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Falkville High eighth-grader Allie Cooper took second in the junior high division with her Taco Soup at the Morgan County Beef Cook-Off. Another version of taco soup was a winner in the senior high division.
Daily photos by Jonathan Palmer
Falkville High eighth-grader Allie Cooper took second in the junior high division with her Taco Soup at the Morgan County Beef Cook-Off. Another version of taco soup was a winner in the senior high division.

Morgan County Beef Cook-off
Primed for cook-off
When beef is what’s for dinner, try these winning recipes from taco soup to a casserole

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

How many ways can you prepare beef?

Students from seven area schools made almost every kind of beef dish last week for the countywide beef cook-off: casseroles, pies, soups, stews, roasts, meatballs and lasagnas, as well as chili, spaghetti, manicotti, meatloaf, goulash and pizza.

They also brought beef in mini taco bowls, beef on skewers, beef in Chinese-style dishes and hobo dinners, beef-stuffed peppers and beef quiche.

The annual event, sponsored by the Morgan County Cattlewomen’s Association, drew 39 competitors in two age divisions.

The judges sampled dishes and looked at recipes for two hours before deciding that tasty and easy to make was best.

Carlie Allen took top honors in the senior high division with her Beef and Noodle Casserole.

The West Morgan High School 11th-grader first tried her recipe on her family for supper and then prepared it for the judging. She is the daughter of Michelle and Andy Allen of Trinity.

“I wanted something quick and easy,” she said, “because I didn’t know how long I would have to prepare it.” She will need to make it again at the state Beef Cook-off in Montgomery in January.

Allen said the recipe came from the “Incredible Edibles” cookbook put together by her aunt’s church, Lebanon Baptist Church at Massey. “The recipe came from Effie Lee, a friend of our family,” she said.

Other winners included Raegan Jackson, Falkville 12th-grader, second for Cheesy Beef Pie; Summer Peebles, Falkville 11th-grader, third for Beef, Potato and Pepper Skillet; Adrienne Giordano, Austin High 11th-grader, fourth for Taco Soup; and Natasha Sullivan, Brewer High 12-grader, fifth for Five-Cheese Lasagna.

In the junior high division, Crystal Foote won first place with her Taco Pie. She is a seventh-grader at Cotaco School. Allie Cooper took second with her version of Taco Soup, and Allison Hogan placed third with her Ali Moe Chili. Both are Falkville High eighth-graders.

Some of the winners said they got their dishes from their moms, sisters or even dance instructors, while others got theirs from cookbooks and the Internet.

Sullivan said she knew she wanted to make lasagna, but she adapted the dish with healthier ingredients such as wholewheat noodles, because her father just had heart surgery.

Carlie Allen took top honors in the senior high division at the cook-off with her Beef and Noodle Casserole. She will compete at the state Beef Cook-off in Montgomery in January.
Carlie Allen took top honors in the senior high division at the cook-off with her Beef and Noodle Casserole. She will compete at the state Beef Cook-off in Montgomery in January.
“All the dishes were wonderful, and it was difficult to determine the best of the best,” said Tommie Voss, a retired education supervisor and former home economics teacher. “We could tell students took a lot of time with preparation and garnishing.”

Another judge, retired teacher and Extension employee Faye Walker, said it’s hard to compare a stuffed bell pepper with a Mexican casserole.

“The first thing that strikes me is the appearance and how it’s displayed,” said state Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle, admiring a taco soup with side dishes carefully garnished with olives and jalapenos. He and state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, were among the politicians helping with judging.

The winners took home cash prizes ranging from $75 to $15, and schools with the most participation received beef certificates.

Here are the winning recipes:

Beef and Noodle
Casserole

8 ounces medium egg noodles

2 pounds ground chuck

1 medium onion, chopped and sautéed

8 ounces sour cream

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

Cook the egg noodles. Brown the ground chuck. Add sautéed onions to beef.

In a separate bowl, mix the sour cream and cream of mushroom soup, blending well.

In a baking dish, put a layer each of noodles, beef and sour cream-soup mixture. Repeat the three layers and top with grated cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or less, until bubbly.

Note: According to taste, you may use additional sour cream and/or grated cheese. May add salt and pepper to browned beef.

