Buy extra ground beef during sales

Ground beef can be a cook's best friend if you put it to work beyond burgers.

Enough dishes begin with browned ground beef (Bolognese sauce, shepherd's pie, sloppy Joes, etc.) that when you find a good price on ground beef at the market, buy several pounds. Then cook it all at once, using a portion for a meal right away and freezing the remainder in meal-size portions.

That's what we did: After browning 2 pounds of ground beef with yellow onions and garlic, we used 1 pound for crunchy Thai beef lettuce wraps. Then we mixed 1 cup catsup and 1/4 cup yellow mustard into the remainder, packed it in a storage container and froze for a future meal of sloppy Joes.

Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

6 green onions, trimmed, sliced on a diagonal

1/2cup each chopped basil

1/2cup each chopped mint

1 can (8 oz.) drained water chestnuts, chopped, optional

3 tablespoons fish sauce

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed, or to taste

Juice of 1 lime

1/4cup each chopped cilantro

1/4cup chopped peanuts

18 large iceberg or Boston lettuce leaves, washed, patted dry

Brown ground beef in a large skillet, breaking up meat as it cooks, about 2 minutes. Toward end of browning, add yellow onion; cook, 5 minutes. Add the garlic; cook, 2 minutes.

Remove meat mixture from skillet; drain off fat. Put cooked meat in a serving bowl. Add green onions, basil, mint, water chestnuts, fish sauce, red pepper flakes and lime juice. Stir to blend. Garnish with cilantro and peanuts. Serve with lettuce leaves. To eat, spoon meat onto leaves, wrapping burrito-style. Makes 6 servings.

The Wichita Eagle—10/20/10