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Nov 12, 2010 01:17 AM

Ground Beef on a budget. Any ideas??

I am usually pretty creative, but want to find a good recipe I can use. I can't go shopping again until pay day. Want to make my husband something good with what we have that might stretch into a few meals with leftovers.

I have 1 pound of lean ground beef. I also have egg noodles, a green pepper, onions, garlic, lots of dried spices, frozen peas, diced canned tomatoes, rice, a little bit of half and half. Also have kalamata, black, and green olives, some capers... Breadcrumbs, parmesan, olive oil, butter... Think that's about it. I don't necessarily need to use all of these, but do want to especially utilize the ground beef. Any creative ideas out there?? Thanks in advance!

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  1. This recipe might not be your starting point, but is a great one for using left over bits and pieces - so you might find this one useful a little down the track when you've made some other things with your ground beef already. I love this recipe because it's super easy and really tasty, and doesn't need a lot of beef at all so it's really frugal as well. Also pretty forgiving - I usually use whatever vegetables I have on hand, it always tastes great. You could probably use the egg noodles to replace the pasta as well.

    I don't use water though, I use stock.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ursy_ten

      Thank-you! I may not use that this time, but that's a good recipe. It gives me some ideas like what you said to use the veg I have on hand. And he loves anything with pasta. Once in awhile he has wanted hamburger helper, which I really doctor up, but I hate using that packaged stuff, especially after reading the box and seeing it contains partially hydrogenated oil and all that sodium. I'd rather make him something from scratch.

    2. If your spices include indian curry-type spices I'd definitely be making a keema curry including the peas, and serve with the noodles instead of rice - a bit cross-cultural I'll admit, but very delicious.

      7 Replies
      1. re: flashria

        Wow! Thanks! I DO have curry powder, cumin, etc. And I actually do have some basmati rice. But I do think the noodle idea is great. I love "cross cultural" dishes, "fusion" I guess.

        1. re: flashria

          I ended up making a Keema Curry with what I have. The recipe I found online though had as the first step to saute the curry powder in the oil for 2 to 3 min over med heat. I did this for less time than that and it turned black and smelled burnt. I wasted onion and garlic that I put in there giving it a try before I started all over. Afraid it may not be as flavorful not putting the spices into the oil, but I was afraid of it burning again and this is a bad time to be experimenting and wasting food... So on the second attempt I sauteed the onion and garlic, then added the spices to the meat while it was browning.

          I also have questions about curry. I had 3 different curry powders, all with different mixtures of spices. The one I like best is almost gone and I can't get it anymore. My new bag was similar but I think it smelled too much like cinnamon and it didn't have any cumin in it. Another one I had and just used up was yellow and mostly tumeric and mustard. I made a combo and added cumin, black pepper, and a little cayenne. Are different types of curry powder used for different things? One says "Madras" on it... Or should I buy spices and make my own mixture in the future?

          My husband works late so he will be trying the Keema Curry when he gets home. I tried to taste it for spice, but I am vegan and reluctant to taste much of it. I normally do not even do that, but I am worried about the spices not being there...

          1. re: MrsJTW

            First about tempering ground spices - I never do this. I only temper whole spices (tempering is frying the spices in oil before adding onions and fresh garlic and ginger). When you do temper spices you must watch closely so the spices don't burn and use just enough heat to release the aroma/flavor. This happens at different temperatures for different spices, so you usually add them a few at a time, putting the spices that can tolerate the heat longest in first and those that burn rapidly go in last. You must have your onions/garlic/ginger ready to dump in right after you add the last of the spices that you are tempering. I have instructions for tempering spices on my blog at


            Don't be scared! It's looks more complicated than it really is. Once you've done it a few times its really easy. One of these days I'll make a video and upload it to Youtube - if you see someone do it, you'll see how easy it is. It's harder to explain just in words, simple to show you.

            Anyway, as far as tempering ground spices - there is no need to do this and in fact there are lots of reasons NOT to do it.

            The purpose of tempering your spices is to release the volatile substances that carry the flavor. With whole spices this is helpful, because there is less surface area exposed to release the volatiles. But with ground spices, not only is there a greatly increased risk of burning them, as happened to you, but also these volatile substances are already much more available - more surface area exposed, LOTS more. Even if you don't burn the ground spices, you risk sort of "boiling off" the volatiles you want, so that you're left with a sludgy mix of vegetable matter and oil and not much flavor. I add ground spices only after the onions/garlic/ginger are at least about half cooked to avoid cooking the flavor out of them. The high heat of tempering is very good for whole spices, not so good for ground.

            OK, curry powder.

