Recipe Research > One-pot macaroni beef dinner

Is there such a thing as healthy hamburger helper?

Here’s what I’m looking for: a one-pot dinner that combines macaroni, ground beef, and maybe tomato. It doesn’t even have to be low calorie. It just has to be healthier than the stuff you buy in a box and add to ground beef. As usual, I like my recipes to use regular grocery store ingredients, to not dirty every pan in the house, and for the meal to come together without a lot of fuss. This is a weeknight meal, not a “pleasing my in-laws” meal.

So I was thrilled when I saw a recipe for Hamburger Buddy in a healthy eating magazine I subscribe to. I folded down the corner of the page, added it to my weekly meal plan, and I figured it could be recipe #1 in a series of recipes I would try during my search for an easy macaroni beef dinner.

Even better, this recipe included sneaky vegetables – those chopped up in a food processor – so that we’d be getting extra servings of vegetables without even trying. Yum, sounds perfect, right?

First, I get out the food processor (which has a base, a top, a blade, and a plastic piece to shove things inside) – yes, that means 4 parts that have to be washed. When I’m chopping the mushrooms with the garlic and carrots, it all turns to mush very quickly, so that when I add the onions to be chopped, the machine locks up – the mush getting mushier, the onions remaining in the centre still virtually whole. I fish out the onions and chop them by hand.

OK, then I brown the ground beef, add the squishy pureed vegetables, and begin to cook. It looks wrong, the colours are wrong (lots of orange from the carrots), but I try to have faith. The recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of dried thyme, which turns out to be way too much, but the first time I make a recipe I like to follow it exactly, before I begin modifying, so that I can see what the chef intended. I should have realized that if the only spices were salt, pepper, beef broth and thyme … well, it was going to taste like beef and noodles and thyme. And let me tell you, this is a weird combination. Thyme is better with chicken, with pasta, and in vegetable soup 🙂

So then I added the raw macaroni to the cooked veggies/meat combo, and then added cups and cups of water and beef broth so the whole thing could boil. You’re right, I know, I can see you all shaking your heads … yes, now I’ve got boiled thyme-scented beef.

Finally, I add some reserved beef broth thickened with flour (mixed in another cup that has to be washed). Then I add sour cream. This is more of a beef stroganoff than hamburger helper, but anyway…

It wasn’t a disaster. André ate it, saying it would be better with less thyme. I ate some and deemed it ‘edible’ but not worth making again. And while we were still sitting at the dinner table, I reached behind me and pulled out my three favourite cookbooks and began searching for another recipe to try, and I found three or four. Some require cooking the ingredients and then putting it in the oven to make a casserole, others use tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce as the only flavourings. Anyway, I’ll keep you posted on my progress as I sample my way through these recipes. It might take me 6 trials (like lasagne did), but in the end I’ll come up with something tasty and cheap and easy that is a combination of the best elements I can find.

Upcoming research

Along with the macaroni beef dinner, I’m already working on Moroccan chickpea stew that doesn’t taste watery and bland. Then my next cooking adventure is pot roast (as requested by new subscribers Anne, Tammy and Katie). I’m totally excited to find a really great pot roast recipe that works every time, isn’t overcooked, and makes enough for leftovers.

If you have any recipes that you would like me to develop, just drop me a line 🙂 I’d love to hear your feedback.

You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com.

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu,
Owner & Head Chicken
www.oneroastchicken.com

Pie with wine is a good way to end any day

Last Saturday was a good day. The test kitchen welcomed three OneRoastChicken subscribers for a very successful cooking class. We made (and ate) lots of yummy food: Roast chicken with a spice rub, tinfoil carrots, homemade chicken broth, vegetable corn chowder, trout with fruit salsa, and Dutch apple pie. The house smelled amazing for hours, even with the apple pie boiling over into the sparkling clean oven.

All the food set out … apples for pie far left in blue bowl, pineapple for salsa, celery in a big pot for chicken stock, carrots to be baked in tinfoil, and at the very far right cans of creamed corn for the vegetable soup

As Jessica and Jennifer and Suzanne peeled apples, measured spices, stirred and baked, we chatted about the dinners you can get away with when you’re single and young (microwave popcorn, entire bags of kettle chips, toast and peanut butter, crackers and cheese). But now as everyone’s getting older, lives have shifted, and old patterns of eating just don’t work anymore. You can no longer get by on a chocolate bar for breakfast. People get married, have kids, need to stop eating take out, need to pack lunches. If you’re me, you discover that having a captive audience (husband) who’ll eat just about anything (André will), means that I’m more likely to experiment, make new things, be brave, try a new recipe, to make falafels at home even though they involve deep frying in a pot of boiling oil (scary).

