Low & Slow: It’s Beef for the Holidays

By Elesha Ergle, RDN


Changing colors. Changing seasons. Changing wardrobes. Hallmark Christmas movies. Pumpkin-spice everything.



It’s that time of year where we embrace the coming of fall and winter holidays and the going of yet another year.  Most of us cattle farmers in Alabama are done with calving season for the year and are busy preparing our herd to be bred back for fall calving next year while others prepare for spring calves soon to arrive.



While Thanksgiving may be dubbed “Turkey Day,” as a beef producer and dietitian, I wanted to change it up a bit and highlight some amazing, nutritious ways we can use beef during this holiday season.  Let’s try some new things, bring up some memories and maybe even start some new traditions!



Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

In Alabama we may or may not experience a cold winter…but when it’s cold, it’s COLD (to us Southerners anyway). When the cold weather starts to come, there’s always the first pot of chili.  Whether it’s stove top, pressure cooker or in a slow cooker, a good, hearty chili is the love language that will warm you up from inside out. Most of us have a chili recipe we love that might spark a childhood memory or two…maybe it’s grandma’s recipe, or maybe you remember it from your first Iron Bowl tailgate.  I love to make chili in an electric pressure cooker (EPC) and keep it warm in a slow cooker as the flavors continue to marry.  If you’re like us and have plenty of frozen ground beef, use you’re EPC to thaw and cook.  Place the frozen meat (approximately one pound) in the EPC along with about one inch of water.  Close the lid and seal, pressure cook on high for 22 minutes.  Quick release the pressure and drain water.  Turn the EPC on sauté, chop the meat into crumbles and continue cooking to 160 degrees.  Now all you have to do is add the other ingredients and your chili will be ready to go!  Don’t have a good chili recipe?  Give this easy Chili Recipe from Beef It’s What’s For Dinner a try!



Cooking for a Crowd

Before sitting down to celebrate “Turkey Day,” as family starts to pile in, get a hearty pot of beef stew together. Whether you like the ease and quick cooking of the EPC or cooking it low and slow in the slow cooker, greet your family with the smell of a home-cooked beef stew. If you decide to go the EPC route, this recipe from Family Fresh Meals is a great one to try. Taste of Home has a great slow cooker Beef Stew recipe that you will want to use over and over again. I love to serve beef stew with a good crusty bread to top off a quick and easy meal.  Stock your pantry with ingredients for these recipes and maybe even some disposable bowls for easy clean up!  You can grab a quick bowl of stew while you’re still prepping items for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving Day meal.



Beefy Sides

It’s Thanksgiving Day. Your mom cooks the turkey, your grandma makes the dressing, Aunt Betty makes the pies. What are YOU bringing to the table?  These easy beef recipes will give you time to sit down and watch the Macy’s parade or check the Black Friday sale papers. Try this easy One-Pot Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes Supreme in your EPC. Put everything in your EPC and let it do all the work. One-pot means little to no mess, which is a win-win if you ask me!  Start a new Thanksgiving mac and cheese tradition with this Slow Cooker Beefy Mac and Cheese that you will want to add to your regular recipe collection or add a Shepherd’s Pie to the Thanksgiving spread that even the pickiest of kids will love!  Set it and forget it in the slow cooker to have an easy, beefy and delicious dish that is sure to please even the biggest turkey lover.



Lasso Those Leftovers

The day after Thanksgiving is a coveted day for many. I have been Black Friday shopping one time…but never again. I have tons of friends who will deny themselves sleep and maybe even throw a punch to get a hand mixer for $5. Not me. I opt to stay home, watch a Christmas movie, shop online or go hunting. Whether you’re planning your shopping strategy or getting your camouflage ready on Black Friday Eve, look ahead to the morning with this easy slow cooker Cheesy Potato Breakfast Casserole recipe from Pillsbury, substituting the bacon for a pound of cooked Basic Beef Country Breakfast Sausage.  Using lean beef instead of bacon will lower the fat and calorie content as well as giving it that beefy protein boost.  Loaded with flavor and protein, it will be the perfect fuel after a long morning of power shopping, decorating or hunting.



