Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thinking outside the typical "box" meal.

There's not one person I know that doesn't have a
fond memory of those "Helper" meals Mom made for us kids
growing up.

Good OR bad.

When I first moved in with my husband and I was pregnant
and he was newly unemployed, I switched over to the clever
budgeting that I was taught basically from birth. One of the
cheapest meals we ate was a skillet meal, pretty close to the
"Helper" meals that all the other kids I knew ate. Sure,
Mom made them for us every once and a while. She particularly
liked to make Tuna Helper, one in particular that had a sort
of cornbread-pie topping that really made you vomit in your
mouth at the look and smell. Nevermind the taste.
Mom didn't buy those ready made mixes all too often because
she knew that she could make a better tasting meal and really
make the most basic ingredients stretch to feed the kids for
a couple days.

Living with two growing boys and one husband who works.......
construction and likes to eat big, I'm thankful for that lesson
darn near every day.

Now, having two growing boys and a hungry husband does have
it's setbacks, aside from the constant empty leg syndrome.
My boys can be a little picky, especially the youngest. I LOVE
vegetables.....sadly, they do not always share the love. Which
blows. BUT, I make it work.

I'm sneaky. I hide veggies, darn near every day. I serve a
veggie side along with the meal so they can see what they're
eating and try a whole array of textures and flavors BUT
I do sneak them into meals. And lemme tell you, I think my
kids are on to me. I KNOW my husband knows the score. I will
tell you after a while, they just kind of shrug now
and just chalk it up to me being "experimental" and eat it
anyway. (A few nights of You'll Eat What I Make Or You'll
Starve works well, too. Especially on the husband, who
can't really cook anything aside from BBQ or ramen noodles.)

You can do this, too. And it's really not going to cost any
more than what you're already paying for meat and a packaged meal.
And you're family will survive, even if they complain and tell you
that you're killing them with all these vegetables and
lack of processed ingredients. (My husband especially loves
to complain about this.)Tune it out and keep on keepin' on.

I come bearing a gift today. One of my own personal skillet meals
for you to try on your family, just to see what they think. I make
the basic formula with the WW noodles, tomato sauce and meat, but
it varies every time with what veggies I have in the fridge/what
I found on sale. Experiment. If you have another kind of fresh
veg that you think would be good, chop it up and throw it in.
Nine times out of ten, you'll like what you make. And
really, so will your kids. Don't we lead by example? Anyway.....
here is one I make about......twice each a month.

1 lg onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1# extra lean ground beef (or ground chicken/turkey)
2-3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 can (14.5 oz.) low-salt canned tomatoes, rinsed and drained
3 cans (8 oz.) low salt tomato sauce
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
2 tbsp. dijon mustard
3 tbsp. dill pickle juice
1 tbsp. worchestershire sauce
1/3 c. bacon bits (packaged or homemade)
1 1/2 c. uncooked whole wheat pasta
8 oz. lowfat sharp cheddar, shredded
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

In a large skillet, cook together onion, garlic and meat until
browned. Drain well. Add in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, Liquid
Smoke, dijon mustard, dill pickle juice, worchestershire sauce
and bacon bits. Heat through. In seperate pot, cook pasta to
box instructions. Drain well. Stir into meat mixture.
Heat through. Serve with a sprinkle of cheese.

We like this with cornbread and a platter of fresh
veggies and my Zesty Ranch Dip.

Really only pennies to make these meals and a whole lot healthier
than the "Helper" meals.

I mean, they're great. Don't get me wrong. But it's always
a little tastier homemade.

And cheaper. Isn't it?

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