Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Let's Talk About Beef

First things first, something about the word beef just grosses me out. When I find myself in a situation where I actually have to use the word, I hesitate as though I'm about to say something dirty and wrong. It wasn't until I was well into high school that I realized "beef" is the word most people use for steak, prime rib, or hamburger meat. Those are the words we used in my house. My dad was a steak man. My mom actually has a letter from an old neighbor saying she missed hearing us kids through the windows, crying because we didn't want to eat steak any more.

I don't have much memory for the foods we ate when I was that young - I just knew that I didn't want to eat steak, I avoided it at almost all cost, and I didn't learn it is something that can actually be enjoyed until after I was married. After my parents got divorced, I didn't have to eat much steak. Cooking has never been a source of joy to my mom and, as you can imagine when our parents got to a place in their lives when they both had to work, share kids, and lived in separate towns, the ways we ate changed. My mom gave us a lot of frozen, ready-to-eat foods, and I think most of the eating with my dad took place in a restaurant.

We were never a casserole family (contrary to my mid-western upbringing) - we had the occasional lasagna, ghoulash, and of course hamburgers. All of that consisted of hamburger meat. So when a high school friend first uttered the word, "beef," and I freaked out with disgust, I was met with confused eyes. Shortly after that, a core group of my friends took to inserting the word into as many conversations as they possibly could. Think of how some of you react to the word, "moist."

Fast forward a number of years and my friends have overused the word to the point that it doesn't absolutely disgust me. Yes, I still avoid use of it at much cost, but I can handle it and say it if necessary. Just take a look at this post: beef, beef, beef (okay, ew). You can imagine my difficulty when a friend sent out an email last fall suggesting a bunch of us go in on a cow pool. She had purchased beef from a place called the Grass Fed Cattle Company and suggested that if we get a large group of people to go in on a cow, we could save a lot of money on some quality, ethically raised meat - er, beef. This was something Joel and I had been wanting to do for awhile, as we've actually reduced the amount of meat we eat in favor of making ethically raised meat something we can afford. So we decided to go in on 1/8 of a cow, bought a freezer, and I was happy when it was all collected and my inbox was no longer full of emails with the word "beef" in the subject.

So all was well, our freezer was stocked, and we were slowly but surely cooking up our meat. Until one day last week I was making this delicious (but complicated) baked potato soup, and I went to pull some bacon out of the freezer for garnish only to find that #1 we were out of bacon, and #2 everything in the freezer was defrosted. At the same time, I realized I was missing another essential potato soup ingredient, I had a splitting headache, and my husband was going to be home about an hour late for work. Panic.

I pulled up my big girl pants, turned down the temperature on the soup, tore Rosemary away from Phineas & Ferb, and got what I needed to get at the grocery store (either that or 5 pounds of potatoes and a lot of effort were going to be wasted). Back at home, I finished the soup and then started to fret about what I was going to do with what seemed like a TON of beef to a girl who cringes at the word. After some internet research and facebooking, I decided that about half of the meat could be frozen again and the other half had to be cooked. The next day I put everything I was planning to do aside (including making the apron that I had hoped would fill up today's post), and told myself I was going to be cooking all day long, so I had better have a good attitude about it.

I'm so thankful for the internet. I asked myself many times during that day what I would do without it ... having so little experience with cooking this kind of meat. I had round steak, stew meat, a couple other kinds of steak that I couldn't remember if my life depended on it, and a crap ton of ground beef. Most of the ground beef I just cooked up to be frozen and used in things like lasagna or taco soup.

Next I found this really delicious looking (and hopefully delicious tasting) recipe for Beef Stew that was all make-ahead. So I cooked up what I needed to and then froze it. I'm looking forward to the busy days that will now end with a tasty meal!

I included the girl scout cookies in the picture because they helped me to keep my sanity.

Now, I realize some of you may have branched out and made a wide variety of dishes, but I knew that my sanity required repetition. I see nothing wrong with making a bunch of the same when facing this kind of situation.

Lastly, I made this recipe that I found on Cooks.com for Beef Turnovers. I truly thought that after a day  of cooking and cooking and cooking beef, I wasn't going to want to eat any of it. But these turnovers were simply too delicious to pass up (and apparently too delicious to photograph). This is a recipe I'm definitely going to keep on hand for the next cow pool. The only thing I would recommend is to let them sit and cool for a good 20 minutes before serving. We were so hungry and they were so good that we wanted to gobble them up, but Rosemary was the only one who had enough sense not to let them burn her tongue.


  1. You poor thing. That's a lot of meat to cook.
    I have no idea what to do with beef, either, except for hamburgers and tacos.

  2. I officially object to the accusation that I gave them a lot of frozen, ready-to-eat foods. Okay some. Not "a lot of." Did I mention what a picky eater she was?

    Her mother

    1. Oh, mom. You took great care of us and raised us to be smart, funny, competent human beings. I have a lot of great things to say about you, but you won't get me to say you were creative in the kitchen.

  3. Darryl Papa-senseiMarch 16, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    Your new freezer just quit? How did you refreeze it all, and how did you know how long it had been defrosted?

    I hate when the fridge quits, especially when it stopped while we were away for 2 weeks. Blech.

    Replacement starting units only lasted six months, so the fridge was eventually replaced with a half-price LG with French doors and two freezer compartments.