Ultimate Greek Burger

Serve these Ultimate Greek Burgers at your next barbecue. Highlighting fresh Greek-inspired flavors, this recipe will kick your burger game up a notch.

Greek Burger on a toasted bun with tzatziki sauce and tomato salad

This post is sponsored by the Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative a subcontractor to the Beef Checkoff. Thank you for supporting brands that make this blog possible!

How these Ultimate Greek Burgers will step your burger game up a notch

There is nothing better than a juicy burger right off the grill. A beef patty is a classic, but after hosting and attending so many barbecues, it’s time to switch things up! Don’t worry, we are keeping the beef patty, but enhancing it with Greek-inspired flavors. As a chef, I love Mediterranean flavors and as a dietitian, I love the health benefits that come along with following a Mediterranean style diet.

bite taken out of a Greek burger

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean-style eating pattern encompasses a wide variety of foods and flavors from the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea. While the cuisines of each country differ slightly, they all have a few things in common. To build a healthy Mediterranean plate, start with fresh vegetables and fruits, add lean protein and whole grains, and enhance with dairy and healthy fats.

Why lean beef is included in the Mediterranean Diet

The eating pattern allows a wide variety of proteins (including fresh lean beef, pork, poultry, and fish) that support heart health. Lean beef contains important nutrients, like protein, iron, zinc, and B-vitamins that your body needs.

What does “lean beef” mean?

Beef can only be claimed as “lean” if the cut of beef is less than 10g total fat, 4.5g or less saturated fat and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per 100-gram serving.

overhead image of greek burger topped with tzatziki sauce and tomatoes

What’s different about this Greek Burger?

Ripe summer produce like tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh herbs are essential to Greek cooking. Flavors are incorporated within the lean beef as well as adding layers of additional flavors and textures as you build the burger.

Why I love this recipe

Can’t go wrong with a delicious burger, am I right? I love the fact the burger is stuffed with spinach and onion, along with plenty of seasonings. I’m not a fan of raw onion on top of my burger (caramelized onions – that’s a different story!), so the addition of them minced within the burger adds a subtle flavor vs. overpowering. The addition of the added veggies helps keep the lean burger moist and juice.

I kind of kept traditional burger toppings on here. The tomato salad adds a tanginess while the tzatziki adds a cooling creamy effect. I never said this wasn’t going to be a messy eating kind of burger!

Chef’s Tips

  • Invest in a digital thermometer. DO NOT cut open the burgers to check their doneness. This will release all their juices leaving you with a dry burger.
  • Take the time to squeeze out the excess liquid from the cucumbers. This will prevent your tzatziki sauce from being watery.
  • Oil your grill grates. Dip a bunched-up paper towel into a high-heat cooking oil (such as canola oil or olive oil). Be careful not to saturate the paper towel. You want enough oil on it to coat the grill grate, but you don’t want it dripping everywhere. Using an oven mitt and tongs, carefully wipe the paper down on the grill grate.

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Greek Burger on a toasted bun with tzatziki sauce and tomato salad

Ultimate Greek Burger

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 12
  • Total Time: 27 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Grill
  • Cuisine: Greek

Description

Serve these Ultimate Greek Burgers at your next barbecue. Highlighting fresh Greek-inspired flavors, this recipe will kick your burger game up a notch.


Ingredients

For the tomato salad:
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons red onion, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the tzatziki sauce:
1 English cucumber
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
½ tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon salt

For the burgers:
1 lb. 93% lean ground beef
1 cup spinach, finely chopped
½ small red onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 hamburger buns


Instructions

For the tomato salad:

  1. In a bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, parsley, vinegar, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the tzatziki sauce:

  1. Using a cheese grater, grate the English cucumber. Using a thin dish towel or paper towels, press out any excess liquid. 
  2. In a bowl, mix together yogurt, lemon juice, garlic powder, and salt. Fold in the cucumber.

For the burgers:

  1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Grease grill grates.
  2. In a large bowl, combine beef, spinach, onion, garlic, dill, feta, oregano, salt, and pepper. Mix until all ingredients are well combined. Do not overwork the meat mixture. Form into 4 beef patties.
  3. Grill the burgers for approximately 4-6 minutes then flip over and grill another 4-6 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160°F.
  4. Add burgers to a bun and top with tzatziki sauce and tomato salad.

Notes

  • Invest in a digital thermometer. DO NOT cut open the burgers to check their doneness. This will release all their juices leaving you with a dry burger.
  • Take the time to squeeze out the excess liquid from the cucumbers. This will prevent your tzatziki sauce from being watery.
  • Oil your grill grates. Dip a bunched up paper towel into a high-heat cooking oil (such as canola oil or olive oil). Be careful not to saturate the paper towel. You want enough oil on it to coat the grill grate, but you don’t want it dripping everywhere. Using an oven mitt and tongs, carefully wipe the paper down on the grill grate.

Keywords: burger, Greek recipe, Greek burger, beef

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FAQ

How do I know when the burgers are done?

See the chef tip above. Invest in a digital thermometer. Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160°F.

What can I serve these burgers with?

You can’t go wrong with serving fries with these Ultimate Greek Burgers! If at a BBQ other ideas can be veggie sticks, seasonal fruit, like watermelon or grilled pineapple, potato salad, or a simple mixed green salad.

