Howdy everybody – hope you had a nice weekend!
Ben and I kicked things off with Life of Pi (mmm, pie) on Friday night. I liked it though Ben thought it was snoozeville. I’m into Lost-y/shipwreck-type films though, plus I read the book and thought this was one movie that’s actually better than it’s written counterpart. The book moved like molasses to me, whereas the movie was a bit more exciting. 1-1/2 thumbs up!
Saturday Ben and I babysat Finn & Evie in the afternoon, then Sunday we ran errands all day, fitting in a quick evening walk while dodging raindrops. The sun appeared for about an hour total this weekend so…progress? (Sob!)
Anyways, enough delay. To kick the week off I want to share an awesome recipe + kitchen trick with you that I’m really (perhaps overly) excited about: Healthier Smothered Sweet Potato Fries + How to Make Ground Beef Go Farther!
First, let’s address these Healthier Smothered Sweet Potato Fries. Hot damn! These babies are a riff on Granite City’s Idaho (no you da…) Nachos which are waffle cut fries smothered with cheese, bacon, tomatoes, and green onions. They are just as mouthwatering as they sound, but kind of sit like a rock in your stomach, know what I mean?
That’s why I decided to make a “healthier” version using sweet potato fries (admittedly store bought, but they’d be just as excellent with homemade sweet potato fries) which are topped with a modest amount of cheddar cheese, healthy and homemade guacamole, tomatoes, green onions, and my NEW FAVORITE THING EVER – seasoned, healthier “ground beef”. Muwahaha!
A couple of weeks ago I said to myself, self – I am so sick of paying $7.99/lb for ground beef. There’s got to be a better, more economical, and healthier way to get our ground beef fix without the price! That’s when the idea of swapping 1/2 the ground beef for, wait for it, chopped mushrooms popped into my head! You won’t find someone who hates mushrooms more than me (it’s a texture thing) but I figured if I chopped ‘em up real small in the food processor then cooked them right in with the ground beef then maybe I wouldn’t notice a thing.
AND I DIDN’T.
This is without a doubt one of my most favorite kitchen swaps I’ve ever found. You cannot taste the mushrooms at all, there is NO funky taste or texture to the final product, and hello – where lean grass-fed ground beef is $7.99/lb, mushrooms, which are low in calories, virtually fat-free and packed with vitamins, are usually $2-3/lb! I’ve been making tacos, spaghetti sauce, and salads with this mix for the past 2-3 weeks and, as Ben so eloquently put it - we only eat ground beef this way from now on. It’s true.
Start the Healthier Smothered Sweet Potato Fries with the sweet potato fries. Like I said, you could totally go the homemade route but I spied these Alexia Seasoned Waffle Cut Sweet Potato Fries at the store and couldn’t resist picking up a bag to try. They turned out to be the crispiest oven-fries I’ve ever had, plus the hint of seasoning on them is really, really good.
Bake however many servings you need on a foil-lined baking sheet according to package directions. Ben recommends baking them on a cooling rack for ultimate crispiness!
While the fries are baking, get the mushrooms and ground beef goin’ by first processing 1/2lb (8oz) mushrooms. Use whatever kind you prefer. I used white mushrooms because they were on sale at the store.
Rinse the mushrooms (the whole “mushrooms soak up water” myth has been debunked by many sources so soak and scrub away) then place the mushrooms in a food processor and process until they’re the texture of cooked ground beef. Alternatively you could just chop them up real small by hand.
Now add the processed mushrooms to 1/2lb lean ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat, season with salt and pepper, then cook until the ground beef is no longer pink.
Mushrooms have a high water content so don’t be alarmed if you have a lot of liquid in the skillet at the end. Just drain the whole thing as you normally would then return the mixture to the skillet. I mean look – can YOU spot the difference?!
While the beef’s cooking get some taco seasoning ready, which is how I chose to season my meat for these smothered fries. Simply seasoned beef and mushrooms with onions, garlic, and worcestershire sauce would be good too though. I used my homemade taco seasoning mix > which seasons 1lb of “meat”.
Add the seasoning into the mushroom and beef mixture along with 1/4 cup water and stir to combine then turn the heat down to low to keep warm.
Seriously – looks and taste wise – no difference!
If you’re making fries for a crowd, spoon the mushroom/beef mixture right over ‘em on the baking sheet then add shredded cheddar cheese and broil until melted. If you’re just making one serving, pile the fries, meat mixture and cheese onto a plate then microwave to melt the cheese. Serve topped with chopped tomatoes and green onion, and lots of homemade guacamole. That’s just ripe avocado mashed with garlic salt and lime juice!
Healthier Smothered Sweet Potato Fries
Serves 6 (easily adaptable for 1 or 2)
1.25lb frozen sweet potato fries (I used Alexia waffle cut)
1/2lb lean ground beef
8oz button mushrooms, processed or finely chopped
salt & pepper
1 recipe homemade taco seasoning (including water)
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Toppings: tomatoes, green onions, guacamole, black olives
- Prepare sweet potato fries on a foil-lined baking sheet according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat then add beef and chopped mushrooms. Season with salt & pepper then saute until ground beef is no longer pink, and then drain well and return to skillet. Add taco seasoning and water then stir to combine. Turn heat to low and keep warm.
- When fries are done baking, turn oven to broil then top fries with beef and mushroom mixture. Top with cheddar cheese then broil until melted (alternatively you could place fries and beef/mushroom mixture on a plate, top with 1/4 cup cheese per person, and then microwave until melted.) Top with desired toppings then serve.
If you’ve got a picky eater, or someone like me who knows mushrooms are good for them but can’t stand the texture, this is a terrific way to sneak ‘em in with nobody being the wiser. Plus, like I mentioned, it’s a great way to make ground beef go farther and save a buck or 2 (or 3 or 4!)
I’d stick to using the swap in dishes that call for cooked ground beef vs burgers or meatloaf, since the mushrooms let out a lot of water that will need to be drained off. Other than that, I hope you enjoy these fries, and kitchen swap, as much as I did!