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Beef made easy

By Staff | May 2, 2014

DARCI LIGHTNER’S children, Tyler and Nadia, look forward to family favorites like easy beef pot roast.

LOHRVILLE – When it comes to beef-inspired meal ideas, “fast,” “easy” and “tasty” are those three little words Darci Lightner loves to hear.

“Between the farm work and the kids’ activities, we’re on the go a lot,” said Lightner, whose family farms near Lohrville. “I rely on recipes that are quick and simple.”

Many of Lightner’s recipes include beef, since her family raises cattle, along with corn and soybeans.

“Our freezer is always well-stocked with beef,” said Lightner, who enjoys making home-cooked meals for her husband, Zac, and children Tyler, 9, and Nadia, 7.

It’s hard to beat Iowa beef, said Lightner, who lived in Alaska with Zac early in their marriage, from 2001 to 2003.

IT DOESN’T TAKE long to prepare these savory meatballs, which are topped with a flavorful glaze made from catsup, lemon juice and grape jelly.

“We both grew up in Calhoun County and know what good beef tastes like,” she said. “The beef in Alaska left a lot to be desired, so we were always glad when our families would bring a cooler full of Iowa beef when they’d come to visit.”

When the Lightners moved back to Iowa, Zac began farming with his family, while Darci focused on her career as an elementary and middle school teacher.

After the couple started their own family, Lightner relied on trusted family recipes to help her serve healthy, flavorful meals after a busy day of teaching.

Her easy pot roast recipe came from her mother, Lana Hucka, who is also a teacher.

Her recipe for barbecue roast beef sandwiches is a favorite of both her mother and her grandmother Nelson in Fort Dodge.

BEEF BROTH and dry onion soup mix add a boost of flavor to this Easy Pot Roast, which Darci Lightner prepares in the slow cooker.

Beef plays a starring role at the Lightner farm during Burger Day every Thursday.

“We wanted to create a way for our family and our employees to enjoy a meal together,” said Lightner, “so for a number of years we’ve grilled burgers every Thursday for lunch.”

She said mixing salt and pepper into the ground beef before cooking is one of the keys to a flavorful burger.

For special events like the Lightner’s annual Christmas party, beef takes center stage once again when Zac prepares prime rib.

Raising high-quality beef is a time-honored tradition for the Lightners, who have farmed in the area for more than a century.

The next generation is getting involved.

Tyler and Nadia said they enjoy helping care for the cattle and look forward to joining 4-H.

As Lightner transitions away from full-time teaching to handle more farm accounting and marketing duties, she said she enjoys the challenge of learning new skills.

She also appreciates having a more flexible schedule so she can spend more time with her children.

“Nothing beats the Midwest and being close to family,” she said.

Easy pot roast

Darci Lightner said her family likes it best when this slow-cooked roast becomes so tender it falls apart.

3 to 4 pound roast of beef

1 can beef broth

1 envelope dry onion soup mix

1 cup of water

Place meat in slow cooker. Pour in broth and water.

Sprinkle on dry onion soup mix over top. Cover and slow cook on low all day.


Darci Lightner modified these savory meatballs from a recipe in her family’s Burley family cookbook.

1 pound hamburger

1 envelope dry onion soup mix

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

1 box Stove Top stuffing

1 egg

1 cup catsup

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup grape jelly

Combine hamburger, onion soup mix, parsley, Stove Top stuffing and egg.

Form into meatballs and place in a casserole dish.

Mix catsup, lemon juice and jelly.

Pour this mixture over the meatballs.

Cover dish with tinfoil, and bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes.

Barbecue roast

beef sandwiches

3.5-pound beef roast

2 pounds hamburger

1 onion, chopped fine

2 cups catsup

Worcestershire sauce, to taste

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

1 tablespoon vinegar

2 cups packed brown sugar

Roast the beef roast. Shred the meat when the roast has cooled. (It shreds easily in the food processor.)

Brown hamburger and drain well. Mix shredded beef, hamburger and onion together.

To make the barbecue sauce, combine catsup, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, vinegar and packed brown sugar.

Mix sauce and meat together and place into slow cooker.

Add a little water, and simmer all day.


Beef tacos are a family favorite at the Lightner house.

1 pound ground beef

1 package taco seasoning

1/2 cup water

1 red pepper, diced

1 yellow pepper, diced

Lettuce, shredded



Soft tortilla shells

1 package shredded cheese

Brown hamburger and drain. Mix in one package of taco seasoning and water.

Stir over low or medium heat until simmering.

Add red and yellow diced peppers, and stir for a couple of minutes.

Place taco mixture and shredded cheese in tortilla shells and wrap tightly.

Top with shredded lettuce, salsa and guacamole.


1 package oven-ready lasagna noodles

2 containers ricotta cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 jar spaghetti sauce

1 cup water

1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a bowl combine ricotta cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and eggs. Mix well.

In another bowl, combine spaghetti sauce, water and browned ground beef. Mix well.

In 9-by-13-inch pan, spread 1 1/2 cups meat sauce, and place one third of the lasagna noodles over the sauce.

Spread half of the cheese mixture over lasagna noodles, and top with one third of the meat sauce.

Repeat layering once.

Top with remaining lasagna noodles and sauce. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese on top.

Wrap lasagna tightly with a double layer of foil. Bake for 60 minutes.

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