Cheesy Beef Pie

1 pound lean ground beef

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/4 cup parsley

11/2 cups grated cheese

2 9-inch pie crusts

2 teaspoons cornstarch

10 ounces taco sauce

3-ounce can mushrooms

3 eggs, separated

Brown beef and onions; drain. Sprinkle with cornstarch; blend. Add taco sauce, parsley and mushrooms. Spread half the beaten egg whites over the bottom crust. Spoon meat into pie shell; sprinkle with cheese. Pour remaining egg whites over cheese.

Add top crust and brush with slightly beaten egg whites. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Beef, Potato
and Pepper Skillet

1 pound beef tips

1 package brown gravy mix

2 cups frozen chunky style hashbrown potatoes

1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 small onion, cut into thin wedges

1/2 cup water

1/8 teaspoon pepper

4 servings white rice, cooked

Brown beef tips. Prepare gravy according to package directions. Combine all ingredients in large skillet; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 12 to 14 minutes or until peppers are tender, stirring occasionally. Serve over bed of white rice and garnish as desired.

Taco Soup

2 pounds ground beef or chuck

1 large onion

1 package hot taco seasoning

1 package original taco seasoning

1 can Cajun tomatoes

1 can diced tomatoes

2 cans pinto beans

1 can Northern beans

2 cans kernel corn

2 cans water

For garnishing: 1 bag corn chips, 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, small jar olives, small jar jalapenos, small container sour cream Brown meat and sauté onions together; drain. Mix all ingredients together and let simmer. Serve with garnishes in side dishes.

Five-Cheese Lasagna

21/2 pounds ground chuck

2 26-ounce cans Hunt’s garlic and herb spaghetti sauce

2 15-ounce tubs Ricotta cheese

1 13.25-ounce package whole wheat lasagna noodles

1 12-ounce package thin sliced Provolone cheese

1 8-ounce package Colby and Monterey Jack cheese

1 8-ounce package Mozzarella cheese

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning Brown and drain the ground chuck. Add sauce and Italian seasoning and heat thoroughly. Mix the eggs with the Ricotta cheese and set aside. Boil the noodles, adding a little olive oil and sea salt to the water. Layer all in a 13x9 baking pan in this order: meat sauce, Provolone cheese, noodles, Ricotta cheese, meat sauce, Mozzarella cheese, noodles, Ricotta cheese, meat sauce, and, on top, Colby and Monterey Jack cheese mixture.

Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cool and slice into square portions. Garnish platter with parsley and tomato roses.

Here are the junior-high winning recipes:

Taco Pie

1 pound ground chuck

1 small green chile pepper

1 small red Anaheim pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1 bag shredded Cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon salt

2 handfuls tortilla chips

1 can refried beans

1 cup cherry tomatoes

Optional garnishes: sour cream, fresh cilantro, black olives, green onions, shredded lettuce, tomatoes Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-inch pie pan or a 13x9-inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Chop tomatoes and peppers and set aside.

In a medium skillet, brown the ground chuck; add peppers while beef is browning. Drain. Then add red and white peppers, salt and tomatoes to meat in skillet. Cook on medium-low for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

In prepared dish, spread tortilla chips. Spread refried beans on top of chips (put beans in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 45 seconds to make them easier to spread). Pour meat mixture over refried beans and top with Cheddar cheese. Place in heated oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until cheese melts. Top with desired garnishes.

Taco Soup

1 pound ground beef

1 can black beans

2 cans white corn

2 cans light red kidney beans

2 cans Rotel tomatoes

1 large can regular tomatoes

1 onion

1 large can black olives

1 package dry Hidden Valley Ranch dressing

1 package taco seasoning.

Brown ground beef and onion, then drain off excess fat. Add other ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese and Fritos or crackers.

Ali Moe Chili

1 pound lean ground chuck

1 package mild chili seasoning mix

1 large can diced tomatoes

1 can tomato sauce

3 cans pinto beans

1 jar salsa

1 small onion, chopped

Cook ground chuck and drain. Mix chili seasoning into ground chuck and add water as directed on package.

In large pot, place pinto beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, onion and salsa. Add browned ground chuck to pot and mix ingredients. Cook on low for 30 minutes. Garnish as desired and serve with crackers or cornbread.

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