Tag Archives: Hamburger Helper

Real food for busy people

Fresh dairy delivered to my door? Why did I not think of this before?

I have been on a bit of a hiatus lately from Cooking on the Fly, busy with other commitments and life in general. Two things have come out of this rush of busy-ness: home delivery and smoothies.

When I say “home delivery”, I don’t mean that a Peapod truck is pulling up outside my house with boxes of Cap’n Crunch and Hamburger Helper. I like to pick my own groceries and browse the aisles, even if it means braving the store on Sunday afternoon. I don’t mind getting a mystery box of fruit and veggies from a CSA at a local farm — that’s an adventure, like having Christmas every week — because what could be more fun than trying to figure out what to do with 10 pounds of kohlrabi, a bag of purslane, and a couple quarts of Kiwi Gold raspberries?

My journey into home delivery actually began when I started noticing South Mountain Creamery trucks around my neighborhood. I checked out their website and found that they were a local dairy farm that delivered a variety of products right to their customers’ doors.

There’s something romantic about the idea of opening up your front door and finding a glass bottle of milk standing on the doormat. At least, it’s romantic to those of us who didn’t grow up in a time when that was a fact of life, like women wearing hats and gloves in the summer and children walking to school in freshly-starched clothes.

Delivery items

Ah, I love opening my door and finding these on the mat! You can see we've already started sucking down the eggnog. We also added granola to our order this week upon the recommendation of a friend — and it is truly sublime.

The first delivery came on my birthday, which was also election day. It was definitely the highlight. A half-gallon of freshly-pressed apple cider, a quart of skim, a pound of sharp cheddar, and a dozen fresh eggs.

With the holidays approaching, I’ve added egg nog to the order, and it has to be the most heavenly egg nog ever. Just slightly sweet with a distinct nutmeg flavor, this nog is so thick and creamy that I feel like taking a bath in it. Move over Lewes Dairy nog — which has always graced our Christmas breakfast table in past years — but South Mountain Creamery has come to town.

Smoothie and blender

Before...

Which leads me to smoothies. A couple of months ago, my husband was reading the October issue of Runner’s World and they actually had an interesting nutrition article. Instead of the usual chit-chat about bagels with peanut butter and pasta with tomato sauce, they extolled the virtues of nutrient-rich smoothies, both savory and sweet.

This struck a chord with me. Our daughter regularly leaves for school as the sun comes up, walking about 10 minutes to catch the subway, so she’s always in need of breakfast on the run. Enter — the smoothie! Now I just whip one up in the morning and hand it to my daughter as she stumbles sleepily out the door.

spinach smoothie

... and after.

The Runner’s World article gave me some good ideas about smoothies, such as slicing bananas and freezing them to toss in the blender, and it also introduced me to using ingredients like spinach and almonds, while encouraging me to experiment. Since I am always looking for convenience, I now keep my freezer stocked with a wide variety of frozen goodies, like strawberries, blueberries, goji berries, chocolate flavored silken tofu, and chopped spinach. I have also become enamored of unsweetened almond milk, which has a creamy texture and slightly nutty flavor, as well as Silk soynog (sorry, South Mountain, but we can’t eat dairy all the time).

Smoothies have often become my lunch of choice lately; as the days have become increasingly busy, these frozen powerhouses have become my favorite lunch-on-the-go. Besides, I figure a low-cal smoothie at lunch means I don’t have to feel too guilty about that half-glass of egg nog for dessert.

Spinach Eggnog Smoothie

Depending on your mood — and how your clothes are fitting — you can make this with Silk soynog or the real thing. Either way, it’s tasty!

1/2 sliced frozen banana

1/2 cup frozen strawberries

1 cup frozen chopped spinach

1/4 cup eggnog or soynog

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp. honey

1 tsp. ground flaxseed

Dump all the ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. Yup, that was easy!

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A meal fit for a Coupon Queen

Paula in 9th grade

My friend Paula is the Coupon Queen. She regularly updates all of her friends on Facebook of her latest coupon conquests, and the results are impressive. On one trip to Publix, she saved $74.46 off her total bill, paying just $37.15 for milk, lunch meat, cereal, bread, trail mix, cookies, nuts, spaghetti sauce and other bits and pieces. As a busy mom with a family of five, Paula began her coupon fetish in an effort to curb hefty grocery bills; at the same time, she’s trying to figure out how to counter a lifetime of poor eating habits which has added 150 pounds to her once-tiny frame.

