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From The Ground Up

Coach Monica shares some great ground meat recipes that are convenient for meal prepping and easy to prepare. Best of all, you can make delicious meals with your favorite ingredients or whatever you have on hand!

From The Ground Up

By: Monica Rosenberg, RN and BLOC Staff Coach

Coach Monica graduated from nursing school Summa Cum Laude and received her RN license in 2019, beginning her career concurrently with the pandemic. She’s battle-ready to engage head-on with helping you conquer obstacles. Monica has always held the belief that “the best way through is together as a team” close to her chest, and that’s what you will be. Get Coaching from Monica.


Meal prepping is not difficult, but it can be tedious coming up with options that have sufficient amounts of protein in them—especially on a budget. I am no Michelin star chef with an endless pantry of ingredients (and endless hours to spend crafting a week’s worth of meals), but I will also not beat my tastebuds to death by eating the same items week after week. There are no bones to pick with this great solution: ground meat.

The kitchen can be your playground with the various benefits of utilizing ground meat. In lifting, there are some fundamental exercises that will give us the most benefit for our training efforts. The same concept applies to meal prepping with the principles of preparation, nutrition, and variation.

Preparation

Time is always a scarce resource. I love a good steak, chicken breast, thighs, and drumsticks. There’s so much flavor in the meat and ways to enhance it with various spices. However, unless you just picked it up from the store, any one of those choices takes a long time to defrost. I’m not a “defrost it in the microwave!” person because that partially cooks whatever hunk of meat is least frozen. No, thank you.

Ground meat defrosts faster because there are no bones. You can place a package of ground meat in warm water, which will help thaw it without cooking the meat inside. From there, you can open the package into a bowl and break it up into smaller pieces, increasing its surface area for faster defrosting. While it finishes defrosting, you can get your spices ready and preheat your pan or oven. After that, it’s smooth sailing. In general, ground meat cooks pretty fast, and you won’t have to worry about tearing meat off a bone or carving slices which make for easier cleanup: fewer dishes and pans, fewer problems.

Nutrition

I’m not a fan of macro tracking. Some people love it, some people tolerate it, and the rest of us despise it. I’m more of a qualitative human—sometimes I like to check how many ounces of protein I have in a meal, but that’s it. Ground meat is a great protein choice for people who like to track macronutrients closely. Unlike a beautifully marbled steak, there’s nothing to trim with ground meat, and you can purchase whatever fat percentage fits your macros (and taste) better.

Variation

There are many options for protein here—beef, chicken, pork, lamb, bison, venison, turkey—depending on what’s available in your area. Besides the different types of proteins, there are many things you can do with all of them. I love protein-filled “burrito bowl” style meals. Give me veggies, meat, beans, a grain, and some sort of drizzled chipotle aioli on top, and I’m a happy camper seven days a week. I veer towards a Mexican burrito bowl because it’s really tasty and a comfort food for me, but you can adapt it to many styles of cooking and cuisines—with, say, more of a Mediterranean, Asian, or Indian spin. Easy tweaks and variations are what make it fun and engaging.

Ground meat mixes easily with rice, quinoa, veggies, and pasta so you can make endless medleys—meatballs, stuffed peppers, patties, meatloaf, stuffed eggplant or squash, or dumplings. Patties are my first go-to because they’re the easiest of the transmutations here. I like putting jalapenos, sun-dried tomatoes, and a little bit of cotija cheese in the patty mixture. Especially if it’s turkey, chicken, or venison that you’re using, it’ll keep the meat patties from being dry (that’s usually the issue people have with ground chicken and turkey). The key with patties or meatballs is to cut into one and see if it’s done. Depending on how big they are or how thick, they will take longer to cook thoroughly.

Bonus pro tip: If you’re stuck on what to have for breakfast, you can put leftover ground meat in an omelet, scramble an egg with it, or put an egg on top of some grains, meat, and veggies. I’m more of a savory person than sweet, so this is very appealing to me.

Recipes!

To start, here is a great southwestern-style recipe from BLOC’s Head Nutrition Coach, Gillian Ward. It uses ground turkey and is a great option for meal prepping lunches for the week.

These are a couple of my favorite recipes.

