For a long time, I was amused at the concept of hamburger helper and other simple meals that have been packaged for our convenience. I am no longer amused. The amount of processed junk that is sold to the public is staggering. I’ve come up with a new guideline for shopping. Never buy anything at the grocery store that has the word “just” on it’s label. “Just add water”; “Just heat and serve”; “Just shake and bake” and my new favorite “Just add your favorite vegetable or meat!”
Unless you are selling a sauté pan, this last one is particularly offensive. The assumption is that you are going to prepare a vegetable and/or some sort of meat and then add a whole box of processed, chemical ridden slop to make it “a dinner”. This makes no sense. Yet, millions of Americans are filling their carts full of boxes by the Big Food manufacturers every year. And those manufacturers are continuing to gain traction by introducing “New” boxes full of nutrition-less stuff every year.
And here is another guideline: Never buy anything to eat from any MANUFACTURER. Food is grown, raised or caught. It is not manufactured. As I have said many times, stay out of the middle isles where all of the “helpers” are. There is not one piece of food there.
So why am I so passionate about this seemingly harmless little industry? Simple. Our kids. We have 5 between my wife and I. I know that when I was in college I made those meals. The first thing I ever “helped” make when I lived in my first apartment was hamburger helper. Then when my son was a toddler, the only thing that he liked was frozen (will not mention the brand but it rhymed with “mean”) mac and cheese.
Within the next few years they will all be living and cooking on their own. I don’t want them, or any of their friends, to eat that crap. I want everyone on the planet to know that there is no nutritional value in anything that is manufactured. Big Food is bad news.
- 1 lb. Elbow Macaroni (or Penne)
- 3 Cups Milk
- 1 1/2 Cups Cheddar Cheese, shredded
- 1 Onion, chopped
- 3 Teaspoons Dried Mustard
- 3 Teaspoons Paprika
- 6 Tablespoons Sour Cream
- 1 1/2 Sticks Butter
- 1 1/2 Cups Bread Crumbs
- Salt and Pepper
- Sauce Pan
- Large Baking Dish
- Chef’s Knife
- Pre heat oven to 350.
- Fill the saucepan halfway with water, add a big pinch of salt and boil.
- When boiling, add pasta.
- Cook until al dente. Usually about 10 minutes.
- Butter the bottom and sides of baking dish.
- Pour out the water and remove the pasta.
- Add a little bit of butter to the bottom of pan and sweat the onion until it’s translucent. Try not to brown it.
- Turn off the heat and add the pasta back to the pan.
- Add half of the butter, half of the milk and all of the other ingredients (except the bread crumbs) and stir together.
- Pour the mixture into the buttered dish.
- Add the rest of milk to cover.
- Distribute the bread crumbs evenly over the mixture and add pats of the remaining butter.
- Bake for 40 minutes.
I left out one ingredient that my wife (from Kansas) usually adds, which is a can of cream of mushroom soup. It is, after all, a form of processed food that you really don’t need. But if you have one in the cupboard from a previous life and you really want old fashioned comfort food, then tuck in. I think the shelf life of that stuff is counted in millennia.