Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Hamburger Helper

I need to come out now and admit that I’m a stalker. I’m a grocery cart stalker. I like to see what other people are throwing in to their carts. I like to know what other people feed their families. I’m so curious. I always feel like nobody shops or cooks like me. I know that many people do. It just seems that whenever I’m in the checkout line at the store, the carts on either side of me come from a totally different food planet. There are thousands upon thousands of food items that people seem to stockpile – while I would never consider food. I just walk on by the boxes of Lean Cuisine and Lipton Skillet Meals. When I see things like that, the heavily processed foods, I get curious. What makes them so good? Aside from their MSG and other heavenly chemicals?

The other day, I peeked at a box of Hamburger Helper. I’ve never tried something like it. So many ingredients were listed on that side panel. I wondered if I could recreate something similar. Something the family would enjoy. Must fill 4 bellies plus possibly more for lunch the next day. It also must be budget-minded. It’s not intended to be gourmet, but I could up it’s worth a bit, simply by what I have on hand.

I honestly don’t know if what I made tastes anything remotely like what’s in the box, but we enjoyed it. That’s all that matters, right?

Vegetarian Hamburger Helper

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 small onion
4 cloves garlic
1 package of soy ground beef (I used the Trader Joe’s brand)
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. thyme
2 tsp. basil
1 tsp. black pepper
8 mushrooms
1 can diced italian tomatoes
2 cups tomato sauce
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup milk
2.5 cups elbow noodles
1 cup shredded cheese

In a large, deep saute pan or pot, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil and butter mixture.

Add in the beef crumbles and the spices. Cook for about 4-5 minutes.

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Hamburger Helper

Add in the mushrooms and diced tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes while stirring.

Add in the sauce and the liquid.

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Hamburger Helper

Add in the pasta.

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Hamburger Helper

Cook until the pasta is al dente. About ten minutes.

Add in the shredded cheese and cover the pot for about a minute or two.

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Hamburger Helper

Serve with some shredded parmesan cheese.

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Hamburger Helper


Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

I finally figured out a “recipe” that is a more than adequate stand-in for a boxed macaroni and cheese.

My dear elder daughter, who I love so much, is not my biggest fan. She likes foods that are not so “oomphed” up. She would be more than happy with a simple pasta with butter and “sprinkle” cheese. My mom tells me that I was just as picky at her age. We did love some Kraft Dinner back in those days. I do wish she would start liking sushi and Vietnamese food though. Soon, please. I want to be able to take her to a restaurant that doesn’t offer a kids’ menu.

Anyhow, yesterday we had a special day together. I had off from work and she had off from school in honor of MLK day. I promised her a day that went her way. We went to a movie. “Hotel for Dogs” is perfect for the age 5-8 set. After the movie, it was time for lunch. We don’t have any kosher mac and cheese options in my neighborhood. We had eaten pizza the night before. So we decided to pick up some Carvel Sundaes to take home for dessert and make Mac and Cheese at home.

Much to our horror, especially hers, we found that there were no boxes of Wacky Mac around. So I improvised. I am proud to say that she loved it. She said that the homemade mac and cheese was much better than the boxed kind. She was a bit disturbed that her new macaroni was not that scary neon orange color. So we had a bit of a chat and she came around.

Macaroni and Cheese

1 Box of Macaroni Pasta
3/4 cup of milk (I used whole)
2 tablespoons of flour
1/2 stick of butter
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. paprika
3/4 cup parmesean – plus more for dusting
3/4 cup of cheddar – try the orange kind.

Cook your macaroni in a pot of salted water. Cook it to al dente. You do not want it completely cooked or overcooked because it will cook in the cheese sauce. Drain your pasta and rinse with cold water.

Melt the butter in a saucepan.
Add in the milk. Stir. Do not let the milk boil.
Slowly stir in the flour. This is the beginning of a yummy white sauce. Keep stirring.
Slowly pour in the parmesean, while still stirring. Add in your seasonings.
Add the cheddar. Keep stirring.
Slowly incorporate the pasta.

Serve onto a plate. Lunch was served with some steamed broccoli, which she approved of.

Next time I make this, I will try adding some toasted bread crumbs and bake a bit…maybe even add some spice to it, like jalapenos. I can play with this.


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