War Eagle, Roll Tide

The end of Black Friday marks a State of Alabama tradition in two words…Iron Bowl.  Those words inevitably stir up some sort of memory in all of us. It is said that we Alabamians declare at birth whether we will yell “War Eagle” or “Roll Tide.”  My brother and I grew up in a house divided. As much as my parents loved each other, the Iron Bowl was the time that my dad was on one side of the house and mom on the other. With Eli Gold on the radio and televisions muted, watching the Iron Bowl was always fun no matter what side of the house we were on.  My mom loved to cook, and beef was often a staple of our Iron Bowl gatherings. Beef is the perfect food for the Iron Bowl, providing 12 percent of our daily value of iron per 3-oz serving.


What beefy foods do you think about for the Iron Bowl?  How about some beefed up cheese dip?  Give this Slow Cooker Cheese Dip a try at your next tailgate- it is sure to be a keeper.  Beef up your Iron Bowl party with this amazing recipe for Brisket Cowboy Nachos. Cook the brisket in a slow cooker instead of the oven and hold on low.  Set up other toppings and ingredients for a delicious beefy nacho buffet that your friends will want a repeat for the playoffs. Finally, what could be better for the Iron Bowl than using some flat iron steaks!? Flat iron steaks are packed with flavor and plenty of protein to keep you going through the entire game. This recipe for Slow Cooker BBQ Flat Iron Steak Sandwiches will be your new Iron Bowl tradition.  Serve as suggested on a hoagie roll, or grab some Hawaiian sweet rolls to serve in smaller portions for your guests to graze during the big game.



While the holidays are usually a time of indulging and often associated with packing on the pounds, you can cut down on calories and increase your intake of protein, vitamins and minerals by using lean beef. Lean beef is a protein powerhouse that provides 25 grams of protein per 3-oz serving with only 173 calories.



So let’s get this season started by grabbing some of these great beef recipes or visit Beef It’s What’s For Dinner for even more recipes and learn all about beef from pasture to plate.  Happy Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Iron Bowl and Fall Y’all!




State Checkoff color_nobackgroundThis article was funded by the Alabama Beef Checkoff Progam. Paid for by Alabama beef farmers and ranchers. 

Fall in Love with Slow Cooker Beef Recipes

By Elesha Ergle, RDN

Flank steak, short ribs, oxtails, oh my!

If you’re like me, this time of year brings about a new schedule, time to start revamping my cooking style (or lack the thereof from the crazy summer months) and get full-swing into fall recipes.  The slow cooker is always at the top of the list to get some cozy meals going for those shorter days and cooler nights.

Here in Alabama, we consider a high of 70ºF as a cold front and start to break out the scarves and sweaters, and of course, make that first pot of chili.  While chili is a longtime fall favorite at my house, in celebration of October Beef Month in Alabama, I wanted to draw some attention to a few lesser-known and used cuts of beef to help diversify our recipe portfolios.

We are cattle farmers, so it goes without saying…we eat a lot of beef.  Steaks, roasts and ground beef make up the majority of our recipe box.  As much as we love beef, though, I rarely stray from my usual routine. We recently took three of our steers to a local processor and were given options of how to have the meat processed. Flank steaks and short ribs would most always make the cut when processing a steer, but we also chose to get the oxtails.  Given that I now have these cuts on hand, I Googled, scoured cookbooks, watched YouTube videos and asked friends how they like to cook different cuts of beef.  I hope my findings inspire you to try something new as well.

Flank steaks, often referred to as jiffy steaks or London Broil, are cut from the abdominal muscles under the loin.  Flank steaks pack a whopping 23g of protein per 3-oz serving with only 6g of total fat and 160 calories. These lean steaks are very flavorful and work well when marinated and grilled or whipped up in a slow cooker to increase tenderness. There is nothing like coming home to the wonderful smell of beef that has been slow cooking all day, and this Taste of Home Slow Cooker Flank Steak recipe works well for those busy days when you need to have your meal ready when you get home from work.

