Posts tagged ‘pasta’

May 1, 2014

Homemade Hamburger Helper

Are you like me and secretly hide your love of Hamburger Helper – the ease of it all, the fact that your kids love it, and so do you? My favorites are Beefy Pasta and Cheeseburger Macaroni. I don’t think I have really cared to try the rest since I know it’s over processed and not healthy and I am already addicted to two of them. It’s a guilty pleasure, and a rare occurrence in my house. But when I bust out the Hamburger Helper in my house you can hear the cheering and there is never any left. And if there is my husband or my one stepson (I have two stepsons and one daughter) happily take it for lunch the following day. Well, I wanted to come up with a way to have my hamburger helper and eat it, guilt-free, too.

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1 lb ground beef

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp. garlic powder (you could also use 2 cloves fresh minced garlic)

1  tbsp. dried onion flakes

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1/4 tsp. pepper (or more to taste)

2 large beef bullion cubes (or 3 small ones)

1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni

2 1/2  cups hot water

1/2 cup milk

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese


Brown the ground beef in a pan with the worcestershire, garlic powder, onion flakes, and pepper.


Crumble the bullion cubes into the meat and stir. Add the cornstarch and stir to coat the meat.


Slowly add the water and milk. Stir until mixed and add the pasta.



Cover and cook for 12 minutes (or until the noodles are tender). Add the cheese at the end and stir until completely melted.

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It’s that easy! Just as easy as the boxed stuff and I promise just as good. You won’t go back! At least I will not go back, I’ll work on the cheeseburger mac next.




September 29, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower and White Bean Pasta

One of my go-to dishes during the winter. It is meatless so you can feel good about going meatless one night a week. Cannellini beans are low-fat, packed with fiber (10g) and a 3oz portion has 10% of your daily value of iron (about the same amount of iron found in a 3oz portion of beef) and the cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C.

You know there is always that debate about how to cook your vegetables – steam, boil, microwave, roast. Truth is it varies. For example (I got this off Dr. Weil’s website),

“A study published in the November 2003 issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that broccoli cooked in the microwave lost up to 97 percent of its antioxidant content but lost only 11 percent when it was steamed. Another study showed that spinach cooked in the microwave retained nearly all its folate but lost about 77 percent of this nutrient when cooked on the stove.

The one consistent thing I read is that how MUCH or LONG you cook your veggies usually determines how much nutrients are lost. If you overcook vegetables (they are mushy), you are losing many more nutrients, than if you cook them to a tender crisp. I keep most of my vegetables tender- crisp. I am no nutritionist, I do read a lot about food on my quest to learn “how” to properly prepare foods, so count this as my own, unprofessional, conclusion.  Bottom line, though, as long as you are eating vegetables regularly you will be healthier in general!

If you want to learn more about properly cooking vegetables Alice Waters: The Art of Simple Food is a great vegetable cooking guide!

1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 shallot
½ box spaghetti noodles
1 can cannellini beans (or other white bean)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ cup shredded parmesan

(You could also use a can of garbanzo bean and roast them with the cauliflower to mix it up – roasted garbanzos are a great snack or mix them with roasted chicken and tomatoes – they are really good!)

Take a head of cauliflower, pull it apart and then cupt it up into bite-sized pieces. Coat the pieces lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with some salt and pepper and toss.  Roast the cauliflower in a 450° oven for about 15 minutes, or until it starts to brown. (all ovens are different you make take more or less time)

Meanwhile cook spaghetti noodles according to the package directions, reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water when draining the noodles.

Put 2T. Olive oil in the pot and sauté the shallots for 2 minutes. Add the roasted cauliflower and sauté for another minute more.

Drain a can of cannellini, or other white beans. Now add the beans, cooked pasta, and reserved pasta water to the pan and toss. Finish the pasta off with chopped parsley and serve with parmesan cheese and a light salad. (You can add many more vegetables to this dish if you’d like – zucchini, squash, eggplant, just roast with the cauliflower)

(and my daughters slight addition – avocado. To her, avocados goes with EVERYTHING!)