How else can I use lean ground beef?

Ways to repurpose this Greek burger

  • Greek burger salad. Add the tomato salad and other veggies you have on hand, a heated patty, quinoa (or a different whole grain), and add the tzatziki as a salad dressing.
  • Greek pita. Ran out of burger buns? No problem. Crumble up a burger and stuff it in a pita with the tomato salad and tzatziki sauce.

Other recipes you may enjoy

Resources:

O’Connor LE, et al. A Mediterranean-style eating pattern with lean, unprocessed red meat has cardiometabolic benefits for adults who are overweight or obese in a randomized, crossover, controlled feeding trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2018, nqy075.
https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/advance-article/doi/10.1093/ajcn/nqy075/5036105

Leidy HJ,et al. The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr 2015;101:1320S-9S

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for
Standard Reference Legacy Release, April 2018. Available at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl

Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef Tacos

Revamp taco night with a kick of spice with these Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef Tacos. This flavorful meat is deliciously seasoned and cooked until perfectly tender. Layer it in tortillas with all your favorite toppings your next taco night!

open-faced tacos with beef barbacoa

This post is sponsored by the Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative a subcontractor to the Beef Checkoff. Thank you for supporting brands that make this blog possible!

Did you get gifted an Instant Pot this holiday season? The Instant Pot is a single appliance that does the job of seven (yes, seven!) different kitchen appliances. It can handle the tasks of a slow cooker, electric pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, sauté/browning pan, and a warming pot. Think of all those appliances taking up space in your kitchen that can be replaced by one.

Don’t be intimidated by this new appliance. Read up on these 7 Things You Need to Know About Your Instant Pot before you get started.

Beef barbacoa in the Instant Pot

What is barbacoa?

Barbacoa refers to the method of cooking meat. Barbacoa is an authentic Mexican dish typically made with a cut of beef head meat, like beef cheek. When cooked long and slow it becomes extra tender. It is traditionally seasoned with dried chilies and spices and slowly cooked.

Barbacoa is now used to refer to a seasoned beef, that has been slow-cooked. 

open-faced beef barbacoa taco on a flour tortilla

Choosing lean beef

Forget about sacrificing taste for nutrition. These lean beef cuts are chock-full of flavor and 10 essential nutrients. Beef can only be claimed as “lean” if the cut of beef is less than 10g total fat, 4.5g or less saturated fat and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per 100-gram serving.

Beef chuck

Beef chuck is a primal cut that comes from the shoulder area and yields cuts known for their rich, beefy flavor. Beef chuck is ideal for slow cooking to yield tender beef.

beef barbacoa tacos with toppings
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open-faced taco with Barbacoa Beef

Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef Tacos

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Yield: 6
  • Category: meat
  • Method: instant pot
  • Cuisine: mexican

Description

Revamp taco night with these Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef Tacos! This flavorful meat is deliciously seasoned and cooked until perfectly tender. Layer it in tortillas with all your favorite toppings your next taco night!


Ingredients

For the beef barbacoa:
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 chipotle peppers (from a can in adobo sauce – reserve sauce), chopped
2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from the chipotle peppers)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 pounds beef chuck, fat trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 bay leaves

For the tacos:
Tortillas, soft or hard shells
Sliced avocado
Pickled onions
Chopped tomatoes
Chopped cilantro
Lime wedges


Instructions

  1. Press the “saute” setting on the Instant Pot. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil until heated and shimmering. Add the onion and garlic, saute for 1-2 minutes until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add the chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper, and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Press “cancel” to turn off the heat.
  2. Remove contents from the Instant Pot into a food processor and add beef broth, apple cider vinegar, and lime juice. Pulse until smooth and set aside.
  3. Press the “saute” setting on the Instant Pot. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil until heated and shimmering. In batches, add beef and brown all sides. Be mindful not to overcrowd the pan. Repeat until all beef is browned. Press “cancel” and turn off the heat.
  4. Add all the beef, bay leaves, and reserved sauce in the Instant Pot. Stir well to combine. Close lid securely and set vent to “sealing”. Press “manual”, then press “Pressure” until the light on “High Pressure” lights up, then add 60 minutes of cook time.
  5. When cook time is complete, very carefully, turn the vent to “venting” for quick release, and wait until all of the steam has released.
  6. Remove the lid and discard the bay leaves. Using two forks, shred the beef into bite-sized pieces. Stir shredded beef with the juices so it can soak up all the flavor.
  7. Assemble tacos by layering beef barbacoa on a tortilla and top with avocado, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. Serve with a lime wedge on the side.

Keywords: beef, tacos, barbacoa, instant pot

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Other ways to use beef barbacoa

This Instant Pot barbacoa beef is so flavorful and tender, and it’s so versatile!

  • Tacos
  • Burritos (wraps or bowls)
  • Salads
  • Nachos
  • Quesadillas
  • Enchiladas
  • Or just about any other use, you can think of for spicy shredded beef

Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak

This post is sponsored by The Beef Checkoff. Thanks for supporting brands that make this blog possible!

For the novice chef, cooking beef can sometimes be intimidating. What cut to choose? What cooking technique would work best? Is beef healthy to serve my family?