While I do love my slow cooker, I have absolutely fallen in love with the ease and quick use of an electric pressure cooker.  An electric pressure cooker will also increase tenderness while adding flavor and significantly reducing cooking time.  For those days that you didn’t have time to start the slow cooker before work (or didn’t have all your ingredients that morning) the electric pressure cooker can make you look like Betty Crocker in minutes!  If you have an electric pressure cooker and are looking for a great use of flank steak, give this recipe for Asian-inspired Mongolian Beef a try.

Short ribs are often overlooked and underutilized but are very versatile and delicious. They can be purchased boneless or bone-in, and a 3-oz serving of short ribs pack 24g of protein, 12g of fat and just 200 calories. Short ribs have a rich flavor that shines after slow cooking all day. When slow cooking bone-in short ribs, you will find that they have an even richer flavor.  This slow cooker short rib recipe is one you can set and forget until dinnertime.

I have a lot of friends that regularly cook oxtails, and they were excited when we came home with oxtails from the steers we had processed. Due to their cost and where the cut originates, a good friend of ours refers to oxtails as the “swinging sirloin.”  Unlike sirloin, oxtails have a high fat content with approximately 200 calories per 3-oz serving, depending on cooking method. Even with the high fat content, oxtails still pack that awesome beef punch with about 20 grams of protein per serving.  Oxtails are easily prepared and have many different variations on cooking methods.  From baking to boiling and braising to slow cooking, these cuts have so much versatility.  Nothing says “Southern Soul Food” quite like oxtails smothered in gravy. This recipe for Southern Smothered Oxtails is sure to be a keeper! While this is a rather high-fat meal, a splurge of this warming comfort food with some biscuits is just the ticket as the cooler weather starts to approach.

Another way to highlight the “swinging sirloin” is in beloved fall stews! Oxtail stew is in a slow cooker is delicious and filling, and ingredients can vary depending on what you have available at home or what is in season.  This Simply Recipes version of Oxtail Stew is simple and gives great step-by-step instructions.  While this recipe calls for parsnips, you could easily substitute potatoes for a more Southern flare.  I suggest serving oxtail stew by itself, over rice or serve with hot cornbread close by!

Check out BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com where you can find thousands of nutritious, delicious beef recipes and learn about beef from pasture to plate. Happy cooking and Happy October Beef Month!

This article is funded by Alabama Beef Checkoff Program. Paid for by Alabama beef farmers and ranchers. 

Tailgating with Beef

By Jessica Ivey, RDN


When I moved to Alabama in 2011, someone asked me on my first day of work, “Auburn or Alabama?” Not being an Alabama girl, I wasn’t really all that concerned about football, but I quickly learned that football is so much more than a sport in this state. During the fall, life revolves around the teams’ schedules, and people even told us we better not plan our wedding on a football Saturday. But as I was introduced to this whole new culture, I realized that football provides a great excuse to get together with people you love and enjoy good food… that’s something I can get behind!



Few things say football like a juicy burger. But there are so many additional crowd-pleasing, hunger-tackling ways to enjoy beef this fall.



Whenever you are taking food outside it’s important to remember food safety. Transport raw beef and other perishable foods, like potato salad and cheese, in an insulated cooler with plenty of ice. Store the raw meat in zip-top plastic bags to prevent leakage of juices onto other foods. Keep the meat in the cooler until you’re ready to cook, and be sure to take along a meat thermometer and cook your beef to the safe temperature. Also pack water and soap or sanitizing wipes to keep hands and surfaces clean, and eat cooked foods within 2 hours (or within 1 hour if the outside temperature is above 90°F).   



If you’re planning to set up a grill, burgers are a budget-friendly option to feed a crowd. I love these Lean Mean Cheeseburgers for a lighter spin on a classic. If you want to spice things up, try these Zesty Barbecue Cheeseburgers with pepper Jack cheese. Want to really step up your game for the big game? Make up these Classic Beef Kabobs with steak before leaving the house and grill on site for a festive option.  



