Category Archives: Dinner

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

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu,
Owner & Head Chicken


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

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef

Easy family dinners

Yes, it’s finished, yeah hooray. The collection of recipes that I’ve been working on for you, for over 6 months, was completed Friday June 8th. And everyone who pre-ordered a copy has already received their volume of “Successful Home Cooking.” Have you received yours?

I thought it was only going to be 95 pages, but it kept growing and growing –– there was so much great stuff to include — that the document grew, and grew to 122 pages long!

It’s been quite an adventure putting this together. With suggestions from all over the globe (chicken tandoori), and readers sending me their wish lists for perfect lasagne, for a great spaghetti sauce recipe, for a fish recipe that is cooked perfectly, for apple pie that is sweet and sour and has a rich crumbly top, and for easy meals that come together with regular grocery store ingredients…

Well, you don’t have to listen to me 🙂

You can read what Dawn wrote:

“Dearest Shelley,

Thank you so much for sending me the pdf version of your book. Was I ever pleased when I came across your site two weeks ago. I immediately signed up for your newsletter and what excellent candor! It is so wonderful to have an email from a real person in my inbox every week.

I agree with you about your last email. I have been pulling my hair out in the kitchen because once I had settled on a free recipe [out of thousands] from the internet, it almost always turned out badly.

All I want are some down-to-earth recipes from somebody who has tried them and say they work.

Yours is the first cookbook I have ever bought — mine have all been passed down — and I don’t find my current recipes very practical because they are for six to eight [my Grandmother had a big family] and I am only cooking for three.

I am the kind of person that usually cooks meals that include all the food groups already [fajitas, stir-fries etc.] because I am panic-stricken about side-dishes. I will panic no more, however, because you have saved me the grief and simply told me what to include as a compliment to the meat dishes.

The book is comprehensive, the recipes interesting, mouth watering, the ingredients are available. To boot, you have included a price list of each recipe.

You have taken all the major kitchen concerns into consideration, yet kept it simple without making me feel stupid. What this cookbook is, really, is a cooking class with enough good solid recipes for me to keep busy for some time. The kitchen is no longer a place to fear, but a place to rejoice. I am all praise, Shelley — my only complaint is not finding you earlier!

With gratitude, Dawn (in Calgary, Alberta)”


Check out OneRoastChicken’s new publication, “Successful Home Cooking” which is now available for order. This is not just another cookbook. This is a cooking school in full-colour delivered right to your kitchen. All recipes include pages of colour photography and step-by-step instructions. And to keep you on budget, every recipe includes the price per serving. How about Meatloaf with Spicy Ketchup for $1.32 per serving? Or Chicken Tandoori for $1.81? Order your copy of “Successful Home Cooking” now…

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef

“I won’t pay for recipes!”

Lise in England writes: “There are a lot of cheap people out there. And there are so many free recipes online that people won’t want to pay for them.”

I understand Lise’s point. There are in fact billions of recipes online. Let’s take meatloaf as an example. If I go to, and search for meatloaf, there are 48 recipes. Yikes, how could I pick one? I start reading through the first two or three. The first recipe uses oatmeal (yuck), the second one has a list of ingredients as long as my left arm including white wine, and the third recipe also uses oatmeal (what’s the matter with these people?) and calls for something called ‘meatloaf mix’. Now, I don’t know about you, but without a definition, I’m not exactly sure what meatloaf mix is …

Now pretend you’re my ex-boyfriend for a minute, you can picture him – he’s the one with lots of disposable income but for whom cooking wasn’t one of his greatest strengths, although eating in restaurants was. Imagine you’re him, this guy with cash, who finds cooking to be a chore, who says “let’s just order in.” His favourite at-home meal? Meatloaf. But he can’t cook it himself. Never learned how. So, if you’re him, and you go to, and you start looking for a meatloaf recipe, you’d be overwhelmed in about 2.5 seconds.

OK, so to get back to Lise’s email. What she sees as a downside, I see as a problem to be solved. Indeed, the problem is that there are soooo many recipes online, but are any of them any good?