Yesterday, while we were making soup, we talked about how to use up leftover fresh lasagne sheets (why not cut them into strips and boil like fettuccini?), how to use up leftover lime (beer, lemonade, cranberry juice), and about how I feel no guilt asking the produce guy at the grocery store to take apart this lovely tray of jalapeno peppers wrapped in cellophane and just wrap up one single pepper for me, no thanks, I don’t need six, I just need one. It cost 46¢.

The “student chickens” – as André calls all subscribers “your chickens” – well, the student chickens had lots of ideas for new classes and new cookbooks. How about a November cooking class where we work though a dinner party, from start to finish – a nice appetizer, Caesar salad, garlic bread, lasagne, chocolate cake – complete with how to get the timing right, grocery list, planning. One student chicken says that even though she’s often invited out to her friends’ places for dinner, she doesn’t feel confident enough to invite people back to her place. “And that’s bad karma,” she says.

When I suggested having a December cooking class where we did a whole bunch of Christmas baking (easy shortbreads, light fruit cake, cranberry chocolate bars, spicy ginger snaps) – everyone thought that was a great idea, especially if they got to take all the baking home at the end of the class. Sure, why not.

As it was, all three student chickens left with many plastic containers of leftover soup, chicken, fish with salsa, and pie. Did I mention the pie? I had shared some with them when we had our shared meal, but I finished off the rest once they had gone home, and André and I opened more wine. I was tired but very happy. And pie with wine is a good way to end any day 🙂


As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.
You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com.
Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef
www.oneroastchicken.com

PS/ The next cooking class

The next Roast Chicken and Apple Pie cooking class is coming up next weekend, Saturday, November 10th, from 1 pm to 6 pm. The class will take place in Montreal, in the fully equipped One Roast Chicken test kitchen. To register, visit here. It’s not very often that you get the chance to take part in a small cooking class like this one with *only 3 students* and lots of one-on-one instruction.

I also received a few questions, which I would like to answer now:

Q. Is this a demonstration class or a participation class?

A. I believe in hands-on training. This will NOT be a demonstration class where you just watch me cook and you stand around for hours. No way! Sure, you’ll watch me a bit, but then you’ll leap in there and you’ll be prepping and cooking and chopping and baking and EATING.

Q. What recipes will we be making?

A. Together, we are going to be busy cooking for the entire 5 hours. You’re going to make a Spicy Roast Chicken (called Grant’s Chicken) with tinfoil baked carrots with thyme. After that, we’re going to make chicken broth from scratch. And because I get so many emails asking me about cooking fish (like, “how do you know when it’s ready?”), you’re also going to make Trout with Fruit Salsa. Next you’re going to make a lovely Corn Chowder with red and green pepper. And finally, for dessert, how about Dutch Apple Pie with two kinds of seasonal apples and a sweet crunchy topping.

I enjoyed [the class] a lot! It gave me the confidence to try it on my own. Now that I know what [the pie] would look like, it ain’t complicated to make and is delicious … I’ll be sure to make 1 of the recipes 1 day this week. I admit, the minute I got home, even though I was full, I had to take another bite of the pie. — Jennifer

Q. What is included in the course registration fee?

A. Everything is included. Your registration fee of $169 CDN includes everything you’ll need for the class. There are no supplies for you to buy. No groceries for you to bring. You don’t have to bring anything! You just have to show up with smile on your face, ready to learn … and we’re going to have a great time.

Here’s what’s included:

— Included: Five hours of instruction in a small group limited to 3 people.

— Included: All of the fabulous fresh ingredients and groceries that you’ll need to cook all afternoon.

— Included: Tasting and enjoying all the food that you’ve just learned to make.

Q. If I don’t get into this November 10th class, when is the next one?

A. I haven’t scheduled the classes for the new year yet, as I’m waiting to see what my travel schedule will be (I’m trying to book space for cooking classes in British Columbia for January); but probably this Roast Chicken / Apple Pie class won’t be offered again in Montreal until February 2008 at the earliest.