(NOTE: I am going to replace these awful photos with new ones when I make this recipe this week! Ones with nice natural lighting instead of this ugly yellowish lighting – these were taken indoors last winter pre-off camera flash and softbox days). — As promised – 100 times better, right! 🙂

July 11, 2011

Pesto Pasta Salad

(NOTE: since the publishing of this post, it was accepted to Tastespotting, Foodgawker is still pending. I get so frustrated with those sites sometimes, but it sure is satisfaction when they accept my photos – a challenge!)

During the summer the easy no fuss side dishes are a must-have! Nobody wants to turn on the stove or oven and heat up the house in the middle of summer. A foodie included! While a friend and I were roaming the Farmer’s Market this past weekend, she recalled one of the vendors who made a pasta salad with pesto and toasted pine nuts. She said she sometimes that salad was her only reason for going to the Market. However, there was no sign of the pesto and toasted pine nut salad in sight; so we decided to make our own version.

There was a cheese in the salad that after making this version with mozzarella, we realized the salad at the Market probably had Ricotta Salata. So, maybe that would be a good addition to this salad. We’ll try it out next time.


1lb pasta (Campenelli used in the photo above, pesto clings best to textured pastas – getting in all the nooks and crannies)

8oz fresh bocconcini mozzarella (fresh mozzarella)

1 cup pesto (homemade or your favorite store bought)

1 cup sliced grape tomatoes

1/2 very finely sliced red onion

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Cook pasta according to directions on the box, making sure to season the water generously with salt. (think sea water. While the pasta is cooking is the only opportunity to infuse the pasta with flavor).

While the pasta is cooking, toast the pine nuts, thinly slice the onions and cut up the tomatoes. I like to quarter the tomatoes and the larger tomatoes I will cut the quarters in half.

For the cheese, I pull pieces off the ball of cheese rather than cutting it, that gives the pieces a “rustic” feel and the chucks of cheese wrap around the pasta.

Once the pasta is done cooking, strain it and rinse it immediately with cold water. Add the pesto and stir until all the pasta is coated. Then add the onion, tomatoes and cheese and toss.

Sprinkle the top with toasted pine nuts and garnish with fresh basil leaves.


May 2, 2011

Swiss Chard and Oyster Mushroom Pasta

This post is in celebration of my first Great Basin CSA Basket (CSA – Community Supported Agriculture). Great Basin Basket CSA is a partnership of local farmers who provide seasonal produce grown locally to their CSA members (like me!). It’s the freshest produce and it tastes so much better than anything you can buy in the store. If you have not tasted fresh produce that was picked when it was ripe, rather than before it was ripe so it can travel hundreds of miles, then you should try out the Farmer’s Market this year, that begins June 11th. I’m so excited for my first experience with a CSA and I am super excited the Farmer’s Market begins soon!

The following items came in my CSA basket: Swiss chard, asparagus, and oyster mushrooms (the rest came from Trader Joes, the next best).

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1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch swiss chard, cut into thin stripes
5 oyster mushrooms, sliced
1-2 shallots, diced
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
12 mini heirloom tomatoes
4-5 asparagus spears
2 Tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
1 pinch salt and black pepper (to taste)
1/2 cup whole wheat spaghetti

Cook pasta according to the directions.

Meanwhile mince the garlic, dice the shallots, slice the mushrooms and chard, dice the asparagus, quarter the tomatoes and measure out the balsamic vinegar and blue cheese.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic and crushed red pepper in the oil until just fragrant, 1 minute or so. Add the Swiss chard to the garlic and stir until wilted, 3-5 minutes. Transfer the garlic and chard to a bowl. heat a little more olive oil and add the mushrooms, shallots, and asparagus. Saute until cooked through, 5 minutes.

Turn off the heat, add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and noodles and stir. Gently toss the blue cheese. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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January 5, 2011

Making it with Your Own Hands

As a single mother, working full-time and having a 30-minute commute home each weeknight, my biggest challenge is making dinners that are ready before 8pm. I can see why there is so much popularity with pre-made foods and eating at fast-food establishments. On top of a full work day, there are errands to run and children’s activities to take care of. By the time all that is done, what energy is left for cooking a homemade meal? Yeah sounds daunting! (Oh wait! You still have to make a lunch for everyone for the next day).

Thinking all this over, and realizing that I have been spoiled over the past 4 years – my sitter has been my sister-in-law and she has provided lunches for my daughter, I realize that it’s about to get tougher!