If you’ll have access to power or a generator, a slow cooker can be the perfect tool for keeping food hot during the festivities. Plus, a slow cooker allows you to do all of the work at home ahead of time, leaving you free to enjoy the party. This Four-Way Slow Cooker Shredded Beef has four flavor variations to suit your tastes, and can be served up with sandwich rolls or tortillas, depending on the flavor. This Chilly Day Beef Chili is sure to warm you through before a cold evening game. For smaller bites, these Beef Pinwheels are will disappear quickly (who doesn’t like beef and puff pastry together?), or try these Easy Mexican Beef Sausage Cornbread Muffins.
For those mid-day games, tailgating starts early, so be ready with some protein-packed beefy breakfast dishes to keep you full and satisfying throughout the game. These Easy Beef Breakfast Rolls could be made in advanced and baked while you get ready and gather your supplies at home. Transport the rolls wrapped in foil in an insulated container to keep warm as you travel to your tailgating site. Or make up these Beef Sausage and Egg Muffin Cups up to three days in advance and reheat just before leaving home. Again, remember to ensure hot food stays hot and eat within 2 hours.



What are you planning for your first tailgate of the season? I’m excited to try these Mini Meatball Appetizers with Apricot Dipping Sauce! Join me as I take over the @alcattlemen Instagram Story tonight to show you, step-by-step, how to make this beefy game day appetizer.



State Checkoff color_nobackgroundThis article is funded by Alabama Beef Checkoff Program. Paid for by Alabama beef farmers and ranchers. 

Healthy Beef for All Stages of Life

By Jessica Ivey, RDN


From birth, good nutrition is essential for providing the nutrients needed for normal growth and development and for laying the foundation for optimal health across the lifespan.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for about the first six months of life, continuing through the first year of life or beyond alongside complementary foods. To determine when your child is ready for you to introduce complementary foods, assess whether they are able to sit up without support and move the food to the back of the mouth and swallow. By the time a child reaches six months of age, breastmilk alone is no longer sufficient to meet their needs for iron, zinc and calcium, and carefully selected complementary foods can help to fill that gap.



Single grain cereals are a common first food, but the AAP recommends that meats, including lean beef, should be introduced early on. Research shows that beef is well tolerated by infants and can help to improve iron and zinc levels. Lean beef provides heme iron, which is the more readily-absorbed form of iron. Iron plays a vital role in making red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body, and sufficient iron helps promote strong immunity and the growth of good bacteria in the infant’s gut. Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in infants worldwide, and it can be prevented by early introduction of lean beef (which contains twice as much iron as chicken and pork) and iron-rich vegetables and cereals.



Zinc is another essential nutrient for growth and development, immunity and wound healing. Meats contain a higher amount of zinc in a more bioavailable form than cereals, vegetables, and fruits, and lean beef contains twice as much zinc as compared to turkey, chicken or pork.



If you’re ready to introduce your child to beef, start by offering pureed beef, which you can make yourself in a blender or purchase as prepared baby food. Once your child gets more teeth and is able to chew, try small pieces of tender beef, like ground beef or pot roast.



As your child continues to grow and develop, a healthy diet provides essential nutrients. Introducing a wide variety of foods will help to ensure that your child is getting everything they need to be as healthy as possible. Lean beef provides protein, iron and zinc, which can all be lacking in kids’ diets. Pair lean beef with a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy to create balanced meals. If your child is a picky eater, try incorporating healthy ingredients, like lean beef and vegetables, into dishes they already like, like pasta. This One Pot Lasagna has all the appeal of traditional lasagna and includes a hefty dose of protein from lean ground beef and a serving of vegetables, thanks to the addition of zucchini and tomato sauce. Hoisin BBQ Kabobs with Pineapple Salsa features the fun of kabobs paired with pineapple for a serving of fruit, as well as red bell pepper and cucumber. Try adding chopped vegetables, like bell pepper, onion, carrot or celery to lean ground beef when making tacos, spaghetti sauce, or Sloppy Joes. My Barbecue Sloppy Joe Stuffed Potatoes feature three vegetables – bell pepper, onion, and potatoes, in a kid-friendly and simple dinner recipe.



Although I’m not a mom yet, I hope to be one day, and as a dietitian, I’ll be looking to do my best to teach my child to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet featuring a variety of foods. I know it’s not always easy, but keep offering healthy choices, realizing that you’re setting your child up for a lifetime of healthy habits.
Looking for quick and easy, crowd-pleasing recipes to make during the busy back-to-school season? Check out the Kid-Friendly Fare  or the Best. School. Lunch. Ever recipe collections at BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com, and join me on the @alcattlemen Instagram story on Thursday, August 9 as I share step-by-step instructions for making my Barbecue Sloppy Joe Stuffed Potatoes.

Summertime Veggies & Beef: Enjoying Local, Summertime Flavors

By Jessica Ivey, RDN


This time of year backyard gardens, local farmers markets and roadside stands are bursting with fresh summer produce. Savor the flavors of summer by pairing fresh watermelon, tomatoes, peaches, corn and more with lean beef as part of a delicious and nutritious family meal.  


Summertime takes me back to visits at my grandparents’ house, where the one-and-a-half-acre garden kept us busy watering, weeding, picking, cleaning and cooking. Today my husband and I love growing our own produce during the summer in several raised beds, with varying degrees of success from year to year. The process of planting, caring for and harvesting the ultra-fresh veggies gives me a deeper appreciation for the hard work farmers put into producing our food.


Regardless of whether you have your own garden, visiting a local farmers market can be a fun and educational activity for the whole family. It’s also so much more than a shopping trip—it’s an opportunity to teach your kids to eat healthy vegetables and fruits, learn about where your food comes from and support your local economy. When I meet the farmer who grew my food, I tend to have a greater respect for it. I waste less and savor more. Don’t be afraid to ask farmers questions about how to select or prepare items or about their farming practices. Just like the rest of us, farmers are passionate about what they do and are usually more than happy to share.


Pairing lean beef with fresh summer vegetables and fruits makes for a light and well-balanced meal with the right mix of protein and fiber-rich carbohydrates to satisfy hunger while not leaving you feeling overly stuffed. If you’re grilling a top sirloin or flank steak, try throwing some veggies on the grill, like sliced yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant or bell peppers. This Italian Marinated Steak with Grilled Ratatouille combines some of my favorite flavors, featuring fresh basil, lemon and garlic, and could be made ahead for company. Making burgers? Shake things up with these Old South Burgers with Peach Compote. Featuring lean beef patties topped with a mixture of peaches and beer and served up on biscuits, these burgers are anything but ordinary. My ultimate summertime favorite is fresh watermelon, but have you ever tried grilling watermelon? Grilled Steak and Watermelon Salad sounds like a real winner in my book. Lastly, this Sonoma Ranch Steak Salad with a hearty spinach and butter bean puree is a delicious new way to enjoy those creamy fresh beans.


On BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com you’ll find plenty of recipes featuring your summertime favorites. I can’t wait to try this Pesto Steak & Arugula Pizza with pesto made from my fresh basil out back. I’ll be serving it up on the @alcattlemen Instagram story on Thursday, July 12. Join me for step-by-step instructions on this fun and flavorful meal!


State Checkoff color_nobackgroundThis article is funded by Alabama Beef Checkoff Program. Paid for by Alabama beef farmers and ranchers. 

Healthier Spins on the South’s Favorite Beef Recipes


By Jessica Ivey, RDN


Beef is the star of so many of the South’s most popular dishes for good reason. With a little know-how, you can make these favorites into healthy options you can feel good about feeding your family.


Country-Fried Steak, or “chicken-fried” steak, as it’s sometimes called, can be high in fat if deep fried and smothered in gravy. Cubed steak itself is generally made from lean, boneless muscles from the chuck, loin, rib or round primal cut with the internal and external fat removed. Mechanical tenderization is then used to make these leaner cuts more tender. To lighten up this down-home favorite, skip the deep frying, and pan-fry the breaded steaks in a heart-healthy oil, like canola or olive oil. Skip the gravy, and enjoy the golden-crisp texture of the steak, or add a lighter sauce, as in this recipe for Country-Fried Steaks with Tomato-Basil Sauce. Serve up your steak alongside a hefty serving of vegetables, rather than a high-fat creamy side dish, like mashed potatoes. Try this recipe for Parmesan-Crusted Cubed Steaks with Zucchini Ribbons for a summery option.


Meatloaf is a comforting classic that can be a healthy choice of you remember to choose lean ground beef and practice portion control. Ninety-three percent lean ground beef meets the government guidelines for “lean,” meaning is contains less than 10 grams of total fat, less than 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per three-ounce cooked serving. When preparing your meatloaf, consider vegetable mix-ins, like sautéed mushrooms, bell pepper, or zucchini or add raw vegetables, like shredded carrots and finely chopped bell pepper, celery or onion. Adding vegetables is a great way to boost the nutrition in any dish. Preparing mini meatloaves can be a helpful tool for practicing portion control. These Five-Way Mini Meatloaves made in a muffin pan are just the right size for little ones, and they cook quickly since the loaves are much smaller.


Pot roast is a go-to for Sunday suppers. This hearty, stick-to-your-bones dish can be lightened up by choosing a lean cut. Shoulder roast is an affordable option cut from the chuck primal with good flavor. After browning the meat, pour off the drippings and add a flavorful liquid, like low-sodium beef broth, and cover and simmer until the beef is tender. Try adding vegetables to the meat during braising, as in this recipe for North Woods Hearty Pot Roast, featuring red potatoes, carrots, parsnips and leeks, or serve the roast alongside vegetables and a serving of whole grains, as in this Horseradish-Braised Pot Roast with Barley and Kale. If you’ll be making a pan sauce, skim off the fat from the cooking liquid beforehand.


London broil is an American classic made from lean top round steak. This versatile cut benefits from  marinating six hours or even overnight before cooking, which will help to tenderize the beef. Grill or broil the steak, and serve with vegetables for a family-friendly and healthy meal. This Grilled London Broil is marinated in a heart-healthy vinaigrette, and served up with grilled asparagus and red onion for warm-weather cooking.


What are some of your family’s favorite beefy dishes? My husband, Nathan, loves country-fried steak, so I can’t wait to try this recipe for Parmesan-Crusted Cubed Steaks with Zucchini Ribbons from BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com. It combines those down-home Southern flavors with a light, summery vibe making it a perfectly-balanced and nutritious meal at our house. 


State Checkoff color_nobackgroundThis article is funded by Alabama Beef Checkoff Program. Paid for by Alabama beef farmers and ranchers. 

Fire Up the Grill… It’s Almost Summer!

By Jessica Ivey, RDN


Summertime means grilling time, and I fully embrace this fun method that takes the cooking from the kitchen to the outdoors. While I love the fact that my husband often makes dinner if the grill is involved, we girls can grill too.


The first step is to choose the right cut. I like to choose lean cuts, like Strip Steak, Top Sirloin Steak and Flank Steak most often, although a Ribeye is another delicious option. Next, prepare the beef. Start by trimming away all visible fat to help prevent flare-ups on the grill. While most of the cuts are delicious with a simple sprinkle of salt and pepper, dry rubs and marinades can add additional flavor.  If your marinade is meant only to add flavor, then marinade the beef for just 15 minutes or up to 2 hours in a zip-top plastic freezer bag or a glass or plastic container in the refrigerator. For tougher cuts, like flank or skirt steak, marinade for at least six hours but no more than 24 hours. Turn or stir the beef occasionally to ensure an even exposure to the marinade, and be sure to pat the beef dry with paper towels before cooking.


Prepare your grill and preheat to medium heat. Place the beef on the grid and cook, turning occasionally, until the internal temperature reaches 145°F for medium-rare and 160°F for medium. Covering the grill with the lid will cook the meat all the way through to the center for a more uniform doneness. Let cooked steaks rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.


Grilling requires several food safety precautions. First of all, keep beef refrigerated until you’re ready to cook. If you’ll be taking the food to another site to grill, place the beef in an insulated cooler on ice to ensure it stays cold. Be sure to wash your hands after handling raw beef, and use a clean plate or platter (not the same one as the raw meat) for cooked beef to prevent cross-contamination.


While you’ve got the grill fired up, throw on some veggies as well. I love grilled asparagus, bell peppers, squash, zucchini and eggplant. Or why not skewer beef along with veggies for a fun meal-on-a-stick?! These Classic Beef, Sweet Peppers and Mushroom Kabobs are simple but big on flavor, and for a more adventurous option, try Citrus-Marinated Beef Top Sirloin & Fruit Kabobs. Grilling fruit caramelizes the natural sugars for a flavorful side dish or healthy dessert.


