Everyday Mom's Meals: March 2021

Sunday, March 28, 2021

One Skillet Brings Chilhood Memories

 Did your mom make Hamburger Helper when you were a kid? Mine definitely did! I remember helping her choose which kind we would get at the store. It was a quick, simple meal for a working mom and she never got any complaints from my dad and I. 

Funny story though- she was forbidden from making Tuna Helper because when they were first married and still learning to cook...she made that one a lot...according to dad A LOT...so yeah he got a little burned out on it. To this day, and they have been married for almost 43 years...it's never showed up in the house again. 

I will admit, when the boxes of this convenience meal go on salt for $1 or less, I will grab a couple to keep in the pantry. No shaming! There are great to have on hand when I'm testing new recipes for all of you...and it turns into a disaster! When the experiment ends up in the trash...it's so nice to know I can reach into the back of the cupboard and still feed the family. 

If you enjoyed the boxed variety growing up, but want to stay away from the processed foods, this homemade version will knock your socks off! This was one of those meals I made that immediately got rave reviews and I was promptly told to make again. 

The best part? Just like the boxed mix, this is a one pan supper! Everything cooks in one large skillet, can be on the table in about 30 minutes, and you have less clean up! I love pairing it with a fresh garden salad or a steamed veggie on the side for a complete meal. 

You just might have everything you need to make this in the kitchen right now! Simple ingredients lead to the flavors you will remember from when you were a kid. Be sure to read my note about the pasta to meat ratio too. This is how we like it, but I have some tips if you feel like your family would enjoy it with more/less pasta or meat. 

I am not one to shame anyone for taking some help from the store and convenience foods. You want to use something from a box or the frozen food aisle? Go for it. We all need to make dinner time a little less stressful, and using those things once in a while isn't an issue in my kitchen. But I also love finding ways to make the ones we enjoy with fresh ingredients that I control so I can feel just a little bit better about my big bowl of creamy pasta in front of me! 

Homemade Hamburger Helper

1 lb. ground beef

1 lb. elbow macaroni

1 (32 oz.) box beef broth

1 TBS ketchup

1 tsp. yellow mustard

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. seasoning salt

1 c. sour cream

1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Dried Parsley

Salt and Pepper

 In a large skillet, over medium high heat, brown beef and drain if necessary. In a small bowl whisk together ketchup, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, seasoning salt, salt and pepper. Add to beef and stir well. Add beef broth, scraping bottom of skillet. Add macaroni and stir well. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes until macaroni is cooked. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream until smooth and creamy. Put skillet back over low heat. Stir in cheese until melted. Garnish with dried parsley. *NOTE* We like this ratio of beef to pasta. If you want less macaroni, only use half the box. Or if you want more beef, use 1 1/2 lb. with the whole box of pasta. If it's too thick when finished, or sits a while, add a little extra beef broth to make it creamier. 



Shared at Weekend Potluck


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Easter Side Dish

If you haven't been paying attention, there are now less than two weeks until Easter.  Have you got your menu planned? Even if we probably won't be having huge family gatherings, that doesn't mean the food doesn't need to be on point! I will plan a big spread even if it's just the 4 of us, like last year, or our family plus my parents. Holidays are a time to enjoy those foods we look forward to so much, no matter what! 

How about a new side dish that would be delicious with your Easter ham, is simple as can be, and screams spring time? Sound good? Then you've come to the right place! Oh, and don't worry if you don't need another dish for Easter, because these are easy enough for a weeknight supper too! 

Do you love artichokes? We can't get enough. I am always on the lookout for ways to use the canned artichoke hearts. Ironically I have never had a fresh artichoke, and am actually they intimidate the heck out of me. I know I would enjoy the leaves as much as I do the heart, but I just haven't gotten the courage up to try them. Someday...maybe...

In the meantime when the canned ones are inexpensive, versatile and so yummy, I will keep coming up with ways to use those! I've done then Au gratin style, of course in spinach and artichoke dip, and salads like my Quick Artichoke and Hearts of Palm Salad. 

The crunchy topping on this gives it a great texture contrast with the soft artichokes. For not having a long ingredient list, they really bring the flavor! 

Spring time is a great time to try a veggie maybe you don't think of a lot. Your Easter menu would love something unique and new alongside all the traditional favorites we love. 

Baked Artichokes

2 (14 oz.) cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained well and patted dry

1 TBS olive oil

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 c. panko bread crumbs

2 TBS butter, melted

1 tsp. dried parsley

2 TBS grated Parmesan/Romano cheese

Salt and Pepper 

Preheat oven to 375. Place artichokes in 2 quart casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. In a small bowl combine bread crumbs, melted butter, parsley and grated cheese. Mix well. Sprinkle over top of artichokes. Bake for 25-30 minutes until browned on top. 


Shared at Weekend Potluck

Shared at Meal Plan Monday

Sunday, March 14, 2021


 After some major snow in January and February, here in Indiana, we got a lovely taste of spring over the past few weeks. It was 50 degrees on February 27th, my birthday! That is unheard of! Then last week we had a few days in the 60's and one afternoon it even got up to 70! It was just what my mood needed. The dark, gray, cold, gloomy winter days tend to chip away at my soul. So, some warmth and sunshine really helped! 

But alas, it is March in the Midwest,  o as I type this I'm watching the weather on the news and hearing "chance of winter like weather on Monday." Of course there is! Just when we were getting use to the idea of spring! Then again, I hear Colorado and Wyoming are supposed to get snowfall totals measured in FEET this week, so I won't complain too much! 