Are these recipes fully illustrated with step-by-step instructions, foolproof, with full colour photography? Do these millions of online recipes come with the email address of a breathing human where you can send your questions if you get into trouble?

Try to imagine if Martha Stewart actually cared if someone could follow her recipes and successfully get dinner on the table night after night. Imagine if Martha Stewart created recipes that used only regular grocery store ingredients. Imagine if every recipe included how much it cost to make per person.

And what if LOTS of the recipes included a mini-recipe version… how to adapt the ingredients and timing to make the same meal for one (or 2 people) (instead of the 4-8 people most recipes feed).

The new book by isn’t a cookbook. It’s a cooking school. It isn’t even called a cookbook. It’s called “Successful Home Cooking.” Because I actually want you to be successful, and I’ve done everything in my power to design and create the best product for you so that you can be successful.

Here’s what Priscilla said after she made the meatloaf recipe in “Successful Home Cooking”:

“I really should enter therapy because of my meatloaf and grisly bologna experiences as a child.

I made your meatloaf tonight, Shelley. It tasted unlike any other meatloaf I have ever eaten in my life …… GOOD ! It was more like paté than the chunky dry square hamburger I usually concoct …

I got a little worried when I started your recipe – it started off really smooshy and then all of a sudden it all glued together like really light bread dough. Must have been a combination of some sort of chemical reaction, patience, and following the recipe. I have always balked at the idea of smothering meatloaf in ketchup – but your “spicy” ketchup has a little more class. And it worked for the potatoes too.

I like the details you give: the REASONS for doing things and EXPLANATION of why you do something. (Like don’t reheat in the microwave unless you want to eat sponge.)

I can’t wait for leftovers tomorrow and for more recipes.”

To make this recipe and more…

Check out OneRoastChicken’s new cookbook, “Successful Home Cooking” which is now available for order. This is not another cookbook. This is a cooking school in full-colour delivered right to your kitchen. All recipes include pages of colour photography and step-by-step instructions. And to keep you on budget, every recipe includes the price per serving. How about Meatloaf with Spicy Ketchup for $1.32 per serving? Or Chicken Tandoori for $1.81? Order your copy of “Successful Home Cooking” now…

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu,
Owner & Head Chef

Four things I always have in my freezer

I live in an apartment with a small freezer that is part of my fridge. So without the luxury or expense of a big deep freeze, I still use my in-fridge freezer all the time to make my cooking life easier. Here are four things that I always have:

1. When I’m making Chicken Tandoori which calls for 1.5 teaspoons of lemon juice, I take my lemon, remove the zest with a microplaner or box grater, and then wrap the zest in plastic and stick it in the freezer. This comes in handy for Apple Pie for One, which calls for just a bit of lemon zest. OK, so then I cut the lemon in half, and juice both halves, and this produces about 1/4 cup of lemon juice. I use what I need for Chicken Tandoori, then I put the rest in a small jar in the freezer. I save tiny jars for lemon juice, like the kind that capers come in.

2. I make a Roast Chicken dinner about every two weeks or so. In my house, a small chicken makes enough for the two of us for dinner (we eat the white meat), and then when the chicken has cooled off, I remove the leftover chicken and freeze it in a plastic container. Now I’m fully equipped for my favourite Friday night one-bowl dinner (Thai Curried Chicken). I just pull out the frozen chicken and add it to the pot of bubbling coconut milk and vegetables while the meat is still frozen.

3. I buy lean ground beef from the grocery store in a jumbo family pack, and then I freeze it in half-pound packages. When I want to make hamburgers, I pull out one half-pound package and a couple of sausages and I’m ready to cook. If we’re feeling more like Meatloaf with Spicy Ketchup, then I defrost three half-pound packages.


