Do you have any meals that you used to eat growing up that, despite their unhealthy and processed-ness (?), you love because they’re nostalgic? Or even if it’s not nostalgia, you like eating them now because you never were allowed to eat them when you were a kid? My parents were pretty healthy people, so we NEVER had sugary cereals, bags of chips, or lunchables laying around our house. And of course, because I was a kid and just wanted unhealthy junk food like the other kids at school, I hated that.
I remember always wanting lunchables. All the other kids had them. Why couldn’t I have them too?? My mom used to say she could “make me my own lunchables” by adding meat, crackers, and cheese into little ziplocks, but it just wasn’t the same. One day when I was really, really little, I finally convinced her to buy me a lunchable for school the next day. I was super excited. I got to go to the grocery store and pick out any lunchable I wanted. I picked “Deluxe Pizza”, and I couldn’t wait until lunch the next day so I could eat it.
So lunch finally comes around the next day, and I open my lunchable. I was slightly confused because there was chocolate syrup and m&ms in there along with the traditional pizza sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. I wasn’t sure why people would mix all these ingredients together, but hey, everyone was always eating those pizza lunchables, and I was going to be just like them! So I put everything on there together…yep…everything. Marinara, cheese, and sauce? Of course. Chocolate sauce? You bet. M&Ms? Throw ’em on there. I took a bite and remember thinking “Well…this is the strangest tasting thing I’ve ever had,” and tried super hard to convince myself I liked it. I ate all three just like that, not realizing that the dessert pizza was supposed to be a separate thing…strug
Needless to say, I didn’t ask for lunchables anymore after that lovely experience.
Hamburger Helper was kind of like lunchables. We didn’t get it often because it’s nooooot the best for you, but when we did have it, I just loved it. Seth grew up eating it from time to time as well, and it’s just one of those things that we remember loving as kids. One time when Seth was in high school, his parents and siblings were going to be home later in the evening, so he made a huge box of Hamburger Helper, thinking they would be eating it along with him when they got home. Well, everyone got home but no one was hungry. The logical thing to do would be to eat one serving and then tupperware the rest for later, right? Wrong. He ate the whole thing. A family size box of Hamburger Helper…totally by himself. That wouldn’t be as surprising if you knew how much food he eats on a regular basis. It’s actually quite impressive. And, of course, he’s not a pound overweight…sigh…men.
I never make Hamburger Helper from the box because I try as much as I can to stay away from cooking processed, unhealthy food, but I was craving Hamburger Helper recently and decided to make a healthier at home version. And for you Hamburger Helper lovers out there – this stuff tastes way better than the boxed version, it is still SUPER easy to make, and it is much better for you! Let’s talk about the simple steps we take to health this skillet of deliciousness up a bit…
- The meat. Hamburger Helper traditionally uses what?…Hamburger!! Surprise! Instead of beef, this recipe uses ground turkey. You’ll never be able to tell the difference, but it is much better for your tum.
- The pasta. We use whole wheat, pushing it miles above its white pasta counterpart in the health department.
- The sauce. Made with no heavily processed ingredients, powders, or unpronounceable additions – just 2% milk, water, and cheddar cheese.
Now, I will say, I can’t label this a “healthy” meal, becauseeeeee I ended up adding three cups of cheese…?. Whoops. What can I say? I was feeling cheesy. Even with your supa cheese, each one-cup serving is under 450 calories…so the three cups of cheese are forgivable right?
Cheese makes the world a better place. This recipe has lots of cheese. Therefore, this recipe makes the world a better place. See? It’s just logical. Don’t you want to make the world a better place? Don’t you??
Cheese makes me happy. Cheers to childhood meals!
- 1 pound lean ground turkey
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 2 cups whole wheat macaroni
- 2 cups 2% milk
- 2 cups water
- 3 cups fresh grated sharp cheddar cheese
- Add a little bit of oil in a large skillet over high heat
- Add your ground turkey and your seasonings (salt, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder) along with a bit of black pepper
- Break up with a spoon and cook until browned
- Remove to a plate
- Add your milk, water, and some salt to the same skillet
- Bring this to a simmer, and add your macaroni
- Bring back to a simmer, and simmer for about 10 minutes (or until noodles are cooked through), stirring occasionally
- When your pasta is done, turn off the heat and add your ground turkey back in along with your cheddar cheese
- Stir until cheese is melted, and season to taste with salt and pepper
- *Note - if this seems a little soupy right at first, let it sit in the pan for about 5-10 minutes and it'll thicken right up as it cools a bit*
Nutrition info is for 1 cup servings.
If you make this or any of my other recipes, be sure to Instagram it and hashtag #thegarlicdiaries!
In the mood for more comforting pasta recipes? Check these out: