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Beefing up dinner

By Staff | Oct 29, 2010

Terri Carstensen, a beef producer from Odebolt, prepared and froze a wide variety of hearty, fast beef dishes this fall to keep meal preparations simple during the 2010 harvest.

ODEBOLT – Terri Carstensen is redefining healthy convenience food, thanks to her wealth of beef recipes and the demands of her full schedule.

“I understand busy,” said Carstensen, who helps her husband, Kevin Carstensen, operate their grain farm near Odebolt and raise age- and source-verified crossbred Angus cattle in their feedlot.

“You want to eat healthy, but you’re pressed for time, so that’s why I do a lot of meal planning on the weekends and prepare what I can ahead of time.”

It’s no surprise that beef is often on the menu for Carstensen, who serves on the Iowa Beef Industry Council and is the chairperson of the national advertising campaign for “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.”

“There are 29 lean cuts of beef, and Kevin and I are proud to raise a healthy, nutritious product that helps feed the world,” said Carstensen, who has toured Japan, South Korea and other nations to learn about export opportunities for U.S. beef.

This beef and Parmesan pasta makes a quick main dish.

Since Carstensen travels quite a bit in her role as a beef industry leader, this busy grandmother plans menus ahead of time and freezes as many main dishes as she can to tide the family through busy times like harvest.

If she needs a little inspiration, she logs onto www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com, which offers recipes, an interactive meat case tool that explains various beef cuts and more.

Carstensen is more than an advocate for beef’s role in a healthy diet, however. As a breast cancer survivor, she’s also a strong proponent of digital mammography and early detection.

“My motto is, ‘Live life passionately, laugh until your belly hurts and love unconditionally.’I feel life is a gift, and if one can do these three virtues each day, there is no need for worry or heartache.

“Life will be grand!”

Terri Carstensen's husband, Kevin Carstensen, enjoys these Li'l Cheddar Meat Loaves, which, she said, freezes well.

Beef and Parmesan pasta

1.5 pounds ground beef

1 can (14 to 14.5 ounces) beef broth or Campbell’s Select Harvest Caramelized French Onion Soup (18.8 ounce-can)

1 can (15.5 ounces) Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained

2 cups uncooked bowtie pasta

Bowls of vanilla crunch and pecan snacks offer tasty treats that are simple to prepare.

2 cups sliced zucchini, or any vegetable of your choice

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat large, non-stick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add ground beef and cook 8 to 10 minutes, breaking into 3/4inch crumbles and stirring occasionally. Remove from skillet with slotted spoon; set aside. Pour off drippings.

Combine broth, tomatoes and pasta in same skillet, pushing pasta into liquid. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in vegetables; continue cooking 5 minutes or until pasta is tender.

This flavorful spicy beef vegetable soup recipe can be prepared in a slow-cooker.

Return beef to skillet. Stir in 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese; heat through. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese and cheddar cheese before serving.

Slow cooker spicy beef

vegetable soup

1 pound ground beef

1 cup chopped onion

1 (30-ounce) jar meatless spaghetti sauce

3 1/2 cups water

1 (16 ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables

1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilies

1 cup sliced celery

1 teaspoon beef bouillon granules

1 teaspoon pepper

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook beef and onion until meat is no longer pink; drain. Transfer to a slow cooker. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for eight hours or until the vegetables are tender.

Li’l cheddar meat loaves

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 pound lean ground beef

2/3 cup ketchup

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard

Beat egg and milk. Stir in cheese, oats, onion and salt. Add beef and mix well. Shape into eight loaves; place in a greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Combine ketchup, brown sugar and mustard and spoon over loaves. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until the meat is no longer pink and a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees.

Lazy day lasagna

(Terri Carstensen said she has used this recipe for more than 30 years. There’s no need to cook the noodles ahead of time, and the lasagna is cooked in the microwave, which also speeds up the process.)

1 to 1.5 pounds ground beef

2 cans (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon oregano leaves

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cups cottage cheese

1 tablespoon parsley flakes

8 uncooked lasagna noodles

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Parmesan cheese

Crumble beef and microwave until no longer pink. This takes about 7 minutes for 1.5 pounds of beef. Drain.

Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, basil, oregano, garlic powder and water. Cover casserole dish with lid and microwave 4 to 5 minutes until mixture boils.

Combine cottage cheese, egg and parsley. Pour part of the tomato sauce mixture into 12-by-8-inch glass dish. Spread evenly.

Place four uncooked noodles on sauce, they may overlap. Top with half the cottage cheese mixture. Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella and cheddar cheese.

Add more tomato sauce mix. Place four more noodles on sauce. Top with layers of cottage cheese mixture, more shredded cheese mixture and tomato sauce.

Sprinkle remaining shredded cheese on top of all.

Cover dish tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave 15 minutes. Rotate dish and cook 15 to 20 minutes more. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese. Cook 1.5 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Vanilla crunch

1 quart popped popcorn

2 cups very small bow-knot pretzels

1 cup peanuts

12 ounces vanilla bark, or white chocolate, chopped fine

In a large bowl, combine popcorn, pretzels and peanuts. Place bark or white chocolate in 1 quart glass measuring cup.

Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir. Continue to cook on high for another minute; stir again. Cook on high for an additional 15 seconds and pour over popcorn mixture. Stir to coat evenly.

Spread mixture on a large baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Place in refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes, until chilled, and chocolate is set.

Break into small clusters. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Makes about 2 quarts.

Pecan snack

1 egg white

1 tablespoon water

1 pound pecans

3/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a large bowl, beat egg white with water until frothy. Stir in pecans and mix to coat. Combine sugar, cinnamon and salt; stir into pecan mixture. Spread pecans on a baking sheet.

Bake in pre-heated oven 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Store pecans in an airtight container.

You can contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at yettergirl@yahoo.com.

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