March 9, 2010

Not Your Mother's Hamburger Helper

Last night, after a late afternoon trip to the library, I made dinner for my family while my husband played with the kids. I was pretty excited I got to cook because my husband and I fight over dinner rights. We both find cooking so relaxing. There's something about planning and timing and chopping and touching all that beautiful fresh food that is immensely nourishing to the soul.

Of course, we try to pick food that is nourishing to the body as well. But lately, my challenge has been picking nourishing food my three and a half year old will actually eat. She's been on a yogurt, bananas and bread kick. Not bad choices but not very balanced. I usually have to say, "Sure, you can have that - AFTER you eat what I've made." Last night, my goal was to make something colorful and delicious that she'd at least be willing to try. It also needed to be quick because the girls were pretty tired.

After a quick inventory of the contents of the fridge, I found myself reaching for the basics. We had a small package of grass finished beef, carrots, fresh tomatoes, red and green peppers, onions, scallions (we're kind of onion fanatics), fresh garlic and some rice we'd cooked a few nights previously. As I listened to my daughters and husband chortling over whatever crazy game they had created, I reached back through my memory banks to figure out what my mom would have created with food like this. Here's what I did with it.

Not Your Mother's Hamburger Helper

1.5 lbs grass finished ground beef
2 large peeled carrots
2 tomatoes
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 onion
1 green scallion
3.5 cups of cooked rice (Mine was seasoned like Mexican rice courtesy of my husband)*
3 T. olive oil
1 t. paprika (more to taste if needed)
2 t. dried oregano (less if fresh)
1/2 cup chicken, beef or veggie stock

1. Brown the beef in a large saute pan or wok (I used a wok). Just add a few tablespoons of olive oil and cook till you can't see pink in the meat anymore.

2. While the meat is browning, mince the onion and throw it in with the meat.

3. Generously add salt and pepper to the meat - as well as the oregano and paprika.

4. Chop the carrots, peppers and scallion and garlic. I cut everything pretty small - almost minced - like confetti. I never liked big chunks of carrots in my food as a kid & neither do my girls.

5. Throw the carrots and peppers in as soon as you finish chopping them.

6. When the carrots and peppers are cooked, add the scallion, garlic and rice. I like to add garlic at the end to keep it as close to fresh as possible, retaining more of the nutritional properties.

7. Add a little chicken, beef or veggie stock if needed. Cooked rice can be a little dry after a few days.

8. Heat all the ingredients thoroughly.

9. Very important... TASTE the food!!  Add salt, pepper or spices if necessary.

10. MOST important step - always cook with love on your mind.

*Potatoes would be an appropriate substitute for the rice. While they don't need to be staples at every meal, they are very nutritious and a great source of potassium.

Dinner came together pretty quickly and we all sat down and gave thanks for the food in front of us. Then, my daughter took one look and grimaced. I smiled and told her she had to taste it. She took a tentative bite, her face lit up and she said, "Mom, this is really good. I love meat!"

Yay for small successes!!!

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