Beef is an integral part of many family's diets. To make a meal with it, you need to consider what cut of beef you're cooking. As long as you plan ahead, you can cook inexpensive cuts of beef that are tender and flavorful. Add vegetables and grains to complete your meal and make your family ask for more.
Use a Slow Cooker
Tougher cuts of beef may seem challenging, but they don't have to be. Inexpensive cuts of beef, such as brisket, can be just as tasty as the more expensive ones -- you just have to cook them correctly and season them well. Slow cookers work well for tough cuts of beef and other meats because they braise them. Very simply, that means they cook them for a long time over relatively low heat. The slow cooker's added bonus is that it allows very little moisture to escape while you're cooking, and keeps the meat moist and flavorful. Next time you're at the grocery store, see what cut of beef looks good and inexpensive, then look up a slow cooker recipe.
Choose Complementary Sides
Think about what you like to eat as a complete meal. You already know that roast beef goes well with mashed potatoes, but think about sweet potatoes for a change of pace. Try the sweet potatoes without butter; with the richness of the roast beef, you may find you don't want it. Use cheesy ranch dressing for a topping. Wild rice is flavorful on its own, and stands up nicely to the strong flavors of most beef dishes. A steamed vegetable medley goes well with most beef dishes -- as does a nice green salad.
In winter, a hearty dish like beef stew is delicious and satisfying as well as inexpensive. Root vegetables like carrots, parsnips and potatoes add nutrition, flavor and texture -- as do celery and onions. Thinly sliced beef cooks quickly, and is a perfect addition to fast, healthy stir-fries with lots of vegetables and rice. Soup is also a good one-dish meal vehicle for beef. Choose a broth that's low in sodium and fat for a healthier option, then load it with your family's favorite vegetables and noodles. Whole wheat noodles make another good way to boost the health factor of your soup.
By surrounding your beef with vegetables and grains, your family gets a more balanced and nutritionally complete meal. Additionally, you eat food with your eyes before it ever enters your mouth. By presenting your family with a colorful, beautiful dish of food, you make it easier for them to want to eat something nutritious. According to the USDA, beef and other proteins should only be part of your daily diet, not the majority of it. By serving it this way, your family will feel full and satisfied, and not deprived in any way.
- "The Professional Chef," The Culinary Institute of America; 2006
- "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook," Beth Hensperger et. al; 2004
Amrita Chuasiriporn is a professional cook, baker and writer who has written for several online publications, including Chef's Blade, CraftyCrafty and others. Additionally, Chuasiriporn is a regular contributor to online automotive enthusiast publication CarEnvy.ca. Chuasiriporn holds an A.A.S. in culinary arts, as well as a B.A. in Spanish language and literature.