I've done hard things in life. Had three kids. Learned to pull a horse trailer. Hiked through The Narrows in Zion National Park. You get the picture.
But cooking three meals a day while quarantined with my kids and husband has been a true test of my skills. There are lots of people out there who find great joy in cooking. I am not one of them. In order for me to be successful in the kitchen, I need recipes that are fast, easy, wholesome and will please all FIVE of my people.
Enter the easiest, cheesiest ground beef pasta you’ve ever made in your life. The base of this recipe is from The Midnight Baker, but I've made some minor adjustments along the way. Y'all, this recipe is soooo good yet so easy that I talked my nine-year-old into playing chef for all of us. Win. Win.
First things first - the ingredients. You will need a pound of ground beef. Ground beef is a staple in our house because it is affordable AND nutritious providing protein, zinc and iron. It's good for your brain and helps boost your immunity. You can buy it in bulk, break it up into 1 lb chunks and freeze it so you always have it on hand.
You'll also need cheese, pasta, a handful of seasonings and a great pot that can move easily from the stove to the oven. A pot like this will change your life. I took a pic of all the ingredients, but realized I left out the salt and the half & half because I'm crazy like that. You DO NOT want to forget the salt or the half & half.
Next, get your pot, put it on the stove, and turn it up to high. Then get a stool. Then bribe your kid to do the hard stuff. Any kid will do as long as they understand this is not a game. This is supper. It helps if they can do the dishes after.
Get that olive oil hot, then plop your pound of ground beef with caution and listen to it sizzle. I'm using 80/20 because it was the only thing at the store, but any fat ratio will do. Break that ground beef up and keep stirring until it is good and brown. Turn your heat down to medium. Make sure your nails are painted.
Add your salt, pepper, garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, Worcestershire, tomato paste and pasta water. Give it a really good stir, put the lid on, turn your heat to low and let simmer for about 8-10 minutes.
Once it's simmered, take 1 cup of your cheese and toss it in. Add the half & half and pasta. Then mix gently until your cheese is melted and all gooey looking.
The final step is to sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and put the pot full of cheesy, beefy goodness right into a 350 degree oven just long enough to barely let the cheese melt on top. Keep a close eye as to not burn it. It usually takes less than five minutes.
That's not true. The final step is to serve it up and watch everyone devour it.
Carmen Fenton is the communications director for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association. She's also mom to Ella Jane (9), Hays (8) and Lane (2).
By Carmen Fenton, director of communications, TCFA
When I wrote this a few months ago, I had no idea what our nation, our world and our industry would be facing amid the coronavirus outbreak. Like many of you in agriculture, I’m not on the ranch, at the feedyard, the packing plant or the grocery store. I’m not on the front lines, and honestly, working from a computer screen feels so insignificant during a time like this.
So, what can I do to help the cause?
Well, to start, I can stay home. There are thousands in our industry who cannot stay home. America depends on them to do what is necessary for all of us. When you stay home, you are protecting them. Not everyone can stay home, but I can.
I can also remind everyone that beef is healthy and plentiful. The U.S. production chain is unmatched in terms of efficiency, and producers are working around the clock to get beef to you. I know there are empty meat cases in parts of the country, but rest assured that more is on the way.
Also, our beef supply is safe. Public health and food safety experts do not have any evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. However, we do know, that like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects. This is why it is critical to practice good hygiene and properly cook meat. When cooking, be sure to use a food thermometer to ensure a safe internal temperature. Additionally, always follow the 4 key steps of food safety – clean, separate, cook and chill.
Additionally, I can reassure you that feeding your family beef is a good decision. Beef provides nutrients we all need, particularly, protein, zinc and iron. These are key ingredients for a strong immune system, active lifestyle, brain development and are often lacking in diets of kids and teens. For older adults, getting the right amount of protein becomes even more important. Protein rich foods like beef help fight off diseases like sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass), type-2 diabetes and osteoporosis.
Here are a few more quick facts to remember about beef.
As we all try to figure out this temporary, new normal, please know that TCFA will continue to provide you with accurate, timely information so you can make the best decisions for your family.
Wednesday marks National Jerky Day which means people from across the country will head to social media to proclaim their love for one of America's favorite snack foods. Rightfully so. Research shows that spreading protein intake evenly throughout the day - about 25 to 30 grams per meal or snack - may be the most beneficial for overall health and wellness. Snacking on beef jerky is a great way to help meet those goals.
But for cattle feeders, National Jerky Day, has a deeper meaning. A few years ago, a local charity organization in the Panhandle, Snack Pak 4 Kids, came to the beef and dairy community with a need. The organization had a system in place to help end weekend hunger for local children by providing a backpack filled with kid-friendly snacks each Friday of the school year, but one key element was missing from the backpack: animal protein. And what better protein to help fuel the body and mind of a young child than beef and milk.
Fast forward a few years later, and the need sparked an idea that became a reality. Now, more than 10,000 kids in the Texas Panhandle and 24,000 across the nation receive weekend bags filled with nutritious food, including the SP4K Beef Stik and Fairlife Milk, to sustain them through the weekend. The beef stick is made from 100% premium beef chuck roast and brisket and produced locally in the Texas Panhandle.
The addition of these products added an extra 54 grams of protein to each bag. That's a tremendous nutritional improvement, and it is making a difference. In fact, teachers from participating schools report better attendance, academic performance and behavior.
It gets better. For every beef stick you buy, another is provided for a child in need.
You can help provide protein for kids in need in a number of ways:
1. Buy SP4K Beef Stiks. You can order a case online, or you can purchase in-store at Pak-A-Sak,
Toot 'n Totum, Allsup's or Texas Tea.
2. Consider SP4K Beef Stiks for your next school fundraiser. Raise money for your school,
club or cause and support hungry kids.
3. Sponsor protein or dairy for your local school's SP4K Program.
4. Donate live animals to the SP4K Beef Fund. Call (806) 337-5252 for logistical information.
5. Give out SP4K Beef Stiks. What better way to spread the story of the beef and dairy communities working to end childhood hunger than by giving out sticks at your next event or meeting.
Every stick purchased provides another for a child in need. So far, because of your support, we've been able to provide over 160,000 beef sticks to kids, and that number keeps growing.