The challenge we all have with making homemade meals is the misconception that it is more time consuming and more expensive. I spend much less money on food when I make it at home, than I do going out to eat dinner every night. (I am not saying do not ever eat out – because that is ridiculous and it is a lot of fun to try new restaurants or to visit your favorites! Just don’t make it an everyday habit.) On top of saving money you end up eating healthier because now you are in control of the fat, salt, fiber etc… that is in your food. With a little organization and a well-stocked pantry, the goal is more attainable and your misconceptions start to melt away! (I’m a huge fan of organization, by the way, and actually I thrive on it).

Each year I set “culinary goals” for myself (last years was this blog in fact), and with the changes coming up this year, I decided I want to get myself and my kitchen better organized. I want more than half of my weekly meals to be homemade. Meaning I need to find a way to have homemade meals at my fingertips.

Some initial ideas off the top of my head …freezer friendly meals/food, weekly meal planning, creating menus, learning to better stock my pantry and fridge, waste less food, and collect or create recipes that are easy, fast, and fresh.

Also on my “culinary goals” list is to finally join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). With a CSA, you pay a local farmer at the beginning of the season (sometimes in combination with volunteering your time on the farm) and in exchange you get a weekly basket of fresh produce. Some farmers include eggs, while others offer packages that include meat. This all depends on where you live and what the farmers in your area offer. I am so excited about this because not only will I feel better about what my daughter eats, but I will also be challenged to cook and eat things I might not have otherwise chosen. Plus the money I pay goes to help support a local family farm, and in turn contributes to the health of the earth. Each Saturday I take my daughter to the Farmer’s Market; it’s actually something my daughter and I both look forward to doing (perhaps it’s the bounce house, but we do learn along the way). We have a good time and it is really neat to see so much of our community each week supporting the farmers and eating local!

If you have ever read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivores Dilemma you may know why I believe strongly in eating locally and sustainably. A local farm is more likely one that is “sustainable” and not using a bunch of chemicals to grow food. A sustainable farm has its own ecology – a farmer can feed the crop wastes to animals and then feed the animals’ waste to the crops and very little waste is put out into the environment causing pollution. Commercial farmers pump synthetic nitrogen into their crops to help pump out as much produce as possible. There is something about robbing the soil of all its ability to produce plants, flooding rivers with pollution from synthetic chemicals, affecting communities’ tap water and dead zones in the sea that makes me think industrial agriculture is not working as well as we once thought. If you have not read the The Omnivores Dilemma, I highly recommend the book. Reading this book has helped me to understand the whys of eating locally and sustainably, why it is good for our bodies and for our environment. (My personal opinion).

My, ever-changing, personal food philosophy is to make what I eat with my own hands, rather than out of a box or from a fast-food company.

So with all that said, here are my 2011 Food/Culinary Goals:

1. Organize!
2. Clean out and stock up!
3. Find ways to waste less food.
4. Create an arsenal of Go-To recipes for lunches and weeknight dinners to help save time. A restaurant has a menu, why not my kitchen!
5. Make more than half our weekly meals homemade.
6. Eat local, when I can.

Wish me luck – I’m open to all suggestions and information you may have, please share!

Here is one of my new favorite fast weeknight dinners to start off.

1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 shallot
½ box spaghetti noodles
1 can cannellini beans (or other white bean)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ cup shredded parmesan

(You could also use a can of garbanzo bean and roast them with the cauliflower to mix it up – roasted garbanzos are good!)


Coat the cauliflower lightly in olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper.  Roast the cauliflower in a 450° oven for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile cook spaghetti noodles according to the package directions, reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water when you drain the noodles.

Put 2T. Olive oil in the pot and sauté the shallots for 2 minutes. Add the roasted cauliflower and sauté for another minute more.


Drain a can of cannellini, or other white beans, and add the beans to the cauliflower. Add the noodles and pasta water. Add chopped parsley and stir to coat the pasta.

Serve with parmesan cheese and garlic bread.


(Hopefully these are the last crummy weeknight photos that I have to use – I just ordered a lightscoop which will make it easier to take photos on weeknights when it’s dark and I don’t have natural light…)

Happy New Year everyone! Cheers!