Head on over to BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com for more grilling favorites. I can’t get enough of my Grilled Steak and Asparagus Salad with Strawberries, which I’ll be serving up on the @alcattlemen Instagram story on Thursday, May 10. Join me for step-by-step instructions on this summery meal that’s full of flavor and nutrition!


This article was funded by Beef Farmers and Ranchers. Brought to you by the Alabama Beef Checkoff Program. 

Vary Your Healthy Plate with Ethnic Flavors

By Jessica Ivey, RDN


Breakfast, lunch, dinner, breakfast, lunch, dinner…


It can be so easy to get stuck in a rut, eating the same foods over and over again. Incorporating ethnic cuisines can be a fun way to break out of the mealtime monotony and add news flavors to your family’s dinner table.


As our world has become more and more global, and diners have become increasingly adventurous, Americans are exposed to a plethora of ethnic cuisines. Mexican, Chinese and Italian foods hardly seem foreign anymore, while Indian, Thai and Korean are growing in popularity. Introducing your family to world cuisines can be a healthy way to eat and can make mealtime more fun. Try having a weekly theme, like Mediterranean Monday or Asian Friday. Or why not take a trip around the world, learning about a different country and their traditional foods each Saturday night?


According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, healthy eating patterns can be adapted for all cultural, ethnic and personal preferences, opening the door to a world of flavors. No matter the cuisine, be sure to include a serving of lean protein paired with plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains for a balanced plate.


Try these healthy global dishes to add flavor and variety to your week:

  • Mediterranean: Beef kofta are meatballs bursting with flavor thanks to the addition of onions, spices and/or herbs. Skewer the meatballs and grill along with skewers of peppers and onions. Serve the kofta and veggies on top of grilled pita bread with Tzatziki sauce, a yogurt and cucumber condiment, and fresh parsley. Try this Mediterranean Beef Meatball Kabob recipe for inspiration.
  • Thai: With the characteristic balance of sweet, salty and spicy, this Thai Burger puts a fun new spin on the all-American tradition of grilling out. If you’re watching your calorie intake, try this Thai Beef and Cucumber Salad featuring a peanut butter beef marinade and cool cucumber salad.
  • Korean: Bibimbap, which means “mixed rice,” can be a nutritionally-balanced dish, featuring rice topped with sautéed or steamed vegetables and sliced beef. Make this Bibimbap-Style Korean-Marinated Flank Steak for a lean and flavorful protein, and serve over whole grain brown rice with steamed broccoli, sautéed mushrooms or your other favorite vegetables.
  • Peruvian: Peruvian Lomo Saltado is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, thanks to the addition of one of America’s favorite side dishes – French fries. That’s right – this traditional stir-fried dish features strips of lean beef, onions, tomatoes and French fries. Now that’s a fun Friday night dinner idea.
  • Indian: With its exotic ingredients and aromatic spice mixes, Indian cuisine has many new tastes to entice American palates. This Beef Tikka with Pineapple Coconut Raita features well-seasoned beef topped with a sweet pineapple yogurt sauce. For a hands-off option, try this Indian Slow Cooker Shredded Beef made with a prepared Indian Tikka Masala sauce.


Head on over to BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com for more delicious recipes inspired by flavors from all around the world. For me, I can’t wait to try the Beef Tikka, which I will be serving up on the @alcattlemen Instagram story on Thursday, April 12. Join me for step-by-step instructions on this delicious, nutritious dish!

The Truth about Grain-Finished vs Grass-Finished Beef


By Jessica Ivey, RDN


Raising cattle is a community effort! Did you know that beef cattle often change ownership up to our times during their lives? This process is in part guided by the cattle’s changing nutrition needs, and cattle producers along all points of the process are committed to raising cattle in a safe, humane and environmentally-sustainable way that results in a delicious and nutritious beef product. The difference between grass-finished and grain-fed beef begins during the life of the beef animal.



The beef lifecycle begins at a cow-calf operation where cattlemen care for a herd of cows that calve annually. Those calves then graze on grass and are nourished by their mother’s milk until they are weaned around six months of age. At weaning, a typical calf weighs anywhere between 450 and 700 pounds.