I’ve known Paula since I was 14 — we each probably weighed just over 100

That's me. Ah, the eighties...

pounds at the time. She was a pretty dark-haired horse fanatic, I was a mousy-brown-haired (on my way to blonde) beach girl. We worked on the school literary magazine together, Paula married her high school sweetheart, and I left the beach behind for greener pastures. Growing into womanhood, I added about 25 pounds to my girlish figure, which was well within a healthy range for my height. Paula, on the other hand, began struggling with her weight as she got older, beginning a lifetime of yo-yo dieting that brought her to where she is now — 250 pounds and totally frustrated when new friends think this must be how she always looked. Those of us who grew up with Paula know better.

I originally got the idea for this blog because Paula would ask me for advice about how to make her favorite foods healthier. As she told me, her own mom would actually add sugar to the kids’ Frosted Flakes at breakfast, so Paula did not have the advantage that I had, of having a great cook in the kitchen while growing up. Now Paula has started her own blog about her quest for lap band surgery, which is possibly covered under her insurance and that she thinks may be the key to getting her body back under control. You can read it here:

http://my1000milejourney.wordpress.com/

I do use coupons somewhat, but I am definitely not a Coupon Queen like Paula. My kitchen is regularly stocked with organically-grown (or at least pesticide-free) ingredients, and, inevitably, people always tell me that they “absolutely can’t” afford organic foods because it’s too expensive. This is an excuse that I just don’t buy. Anybody can purchase reasonably-priced,  good quality food that is not doused in unnecessary chemicals or loaded with hormones if they just shop smart. However, I think that shopping smart also requires people to think outside the box — something that Paula is working through right now. If you are accustomed to buying Hamburger Helper, then you probably have no idea how to make a comforting but healthful “Cheeseburger Macaroni” from scratch that your kids will love.

No coupons in this batch of groceries, but some smart buys nonetheless!

Last night, however, I made a different pasta dish which was decidedly low-cost and incredibly low-fat — perfect for a Coupon Queen who wants to lose 100 pounds. I purchased my ingredients at Trader Joe’s, and although I know that Paula doesn’t have a TJ’s in her area, she can still find all the same ingredients for the same low cost. My ingredients included a pound of spaghetti (99¢), a 16-ounce bag of fresh mixed Southern Greens ($2.99), olive oil (at 24¢ per ounce, then less than $1 worth), one lemon (40¢), two cloves of garlic (about 25¢), and a 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese (less than $1). I added a protein-rich side dish of Great Northern beans (14-ounce can = 99¢) mixed with one chopped tomato (45¢) and a handful of chopped green olives (at 29¢ per ounce, probably less than 50¢), drizzled with a bit of vinegar and salt and pepper. Total cost for dinner for 5: $8.52 , or $1.70 per person.

For Paula’s kids, it may take time to get used to food that has a lower sodium and fat content, but now is the time to make the change, while they are younger and less set in their ways. For Paula, it’s all about getting out of that box — and clipping coupons for foods that will help her find that thinner person that she knows is still inside of her, just yearning to be free.

Fresh, uncomplicated, and beautiful — a perfect recipe for life!

Spring Spaghetti with Greens

One pound spaghetti, cooked until al dente, then drained and rinsed with cold water

16-ounce bag fresh chopped greens (mustard, turnip, collard)

Juice and zest of one lemon

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 tsp. crushed red chili pepper (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat (or, if you’re like me and you don’t like to do dishes, then just re-use the spaghetti pot) . Add 3 TB olive oil and then add chopped greens, stirring quickly to coat with oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. of salt and lemon juice and stir once more. Cover for two minutes, then stir and cover again. Repeat for about five minutes until the greens are wilted and the stems are slightly tender. Add garlic, lemon zest and spaghetti and toss thoroughly with another 2 TB olive oil until heated through (you can also add the crushed chili pepper if you wish). Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately, with grated parmesan on the side.

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