            Curry powder is a convenience item and varies greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some are heavy on the ground coriander, which is probably what you have with CP#2. Most are heavy on the turmeric, which is probably #3. My favorite is 777 Madras Curry Powder which I have been unable to buy in the States for a good 20 years or so. As far as I could tell, it was a blend with more cumin and coriander (without being overpowered by either) and less turmeric. It also had dried neem in it (curry leaves, culinary neem).

            I've gotten to the place where I prefer to make my own since commercial curry powders are so variable (and I can't find the one I like). If you can find a blend that you like, and can get it reliably, that's fine, but if not, for the sake of consistency, it's not that hard to make some. It will be at least as good as any of the commercial mixes, and probably fresher even if you are using ground spices. I don't have access to the recipe I've been using but I found this one online that sounds pretty good.

            NOTE: I would leave the ginger powder out. When I am cooking Indian dishes, I use fresh ginger (well the minced that comes in jars, it's so convenient). I don't feel that ginger powder adds anything to the curry powder when you use fresh ginger anyway. However, if ginger is not something you keep on hand, go ahead and use the ginger powder. Adjust this recipe to YOUR style of cooking.

            ALSO NOTE: The chili powder called for below is actually ground cayenne pepper, NOT the "chile powder" you would find in a tin can in the grocery that you put in Mexican dishes like chile con carne. That's a blend of cayenne, paprika, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, black pepper, and salt. You want pure ground cayenne peppers for this.


            Ingredients to make homemade curry powder
            8 Tbsp Cumin Powder
            7 Tbsp Coriander Powder
            2 Tbsp Ginger Powder
            4 Tbsp Turmeric Powder
            1/2 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper/Chilli Powder

            Note...For a hot curry powder use 2 Tablespoons of cayenne or chilli powder

            I would question any curry powder that contains yellow mustard. It's not a spice commonly used in India - they use whole black mustard seed, but I can't recall ever using yellow mustard for any Indian dish.

            The blend above will at least give you a starting point. I don't like a curry powder that's too heavy on Turmeric and this one isn't. Give it a try and go from there. Make a small amount at first to make testing easier and so you don't have a lot of stuff to throw out in the event you mess up and accidentally dump too much of something in. It's also easier to modify a small amount. Keep track of any changes you make until you get it to the point where you are satisfied with it. Then you can recreate your recipe any time.

            Here are some spices you might consider using in your curry powder blend. I'll list them separately with pros and cons (from my point of view) of using each one.

            Remember, curry powder is a convenience mix. If your style of Indian cooking nearly always uses a particular spice, it might be a good idea to include some in your curry powder. If you seldom or occasionally use a spice, it's probably better to leave it out. To me, a curry powder is a simple blend, not a complex one. I turn to Garam Masala for more complex and subtle blending of spices.

            Garlic powder - if you rarely keep fresh or minced garlic on hand, include some garlic powder in your curry powder blend. If you nearly always have the fresh on hand, you won't need it in the curry powder.

            hing or asafoetida - you use this in such tiny amounts, and only in specific recipes (or at least I do) that I wouldn't put it in curry powder. I just use a pinch when it's called for. If you put too much in your curry powder you will ruin it, and even a tiny bit can be too much. I keep my hing in a ziploc freezer bag in a separate room from the rest of my spices and it still has a bit of a lingering odor. VERY strong odor and taste, it should be used very very sparingly and has no place in any masala mix, IMO.

            Spices I wouldn't include because I only occasionally use them and it's easier to control quantities by cooking with them individually:
            caraway (I actually NEVER use caraway in my Indian cooking
            )black pepper

            Spices I consider to be "cool" spices which I use in my Garam Masala blend. I don't feel these go well in a curry powder blend:

            Keep your curry powder in an airtight container and out of the light as much as possible. I use empty glass jars to keep my spices in.

            Hope that helps.

            1. re: ZenSojourner

              Thank-you SO much for all of the information! That is so helpful! I would have to go grab the packages to see what all was in the curry powders in my kitchen, but two had fenugreek and one was really heavy on that as well as cinnamon and nutmeg.

              The good news is, despite my worries about the spices, my husband LOVED the keema curry I made. =) He said it's the best thing I ever made. Wow! That made me feel pretty good. And I was just trying to make something to use up what we had and tide him over until we can go shopping. I feel like trying more new things now. Sometimes I feel like I am a bit in a rut and making the same things over and over again.

              1. re: MrsJTW

                There's probably not a lot of cinnamon or nutmeg in the blends you have - they cost more so they won't use as much. It's my preference to use a Garam Masala blend for those spices, but if you like a blend that has them in it, by all means use it. Be guided by your own preference, including whether or not you use fenugreek.

                I called cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc "cool" spices - they actually think of them as "warm" spices in India. It's a nomenclature I've only recently ever heard used and I don't really understand what makes a spice "warm" or not from the Indian point of view, but I do apologize for my mislabeling.

