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Quick-cooking and economical ground beef a pantry

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While waiting your turn at the supermarket check-out counter, you may notice that many shoppers have a package or two of ground beef in their shopping baskets.

"Ground beef is really a regular pantry staple," says Heather Travis, a spokesperson for the Beef Information Centre based in Mississauga, Ont.

It is also popular because it is relatively inexpensive and a quick-cooking form of beef.

The following three recipes from the Beef Information Centre make use of ground beef in a variety of ways, as a casserole, tagine and soup.

Cowboy Casserole

15 ml (1 tbsp) vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

500 g (1 lb) extra-lean or lean ground beef sirloin

15 to 30 ml (1 to 2 tbsp) chili powder

1 can (796 ml/28 oz) no-salt-added diced tomatoes

250 ml (1 cup) sodium-reduced chicken broth

1 can (398 ml/14 oz) beans in tomato sauce

500 ml (2 cups) frozen mixed vegetables

500 ml (2 cups) dried wagon wheel or penne pasta

In a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add beef, breaking up with wooden spoon; cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain, if desired.

Stir in chili powder, tomatoes, broth, canned beans and frozen vegetables; bring to a boil.

Stir in pasta; reduce heat, cover and simmer until pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 305 calories, 20 g protein, 8 g fat, 39 g carbohydrates.

Wine match: California Sirah.

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Tagine-Style Beef and Rice

10 ml (2 tsp) vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

500 g (1 lb) extra-lean or lean ground beef sirloin

3 ml (3/4 tsp) each ground allspice and cinnamon

250 ml (1 cup) brown rice

500 ml (2 cups) sodium-reduced chicken broth

1 each sweet red and yellow pepper, diced

250 ml (1 cup) dried fruit (diced apricots, currants and cranberries)

45 ml (3 tbsp) minced fresh mint

30 ml (2 tbsp) fresh lemon juice

125 ml ( 1/2 cup) raw sunflower seeds

In a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add beef; cook, breaking up with wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain, if desired.

Stir in allspice, cinnamon, rice and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 40 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in sweet peppers, dried fruit, mint and lemon juice. Top each serving with sunflower seeds.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 402 calories, 24 g protein, 14 g fat, 47 g carbohydrates.

Wine match: Argentinian Malbec.

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Beef Minestrone

15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 each celery stalks and carrots, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

500 g (1 lb) lean or extra-lean ground beef sirloin

3 ml (3/4 tsp) each dried basil and crushed rosemary

1 ml ( 1/4 tsp) crushed red pepper flakes

1 can (540 ml/19 oz) kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (1.36 l/48 oz) tomato juice

250 ml (1 cup) broken spaghetti noodles

50 ml ( 1/4 cup) each chopped fresh parsley and grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add beef; cook, breaking up with back of spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain, if desired.

Stir in basil, rosemary, red pepper flakes and beans. Add tomato juice; bring to a boil. Add noodles.

Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until spaghetti is tender, about 12 minutes. Stir in parsley and garnish each serving with Parmesan cheese, if using.

Makes 10 servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 269 calories, 16 g protein, 9 g fat, 31 g carbohydrates.

Wine match: Sangiovese Chianti.

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