Beef and Veggies Make Ahead Meal

Beef, carrot and potato one dish meal

(This blog is written by Zane Ehnes, UNL graduate student in Community Nutrition and Health Promotion.)

A very popular trend right now, especially among young adults either in college or beginning their professional careers, is meal prepping! Meal prepping is an easy and quick way to make meals ahead of time that are healthy and nutritious go-to meals for during the busy work week that will keep you on track for your fitness goals, whether they are to build muscle, lose or maintain weight!

For this week’s meal prepping, I decided to go with a ground-beef and potatoes recipe that seemed cost friendly but also easy to make! I did alter the recipe just a little bit to add more nutrition. The recipe calls for two main ingredients, beef and potatoes, but I thought adding carrots for antioxidants and beta-carotene and garbanzo beans for plant protein and fiber would be nice additions. These additions also are a cheap way to get more servings out of your recipe.

potatoes, carrots and garbanzo beans being prepped for a meal

This recipe is quick and easy to make with just a few common ingredients and little preparation.

Beef & Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 93% lean ground beef
  • 4 medium potatoes (peeled and chopped)
  • 5 medium carrots, chopped (remove the green tops)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 beef seasoning packet, suitable for flavoring 1 pound of ground beef (Check if there is a low sodium version. In my recipe I used a taco seasoning packet, but you may use whatever you prefer. For example, chili seasoning, or any seasonings you have on hand at home.)
  • 1 (16-oz) can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained (reduced sodium or no salt added)

Directions

  1. Brown 1 pound ground beef in large skillet, drain the fat.
  2. Add potatoes, carrots, water and seasoning packet to the skillet.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes and carrots are fork-tender.
  4. Uncover, add beans and cook until excess water evaporates.
  5. Divide into equal portions in food containers, refrigerate for up four days.

Recipe slightly adapted from a recipe by Colorado State University and University of California at Davis, Eating Smart Being Active Recipes and featured in USDA Mixing Bowl at http://bit.ly/2fK9AVg

ground beef, carrots, potatoes and hamburger meals

Reheat and enjoy your pre-prepped meals within four days of preparing them.

Zane’s Tips:

  • Draining the fat from less lean cuts of ground beef removes much, but not all, of the fat. With the leaner options you aren’t paying for the excess weight from fat that you end up draining. And a comparison of the final yield and costs of a lean and a higher fat ground beef shows there is very little difference in cost once the fat is removed (pictured below). Use the US Department of Agriculture’s Ground Beef Calculator to determine the difference in nutrients between different percentages of fat and lean per similar weights of ground beef.
  • Rinse the garbanzo beans with water. This will help reduce the sodium by about 40%.
  • Prefer different vegetables? Go ahead and alter this recipe in any way that fits your preferences!
  • Transfer food, no more than 2-inches deep, into shallow containers.
  • Refrigerate within 2 hours after preparing.
  • Cover loosely with lid; close lid after food has cooled. Eat within 4 days.

Comparison of 80% Lean and 93% Lean Ground Beef

I wanted to show a visual comparison of cooked ground beef with different fat percentages. Below I have pictured on the left a glass-measuring cup filled to the top with 93% lean ground beef. On the right is a picture of the glass-measuring cup filled with 80% lean ground beef.

The important thing is I started out with about the same amount of both varieties. I had 1.07 pounds of the 93% lean ground beef and 1.05 pounds of the 80% lean ground beef.

You can see how cooking the ground beef dramatically changes the amount you end up with after draining away the fat. When comparing the price per pound of the two types of ground beef, the actual cost difference per cup was only about 15 cents.

Next time when you’re shopping for ground beef, remember the variety with the higher fat content may be cheaper but the cost difference isn’t that much. And … if you’re using it in a recipe where you can’t drain the fat, you’re adding excess calories to your final product.

meat-comparison

Comparison of 93% lean and 80% lean ground beef after browning and removing the fat

Grilling Fruits and Vegetables

Want to get your family to eat more fruits and vegetables? Try grilling them!

The heat from the grill caramelizes the natural sugars in fruits and vegetables, giving them a tasty and sweeter flavor.

I had the opportunity to visit with a representative from Weber grills who is coming to my hometown — Lincoln, Nebraska — to show their new Husker-themed grills at the Nebraska-Oregon football game. Their Chef and Grill Specialist Tyler Selhorst will be on hand to talk about grilling and tailgating tips.

Grilled meat is the first food that usually comes to mind for tailgating and grilling. To round out the meal with more foods from the grill, I asked Weber for some tips for grilling fruits and vegetables.

Grilling Fruit

grilling fruit

Grilling fruit (Image courtesy of Weber grills)

Here are some general tips for grilling fruits from Weber.

  1. First preheat your grill for 10-15 minutes and then brush the grates clean.
  2. Prep whatever fruit you choose (rinse and peel/slice if necessary).
  3. Set the grill temperature between 350-450 F. (Alice’s note: This is a medium heat)
  4. Place fruit on the grill or in grill basket. Large slices can go directly on the grill, but small fruits like blueberries or raspberries will need to be placed in your grill basket.
  5. Grill fruit for about 6-8 minutes. The larger fruits may need an extra few minutes in order to really caramelize the fruit. (Alice’s note: Find sizes and approximate times for grilling various fruits here)
  6. Remove and serve!

