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Yet another pregnancy craving I was having last week involved putting chili on, well, anything. And everything. I settled for putting it on top of roasted cauliflower because, let’s face it, roasted vegetables are amazing! I felt like making a simpler chili than usual, so I opted for grass-fed ground beef instead of chuck roast. I called it “rainbow chili” because I used three colors of bell peppers, and it turned out really pretty! See:

Before you start the chili, preheat your oven to 350 degrees farenheit and cut a full head of cauliflower into small-ish pieces.

Rainbow Chili:

2 pounds grass-fed ground beef
2 tablespoons cooking fat – I used bacon grease, but butter or tallow would work too
2 cups beef stock
3 bell peppers – I used green, red, and yellow
1 medium yellow onion
1 jalapeno – with seeds and ribs if you want spicy, ribs and seeds removed if you want to tone it down
4-5 large roma tomatoes
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon smokey paprika
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Dice all of the vegetables and mince the garlic.
2. Heat the cooking fat in a large stock pot and brown the meat. Season it with a bit of salt & pepper.
3. Take the meat out (leave the fat in the stock pot) and set it aside.
4. Sautee all of the vegetables except for the tomatoes until the onions are translucent (about 10 minutes). Add in the tomatoes at the end, then add the beef back in.
5. Add in the beef stock and the spices, bring it to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for as long as you have. 20 minutes is fine, but you could leave it for an hour if you’ve got time to let the spices meld.

For the cauliflower you’ll need:

1 large head cauliflower
olive oil
Salt & Pepper
shredded cheese of your choice (pepperjack is nice, monterey jack or cheddar would also work)

While the chili is simmering, spread the cauliflower onto a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, and roast for 20 minutes. Stir/turn the cauliflower after 20 minutes, and cook for 20 minutes more.

Once your chili is ready, put the cauliflower in your bowl, and sprinkle some cheese on the cauliflower like this:

Put the chili on top of the cauliflower, then top with sour cream if you’d like. If you want to keep this recipe dairy free, it’s just as easy to leave off the cheese and sour cream though! I enjoyed this for dinner, but I actually liked it even better the next day for lunch. The spices really come together overnight! I can’t wait for the weather to turn a little chillier (get it, like chili…) so I can eat more yummy fall foods!

Last week I was incredibly happy to find Grass-Fed beef short ribs at Whole Foods. I had been craving braised short ribs for quite some time, but was concerned about eating such a fatty cut of conventionally raised beef. Since toxins are stored in the fat of an animal (including humans!), I generally try to eat lean cuts of conventional meat if that’s what I’m forced to buy. Our side of beef is all but gone (we have about 10 pounds of random cuts left out of our 250 pounds from last November), so we have not been eating nearly as much beef as we were during the winter, and much of it has been conventionally raised since it can be quite difficult to find grass-fed beef for a reasonable price (I’m talking less than $10 per pound for most cuts).

At $6 per pound, the short ribs I found at Whole Foods were practically a steal, and there were 3 pounds sitting right there in the meat case! I snapped those suckers up immediately, and then searched the internet for a suitable recipe to try with my red marbled treasure. The problem I ran into was this: almost all of the recipes that sounded the best called for overnight marinating! I wanted short ribs THAT NIGHT, not later! I figured 3-4 hours would be plenty of time, but I couldn’t find a single recipe that didn’t call for the overnight marinating or all day cooking in the crock pot.

After some deliberation, I ended up choosing Tom Colicchio’s recipe over at Food & Wine, and promptly went to the store to buy a bottle of dry red wine. As you’ll see, it calls for an entire bottle. The alcohol cooks off, so I wasn’t worried about it in my pregnant state. I won’t rehash the recipe here, since it’s fairly involved and because I think it’s against internet etiquette (yes, there is such a thing!) to do so, but I will tell you these short ribs were AMAZING. They were exactly what I wanted: falling off the bone tender, with an incredibly flavorful sauce. I saved the sauce that we didn’t use on the ribs because it was so good I couldn’t bear to waste it! I did not use flanken style short ribs, instead I used the “square” looking ones cut with the grain rather than against it, but otherwise I actually followed the recipe very closely.

If you decide to make short ribs, do it on a day where you have plenty of time and won’t feel rushed. It’s a very slow cooking meal, but it fills the house with wonderful aromas, and fills your family’s bellies with hearty food made with love. If you give the recipe a try, let me know how it turns out!