I’m here to help answer many of these questions for you, but you can also utilize the resource Chuck Knows Beef. Powered by Google Artificial Intelligence, Chuck is the new virtual go-to expert on all things beef. Chuck can be easily accessed at ChuckKnowsBeef.com or by simply enabling Chuck Knows Beef with Amazon Alexa or Google Home Assistant devices. You will have a beef expert on hand whenever you need it!

For busy families everywhere, there is nothing more challenging than getting a balanced meal on the table each night. A simple marinated skirt steak is a flavorful and quick dish that can be whipped up any night. Pair with a side of your favorite veggie and grain for a complete meal.

The purpose of a marinade

First, what is your marinade for? There are two purposes for a marinade – to infuse flavor and/or to tenderize the cut of meat which all comes down to the time the cut of meat is being marinated.

Just looking to add flavor? Marinate for 15 minutes to 2 hours. Looking to tenderize cuts? Marinate for 6 to 24 hours.

ingredients for Balsamic Marinated Strip Steak recipe on a marble slab

What is the most affordable cut of beef? How do I cook it?

Aside from ground beef, the cuts that are typically most affordable come from the end meats – chuck and round. These are also typically less tender cuts and benefit from slow cooking with moist heat. Roasting, stewing, braising, etc.

Head over to Beef It’s What’s For Dinner for more information.

computer graphic with information about affordable beef cuts for families

Besides ground beef, which cut of beef is the easiest to work with that is “forgiving” for a novice chef?

Slow roasting end cuts from the chuck or round can be a simple starting point for those just starting to cook beef. If grilling a steak, be sure to choose a cut at least ½ inch thick to avoid overcooking with high heat. Sirloin steak and strip steaks are both forgiving and economical cuts, to begin with.

What are the temperatures for rare, medium-rare, and medium for my steak? Should I pull it from the grill before that since it still cooks after it is removed?

The USDA cooking guidelines are as follows: For medium rare the temperature should read 145°F, the temperature for medium steaks should read 160°F, and well done is 170°F. Ground beef should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F. Steaks and roasts will continue to cook and rise 5ºF to 15ºF after removing from the cooking source.

Here is more information about cooking temperatures

Balsamic Marinated Strip Steak with green beans on a white plate

Why does my beef always come out dry?

Usually, the reason for dry beef is overcooking. Thinner cuts of beef tend to cook more quickly so consider reducing the heat and the time over the heat for thinner cuts. Overcooking roasts in a crockpot or oven, even when adding liquid, can also cause the meat to be dry. Another good tip is to match the cut of beef with the appropriate cooking method. End cuts from the chuck and round will usually benefit from moist cooking methods while well-marbled middle meat cuts from the rib and loin can be cooked with dry heat.

Not sure what cooking method is best? Ask Chuck or see more information here.

What’s the difference between grass-fed and organic beef?

Organic beef means the cattle meet the strict guidelines set forth by the USDA for the type of feed they consume and the supplements/medications they are given (or not given). The feed must be certified organic but that could include both grasses and grains. Organic beef is never given antibiotics or administered hormone implants.

Grass-fed beef is harder to define as the USDA no longer recognizes an official certification for grass-fed/finished cattle. Therefore, the definition can vary depending on the adopted standards of the beef producer. In general, grass-fed (technically grass-finished) beef is raised solely on grass feed stuffs without the addition of grain. Grass-fed is not necessarily organic but often is.

Learn more about beef labeling here and utilize this infographic for more details.

How do I reheat leftovers without causing the beef to become tough and chewy?

Reheating beef can be challenging – especially if it was prepared to medium-well or well done, to begin with. Microwaving beef is typically not recommended. Steaks and roasts can be reheated in the oven at a lower temperature of 200 – 250 degrees. An alternative to reheating a roast or steak is to consider slicing it thin and enjoying over a salad or as a sandwich.

Balsamic Marinated Strip Steak with green beans and almonds on a white plate

I have high cholesterol. Is it still okay to eat beef?

Research shows that a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle that includes lean beef, even daily, improved cholesterol levels. About half the fatty acids found in beef are called monounsaturated fatty acids, the same kind found in olive oil, and, as part of a heart-healthy diet, can reduce cholesterol levels.

I’m unsure to feed my family beef because of the hormones. What is the truth?

All hormones used in beef production must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  It starts with a comprehensive, multi-step scientific review process. If a product fails even one test or step in the process, it will not be approved.

The FDA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversee the safety of food products. The FDA sets a tolerance on hormone residue levels that can be found in food. The USDA conducts random sampling of beef to check for residues.

Extensive research shows that supplemental hormones are metabolized quickly and clear an animal’s system before entering the food supply.  Furthermore, decades of research have looked at the effect of using hormones in livestock production, but none have found any human health impact.

Learn more about hormone usage in cattle ranching.

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piece of skirt steak on a white plate with green beans

Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: beef
  • Method: grilling
  • Cuisine: American

Scale

Ingredients

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
1 teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon ground pepper, divided
1 1/2 pounds skirt steak, cut crosswise into 24 equal pieces
1 tablespoon avocado oil


Instructions

  1. In a resealable plastic bag, combine vinegar, sugar, garlic, rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add meat to marinade, and turn to coat. Let marinate at room temperature at least 15 minutes, or cover and refrigerate up to 1 day.
  2. In a grill pan over medium-high heat, add oil. Remove steaks from marinade, allowing excess to drip off. Grill steaks 2 to 3 minutes then flip and cook another 2-4 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate; cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest 5 minutes.

