Growing up in a single parent household my mom would work late nights and would turn towards easy and inexpensive meals. Convenience food can be very helpful on tired nights but unfortunately they’re not the healthiest. I grew up overweight and my mother later developed Diabetes. The way we ate completely changed when my mother became ill, we no longer looked at food as a filler but as fuel for our bodies.
Since I was used to eating fast food, boxed Macaroni and Cheese, and Hamburger Helper, my palate still craved those foods at times. I know with all the sodium and preservatives it would not be a wise choice for myself and my family, and yet I still get those lingering cravings to this day. Food is comforting and especially what we eat as a child can hold in a lot of memories. I was on a mission to recreate my favorite boxed meal and keep it healthy, affordable and quick.
I always had a love for Hamburger Helper, in particular the Cheeseburger Macaroni. The noodles and cheesy sauce is what lured me in each time. I found a recipe on Food.com and tweaked it for my taste and the results were amazing! (The original recipe can be found here)
Start by making the “Seasoning Packet”
- 1 Tbsp. Cornstarch
- 2 tsp. Onion Powder
- 2 tsp. Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1 tsp. Dry Mustard * The original called for 2 tsp. paprika, but I prefer mustard on my burger : ) *
- 1 tsp. Sugar
Mix all dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside
In a large skillet, brown 1 lb. of 97% lean Ground Beef or ground Turkey. Add 1 1/2 c. Whole Wheat Elbow Pasta, 1 c. of Hot Water, 2 c. Fat Free Milk, and the reserved “Seasoning Packet”. At this point, I also added two squirts of Ketchup * What can I say, I like Ketchup on my burgers!*
Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 12 minutes. The last 3 minutes of cooking add 1 c. of Shredded Cheddar Cheese (I used 2 % Mild Cheddar)
Stir, cover and cook till Macaroni is tender (about another 3 mins.) Remove the lid and let sit for 5 mins, the sauce will thicken ( just like the box version!)
The results brought back so many childhood memories, the whole dish took less than 20 mins. to prepare and the taste was even better. I love being able to recreate meals that I feel good about serving to my family. Homemade doesn’t always have to mean expensive and hours of cooking! Try experimenting with a not so healthy family classic meal, you might be pleasantly surprised and your heart will thank you : )