First Dinner Tonight cooking school was a success

By Tanya Davis | Published Wednesday, September 11, 2013

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What a great time we had with everyone who attended our first Dinner Tonight cooking school last week.

The success of the event was due in large part to a wonderful planning coalition, which included Rachel Adams, Marilynn Collins, Ora Majka, Pat Stegall, Jo Watson, Cristina Cantu, Elaine Davis, Shelly Laaser, Dixie Range, Kristen Tribe and Hayley White. We also had a group of super 4-H’ers who assisted with food preparation and serving of recipe samples.

Dinner is Served

DINNER IS SERVED – Connie Shawn (left), Better Living for Texans program assistant, and Tanya Davis, county Extension agent, family and consumer sciences, demonstrate how to prepare Szechuan beef stir-fry served over rice and yogurt key lime pie at last week’s Dinner Tonight cooking school at Weatherford College Wise County. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Thanks to the following sponsors for their support – Weatherford College Wise County, Texas Beef Council, First Financial Bank, Wise Regional Health System, Texas Farm Bureau-Wise County, Wal-Mart and Brookshire’s.

A fantastic audience provided wonderful feedback for the planning coalition as we consider making Dinner Tonight an annual event. Some of the feedback related to a comment that was made concerning the red color of beef. To set the record straight, the following information from the Department of Animal Science at Kansas State University, will hopefully clear up any misinformation.

Meat color is affected by many factors. The type of packaging used to display meat will influence meat color. A whole beef tenderloin packaged in a vacuum bag will normally appear purplish-red in color. This is due to the absence of oxygen in the vacuum package. Once meat is removed from a vacuum package and exposed to air, the surface of the meat will turn bright red.

Ground beef packaged in a tray overwrapped with film generally appears bright red in color. When broken apart to expose the inside, the color of the ground beef would appear dark brown to purplish. As this internal portion is exposed to air, it will also turn a bright red color.

Over time, however, prolonged exposure to air will cause the color of the exposed surfaces to turn brown. This color change is normal. Fresh meat that smells fresh and appears brown in color is safe to cook and eat but should be quickly frozen if you do not intend to prepare and consume it within a day.

Tips from the Texas Beef Council provide additional information for storing beef safely:

  • When shopping, pick up beef just before checking out. If it takes longer than 30 minutes to get it home, consider transporting it in a cooler.
  • Place beef packages on the lowest shelf in your refrigerator on a plate or tray to catch any juices.

You can freeze beef in its original packaging up to two weeks. For longer storage, wrap in heavy-duty aluminum foil or place in plastic freezer bags, removing as much air as possible.

  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly after serving (within two hours after cooking).

Following is the recipe for the Szechuan Beef Stir Fry demonstrated at Dinner Tonight and provided by the Texas Beef Council:


serves 4


  • 1 package (10 ounces) fresh vegetable stir-fry blend or four cups assorted fresh vegetables, such as sugar snap peas, broccoli florets, bell pepper strips and shredded carrots
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 beef shoulder center steaks (ranch), cut 3/4 inch thick (about 8 ounces each)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup prepared sesame-ginger stir-fry sauce, or substitute your favorite stir-fry sauce flavor
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups hot cooked rice or brown rice, prepared without butter or salt
  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts


Combine vegetables and water in a large, nonstick skillet. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove and drain the vegetables. Set aside. Meanwhile, cut beef steaks into 1/4-inch-thick strips. Heat the same skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add half of the beef and half of the garlic. Stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes or until the outside surface of the beef is no longer pink. Remove from the skillet. Keep warm. Repeat with the remaining beef and garlic. Return all of the beef and vegetables to the skillet. Add stir-fry sauce and red pepper. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes until heated through. Spoon over rice. Sprinkle with peanuts.

Nutrition facts per serving: 384 calories, 11g fat, 1.120g sodium, 65mg cholesterol, 39g total carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 30g protein

Tanya Davis is a Wise County Extension agent.

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