Boxed and Out-of-the-Box Hamburger Helper ® – Dueling Dishes!

ill Photo by marinToday, I’ve been craving comfort foods.  Maybe it’s because I blogged about my grandmother today.  Maybe it’s because I have an ear infection, and I feel under-the-weather.  Maybe it’s the change in weather from cold to warm in our ever-changing Maui micro-climates.  OR maybe it is just a girl thing. Whatever it is, comfort food was on the menu tonight, and I was not going to accept anything less.  Unfortunately, while I wanted comfort food, I was definitely not in the mood to cook a major meal tonight, and I was not feeling very creative, so I admit it.   Yes, I did.  I pulled a box..yes, a box…of Hamburger Helper ® out of the cupboard.  You are either secretly cheering inside, or you are wondering why I have such an “abomination” in my cupboard? It’s for nights just like this.  (And to tell you the truth, I love it!)

Trademark Hamburger  Helper - Betty Crocker

Trademark Hamburger Helper – Betty Crocker

As I began to brown the meat, I read the ingredient label on the box. Uh oh.  May contain milk ingredients.  I glanced at Anthony and revealed the possibility of milk.  He said to make whatever I wanted for myself and he’d find something to eat. I only played with that thought for a few seconds before I pulled out another sauté pan and separated out a portion of the ground beef to brown in a separate pan.  If I was getting comfort food tonight, then he was also getting comfort food.

I immediately began to boil water for his pasta, and I pulled spices, broth, and almond milk out of the cupboard.  While my coveted boxed dinner cooked in its own pan, I began seasoning the beef in the second pan.  Salt, pepper, marjoram, and one of my favorites, Trader Joe’s 21 Season Salute ®, a product of which my sweet Sacramento dad supplied since we don’t have a Trader Joe’s on Maui.  Once the meat was nicely seasoned, I let the herbs and spices work their way into the meat as it slowly simmered.  In the meantime, I prepared a salad and worked on my boxed Hamburger Helper ®. (So much for not cooking, hmmm?)  My boxed dinner cooked pretty much on its own.

Trademark Trader Joe's 21 Season Salute

Trademark Trader Joe’s 21 Season Salute

Once Anthony’s pan of ground beef had mingled and fraternized with its 24 herbs and spices, I added about a 1/3 cup of chicken broth, lowered the heat and let the liquid reduce a bit. While the pasta was cooking, I spooned a bit of pasta water into the beef pan to thicken the sauce.  After about 3 minutes, I added about a 1/4 cup of almond milk (which I also used in place of milk in my boxed Hamburger Helper ® pan) and let the liquid reduce for a few more minutes.  When his pasta was done, I drained and then quickly poured his pasta back into the stock pot.  Because the pot was still starchy, I knew it would help thicken the sauce. I poured the ground beef and sauce into the stock pot with the drained pasta and tossed.

When both dishes were done, I served them.  A plate of Out-of-the-Box Assisted Hamburger  (topped with bits of fresh thyme and rosemary) and Boxed Hamburger Helper ® for me.  Anthony sprinkled a little bit of Cholula on top of his dish. He took a bite, and his first response was, “Mmmmmmm!” It worked.

Out-of-the-Box Assisted Hamburger

Out-of-the-Box Assisted Hamburger

Boxed Hamburger Helper

Boxed Hamburger Helper

I had my childhood comfort food, and he had a plate of savory homemade Assisted Hamburger.  I gobbled up two servings of mine, and oh boy – that was wayyyyyy too much beef for one meal, and I feel sick. Was it worth it? Yeah, kinda. It tasted amazing! You know what else?  My boyfriend is awesome!  He went to the store to pick up dessert, and he bought me the apple juice and saltine crackers my oogy stomach was begging for.  Thank you, Honey!