Q. How can I register?

You can go here and fill out a simple registration form, then you’ll be whisked away to Paypal so you can pay 🙂

PPS/ If you’re unable to attend this class, you might be interested in the illustrated cooking lessons available in “Successful Home Cooking.” Valerie from Washington calls it her Home Cooking School.

Eat more fish!

Fish is good for you. It’s low in fat, high in Omega-3, and a good source of protein.

OK, if it’s so fabulous, then why don’t we eat it more often?

You’re probably saying … “I don’t like fish.” Well, I have a recipe that might surprise you. Most people like fresh pineapple. And there’s something about tangy fruit salsa served with baked fish that is hard to resist.

Are you thinking … “every time I try to cook fish it never works out.”

Maybe you don’t have a reliable recipe that makes delicious, moist fish time after time … I’ve got the answer for you, and it’s much easier than you think 🙂

Start with two medium sized fillets. These ones are from the regular grocery store. You can also buy your fish from a fish shop, or poissonnerie.

I’m using trout, but you could use salmon…

Line a baking dish with tin foil.

Remove the fish from the package and place directly on the foil. Don’t bother trying to remove the fish skin now, as it comes off easier once cooked.

To make the fruit salsa, you’ll need tiny pieces of pineapple, and fresh mango …
… mixed together with a very little bit of chopped jalapeno and some finely chopped red onion.
To make the dressing, you need some fresh lime juice, honey, spices, and some olive oil.
Pour the dressing over the fruit salsa, and stir to combine the flavours.
Bake the fish while you’re making rice and asparagus. This dinner is ready to eat in about 28 minutes.

Price per serving $3.45 for the fish and salsa; $4.11 with the rice and asparagus.

These 7 images are just a sampling of the 15 photos that make up the step-by-step illustrated lesson for Trout with Fruit Salsa (Recipe 1.8) . The complete recipe lesson is available in Successful Home Cooking. My goal? To help you become a successful at-home cook. To order your copy of the 122-page full-colour book, click here.

If you have any questions about fish or anything else, just send me a note. You can always reach me at Shelley@OneRoastChicken.com.

All best wishes, and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu,

Owner & Head Chef

www.oneroastchicken.com


Sherri writes …

“I have been cooking for over 40 years, and I probably have over 400 cookbooks, but I’ve never seen anything like Successful Home Cooking. I made your Chicken Tandoori recipe and I followed the lesson exactly, and it was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before! I might have lots of cookbooks, but they’re all the same. I am much more likely to make one of your recipes because I know you’ve tried it, and that you recommend it, and that I will learn something new, and best of all – that I will be successful.” – Sherri from Halifax, Nova Scotia


Meal planning > Save money, shop less, eat better

Yes, it’s officially Autumn. Finally, I can turn on my oven for supper without the risk of overheating the entire house and melting into a puddle. Hooray, now I can make roast chicken again … which is, you know, nearly my favourite meal of all time.

This week’s cooking letter is another piece about getting organized, working from a meal plan, and preparing for the new school year. Over the summer, you may have been eating more take-out meals than you’d like, or one too many frozen dinners. Autumn is the perfect time to adopt a new regime and break the take-out habit. And I’ve got a few tricks that will help 🙂

Why are you eating take-out or frozen entrées for dinner? (or toast, or canned ravioli…)

Everyone has different reasons for why they’re not cooking as often as they want to. For example, if you’re coming home at 6 pm it’s hard to start cooking dinner right then and there, especially if you have no plan. Sure, you could start cooking at 6 pm and eat by 7:30 pm, but it’s a bit trickier if you have children who need to eat earlier.

Sometimes we can’t put dinner on the table because we haven’t done the grocery shopping. Sometimes we can’t put dinner on the table because we’re doing too many other things. Like committing ourselves to too much else.

If I was to talk to you about eating at home and why people don’t do it, I think the biggest obstacles are:

  • Lack of time
  • Being away from home, coming home late – like at 6 pm or 7 pm and then feeling starving and not having the brain-space to put dinner on the table
  • Lack of groceries in the house.
  • Lack of motivation
  • Considering different people’s tastes and diets in your home and trying to cook something different for everyone
  • And finally, it’s easier to order to take-out, or to the grocery for pre-package food.

The pre-packaged food from the grocery store tastes pretty good, but you don’t always know what’s in it. And it’s about 2-3 times more expensive than it would take to make the same thing at home. I think it’s interesting that the food that they sell at the front of the grocery store in those packages – like the single serving lasagne, or the fish and rice – it isn’t very exotic. It’s like home cooking for people who don’t want to cook at home.