Either way, spring is close enough to smell, and there will soon be more days that feel like than ones that don't, so our meals will start to reflect that more and more. However, soup is one thing that doesn't have to go away quite yet. Sure, fall and winter are when soup, chowder and stew season goes into full swing, but rainy and chilly spring days scream soup weather too! 

This is where today's recipe comes in. Creamy Taco Soup is the next rainy night supper you will crave! It comes together in almost no time, so it's perfect on those nights when you're in a rush to get out the door again, or just too tired to deal. What is it about being out in the elements (snow, wind, rain...doesn't matter) that is simply exhausting? 

This is not a spicy soup, but you could easily add some heat! Swap out half the diced tomatoes for some Rotel, or add a small can of green chilies. You could even saute a diced jalapeno to the onion pepper mix. I love when recipes are easily adaptable to all palates! 

This would be a great one to keep handy for Cinco de Mayo too! It's coming quicker than you think and while conditions are improving across the country (thanks be to God) big restaurant celebrations probably still aren't the best idea. So, a pot of this soup, an ooey gooey quesadilla and some chips and salsa, and you can have yourself a pretty stellar fiesta at home!

If we can just hold out a little longer, sunny warm days are ahead. I can't wait until we are sweating because of the heat, but I will take any kind of warm up I can get. And on those days when mother nature tricks us, a big bowl of delicious warm soup can turn a gloomy mood around!

 Creamy Taco Soup

2 lbs. ground beef

1 medium white onion, finely chopped

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 c. beef broth

1 1/2 c. heavy cream

2 c. shredded Mexican blend cheese

2 packets taco seasoning

1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with juice

Salt and Pepper 

Tri-colored tortilla strips

In a large stock pot over medium high heat, brown ground beef with onion, red pepper and garlic. Once cooked, drain if necessary. Add beef broth, scraping bottom of pan. Add tomatoes and taco seasoning. Stir well. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add cream and shredded cheese, stirring constantly until cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve with tortilla strips. 

 Shared at Weekend Potluck

Shared at Meal Plan Monday

Sunday, March 7, 2021

A Stop In The Frozen Food Aisle

I know I'm not the only one who relies on a few convenience and/or prepackaged foods here and there to make life easier.  Sometimes you just need to grab something from the freezer or store shelf to help your day be a little less stressful. There is absolutely no shame in doing so. Especially in the times we are living right now! 

A year ago, I don't know about you, but meal planning and grocery shopping brought me to tears more than once. We were already on edge, scared of this virus that had landed on our shores, and then there was a food shortage. I remember standing in the grocery aisles having to re-do my menu plan on the fly because they were out of everything. Not knowing from week to week what we could find was emotionally draining. At one point, I would have given anything to find a couple boxes of Hamburger Helper and some frozen pot pies! 

Convenience foods get a bad wrap, and I get it. We all want to give our families meals filled with fresh healthy, ingredients. But I also come from the real world. Let's face it, those prepackaged foods are still made because we keep buying them. Sometimes it's because they are cheaper. Sometimes it's because of time. Sometimes it's just simply because they are easier. Personally, I don't want any shame because of it, and I don't give any shame. I have been the lady at the grocery store with a cart filled with fresh meat, veggies and fruits. Standing behind the mom with 4 little ones that had tv dinners, frozen pizzas and cans of ravioli in her cart. I distinctly remember her looking at me, looking at my cart, and getting a look on her face that screamed shame. She assumed I was standing there judging her. Nope, not me lady. You are trying to feed your babies, and doing the best you can. 

This is one of our new favorite casseroles, and guess what? The part I love the best? It starts with a bag of frozen popcorn chicken! Yep, we are taking a terrific traditional recipe like Chicken Parmesan and turning it into a weeknight meal with the help of something from the frozen food aisle! 

Since there is no need to thaw the chicken first (BONUS!) you can come home and have this on the table in less than an hour. Throw on some sweats, toss a quick salad and dinner is done! It's a hearty, filling, perfect after a long, maybe chilly day, casserole the whole family will devour. 

I try really hard to use fresh ingredients in most of our meals. But I will be the first one to admit sometimes that blue box of macaroni and cheese is just easier (oh, and it happens to be yummy). And when those boxed au gratin potato mixes go on sale for $1 or even $.49, yep you can bet I'm going to buy a few to keep on hand for those nights when I just can't handle complicated. 

Taking a little help here and there from the grocery store is no reason to feel shame, or look down upon others for. I think we all appreciate the foods we do have a little more after living through this pandemic, and should be thankful we have the ability to make something from scratch, or pop a frozen lasagna in the oven. Many across this country and around the world would give anything to have that choice, so I will be grateful the next time I'm walking down the frozen food aisle to grab that box of fish sticks. 

 Chicken Parmesan Casserole

1 (25 oz.) bag frozen popcorn chicken, no need to thaw

1 lb. rotini pasta, cooked to al dente

1 (24 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce

1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained

1/2 c. grated Parmesan/Romano cheese blend

1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

1 c. shredded pizza blend cheese

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 TBS Italian seasoning

Salt and Pepper

Dried Parsley

Preheat oven to 375. While pasta cooks, in a large bowl combine spaghetti sauce, tomatoes, seasonings, Parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Fold in popcorn chicken. When pasta is cooked, drain well. Mix into chicken mixture. Transfer to a greased 9x13 baking dish. Top with pizza blend cheese. Bake for 50 minutes until browned and bubbly. Garnish with dried parsley. 


Shared at Weekend Potluck