Keywords: beef, steak, skirt steak, dinner, beef checkoff, heart-healthy

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For more information, visit:
https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/
https://www.nybeef.org/

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Sheet Pan Steak and Veggies

Make dinnertime stress-free with this simple Sheet Pan Steak and Veggies recipe.

steak with veggies on a sheet pan

This post is sponsored by the NY Beef Council. Thank you for supporting brands that make this blog possible!

March is an exciting month for dietitians, as it is National Nutrition Month. National Nutrition Month® is an annual nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign, celebrated each year during the month of March, focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. In years past there was a theme to go along with National Nutrition Month’s initiative.

sheet pan with steak, broccoli, and squash

This year, I’ve teamed up with the NY Beef Council for National Nutrition Month to help make dinnertime less stressful with simple strategies and a delicious recipe.

We all seem busier than ever and dinnertime looks different for everyone. Getting home from long days at work, to juggling kids after school activities, or feeling exhausted and grabbing take out; every night the chore of dinner getting on the table can be stressful.

How can you make nourishing meals more manageable? Sheet pan dinners! Simply make a full dinner all on one pan. Sheet pan meals are great fresh out of the oven, but also really great as leftovers. Cook once, eat twice! Repurpose as is, eat over a whole grain, or enjoy over greens for a robust salad. The possibilities are endless!

sheet pan dinner with steak and veggies

When creating a sheet pan dinner, think about ingredients that will provide energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals. To this end, aim to eat a variety of delicious foods that balance the taste you love with good nutrition.

Beef is part of a satisfying heart-healthy lifestyle. All beef is a natural source of 10 essential nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins. Research shows that lean beef enjoyed as part of a heart-healthy diet and exercises, can help lower cholesterol, lose weight, and lower blood pressure.

What is “lean” beef?

To be considered lean, a 3.5-oz serving of cooked beef must have less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 mg of cholesterol. Look for the word “loin”, “round”, and 95% ground beef in the name when finding a lean cut of beef. A few samples of lean beef cuts are top sirloin steak, strip steak (top loin steak), tenderloin steak, or 95% lean ground beef.

Less stress dinnertime strategies:

Maximize your prep time

What are you more likely to cook with midweek? A head of unwashed broccoli still wrapped from the grocery store or the broccoli that is washed, trimmed, and stored in a produce bag ready to be cooked? I think we all know the answer here.

Create a plan

Look at your week ahead before you go grocery shopping and plan meals for the week. This will alleviate the “what’s for dinner?” question, prevent food waste, which will then in turn save you money.

Acknowledge the chaos

There are days that will just not go according to plan and that’s okay! To really make meals manageable, it’s important to be realistic with what to expect. Unrealistic expectations may set you up for a failed experience before the meal even begins. Plan for sheet pan dinners mid-week when you know you will be short on time.

Enjoy the moment

Whether you are dining solo or with a crowd take that time to enjoy the meal and be in the moment. Enjoy the company or the solidarity without outside distraction. We all need time to disconnect from technology.

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steak & veggies on a sheet pan

Sheet Pan Steak and Veggies

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 16
  • Total Time: 31 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: dinner
  • Method: sheet pan

Description

Make dinnertime stress-free with this simple Sheet Pan Steak and Veggies recipe.


Scale

Ingredients

2 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced
3 cups broccoli florets
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound strip steak


Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to broil (500°F). Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot of water, parboil squash for 5 minutes, to slightly soften. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine butternut squash and broccoli. Add 1-tablespoon olive oil, half the garlic, 1-teaspoon of thyme to the vegetables, and salt and pepper, to taste; toss to combine. Add to the baking sheet in an even layer.
  4. Pat steak dry. Add to the baking sheet in between the vegetables. Brush steak with the remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil and rub with the remaining ½ teaspoon thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper on both sides.
  5. Place in the oven and broil until steak is browned and charred at the edges; about 6-8 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and flip the steak and toss the veggies. Cook for an additional 6-8 minutes for medium-rare, until an inserted thermometer, reads 145°F.

Notes

Cook time may vary due to the thickness of the steak. Use a digital thermometer to determine doneness.

Keywords: sheet pan, steak, beef, one pan meal, dinner

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References:
Sayer RD, et al. Equivalent reductions in body weight during the Beef WISE Study: Beef’s Role in Weight Improvement, Satisfaction, and Energy. Obes Sci Pract 2017. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/osp4.118/full

Greek-Style Lamb Pita with Tzatziki Sauce

Do you cook with lamb? If you are new to cooking with lamb try starting with ground lamb and this Greek-Style Lamb Pita with Tzatziki Sauce. Lamb offers a protein-packed, flavorful alternative to the typical protein sources, like beef, chicken or turkey.

lamb meatballs in a pita

I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University a few months ago. When I was there, I was immersed with information, learning all about pasture-raised lamb, butchery, and cooking techniques for lamb with Nourish with Lamb.

Lamb is pasture-raised

Instead of being called a rancher, those who raise lamb are known as Shepards. Have you ever cooked with or prepared lamb? Lamb might seem intimidating if you’ve never worked with before, but this lean protein pairs well with global flavors and can be used in a variety of dishes.

raw ingredients of lamb meatballs in a clear bowl on a marble slab

Ground lamb is typically made from the shoulder and is incredibly moist and flavorful. Lamb is delicious in meatloaf, shepherd’s pie, tacos, casseroles, stews, lamb burgers, or in this case meatballs for pitas.

 Greek-Style Lamb Pita with Tzatziki Sauce on a white plate

Did you know?

Lean lamb is a source of healthy, unsaturated fats. Nearly 40% of the fat in lean lamb is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. On average, a 3-ounce serving of lamb is lean and has only 150 calories. Lean cuts include the leg and loin.

Greek pita with a side salad on a white plate
Lamb's Fatty Acid Breakdown
(source: Nourish with Lamb)

Lamb Fits in the Traditional Mediterranean Diet

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines gives special recognition to the Mediterranean dietary pattern for its healthful eating approach. Lamb is a staple protein in a healthy Mediterranean-style diet, particularly in Greek cuisine. Lamb is nutrient-rich and on average, it’s an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12, niacin, zinc, and selenium and a good source of iron and riboflavin.

This pita with tzatziki sauce is a way to start on the path to a Mediterranean-style diet.

Greek stuffed pita with meatballs
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Lamb meatballs in a pita on a white plate

Greek-Style Lamb Pita with Tzatziki Sauce

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Entree
  • Cuisine: Greek

Scale

Ingredients

For the Tzatziki Sauce:

6 ounces plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup seedless cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
salt, to taste

For the Lamb Meatballs:

1 pound ground lamb
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more if more heat is desired

For the Pitas:

4 whole grain pita pockets, warmed
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup seedless cucumber, chopped
2 cups lettuce, chopped


Instructions

For the Tzatziki Sauce: In a small bowl, combine yogurt, cucumber, dill, and red wine vinegar. Season with salt, to taste. Set aside.

For the Meatballs: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place a wire rack on a sheet pan. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine lamb, garlic, parsley, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Mix well to combine. Form small meatballs and place on the wire rack. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165°F. (cook time will vary depending on how large the meatballs are)

To assemble: In a pita pocket stuff pockets with lettuce, cucumber, and tomatoes. Add a smear of Tzatziki sauce and 3-4 meatballs per pita. 


Notes

Meal prep tip: Make a double batch of these meatballs and freeze for later. 

Keywords: lamb, sauce, Tzatziki, Greek

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One-Pan Chicken Sausage & Gnocchi Sauté

This one-pan chicken sausage & gnocchi saute utilizes simple ingredients to create a delicious meal in minutes.

kale with chicken sausage and gnocchi

I never understood the mad rush to the grocery store when there is an inkling of news about the possibility of snow. Previously, working as a retail dietitian, the madness was unreal. The aisles with the bread and milk would be completely wiped out. I guess everyone’s instinct is to survive on bread and milk if they get snowed in? I’ll never understand.

Sausage, gnocchi, and kale in a white bowl

My kitchen isn’t always completely stocked and with news of snow, I’m the last person you will see heading to the grocery store. I don’t want to deal with the craziness!

I think it’s fun to poke around the kitchen utilizing what I have on hand to create new meal ideas. I always say that makes me feel like I am on an episode of “Chopped“. (minus the crazy ingredients like cow’s tongue the contestants get in their mystery baskets)

One Pan Chicken Sausage & Gnocchi Sauté in a white bowl on a marble slab

Each kitchen no matter how big or small has four kitchen zones: the refrigerator, freezer, pantry, and countertops. Don’t just open the fridge and just decide “there’s nothing to eat, let’s grab take out.” Utilize the ingredients in each zone to create a meal. This recipe uses all four kitchen zones to create a delicious and balanced meal.

Refrigerator: chicken sausage, kale
Freezer: gnocchi
Pantry: olive oil, white beans, chicken broth
Countertop: garlic

chicken sausage and gnocchi in a white bowl

No need to rush to the grocery store when there is snow on the forecast. Just utilize what you have in each kitchen zone! And with simply one pan, chicken sausage & gnocchi saute came together in minutes.

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One Pan Chicken Sausage & Gnocchi Sauté in a white bowl

One Pan Chicken Sausage & Gnocchi Sauté

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 25
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: dinner
  • Method: one pan

Description

One Pan Chicken Sausage & Gnocchi Sauté making meal time a breeze


Scale

Ingredients

10 oz. gnocchi*, cooked according to package directions
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 links chicken sausage*, sliced on a bias
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15.5 oz.) can white beans, drained and rinsed
6 cups kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth


Instructions

Cook gnocchi according to package directions. 

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken sausages until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan. Add garlic, white beans and gnocchi. Saute until beans and gnocchi are warmed through. (Keep an eye on the garlic. Do not let it burn. Turn down heat if needed.)

Add chicken sausage back into the pan. Then, add kale and chicken broth. Stir to thoroughly combine ingredients. Cover until kale wilts. Remove lid and allow excess moisture to evaporate. 

Serve. Top with parmesan cheese, if desired. 