Chicken Burger Patties

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • ½ small onion, sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • 2 sun-dried tomatoes, diced
  • Cheese, measured with your heart (Cotija is what I chose to go with this mixture, but you can use standard grated cheese, feta, etc.)
  • Breadcrumbs (optional)
  • Garlic, cracked black pepper, and chipotle powder to taste

Note: If you don’t like jalapeños, use regular peppers or raw spinach. Put what YOU like in it!

Typical yield: 4 hunky patties

Grab a big mixing bowl, knife, cutting board, and a big pan for the burgers. Put the meat in the bowl. Start cutting up your veggies and add your garlic and black pepper. You can add breadcrumbs in as you mix it all together, so you can achieve your preferred level of firmness. I add around a third to half a cup and see where I’m at before adding more. You can omit them altogether if you’re trying to stay low carb. Breadcrumbs make it easier to shape the patties, but you could just as easily form chicken balls and squish them into a burger with a spatula once it hits the hot pan.

If you make meatballs, however, breadcrumbs and at least one egg are as essential as a spotter on a collared bench press set. I make my own jalapeño infused olive oil, so I drizzle that into the pan to cook the burgers. You can use whatever oil or cooking spray you desire.

Once the pan is nice and hot, place two patties in. Sprinkle the chipotle on the side of the patties facing you. When you flip the patties, the chipotle powder will get nice and toasted, infusing more flavor into the meat. I like to slice the burger patties and place them over my meal, as pictured above.

Breakfast Burrito Bowl

General Ingredients

  • Grain
  • Meat
  • Vegetable
  • Egg (Optional!)
  • Sauce

My Bowl

  • Brown Rice
  • Ground Beef
  • ¼ onion, diced
  • Beans
  • Garlic clove
  • Cilantro (optional)
  • Spices
  • Garlic – a sprinkle
  • Onion – a sprinkle
  • Adobo – ¼ tsp
  • Cumin – a pinch
  • Cracked black pepper – to taste
  • Oregano – a few dashes
  • 1 egg, cooked over easy (Important!)
  • L. Kraft Chipotle Aioli

You can honestly use whatever fits your own personal preference here. Quinoa, couscous farro, rice, no grains, and just greens–it all works. A power move here is to already have everything in the fridge like I did so you can heat it all up and just cook the egg to go on top—which is how I decided what would encompass my bowl on this occasion. An easy, fast breakfast. If you haven’t made all the ingredients yet and want to stick with what I’ve got, grab a can of beans—whatever color your soul yearns for. Seriously, it doesn’t matter.

Thinly slice your garlic and throw it in a small pot to sauté in a drizzle of oil. Once the garlic is slightly brown, add the can of beans. Fill the can halfway with water and add to the pot. Then, add a sprig of cilantro and your spices. Set the heat to high to get that bad boy boiling. Stir frequently. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, then turn the heat down and mash with a spoon as you stir. Once the liquid is a gravy-like consistency, turn it off and remove it from heat. While the beans are cooking, you can sauté your onion and get your beef cooking in a pan. Layer everything in a bowl: rice, beans, beef—and put to the side.

Finally, the egg—the only piece you’ll really need to prepare if all your fixings are leftovers. You may know how to cook an egg, but I have a trick to ensure it does not burn and you get an ooey-gooey yolk. If that’s not your thing…yolks on you. It’s delicious.

If your ground beef pan isn’t empty, get another pan and lid and a small vessel to hold water. It can be a cup, a mug, a measuring cup—or your resilient, empty can of beans. Get the pan nice and hot, crack the egg into the pan, turn the heat down to medium, and pour a little water into the pan. Hear the sizzle? Great. Cover the pan for 1½-2 min. Remove from heat and place the egg on top of the rest of your bowl. Sprinkle with spices and herbs, and drizzle with your sauce of choice. BAM! Protein-packed delight. Now, break the yolk and mix the bowl.

You now have a sauced-up, protein-packed start to your day. If you’re not using all of the freshly prepared beef in your bowl, you can repurpose it for later meals—stuffed peppers, quesadillas, tacos, part of bolognese, pasta e fagioli, or more bowls with different flavor profiles (e.g., a lighter, beef-fried rice with stir-fry veggies; a beef gyro bowl with tzatziki, feta, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.).

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