It may seem challenging in these days of tight budgets and pricey meat to feel well-fed on a low-carb diet without spending a fortune on groceries. Most of the ground beef recipes we learned from our mothers include many of the carbs we now need to avoid. Noodles, potatoes, white rice and hamburger buns are absolutely verboten. So is canned soup, especially that all-time cooking favorite, cream of mushroom. However, you'll soon find that there is plenty you can do with ground beef on a low-carb regime -- and what's more, some of the new dishes you'll discover can be elegant and economical at the same time.
It's useful to remember that the low-carb lifestyle doesn't consist solely of meat and salad greens. In fact, there is a wealth of vegetables that can be made into meals that are so far from ordinary that you'll never feel the need to apologize to guests for being on a diet. A platter of stuffed zucchini or colorful stuffed peppers will wow your dinner guests or fill up your family for relatively little money. A pound of ground beef mixed with onions, fresh garlic, dried dressing mix and a smattering of Parmesan or pepper jack cheese will easily fill up six peppers. The same quantity of ground beef prepared like meat loaf, using part of the zucchini insides instead of bread crumbs, will fill up two good-sized zucchinis -- enough to serve dinner to four adults.
Ground Beef Patties
The beauty of a burger doesn't necessarily lie with the bread it's wrapped in. You can have all the fixings, from pickles and lettuce to creamy dressing and mayo, but instead of a bun, wrap it in a couple of big leaves from the outside of the lettuce head. You can even have bacon with your burger and the rest of the family can still have their burgers on bread, if they prefer. Patties can be served on a bed of mixed greens and covered with a generous layer of sauteed mushrooms. Most full-fat cheeses are acceptable on a low-carb regime, so you needn't deprive yourself of the flavor of cheeseburgers. For a meal worthy of candlelight and a glass of red wine, melt a little blue cheese over your patty and serve it with a side of fresh steamed broccoli and whole sauteed mushrooms.
Ground Beef Casserole
We love our one-pan ground beef dinners. For many Americans, they are the fast and affordable comfort food of choice, but that comfort often comes loaded with noodles, potatoes or rice. You can still have one-pan ground beef dinners by borrowing a bit from the French and their famous vegetable casseroles. Brown your meat in the spices you're used to, but instead of starchy foods, fill out the balance with any of dozens of vegetables that are perfectly legal for low-carbers. You don't have to stick to the zucchini and eggplant found in traditional ratatouille -- though eggplant substitutes nicely for the texture of potatoes. If your goal is efficiency at the end of a workday, you can draw on the freezer for mixed frozen peppers, or a stir-fry mix. Be fearless with basil, garlic and olive oil instead of salt. The only thing you want to be careful with are tomatoes; use barely enough to give some bite, but not enough to go over your carb limit.
Ground Beef Crumbles
Part of the appeal of ground beef lies in its flexibility. In addition to patties and loaf creations, it can also be served as crumbles. Browned ground beef makes a surprisingly good substitute for bread crumbs or croutons on a salad -- effectively making a full meal out of what would have been a side dish. Ground beef crumbles also make a complete meal out of stuffed eggplant, especially when browned with chopped fresh garlic or mixed with a few tablespoons of garden tomato and bacon dressing. You can cover the whole creation with a layer of Parmesan cheese for a distinctly Italian flavor. Beef crumbles can be sprinkled over cooked vegetables and dinner omelets, as well.