Notes

  • *Can use cauliflower gnocchi in this recipe, if desired.
    *I used Alfresco chicken sausage.

Keywords: kale, chicken, chicken sausage, one pan, gnocchi, white beans, beans, dinner

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Beef and Barley Soup

Cozy up to a bowl of Beef and Barley Soup. Not only can you add layers and layers of flavors, but they also can be balanced nutritionally.

Beef & Barley Soup in a white bowl

I am on a total soup and stew kick lately. Mainly because I can cook once and eat all week.

I am teaching three cooking classes this week, so cooking all day at work, the last thing I want to do when I get home it to cook again and wash more dishes!

beef and vegetable soup in a white bowl

Soups are great! Not only can you add layers and layers of flavors, but they also can be balanced nutritionally. Any good soup starts with mirepoix. I like to use dry herbs and spices in my soup recipes because you are able to add them during the cooking process, as they can stand up to the heat. 

Aim to add more whole grains in soups and stews when you can. Barley is a fantastic whole grain. I chose to use hull-less barley. This type of barley has an outer hull that’s so loosely attached to the kernel that it generally falls off during harvesting. This cuts down on processing and ensures that all of the bran and germ are retained.

Beef & Barley Soup in bowls with a white and blue striped napkin

This beef and barley soup may take a little longer to prepare, but it’s worth the wait.

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beef and barley soup in a white bowl

Beef and Barley Soup

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 50
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stove Top

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 lb boneless beef chuck roast, fat trimmed off and cubed
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 3 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 3/4 cup hulless barley
  • 4 cups kale, spines removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions

In a shallow dish combine flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge the beef cubes with flour, shaking off excess flour. 

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven (or large pot) over medium-high heat. Add the beef to the pot and cook just until the meat starts to brown, turning as needed. Do this in 2 or 3 batches, to not crowd the pot. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.

In the same pot, add the chopped onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and oregano. Cook the vegetables until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Deglaze the pan with red wine scraping the fond (the brown bits) from the bottom of the pan. Let simmer and reduce red wine by half. Add tomato paste and stir to coat the vegetables.

Add beef back to the pot with water and beef broth. Stir to combine.

Bring to a boil, add barley and turn down to a simmer for 45-50 minutes, until meat is tender and barley is cooked through. Stir occasionally so the barley won’t stick together. If you find that too much liquid has evaporated or the soup is too thick add more water as necessary until you get the desired consistency.

Remove soup from heat and stir in the kale while the soup is still hot to wilt. Season with salt and pepper, as needed. 

Garnish with parsley, if using.


Notes

If you do not want to use wine, deglaze with additional beef broth.

Keywords: barley, beef, soup, batch cooking, meal prep

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Confetti Turkey Burgers

Fire up the grill! It’s time to make Confetti Turkey Burgers. Learn how to keep a turkey burger juicy and the pros and cons of different kinds of grills.

holding up burger on a sesame seed bun with lettuce and tomato in a brown wrapper

It’s officially grilling season! Grilling is a healthy cooking technique. This cooking method exposes food to direct heat, leaving grilled food evenly charred on the outside and juicy in the inside. It is also a lower-fat cooking method because the fat will drip from the grill grates. Grilling can be for meats, vegetables, and fruit. Have you ever had grilled pineapple? It’s delicious!

burger with lettuce and tomato on a sesame seed bun

So often I hear complaints that turkey burgers are dry and chewy because they are very lean. Indeed, ground turkey breast is very lean with only 1% fat. Knowing that, how can we add more flavors, more moisture, and even stretch your dollar? Veggies!

Finely chopping veggies and incorporating them into the ground turkey will help keep the burger moist and tender. When cooked the water content from the vegetables is released, leaving you with a juicy burger.

Plus, by bulking up the ground turkey with veggies, it creates more burger patties, significantly stretching your dollar. One pound of ground meat often serves four, but with adding veggies it stretches it to six servings.

open-faced burger on a sesame seed bun with lettuce and tomato in a brown wrapper

holding up burger on a sesame seed bun with lettuce and tomato in a brown wrapper

The Difference Between Charcoal and Gas Grills

Charcoal Grills

They provide a more distinct smoky flavor along with that amazing backyard aroma. It’s such a tease when I’m running through the neighborhood and all I smell are my neighbors grilling. Scented wood chips or charcoal will bring the additional flavor. However, charcoal can be a little messy and sometimes tricky to regulate the temperature

Gas Grills

Just turn on a switch and your gas grill is fired up and ready to go. You are able to easily regulate the temperature and often gas grills have different settings that you can easily regulate areas of the grill at different temperatures. You won’t really get that smoky flavor, but you are able to cook various items on the grill at the same.

burger in parchment paper

I call these confetti burgers because there are flecks of colors throughout the burger patty. The key is finely chopping vegetables so they evenly disperse throughout the patty. Play around with different veggies that you like. I always aim to add at least three different colors into the mix.

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open-faced turkey burger on a wooden board

Confetti Turkey Burgers

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: dinner
  • Cuisine: American

Description

The best turkey burgers! The secret to preventing the burgers from drying out is the added veggies!