                Making the same dishes is not always a "rut". It can be very comforting to have familiar dishes. Don't be too down on yourself! Some of the new things you are trying may become new "comfort dishes" to add to your arsenal!

                1. re: ZenSojourner

                  I don't personally care for much cinnamon or nutmeg so that was why I was worried when I was cooking because they smelled too much like those spices. Hmm I think I understand what you mean by cool and warm spices, maybe not the indian explanation though, but I realize different cultures have different explanations for many things. =) I don't think you mislabeled anything at all! =) Oh I know it can be comforting, but sometimes I just feel like, "THAT again?" or I want to make something new, but not sure what. Now I have a lot more things to choose from. And I was nervous about having a cooking DISASTER that would waste what we had left so that is one reason why I am so happy he loved what I made. It gives me more confidence and helps me to not be so scared to try new recipes.

                  1. re: ZenSojourner

                    Oh and what you said about some of the new things possibly becoming comfort dishes. That was along the lines of what my dad was telling me-that you may make a mistake here or there, but it only takes once to find a new favorite.

          2. How about a small meatloaf with rice and breadcrumbs as a binder; sautee the onions, garlic and green pepper in butter and oil to mix in, with a tomato and parmesan topping. I always add some dairy to soften, a little half and half would be perfect. Egg noodles on the side with a butter and parmesan sauce, add the peas and capers and maybe the olives too. You could also add the tomato/parm mix, maybe a couple of spoonfuls to give it some color. Whatever Italian spices you have add to the meatloaf so it's sort of a theme.

            27 Replies
            1. re: coll

              That is a fabulous and creative idea! He CLAIMS he doesn't like meat loaf, but I don't think he has ever had a good one. He hasn't had mine yet, which is my mom's recipe, and I considered that, but I need an egg for it. Even if I don't make this tonight, I just LOVE this idea and I thank you very much! This sounds so good! =)

                1. re: Passadumkeg

                  That would be great! Can you suggest a recipe for it?

                  1. re: MrsJTW

                    I was just going to do that. I'd fry up the beef( drain the fat) w/ the pepper, onions, garlic and the the tomatoes in a goodly amount of olive oil; to make it Greek tasting, add a teaspoon of cinnamon. Cook the noodles. Layer the meat, noodles, olives (cut in half), capers and peas. Make a bechmel w/ the half and half and the parm., cover w/ bread crumbs and butter and bake 350 for 45-60 min. Yum.

                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                      Thank-you! Sounds great! Do most call for eggplant? That is what I was seeing online.

                      1. re: MrsJTW

                        It wouldn't be moussaka to me without eggplant! The recipe above sounds closer to pastitio.
                        Here's a generic version of pastitio

                        1. re: coll

                          As stated above I was served moussaka several time in Greece. There are also potato moussaka recipes in a Greek published cook book I own.
                          I was using the ingredients JTW had on hand, not making an authentic Greek resto. dish.
                          Fussy people.

                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                            Not fussy, I;ve asked Greek people about potatoes in moussaka and they say "no, don't do it", even though I can swear that's what I've tasted occasionally. As you said, it's considered a cheap substitute. What you described is pastitio, but a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

                            1. re: coll

                              I spent a summer on Crete, camped in a cave on the south side of the island, right above a nudist beach, ate lots of spud moussaka; not bad.
                              How about mousakkesque noodles, not quite pastitio?
                              My high school girlfriend's father owned a Greek resto. When I was getting physical therapy at a VA hospital in Astoria queens in the late 60's, it was a very Greek neighborhood. At first, I would bribe a nurse to wheel me to a Taverna for lunch and later, hobble to Tavernas on crutches and finally limp to Tavernas, until given a medical discharge.
                              I've got a pretty good grounding in Greek food, and.......drink.

                        2. re: MrsJTW

                          In Greece I often was served moussaka w/ thin slice potatoes, instead of egg plant, in cheap Tavernas. I was just substituting the noodles on hand. I love the creatively clean out the kitchen cooking!

                  2. re: MrsJTW

                    I make meatloaf without egg and it turned out fine. Maybe it didn't "bind" together as much but I couldn't notice a taste difference. Actually, I do it by choice at times because we don't regularly keep eggs in the house.

                    There was a time when I didn't like meatloaf. Then I learned how to make good meatloaf and it is a favorite in our house.

                    This is the recipe I use -

                    I also like this for using ground beef and egg noodles -

                    This one is good too, lots of protein and can stretch into a couple leftover meals (it is actually better reheated) -

                    1. re: cleobeach

                      I was thinking the rice might bind it, although I haven't tested my theory. Mine got great when I started using 1/4 cup each of oatmeal and Ritz crackers, and cut way back on the seasonings. It had developed into a 2 lb meatball at one point. And sadly, I had to dump my grandmother's sacred hard boiled eggs in the middle, my husband almost fainted the first time he saw them. I think that's why he was so turned off for so long.

