Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cheesy Hamburger Macaroni

Today's blog post is a special one!  I've been chosen to write and share a recipe for one of my favorite grocery stores:  Earth Fare.  Normally when I grocery shop, I spend an inordinate amount of time reading the labels of every item I'm considering purchasing, and then scanning it on the phone app Fooducate to ensure I'm not getting something with scary ingredients.  I don't have to do that at Earth Fare.  I can trust that everything in the store has already been well vetted.  Their company vision is to be the most trusted organic and natural food market in the country.  Nothing in their store contains high fructose corn syrup, artificial color or sweeteners, synthetic growth hormones, and trans fat.  If other big chain grocery stores did that, half the store would be empty!  

I debated what recipe to make for a few weeks.  Originally I was going to go fancy, but then I remembered that this blog isn't about fancy.  It's about easy and healthy meals you can make for your family.  As a mother to a wild toddler, I don't have much time to get dinner ready.  Cooking dinner often involves my daughter literally wrapped around my leg chanting "food, food, food!" the entire time.  Thirty minute meals are obviously ideal.  So I started brainstorming about different quick meals I could put together that would satisfy both a picky eater and a hungry husband.  I thought back to my own childhood, and remembered one of my my absolute favorite dinners:  Hamburger Helper.  

However, have you ever looked at the label for Hamburger Helper?  Fooducate gives it a grade of "D", citing it for trans fat, high sodium content, and containing controversial artificial colors.  The ingredient list is predictably lengthy, containing a bunch of ingredients that I can't even pronounce.  Conclusion?  This is not a meal you want to serve your family if you are striving for healthy meals made with real ingredients; even if it is super easy (and yummy).  

So I set out to recreate Hamburger Helper and turn it into something you'd be happy to feed to your family.  For my Cheesy Hamburger Macaroni, I only used real ingredients (all can be found at Earth Fare),  and even decided to sneak some spinach in it.  (Note: if your kids are as picky as mine, chop that spinach up as finely as you can so they'll mistake it for parsley!)  I made sure to keep the meal as simple as the original Hamburger Helper:  it still cooks in just one skillet and takes less than 30 minutes to make.  Added bonus?  This meal is also incredibly budget friendly.  

Guys...this meal turned out GREAT.  For the first time ever, my child licked her plate, and I'm not even exaggerating.  For those of you that have followed my blog, you know how picky my child is when it comes to food.  As for my husband?  He licked his plate too.  Not to sound too boastful, but I think this is even better than actual Hamburger Helper.  Give it a try!

Cheesy Hamburger Macaroni
Serves 4-5

1 lb Ground Beef (I used Grass-fed)
2 Cups Whole Milk
1 1/2 Cups Beef Broth
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 tsp White Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Paprika
1 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
2 tsp Dried Parsley
1 tsp Ground Mustard
2 tsp Chili Powder
2 Cups Whole Wheat Elbow Macaroni, uncooked
1 Cup Spinach Leaves, chopped small
2 Cups Freshly Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese (~4 oz)
3 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast*
Salt & Pepper, to taste

*Tip:  Nuritional Yeast can be found in the bulk section of Earth Fare.  If you are unfamiliar with this ingredient, nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that adds a cheesy flavor to dishes. It creates a depth that makes a meal pop.  Plus, it's high in protein and B-12, so it contributes to the nutritional benefits of your food.


1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink.  Discard grease.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine the milk and beef broth; whisk in the cornstarch.  Pour mixture into the skillet, along with the sugar and all the seasonings.  Add in the uncooked noodles and chopped spinach, turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are al dente; about 7 minutes.

3.  Remove from heat and add in cheese and nutritional yeast; stir until smooth.  Salt & pepper to taste.  Allow the dish to sit a few minutes to thicken, and then serve.

Tip:  To reheat the dish the next day in the skillet, add an additional 1/2 cup of beef broth (or water), stir, and bring to a simmer slowly over medium heat, stirring frequently.


Serving Size: 1/5th of Dish
Calories:  502
Fat:  22
Carbs:  41
Protein:  34

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