College Kitchen: Fallin’ off the Chuck Wagon

Ground beef is (relatively) cheap and (incredibly) easy to cook, so pump up your iron for a little more energy this winter.

Spaghetti noodles and onions help differentiate Cincinnati Chili from its less Ohio-born sibling.

Spaghetti noodles and onions help differentiate Cincinnati Chili from its less Ohio-born sibling.

Samuel Linder

Some of you fine readers may have noticed over the last weeks that I deal primarily in foods without digestive tracks of their own. To lay all swirling uncertainty to rest, I will step forward and say it outright: I am not a vegetarian.

However, I am not the best of omnivores either, and here is why: The overconsumption of meat is, without a doubt, harming our planet and its people. At the same time, a developing human body (and ours are, at least until age 25) needs the high levels of protein and other nutrients in meat to achieve maximum lifetime functionality.

What a horrible quandary!

The answer, regardless of whatever cutesy name it’s given by other writer-types (I puke a little every time I hear the word “flexitarian”), is simple: moderation.

You only need meat about once a week (and even that in very small quantities) to gain full benefits. And this does not mean one of every type of meat every week; it means any kind of meat, once a week. Variety is also important — switching off a little between beef, pork, poultry and fish wherever possible.

As long as you pay attention to protein intake on days without meat (hello peanut butter and beans), and eat a large variety of vegetables (and maybe a multi-vitamin for the borderline-anemic), you’ll feel great without much animal flesh.

For those days that you just need the succulent weight of a little ex-cow on your tongue, however, there’s no better way to go than ground beef. Good quality lean meat is packed with nutrients and easy as sin to cook. Plus it’s a heckuva lot cheaper than filet mignon. Lick your canine teeth and dig in!

Salsa con Queso y Carne

A classic south-of-the-border appetizer, perfect with chips for a mid-winter get-together.

Ingredients

1/2 pound ground beef, defrosted

3 cups Velveeta cheese (approx.)

2 hot peppers, seeded and diced

1/2 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 can tomatoes (diced or whole)

Salt

Pepper

 

Instructions

Brown ground beef in a dutch oven or a deep skillet over medium-high heat, stir-frying to cook through. Remove meat and set aside; drain most of the grease from pan. Lower heat to medium-low, add chili powder and sauté onions for just a couple of minutes until they start to soften. Add garlic, sauté for another minute. Turn heat to low; add cheese, stirring frequently. Once cheese is melted, add tomatoes (drained and diced if whole), peppers, beef and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes until everything is fully incorporated, and serve in a warm tray or keep on the stove over super low heat for service.

Variations

Fresh tomatoes work great in season. The tomatoes, peppers, onion and garlic can be replaced by a can and a half of Ro-tel peppered diced tomatoes, added as the tomatoes would have been. Replace the peppers with a few tablespoons hot pepper flakes or even hot sauce.

Hamburgers

The All-American (German?!?) classic, done best.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pound ground beef (yields 4)

1 egg

1 teaspoon milk

1 teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons pepper

Hamburger buns

Condiments (see additions)

Instructions

Crack the egg into a bowl and scramble with the milk. Add egg/milk to ground beef in a large mixing bowl with cumin, salt and pepper, and mix everything with your hands until fully incorporated. Shape the burgers into fairly thick patties, and press a half-inch indentation into the top of each with your thumb (helps promote even cooking in the middle). Heat a skillet to medium/medium high, and cook burger on both sides until done through.

Additions

Leave out everything but the beef, salt and pepper for a less great but acceptable burger. For toppings, go wild and try something crazy. I like a breakfast burger — fried eggs, hashbrown, sautéed pepper ‘n onions and a little ketchup. The Caesar salad is great—a few lettuce leaves, parmesan, Caesar dressing and an anchovy or two. Try the Sunday dinner — a thin layer of mash potatoes with gravy on a dinner roll. Even the simplest All-American, with lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup and mustard will hit the spot. This is the place to have fun and experiment.

Cincinnati Chili

A Midwestern approach to chili with some sweet spices and interesting toppings, sure to change your chili tastes forever.

 

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 medium onions, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups tomato sauce

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 teaspoons brown sugar

Salt

Instructions

Heat oil in a dutch oven or other extra large sauce pan over medium-high heat, add onions and sauté until soft and starting to brown, 7-9 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and allspice, and cook for just a minute. Then add the broth, tomato sauce, vinegar and brown sugar, stirring in. Add the beef, making sure to spread the meat around evenly, and bring the mixture to a boil. As soon as it’s boiling, reduce to medium/medium-low heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until dark and thick. Serve!

Additions

Cincinnati Chili is generally served over spaghetti noodles and topped with shredded cheese, diced raw onions, oyster crackers and fresh kidney beans. For a little extra heat, dice up some hot peppers or throw in some cayenne (a couple teaspoons will be fine) or hot pepper flakes. Top it with a favorite hot sauce (Sriracha!) for added kick. If you want some more nutrients and taste floating through your chili, try adding in some extra veggies: Sauté bell peppers, carrots and celery with the onions before you add in everything else, or add some steamed asparagus, broccoli or green beans with the beef. A little cooked butternut (or other) squash would add body and compliment the sweet spices as well.