Is a weekly meal plan the answer?

Yes, I think so. You’ll save money. You’ll think less. You’ll shop less. You’ll eat better. I’ve broken down meal planning into 8 steps… in the beginning that will seem like a lot steps, but in the end it takes 25-30 minutes ONCE A WEEK, and then you’ve got all of your meals planned for the week, and you don’t think about “what’s for supper” again.

Remember, when you make your meal plan, it’s you who gets to pick what you’re going to eat this week, and you get to pick your favourite things. People say “I don’t know what I’m going to feel like.” Well if your menu plan is filled with things that you love, and you know you love, then it’s quite motivating when you think that tonight you’re making that chicken quesadilla recipe that you really like, or that hamburger recipe that is so fabulous. You will start to look forward to that feeling of “I know what I’m having tonight, because it’s that thing I really like.”

Start by picking your favourites. The roast chicken recipe that takes absolutely no effort, and an hour later it’s done and then you’ve got leftovers for sandwiches or soup or Thai curried chicken.

This week’s cooking letter has been adapted from “Eight easy steps to plan your week so you can eat at home, save money, be healthy, and impress yourself!” This 16-page Special Report #1 > Motivation and Meal Planning is available by PDF download now.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. Just hit reply to this email and drop me a line 🙂 You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com.

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef
www.oneroastchicken.com


Do you have ‘mystery meat’ in your freezer?

I feel like Autumn is the beginning of a new year, even more so than January. It’s the ‘back to school’ phenomenon … new pencils, new clothes, new backpack. Everything is shiny and brimming with possibility.

So now’s the time to take a ‘back to school’ approach to the kitchen. It’s time to get organized, get rid of habits you don’t like, adopt some new ones. Over the summer, you may have been eating more take-out meals than you’d like, or one too many frozen dinners. September is the perfect time to get adopt a new regime and break the take-out/frozen meal habit. And I’ve got a few tricks that will help 🙂

Don’t know where to start? Have a look at what’s in your house.

Start by clearing your clutter. Go through your cupboards and your fridge. I think that it’s probably a good idea to throw out the stuff you know you’re not going to eat. I find it very demoralizing to open the freezer and see something that I put in there (that I didn’t really like when I made it). Then every time I open the freezer thinking “what’s for supper?” – I see that thing, and I say to myself “oh, I don’t want that.”

If you don’t want to throw out food, you can always give it to the homeless shelter in your town. I did this recently – I’m afraid to tell you – I got married last year and we had a reception here at the house where we had cake and champagne. I made three chocolate cakes, and only half of one cake was eaten. I cut the leftovers in half and froze them, and thought “someday we’ll eat them.” And six months later they were still in my freezer, kind of depressing … so I took them down to the women’s shelter with cans of frosting, and they were super thrilled to see me. It was going to be the treat for bingo in the afternoon.

While you’re looking through your house for food you know you’re not going to eat, at the same time you can make an inventory of what you DO have that could be turned into a meal. For example, if you have pork tenderloin in the freezer, we could put that on a short list of “let’s find a way to use it up this week.” If you’ve got some pasta, for example a box of spaghetti, we’ll find a meal for that. Start with what you already have in the house so that you’re not buying every ingredients for all of your planned meals.

Sometimes I’ve got a box of lasagne noodles that’s been there for 2 weeks, or 3 weeks, or 4 weeks. And I’ll open up the cupboard and think “those noodles, better find a way to get rid of those noodles.” Or it could be a single can of coconut milk, and that reminds me of the Thai curried chicken recipe that I like to make, so that’s what I’m going to make this week because it uses up an ingredient that I already have.

Check your pantry, and your deep freezer. If you have a half-pound of ground beef, or a pound, or a piece of pork tenderloin or a chicken breast – let’s find a meal to use that up. I’m sure there are lots of people who have deep freezes full of mystery meat!

 

 

This week’s cooking letter has been extracted from Step #3 in the “Eight easy steps to plan your week so you can eat at home, save money, be healthy, and impress yourself!” This 17-page Special Report #1 > Motivation and Meal Planning is available by PDF download now.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. Just hit reply to this email and drop me a line 🙂 You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com.

