Before we moved to Southeast Asia, I used to love Hamburger Helper. I didn’t only like how easy they were; I actually liked how they tasted. I missed it so much but they were unavailable so I had to learn to cook from scratch. Best thing that ever happened to me, culinarily speaking. Nonetheless, during my last pregnancy, I started really craving Cheeseburger Helper. Some very sweet friends brought me some from the US when they came to visit, and I very excitedly made it for dinner. None of us could eat it! Please forgive me if you like it, but it tasted like plastic to us. We were completely unused to processed foods, and I decided I wanted to keep it that way! But I really do like the ease of cooking a whole, tasty meal in one pan, so I decided to see what I could find. All of the recipes I found included bouillon cubes, which are full of nasty stuff here in Southeast Asia, so I did some more hunting and experimenting and came up with a winner! Even the kids liked it, which these days is no small miracle!
Basic Beef Gravy and Noodles Skillet Meal
- 1 pound or 1/2 kilo ground beef
- 1 small onion or 1/2 large onion
- 2-4 cloves of garlic
- 1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or 2 whole cloves
- 1-1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (more or less to taste)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley (optional)
- 1 teaspoon dried sage (optional)
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups plain, unsweetened almond milk
- 8 ounces (2 cups) pasta (can be whole-grain and/or gluten-free)
- 1-1/2 cups frozen peas (optional)
- brewer’s or nutritional yeast to sprinkle on top (optional)
In a large 12-inch skillet or a 3-quart saucepan, brown the ground beef, breaking it up into small bits as it cooks. When the ground beef is well browned, drain off any fat and rinse the beef in a colander if desired. Return the beef to the skillet.
Place the onion, garlic, and the spices into a blender with the water and blend. My kids don’t like chunks, so I blend it completely. Pour this over the ground beef in the skillet. Add the almond milk, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and the frozen peas. Reduce the heat so the mixture simmers. Simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the pasta is tender. Serve hot, sprinkled with brewer’s yeast if desired. Makes 4 hearty servings.
I’m hoping to come up with more variations of this meal, so if you have any ideas, please leave them in the comments below! Some I’m thinking about include potatoes or rice instead of noodles and switching up the spices to create Greek and other ethnic flavors. Thanks for any ideas and enjoy!