Well, the year is officially flying by, and I can hardly believe that this meal plan will take us through the first week of June!  The weather is consistently up in the 80’s, the garden is starting to take off with all the sunshine (our very first strawberry is almost ready to be picked!), and I am starting to get very unsightly tan lines from my daily walks at work.  With all the changes in the weather recently, I have been wanting to change up my cooking too, craving a wider variety of meals.  I don’t generally make multiple new meals in a week, but this meal plan includes four new meals!  Wish me luck that I won’t be stuck eating mediocre leftovers all week!

Meal Plan for May 30th to June 4th:

1. Taco Salad – Green salad (from our garden!) topped with seasoned ground beef, bell pepper, tomato, red onions, avocado, sour cream, and a spicy “ranch” dressing (which will be homemade starting with a greek yogurt base).
2. Artic Char Chowder – A recommendation from my brother
3. Parmesan Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Broccoli – Pork tenderloin cut into medallions, then pounded flat and crusted with parmesan cheese, then pan fried. We’ll see how that one turns out…
4. Piperade – No relation to Powerade…this is from my French cookbook “Je Sais Cuisiner” (I Know How to Cook) by Ginette Mathiot, which I absolutely love! Piperade is an egg dish, with bell pepper, tomato, ham, and spices. I just like the funny name.
5. Steak with Grilled Mushrooms and Asparagus – The last of our grass-finished steaks *sigh*.

The last day of the week, Saturday June 5th, is our 4th wedding anniversary! That day, instead of cooking, we’ll be going to a restaurant downtown called Local 127 that serves only seasonal and locally sourced foods. I couldn’t be more excited!

One of my favorite things about cooking is having leftovers.  I used to loathe them, actually, but I think that had more to do with the ingredients I was using (lots of pasta/cans/boxes/etc.) than the fact that there was food leftover.  Nowadays, I find that using fresh vegetables, fresh meats, and good spices makes not only the meal delicious, but the leftovers as well!  There may only be two humans in my house (the 4 dogs and 7 chickens eat a surprising amount of food), but I generally cook meals big enough for at least 4-6 people.  That way I only heat up the house once, but make enough food for at least a couple of meals for each of us.

One recipe that I really stock up on when I make it is meatballs.  And what good are meatballs without marinara sauce?  So, I’ll give you both recipes here:

Meatballs

4 pounds grass-finished ground beef
4 pounds italian sausage (spicy or mild, whichever you prefer)
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons fennel seed
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
**The meatballs will let off liquid, so be sure to use a baking sheet with a rim (also known as a jelly roll pan, but who makes jelly rolls anymore?), or a deeper pan of a similar size (like a 9×13 glass baking dish). I can fit everything on two baking sheets, but two 9×13 pans should also work.

1. Measure out all of your spices, get your baking sheets out, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees first, so that you won’t have to wash your hands multiple times while cooking.
2. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl.
3. In a very large bowl, put ALL ingredients together and mix with your hands just until the eggs and spices are evenly distributed.
4. Roll meatballs approximately 1.5″ in diameter, and place them fairly close together directly onto your baking sheet (no grease required, the meatballs won’t stick I promise). This should yield between 70 and 80 meatballs.
5. Bake at 350 degrees farenheit for 40 minutes.
6. Let the meatballs cool, and store them in airtight containers in the freezer. I usually keep one third of the batch in the refrigerator, and freeze the other two thirds in separate containers.

Marinara Sauce

2 – 28oz cans of diced tomato
4 – 6oz cans of tomato paste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 head of garlic
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup fresh basil
2 tablespoons thyme (dried)
2 tablespoons oregano (dried)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
**If you are lucky and have fresh herbs growing, subbing fresh herbs for dried is a wonderful treat (I included fresh sage last time I made marinara, and it was delicious)

1. Open all the cans
2. Dice the onion, crush and chop the garlic
3. Heat the oil, then sautee the onion and garlic until they just begin to brown and carmelize (about 10 minutes on medium heat)
4. Pour in the diced tomatoes, stir up to incorporate the garlic/onions
5. Put in the tomato paste and dry spices, stir everything up really well
6. Turn down the heat and let the mixture simmer for at least 30 minutes on low, or longer if you have some time. Once you’re ready, put the marinara sauce in jars, leaving about 1/2 an inch at the top for expansion, and put your extra jars in the freezer.

Keep in mind that either recipe can be easily scaled up or down, depending on how many people you’re feeding or how much room you have in your freezer.

When you pull your meatballs and marinara out of the freezer, all you have to do is make a vegetable! I’m particularily fond of bacon roasted brussel sprouts, spaghetti squash, and roasted broccoli (courtesy of Emily over at joyful abode). See, with a little planning ahead, a delicious made from scratch dinner can be had in 20 minutes. Yum!