4. I make chicken broth from the leftover bones every time I roast a chicken. And once the broth is made, I freeze it in one-cup jars that might otherwise be used for jam, or I reuse pickle jars (or others) which hold about 4 cups. We go through a lot of chicken broth on a weekly basis so it’s definitely cheaper and easier to have homemade on hand. I use chicken broth instead of water to cook rice. I use it to make Instant Beef Soup (which uses a combination of beef and chicken broths to get the best flavour). And my favourite Thai Curried Chicken recipe needs 1/3 cup of broth in the sauce, and then more broth to cook the rice.

To make these recipes and more…

Check out OneRoastChicken’s new cookbook, “Successful Home Cooking” which is now available for order. This is not another cookbook. This is a cooking school in full-colour delivered right to your kitchen. All recipes include pages of colour photography and step-by-step instructions. And to keep you on budget, every recipe includes the price per serving. How about Meatloaf with Spicy Ketchup for $1.32 per serving? Or Chicken Tandoori for $1.81? Order your copy of “Successful Home Cooking” now…

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu,
Owner & Head Chef

What’s for dinner? HMR: Home Meal Replacements

On a recent trip to New York City I discovered a very large Whole Foods Market, a grocery store chain, where one full floor is devoted to precooked and pre-made meals. Hot and cold buffets. A guy served mashed potatoes and meatloaf next to a girl with a huge roast pork, her carving knife ready to go. At first I thought the whole thing was quite incredible — all the colours and smells. Look at all the variety! Look, they even sell bread in little baby packages of only four slices! How cool is that?

But instead of being inspired to eat and sample all these diverse meals, I was quite depressed. I knew from research that this had a name. A nice industry “marketing” name. Ready?

It’s called HMR. Home Meal Replacements. Here’s what the National Restaurant Association says: “Consumers want to enjoy high-quality meals at home but don’t have the time (or the desire) to cook. Solution? Home meal replacement — takeout meals that diners can eat at their own dining-room tables … Because many want foods that they would cook themselves if they had the time, [the store’s] menu leans heavily toward American comfort foods” (source).

So why does this make me feel deflated?

Because they’re taking your money. And lots of it. Mashed potatoes and meatloaf? These two in particular are cheap cheap cheap to make, and pretty easy to prepare. These guys are taking your money in big giant handfuls. It’s not like getting a great curry takeaway that you really can’t easily make at home — these guys are selling you potatoes. They are selling you meatloaf.

Oh, it pains me. The experience of being in that Whole Foods Market on a busy Saturday afternoon was both “Wow look at all the food” mixed with generous portions of “Is this what we’ve come to?” Are we really all soooo busy that making meatloaf is just out of the question? Are we really reduced to buying dinner from a guy wearing a beard-net at the grocery store? Isn’t the grocery store for groceries anymore?

What would gramma say? I can call her up if you like. Nanny Teresa would say: “If you’re too busy to get dinner on the table, then you’re too busy.”

Shelley would say something a bit gentler, like … making and eating food is the best fun you can have with your clothes on. The difference between EATING and DATING is one letter. There’s no easier, faster, healthier, cheaper way to impress yourself (or someone else) than to make dinner. What did you do today? I made roast chicken with rosemary. I made pork tenderloin with baked tinfoil carrots. I made roast vegetables and couscous. I made homemade cream of mushroom soup.

Here’s a simple dinner: heat some tomato based pasta sauce, add a few bottled marinated artichokes (cut up), and few teaspoons of capers. Add some red chilli flakes if you want it spicier. Serve over boiled spaghetti with grated parmesan. It’s hot and cheap, salty and lovely.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.
You can always reach me at

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu
Owner & Head Chef

Audio update > 50 ways to improve your life … and a recipe for the BEST hamburgers

This week I have a special treat for you. I’ve prepared a 4½ minute audio message just for One Roast Chicken subscribers.

On the list of “50 Ways to Improve Your Life,” do you know what Item #4 is?

You’ll want to listen to this week’s audio message to find out. Also, as a special bonus, towards the end of the audio I will share with you my brutally simple and best recipe for hamburgers, so you don’t want to miss out.

CLICK HERE to listen to this week’s audio update…

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. You can always reach me at

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef