Velveeta is processed; the whey, which is normally removed during the cheese making process, is reincorporated with the curds, according to an article on the history of Velveeta.

Part of Velveeta's "bad rap" comes from its official designation by the FDA as a "pasteurized prepared cheese product."  What does this really mean?  In short it means that there are added chemicals, primarily as color enhancers and preservatives.  On the bright side, only about 20 percent of the calories in Velveeta are from fat compared to the 30-40 percent in other cheeses.

Because I care about all of you, and my reputation here, I decided to look for homemade, perhaps healthier, version of this liquid gold.  I was a bit surprised by the number of recipes that i found.  They were all very similar to one another, using various kinds of cheeses from cheddar to Colby jack and Parmesan, powdered milk, and gelatin.  I also found a much simpler version. This one requires only American cheese, cheddar cheese and milk.  This simpler recipe is possible because American cheese itself is made with the gelatin already.

Here are the links to two versions of homemade Velveeta.

And now it's time for another confession...well, actually two...

First, I have only the one food photo this week.  I had a long week at work and by the time I got home in the evenings, there was zero good light and I was lucky to get dinner made let alone photograph it along the way!  I am thankful for Tracey and her beautiful photos so that we all have something pretty to look at!

And secondly, the reality is that if I am going to make a something like Cheeseburger Casserole for dinner, it is because I need something that is quick, easy, and that I am likely to already have ingredients in the pantry.  Or, at worst, can make a speedy trip in and out of the grocery store on my way home from school.  Unless by some chance I have homemade Velveeta waiting in the freezer, I am gong to buy the box of "pasteurized prepared cheese product" and be done with it.

Let your conscience and your time dictate your choice of cheese.

(From Cuisine at Home magazine)

8 oz. elbow macaroni
4 strips thick sliced bacon diced
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup diced onion
1 T fresh minced garlic
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes in juice
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 diced dill pickle chips
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups shredded Velveeta, divided

Shredded lettuce
Sliced onion rings
Pickle chips
Sliced tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350.

Coat 9x13 baking dish with non-stick spray.

Cook macaroni according to directions.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, cook bacon until crisp and then remove and drain on paper towel.  Pour off grease from pan.  Add ground beef, onion, and garlic to pan and cook until browned, 5-7 minutes.

Stir in canned tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce.  Cook to heat through.  Add the pickles, half of the cheese and the macaroni.   Season with salt and pepper.

Pour mixture into prepared casserole dish.  Top with remaining cheese.

Bake until cheese melts - 15 minutes.

The original recipe suggests garnishing with traditional burger fixings - lettuce, tomato, and onion.  I have never done that.  We usually enjoy our lettuce and tomato as a small side salad with this meal.

Give it a try.  It really is very tasty and works well if you need leftovers to take for lunch the next day.



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