Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ground Beef Goulash aka Hamburger Helper

The nights are getting cooler, the days are getting shorter: Fall is on it's way.  While I love the green growing seasons of spring and summer best, fall is in third place.  I'm starting to want to smell comforting aromas in the kitchen.  This is a very quick variation on Goulash, which is slow cooked for hours.  The ground beef cooks up quick with lots of rich gravy and tender noodles all in one pot.

Kids of all ages love the comforting noodley goodness of this quick cooking, full-flavored meal.  It looks like hamburger helper - it's so much better tasting and better for you.

Ground Beef Goulash
1 lb. 90% lean or better ground beef
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 teaspoons paprika
1 envelope brown gravy mix
1 tablespoon cold black coffee (you won't taste the coffee)

1 cup water
1 can (1 1/2 cups) beef broth
2 cups uncooked medium egg noodles
1 cup frozen tiny sweet peas

Spray a non-stick dutch oven with cooking spray.  Heat over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and onion.  Sprinkle with garlic powder and pepper. Stir to break up the ground beef into small pieces.  Cook 6-10 minutes, stirring often to break up beef.  You want it to get brown (not just gray).

Combine gravy mix and water.  Add to pot with coffee, paprika and water.  Add uncooked noodles and stir to wet all noodles.  If necessary, add additional water so liquid almost covers the noodles.  Cover.  Bring to a boil; reduce to medium-low and cook 10 minutes or until noodles are tender.

Stir in frozen peas; cover pot.  Allow to simmer 2-3 minutes.  Stir well and serve.

Yield: 4 (1 1/2 cups) to 6 (1 cup) servings

Before you ask Why?:
- you can totally omit the coffee, but the gravy will not be as rich tasting. 
- using a high sided Dutch oven instead of a skillet helps contain spatters.
- not using a Hamburger Helper mix saves money, fat and salt.
- cooking the beef until it browns adds flavor because the natural sugars are carmelized.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Italian Vegetable Soup for the Freezer OMAC

Every summer I make this awesome soup and stash containers of it in the freezer.  Every winter, as I open the last container, I swear that NEXT year I will make more than one batch.  It is so very, very good.  It comes from the mom of a former co-worker at Sears.  I had huge zukezillas that I was trying to get rid of share with my co-workers.  And, this lady said "Can I take two?"  Me: "YES! Take them all! Um, I mean sure, help yourself."  She then went into a discription of the Best, Best soup her mom makes.  I'm thinking "Zucchini Soup? Ok, whatever floats your boat."  The next week she brought in a container of soup and gave it to me like it was an award.  And I'm thinking "Zucchini soup...".  I warmed it up and served it with dinner.  All I heard was "Umm! Yum! Wow! Is there more?" and slurp, slurp, slurp.  Then, "Did you get the recipe?"  My heart fell - "No.  I didn't think to ask."  Walt: "Ask."  So I asked, and gracious lady that she is, she pulled out a piece of scribbled notes with spatters.  Seems her mom is a pinch of this and a dash of that kind of cook and she was madly scribbling as the ingredients hit the pot.

Italian Zucchini Soup

2 pounds zucchini squash, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
1/2 green pepper, cut in 1/2-inch squares
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (from a tub, not a green can)
8 ounces green beans, cut in 1" pieces
1 large potato (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1can (15 ounce can) garbanzo beans, drained
1 can (14 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (14 ounces) water
2 pints OR 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes

Partially peel zucchini lengthwise, leaving 5 or 6 narrow strips of green, like stripes. Cut zucchini into bite-size pieces. If seeds are large, remove and discard before cutting up zucchini.

Warm oil over low heat; add onion, garlic, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Mix well. Chop and add veggies as they're chopped. Stir in green pepper, green beans, potatoes and zucchini. Add crushed and diced tomatoes, water, garbanzo beans and cheese. Mix well. Bring mixture to a low simmer, cover and cook about 1 1/2 hours or until potatoes are tender.

Serve immediately with crusty bread.

Leftovers freeze well.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Asian Meatballs and Rice

No photos this time, because frankly, it's ugly.  But, it's also tasty and has a soft texture that even kids will love.  This is a take-off of a dish my mother made when I was a child.  It consisted of ground beef, Beef Rice-a-Roni, chow mein noodles and soy sauce.  I loved it. I'm all grown up now.  Here's a slightly healthier adaptation.  Boiling the meatballs makes them moister and fluffier without being soggy.  It also thaws them and melts away some fat.

1 1b. Healthy Meatballs/Meatloaf  or supermarket traditional style frozen meatballs
Boiling water in pot big enough for meatballs and water
2 tablespoons butter
1 box beef flavored Rice-a-Roni
3 cups water
1/3 cup Ken's Lite Asian Soy and Sesame salad dressing
1 teaspoon reduced sodium soy sauce (optional)
1 1/2 cups frozen stir fry veggies, thawed and roughly chopped
4 scallions, sliced

  1. Add meatballs to boiling water.  Simmer while rice sautes.
  2. Melt butter in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Stir in rice and noodles from the Rice-a-Roni box.  Saute until lightly browned.
  3. Add 3 cups water, salad dressing, soy sauce and the seasoning packet from Rice-a-Roni; bring to a boil. 
  4. Reduce heat, add drained meatballs and veggies.  Cover and simmer 10 minutes or until rice is tender, stirring occasionally.
  5. Garnish with sliced scallions and serve with low sodium soy sauce, if desired.  Yummy with a spinach/mandarin orange salad alongside.

Makes 6 (1 cup) servings.
Ugly, quick and tasty.