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu,Owner & Head Chef
www.oneroastchicken.com

How I got started cooking at age 12

How did I get started cooking when I was 12? Well, I literally had no choice, considering my electives during my Grade 7 school year were (1) Family Living (girl and boy body parts, puberty, etc.), (2) Metal Class, (3) Woodworking (where my sister nearly lost a finger), (4) Sewing, and finally (5) Cooking class.

So the decision wasn’t that difficult: a three-legged table or apple crisp? I choose the cooking class.

My junior high school memories are grey: smelly classes, ineffectual teachers, and generally being misbehaved. Yet, in Cooking class, I had the chance to make and eat something, which broke up the stupendous dullness of Geography (we called it Geograph-Free because the teacher didn’t do anything and expected the same from us).

By contrast, the Cooking classroom was a well-ordered space. Drawers pulled out to reveal black outlines drawn inside showing where to put measuring cups after they were washed and dried. There was a full-functioning teacher at the front of the room demonstrating how to peel an apple, how to test if the butter was soft enough, and don’t forget to preheat your oven.

Then magically, about 40 minutes later, the timer went off, we removed pans from the oven, and there was apple crisp for two. We served it with whipped cream, couldn’t wait until it was cool enough, the whipped cream instead melting into white soup.

That’s it. That’s the whole story. In the middle of my grim junior high school years, there’s this little bit of sunshine — warm apple crisp in a tiny portion. It makes enough to share, but I’ve also eaten leftovers cold for breakfast!

I still remember that feeling of accomplishment, at age 12, and it was pretty fabulous. As the eldest of four girls, I believe I promptly went home and announced that I knew how to cook, and made up a double batch to share with my sisters.

And now I’ve replicated this entire event many times in my adult life, including this past weekend. Peel a few apples after dinner, mix up the crunchy topping, put it in the oven, breathe deeply as the house fills with the smell of apple and cinnamon. Since it’s the weekend we can open some wine, then take the apple crisp out of the oven, let it cool a bit, but I still can’t wait long enough. Serve with fresh whipped cream flavoured with a bit of vanilla.

[Photo credits: Kris Brandhagen]


Apple Crisp for Two

(original recipe from Shelley’s Grade 7 cooking class, Gorsebrook School, Halifax, Nova Scotia)

2 cups (500 mL) Macintosh apples, peeled, cored & sliced (approx. 2 med. apples)
½ cup (125 mL) brown sugar
¼ (60 mL) cup flour
¼ (60 mL) cup rolled oats
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) cinnamon
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) nutmeg
3 tablespoons (45 mL) soft butter

Grease a rectangular bread (loaf) pan. Put the apples in the bottom of the pan. Mix the other ingredients in a small bowl, and sprinkle on top of the apples. Make sure no apples are showing (or they’ll burn). Cook @ 350°F (180°C, gas mark 4) for 30 to 35 minutes.


As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. Just hit reply to this email and drop me a line 🙂 You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu,  Owner & Head Chef
www.oneroastchicken.com

Apple Pie for 1 or 2

When I was a single girl, I never made a full-sized apple pie. Because who would eat it all? (Or worse, what if I ate it all myself?) If you’ve never made apple pie before, making a baby pie is a good way to get started. Here are some photos to get you inspired to make a tiny baby pie which is suitable for two if you must share, or for one if you’re hungry.

When is the last time you made apple pie?

Cut a frozen 9″ pie crust in half and save the rest for later.
Put the half you’re using in a zipper bag and leave it on the counter to defrost.
Roll out the pie crust to be just a bit bigger than your pie tin.
Place dough in the pan.
Now it’s time to prepare the apples, two different kinds for maximum squishy-ness and taste.
You slice the two apples, approximatley the same thickeness throughout.
Toss with flour, sugar, and some spices to make it taste very yummy.
Put the apples in the crust and fold up the edges.
Prepare the crumble topping (butter, flour, sugar) and don’t overmix — keep a few large lumps.
Presto, you’re nearly done. Put it in the oven on a smal sheet of tinfoil in case it overflows…
This is a half-serving, which is still a respectable portion if you are forced to share…

These pictures are just a sampling of the complete illustrated lesson for Apple Pie for One (Recipe 1.11) . The complete recipe lesson is available in Successful Home Cooking. My goal? To help you become a successful at-home cook. To order your copy of the 122-page full-colour book, click here.

If you have any questions about pie or anything else, just send me a note. You can always reach me at Shelley@OneRoastChicken.com.

All best wishes, and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef
www.oneroastchicken.com