Grilling Vegetables

vegetables grilled in a grill pan

Grilling vegetables (Image courtesy of Weber grills)

As easy way to grill vegetables is in a stainless steel vegetable basket. The basket prevents smaller vegetables from falling through the grill grate.

Weber gives these basic directions for grilling vegetables in a vegetable basket.

Location of Weber Tailgate at September 17 Husker Game

Husker-themed grill

Husker-themed grill (Image courtesy of Weber grills)

If you’d like to get some grilling and tailgating tips from Weber’s Chef and to see the Husker-themed grill, stop by their Tailgate, September 17 before the Nebraska-Oregon football game. They’ll be tailgating on Stadium Drive, on the west side of Memorial Stadium from 11:30 a.m. on Saturday until kickoff (2:30 p.m.)

Roasted Vegetable Pasta

roasted vegetable pasta with tomatoes, zucchini and yellow pepper

Roasted Vegetable Pasta (Photo by Alice Henneman)

While I enjoy cooking, I like lingering over a meal of good-tasting food even more! When I received, my latest CSA box from Pekarek’s Produce, I was originally going to create some type of roasted tomato sauce with the cherry tomatoes. Roasting adds an extra layer of flavor to foods.

Then, I thought again … and decided why not roast the zucchini and yellow pepper also. And, only have to cook once to enjoy all of these foods.

And that’s what I did … it was so easy and so delicious! Here are the directions …

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Watermelon Selection and Preparation

watermelon

(Photo by Alice Henneman)

My latest CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box courtesy of Pekarek’s Produce contained a large, luscious watermelon. What’s the best way to eat a watermelon that already looks and tastes great? Just slice it, bite into it and enjoy! Here are a few tips on selecting, storing and preparing a great-tasting watermelon …

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Yummy Yellow Salsa

cantaloupe, habanero pepper, sweet corn and sweet onion salsa

Yummy Yellow Salsa (photo by Alice Henneman)

Community Supported Agriculture box with an eggplant, sweet corn, sweet onion, habanero peppers and a cantaloupe.

My latest CSA box (photo by Alice Henneman)

I was running short on time when I received my most recent CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box from Pekarek’s Produce.

I decided to see if I could use almost all the produce in just one recipe as I was leaving town in a few days. I almost succeeded except for the eggplant and there was only so much of the habanero peppers and onion I could include in one salsa recipe.

It turned out a lovely yellow color. Here is how I made it ….

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Cantaloupe and Vanilla Yogurt Parfait

Cantaloupe and vanilla yogurt parfait

Cantaloupe and Vanilla Yogurt Parfait (photo by Alice Henneman)

My CSA box this week contained one of the biggest, tastiest cantaloupes I’ve ever experienced! I was inspired to combine it into a parfait with one of my favorite foods, vanilla Greek yogurt.

No recipe needed! Just layer yogurt and melon (cut into bite-size chunks) into a serving glass. Add a layer of granola, if you like.

Makes a quick breakfast or brunch dish or a delightful dessert. Here’s a trick I use to quickly remove the seeds from cantaloupe …

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Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad

CSA box from Pekarek Produce

This week’s CSA box from Pekarek Produce (photo by Alice Henneman)

Fresh produce tastes so good you don’t need to add a lot of spices and seasonings to give it flavor. I didn’t even use a recipe for our meal last night for a “Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad.” Here’s what I did and how it turned out ….

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An Easy Way to Freeze Raw Onions

Freezing raw onions in freezer bags without blanching them first.

Raw onions can be quickly frozen without blanching them first. (Photo by Alice Henneman)

I’m about to leave town for a few days but still have portions of  cut onions left in my refrigerator. If I don’t do something with them, I either need to toss them now or I’ll have to toss them when I get home.

I decided to freeze them. This method took me about 3 minutes  …

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Sauteed Sweet Corn and Zucchini

Sauteed Sweet Corn and Zucchini

Sauteed Sweet Corn and Zucchini (photo by Alice Henneman)

There’s only so much zucchini and sweet corn a person (at least most persons!) can eat at one time. This often leads to a few extra ears of corn or some zucchini residing in your refrigerator, nearing “the time to toss!”

Here’s a quick recipe that uses both of these foods. After you make it once, you’ll never need to refer to it again … it’s that easy!

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Easy Skillet Cooked Cabbage

Skillet Cooked Cabbage Recipe

Easy Skillet Cooked Cabbage (Photo by Alice Henneman)

Skillet Cooked Cabbage is now one of my favorite go-to recipes for preparing cabbage. While eating a whole head of cabbage made into a slaw can seem daunting, the more compact nature of cooked cabbage makes for an easy meal for 4 people.

A whole cabbage head will keep in your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. It can be among the last of the fresh produce from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box, farmers market, garden or store that you prepare. This cabbage was left over from my CSA box from last week.

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