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Ingredients

  • 1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups spinach, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 egg
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat grill. Prep all the vegetables, and set aside in a bowl.
  2. Add the ground turkey, feta cheese, flaxseed, egg, salt, and pepper.
  3. Mix together until all ingredients are incorporated together. Form into 6 patties.
  4. Grill each side for about 5-7 minutes (or bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes), or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
  5. Put on top of a whole wheat bun and with your favorite healthy toppings.

Keywords: turkey burger, burger, dinner

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Chicken Pesto Kabobs

Need some new grilling inspiration? Try these simple and flavorful Chicken Pesto Kabobs!

Chicken Pesto Kabobs + learn the difference between charcoal and gas #grills via Chef Julie Harrington, RD @ChefJulie_RD #kabobs #grill #grilling #chicken #pesto #simplerecipe

Fire up the grill! Any grill will do, but there are advantages and disadvantages of using both charcoal or gas grills.

Charcoal vs. Gas Grills – What’s the difference?

Charcoal Grills:

Charcoal grills provide a more distinct smoky flavor along with that amazing backyard aroma. It’s such a tease when I’m running through the neighborhood and all I smell are my neighbors grilling. Scented wood chips or charcoal will add additional flavor. However, charcoal can be a little messy and sometimes tricky to regulate the temperature.

Gas Grills:

Just turn on a switch and your gas grill is fired up and ready to go. You are able to easily regulate the temperature and often gas grills have different settings that you can easily regulate areas of the grill at different temperatures. You won’t really get that smoky flavor, but you are able to cook various items on the grill at the same time.

Chicken Pesto Kabobs + learn the difference between charcoal and gas #grills via Chef Julie Harrington, RD @ChefJulie_RD #kabobs #grill #grilling #chicken #pesto #simplerecipe

I like to create little ribbons for the zucchini to thread on the skewers. Chopped (quartered or in half moons) zucchini works just as fine! I just enjoy the crispy edges of the zucchini ribbons that crisp up from the grilling process.

If you are making zucchini ribbons, just be careful using the mandolin. They can be a tad dangerous. I got into a fight with mine once.

Chicken Pesto Kabobs + learn the difference between charcoal and gas #grills via Chef Julie Harrington, RD @ChefJulie_RD #kabobs #grill #grilling #chicken #pesto #simplerecipe

Grilling is a healthy cooking method

Grilling is a healthy cooking method to prepare your food. It requires minimal added fats and imparts a smoky flavor while keeping meats and veggies juicy and tender.

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There is nothing wrong with cooking with convenience. If using prepared pesto this recipe only has 4 ingredients and can be whipped up for a delicious dinner in no time!

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chicken pesto kabobs on a wooden board

Chicken Pesto Kabobs

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 12 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 12 mins
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Grilling

Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 cup pre-made pesto, divided
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large resealable bag, combine chicken and ¾ cup pesto; marinate for 1 hour.
  2. Using a mandolin (or carefully cut with a knife), slice zucchini lengthwise.
  3. Remove chicken from the marinade. Thread the cherry tomatoes, zucchini in a ribbon-like pattern, then chicken. Repeat until skewer is filled.
  4. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Add kebobs to grill, cook gently turning halfway through for about 10-12 minutes or until internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Brust on additional pesto, if desired. Serve immediately.

Keywords: grilling, grill, kabob, chicken, pesto, simple

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Chicken Pesto Kabobs + learn the difference between charcoal and gas #grills via Chef Julie Harrington, RD @ChefJulie_RD #kabobs #grill #grilling #chicken #pesto #simplerecipe

This recipe was originally posted in July 2016. Content and recipe have been updated.

Pineapple Beef Stir Fry

Beef stir fry in a white bowl with white rice

This post is sponsored by The Beef Checkoff. Thanks for supporting brands that make this blog possible!

Dietitians are celebrating all month long because March is National Nutrition Month! This year’s theme is “Go Further with Food”. This theme encourages us to achieve the numerous benefits healthy eating habits offer while including a variety of healthful foods from all of the food groups on a regular basis.

Beef Up Nutrition Month - Understanding Beef Labeling + Pineapple Beef Stir Fry Recipe via RDelicious Kitchen @RD_Kitchen #sponsored by The Beef Checkoff

Previously working as a Supermarket RD, I quickly learned that a grocery store is a confusing place, especially in certain areas like the meat section.

It can be challenging grocery shopping for beef if you are unsure of the difference between flank steak and skirt steak. The different costs, categories, or even proper cooking techniques of various cuts of beef can throw off even a savvy home cook.

pineapple beef stir fry in a pan

At the supermarket meat case, each beef package label typically identifies the primal cut and the sub-primal cut name. It also includes the weight, price per pound, total price, sell-by date, and safe handling instructions. It may also include a grade, nutrition and preparation information, and the country of origin.

Understanding Beef Labeling + Pineapple Beef Stir Fry Recipe via RDelicious Kitchen @RD_Kitchen #sponsored by The Beef Checkoff #beef #stirfry #dinner #nutrition

It’s time to “Beef Up Nutrition Month” with decoding what the labels mean in the supermarket meat case.