                      1. re: coll

                        My mom's recipe uses oatmeal as well. =)

                      2. re: cleobeach

                        Thank-you! I just meant that I didn't want to make my mom's recipe without all her ingredients, especially with him being a little hesitant to eat it. if it doesn't come out perfect, he'll think I'm full of it that hers is great. =) Thanks for all the ideas!

                    2. re: coll

                      We have only been married a year and a half so I haven't quite broken him in yet. lol He can bea little picky, but usually realizes "Hey, this is good!" when I make him something he is unsure of. We're getting there. =)

                      1. re: MrsJTW

                        My husband is the exact same way, and we've been married 35 years, so have patience! Meatloaf is one of the first things I made for him, but it's only recently, after many years of not bothering to make it, that I hit on a recipe that he likes. And just last night, I gave him a choice of my homemade cranberry sauce (with Gran Marnier) or Ocean Spray, and he chose mine! I was in shock!

                        1. re: coll

                          Lol I guess I have plenty of time to break him in to some of my recipes then. =) Well, that's great that he chose yours! =) We were just talking about cranberry sauce. I haven't had many that I have liked so be both like the ocean spray. May I have your recipe to try?

                          1. re: MrsJTW

                            This is the first time I got to serve just mine, I always put some Ocean Spray out for the non-believers. I did get my husband to switch to whole cranberry sauce first, although the rest of his family insist on just jelly. So, baby steps.

                            CRANBERRIES IN GRAND MARNIER
                            1 lb (4 cups) cranberries...if buying Ocean Spray bags, please note! they are now only 12 oz (I'm lucky if can pick them wild here!)

                            1 cup orange juice
                            2 cups sugar
                            the pulp of 1 orange, seeded and cleaned of membrane, then chopped
                            2 Tbsp slivered orange peel
                            1/2 cup Grand Marnier

                            Wash cranberries. Put orange juice and sugar in large saucepan and cook over medium heat until dissolved. Add cranberries, orange pulp and peel. Heat to boiling and then reduce heat. Simmer until skins pop about 10 or 15 minutes. Add Grand Marnier and then turn off heat (you could simmer a few minutes if serving to someone who can't take alcohol). Enjoy!

                          2. re: coll

                            Honestly I don't usually care for homemade cranberry sauce, but if it has Gran Marnier in it - I'd say I'd have to give that a shot!

                            Would you care to share the recipe?

                            1. re: ZenSojourner

                              It's two posts above yours - looks really good :)

                              1. re: ursy_ten

                                It really is. It's basically a Bert Greene recipe that I'm glad I ran across in the Daily News years ago. I'd make it all year round if cranberries were available. I do can a few jars but they're always gone by Christmas.

                                1. re: coll

                                  I wonder how it would go with dried cranberries. Here in Australia they're not readily available fresh. I might have seen them fresh once in my whole lifetime!

                                  1. re: ursy_ten

                                    I now add dried cherries and cranberries, since the Ocean Spray bags are smaller. I think anything dried can be reconstituted by soaking in water, so do that for 10 or 15 minutes first. And make sure they're not sugar coated ones, just plain!

                                      1. re: coll

                                        Oooh, adding cherries sounds GOOD! =)

                                  2. re: ursy_ten

                                    Ooops, sorry, I hadn't seen that! Thanks for pointing it out.

                          3. Swedish meat balls over the egg noodles seems a natural and a winter's-a-comin' comfort food.
                            Serve w/ red cabbage cole slaw.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                              Thanks! I appreciate it. I may make this one when I have the rest of the ingredients. ; )

                            2. If you have rice, make a big casserole with rice instead of noodles. I don't think noodles do as well as leftovers, besides rice is more filling. I make a very versatile casserole by layering meat and whatever I cooked it with and then rice and then tomato soup or juice or pasta sauce thinned with water poured over the rice. You can make it mexican with chili powder and bell peppers and tomatoes. You could make it Italian with pasta sauce and Italian herbs.

                              Another thing you could do is cook some beans then add rice and ground beef with whatever spices you feel like. I think mexican spices would be best. Your canned tomatoes would work very nicely. The meat would just sorta be there as an after thought. You can live on rice and beans. Lots of people do.

                              Cheese would be good on both of my suggestions. Both suggestions microwave up well for the leftovers.

                              Heck, you could even take some of the leftovers and add some egg and breadcrumbs and make a pancake of sorts.

                              If you don't have rice or beans in your pantry, rectify that as soon as your fat with money again.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Hank Hanover

                                Thanks for the suggestions! Yes, I usually live off of beans and rice myself. I usually have more in the pantry stocked up than I do now.