After weaning, many calves are sold at auction and move to stocker and backgrounder operations. The stockers and backgrounders are responsible for ensuring the calves receive a sound, veterinary-prescribed immunization protocol to maintain good health and are fed a high-energy, forage-based diet to maintain a high average daily gain in weight. Calves continue to graze on grass while receiving supplemental forages and grains, such as flaked corn, fermented corn stalks (or silage), soy hull pellets, distillers’ grains or cottonseed, as well as supplemental feed that may contain vitamins and minerals that help the calves grow and stay healthy.



Once the cattle reach a mature weight, they then head to to a cattle feeding operation, also known as a feedlot. At feedlots, the cattle are free to graze on a scientifically-balanced diet comprised of roughage grass, hay, grain (such as corn, wheat and soybean meal) and local renewable feed sources, like potato hulls or sugar beets. During their stay at the feedlot, cattle have plenty of room to roam and eat while receiving watchful care from veterinarians and nutritionists until the time that they reach market weight.



When it comes to grain-finished vs. grass-finished beef, the truth is all cattle spend a majority of their lives grazing on grass. Most beef is grain-finished and comes from a cattle that has spent time at a feedlot receiving a grain-based diet as described above. Grass-finished beef comes from cattle that spend their whole lives eating grasses or forages, although they may spend time at a feedlot eating a diet comprised only of grasses and other forages. Many claims have been made that grass-finished beef is more nutritious than grain-finished beef, but most experts agree that both provide high-quality nutrition. Grass-finished cattle tend to be leaner, but there are a number of additional variables that impact leanness, including breed, age, grade and cut. Thanks to enhancements in cattle breeding and feeding, as well as improved trimming practices, the number of beef cuts that qualify as “lean” has increased sixfold from 1989 to 2013. So whether you chose grain-finished or grass-finished beef, you can be sure that you are feeding your family a safe and nutritious high-quality protein food.



So why not cook up some lean beef for your family? Nothing is more delicious to me than a grilled tenderloin or sirloin steak, so this weekend, I’m going to let my husband cook the steaks while I prepare this delicious champagne pan sauce and risotto. Yum! 


Resolve to Eat Lean Beef

By Jessica Ivey, RDN


With the New Year in full swing, many Americans have made resolutions, particularly ones focused on improved health. This year, make a resolution to eat more nutrient-rich lean beef to combine delicious flavor with the power of protein. Beef is a nutritional powerhouse, providing 10 essential nutrients your body needs to be fueled optimally. Notably, beef supplies more nutrition in a smaller package than other protein foods. Each three-ounce serving of cooked lean beef contains 25 grams of protein (that’s 50% of the Daily Value) packaged in  just around 150 calories. You would have to eat three cups of cooked quinoa to get that same amount of protein, and you’d take in 666 calories. Research shows that people who eat a higher-protein diet feel more satisfied, which may help prevent overeating, and that exercise is more effective when paired with a high-protein diet.


Concerned about heart health? The Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet (BOLD) Study, a checkoff-funded research effort, found that people who consumed lean beef daily as part of a heart-healthy diet saw a 10 percent decrease in their LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults consume about 5.5 ounces of protein foods each day, and beef can be incorporated at any meal to help meet the recommended intake. In addition to protein, beef’s nutrient package includes iron, zinc, and vitamins B12 and B6, which play a role in immune and brain function.


Lean beef gives you fewer calories to help with weight control. Lean beef choices have less than 10 grams total fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per three-ounce cooked serving. There are many lean beef choices available, and thanks to advancements in breeding technology, nutrition programs and trimming practices, more than 60 percent of the whole muscle beef cuts available in grocery stores today meet the criteria for lean when trimmed of visible fat. As a rule of thumb, go for cuts with the words “round” or “loin” in the name. Some common choices include SsirloinSteak, Tenderloin Steak, Strip Steak (or New York Strip), Top Sirloin Roast, and 95% ean Ground Beef.


While pursuing your New Year resolutions, be sure to enjoy lean beef as part of your new low-calorie, heart-healthy diet. Visit BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com to find thousands of delicious recipes that are sure drive your weightloss goals without sacrificing fullness or flavor.


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