BEEF QUALITY GRADING

The USDA divides beef into categories by different grades. Prime, Choice, and Select are the ones you will see at the grocery store.  The certain qualifications that determine the quality grade of beef are:

  • Distribution of marbling within the lean muscle at the 12th/13th rib
  • Age/maturity of the carcass
  • Color, texture, & firmness of the lean muscle

Prime-Grade Beef is the USDA’s highest designation. Coming from younger, well-fed cattle, this beef has more marbling with a firmer flesh. Prime-grade beef accounts for less than approximately five percent of the market in the United States, with the vast majority going to steakhouses and fancy hotels. Prime roasts and steaks are excellent for roasting, grilling, or broiling.


Choice-Grade Beef is of high quality and produced in highest quantity. Choice-grade beef has less marbling than Prime.  This is the standard option at supermarkets. Choice roast and steaks, especially from the rib and loin, will be very tender, juicy, and flavorful when roasted, grilled, or broiled. Less tender cuts are great for slow cooking.


Select-Grade Beef is slightly leaner than Prime and Choice because it has less marbling.  It can lack some tenderness, flavor, and juiciness as compared to the higher grades. Select grade beef often benefits from marinating prior to grilling or broiling. 1


Check out this easy to explore chart, outlining the various Grades of Beef.

NATURAL, GRASS-FED, ORGANIC – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Beyond just the quality grade, beef comes along with additional labels. Package labeling can be very confusing.

All cattle spend the majority of their lives eating grass on pastures. But beef can be finished in a variety of ways, giving you choices when at the meat case in your local grocery store or at a restaurant.

“Natural” This label implies the beef has no artificial ingredients or colors added to it an is minimally processed. 2

“Naturally Raised” does have validity. As of 2009, the label ensures that the animals are free of antibiotics, never received growth-promoting hormones, never fed animal by-products, and may spend time at a feed yard. Naturally raised cattle may be either grain- or grass-finished.

“100% Organic Beef” means that the animals must be fed completely organic feed grains and have never received antibiotics and growth-promoting hormones. This is certified and inspected by the government. Organic beef cattle may be either grain- or grass-finished, as long as the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service certifies the feed is 100% organically grown and can be fed in a feed yard. 3

“Grass Finished” cattle spend their lives eating grass or foraging, but not always necessarily stay on a 100 percent grass-fed diet or finished on grass.  Some “grass-fed” cattle are still fed grain for their last few weeks to help fatten the cattle. Grass-fed cattle may or may not be given FDA-approved antibiotics to treat, prevent, or control disease and/or growth-promoting hormones. 2

Learn how to Decode the Label with this simple infographic.

Need help choosing lean beef or wondering what type of cooking method works best? Use the Beef. It’s what’s for dinner’s cooking guide.

WHY BEEF?

Beef provides you with 10 essential nutrients that support a heart-healthy lifestyle including protein, zinc, iron and B vitamins. The nutrients found in beef provide our bodies with the strength to thrive and grow throughout all the stages of life.

Beef is an excellent source of protein.

One 3-ounce cooked serving of beef provides approximately 50% of your Daily Value (25 grams) of this important nutrient—making it an excellent source! Protein helps maintain a healthy weight, as well as preserve and build muscle.

New research suggests it’s not only important to just get enough protein in at dinner or lunch but to spread it throughout your day for optimal health. Aim for 25-30 grams of protein at each meal. 4,5

What is considered lean?

6 Look for the word “round” or “loin” in its name when choosing lean cuts of beef.

Lean cuts include top sirloin steak, tenderloin steak, strip steak (or top loin steak), or 95% lean ground beef.

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pineapple beef stir fry with white rice in a white bowl

Pineapple Beef Stir Fry Recipe

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 30
  • Cook Time: 20
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: dinner

Description

Whip up this simple and delicious stir-fry for dinner.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 (8-ounce) can pineapple tidbits, 3 tablespoons juice reserved
  • 5 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 lb. flank steak, cut into strips
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 tsp sesame oil, divided
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup snap peas
  • 1 sweet pepper, sliced

Instructions

  1. Whisk the reserved 3 tbsp pineapple juice, vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, and sugar in a small bowl until smooth. Place beef in a medium bowl; toss with 2 tablespoons of the sauce. Let marinate for 20 minutes.
  2. Add cornstarch to the remaining sauce and whisk until smooth.
  3. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Transfer the beef to the pan. Whisk any remaining marinade into the bowl of sauce. Cook the beef, stirring every 1 to 2 minutes, until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer the beef to a plate.
  4. Add the remaining 1 tsp oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. Add garlic, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, snap peas and sweet pepper to cook, stirring often, until just tender, about 3 minutes. Pour in the sauce and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 30 seconds. Add the beef and pineapple and cook, until heated through.
  5. Serve over rice, quinoa, or cauliflower rice.

Keywords: stir fry, beef, dinner

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References:
1. Inspection & Grading of Meat and Poultry: What Are the Differences?
2. Meat & Poultry Labeling Terms
3. Organic Labeling Standards
4. Paddon-Jones D, Rasmussen BB. Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2009;12:86-90
5. Mamerow MM, et al. Dietary protein distribution positively influences 24-h muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults. J Nutr 2014;144:876-80
6. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety, and Inspection Service. Beef from Farm to Table. Available at: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/c33b69fe-7041-4f50-9dd0-d098f11d1f13/Beef_from_Farm_to_Table.pdf?MOD=AJPERES
Grades of Beef
Decode the Label