Fast, Cheap & Nourishing Meals : Grass-Fed Hamburger Assistant 7 ways

hamburgerhelperrecipeWhen I first got married over ten years ago, I didn’t know how to cook a darn thing. I met my husband at seventeen and I hardly knew how to boil water let alone prepare suppers for a family. My husbands favorite foods were boxed mac n’ cheese and hamburger helper. Although we have completely transitioned to a whole foods, unprocessed diet, my husband is especially persistent about telling me that he still wants to eat the same kinds of foods he’s always eaten. When I found my passion for home cooked meals, I almost entirely stopped preparing the foods Stephen loved. With homeschooling and hubbs working from home, I am often pressed for time. Having a big batch of hamburger assistant on hand not only saves me time, but it saves money as well. I can purchase grass fed beef and prepare double or even triple batches to freeze for weeks or months in advance. If I can remember to thaw it, I can have dinner on the table in just the amount of time it takes to cook pasta. (Or even Faster: It literally takes five minutes to prepare hamburger assistant “taco pie” or “taco rice.”)

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Although I try to avoid the toddler food, it really is what the kids (and Man-Meat) want to eat. I could continue to try and rewrite history but I’ve really lost the desire to fight it. If they want hot dogs and pasta, I will just have to find the best quality hot dogs and pasta I can find them. When it comes time to make meals I truly am best off just giving them something I know they like. These types of meaty, starchy meals are hearty, comforting food that is nourishing as well as filling. A simple pot of browned hamburger can be tossed into just about anything from soups and salads to skillets and casseroles. I most often use a tomato based hamburger assistant for: American Chop Suey (baked ziti type pasta that is not baked), bacon cheeseburger skillets, nacho pie and sloppy joe or barbecued beef. Tomato free hamburger assistant base is great for beef stroganoff with dill and flat noodles and cheesy broccoli and rice casserole, but really you can do-it-to-it however you like. In my house bacon cheeseburger and chop suey is a hit for the kids, and Man Meat likes “cheesy hash browns” with homemade beef sausage.  Use the highest quality, farm fresh beef, organic potatoes and the most natural pasta you can find.

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Hamburger Assistant, with Tomatoes and Cinnamon

(American Chop Suey)

When I was a kid in New England, I had American Chop Suey for school lunch, fairly regularly actually. Although we had chop suey at home I particularly remember the schools version because it had cinnamon in it. (sorry Grammy!) If you are preparing hamburger base in bulk omit the cinnamon.  I like cinnamon in my chop suey, taco pie or beef barbecue but it doesn’t pair particularly well with bacon cheeseburger macaroni. I think cinnamon and fennel seed add a bit of warmth and love to an otherwise simple dish. Add more or less seasonings to suit your own families needs. Everyone’s tastes vary but keep in mind if you liberally salt and season this hamburger base you will have less fiddling to do later once you have added it to pasta, potatoes, rice or other vegetables. You can use ground chicken, turkey, bison, venison, elk, pork or even bulk sausage. Use what you have on hand!

Gluten Free, Grain Free, Paleo-  Rice and Gluten Free pasta’s are the obvious “grain free, gluten free” options but all variations of hamburger assistant can be served over fried cabbage (cole slaw mix), zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, potatoes, (baked, boiled or made into hash browns) or even on salads. I prefer the fried cabbage or sweet potato options, my husband loves cheesy hash browns.

  • 2-4 tablespoons of lard, or Coconut Oil
  • 3-4 pounds, grass fed beef 
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 10-12 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 12 ounce jar of Organic Tomato Paste
  • 2-3 cups of frozen tomato sauce or Organic Diced Tomatoes
  • 3-4 teaspoons Italian Herb seasoning
  • 1-2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • Celtic Sea Salt (about two teaspoons) and Fresh Cracked Pepper 
  • 1-2 teaspoons garlic powder and onion powder to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, more to taste
  1. In a large dutch oven melt your oil or lard over medium heat. 
  2. Add onions and saute’ them just until they have softened and started to become translucent. (2-3 minutes)
  3. Add dry spices and garlic. Stir to combine.
  4. Add the beef and cook until browned but not dry. 
  5. Add tomatoes and tomato paste.
  6. Simmer 10-20 minutes to let the flavors combine. Add additional herbs and spices as desired.
  7. Add 2-3 cups of prepared hamburger assistant to your favorite pasta, potatoes, veg or rice. (about 3 cups of cooked rice, or one 12 ounce box of pasta cooked according to directions)

Allow the mixture to come to room temperature and place into freezer safe storage. Do not place a hot mixture into the freezer in glass! (I may have done this a few times…) The mixture will keep in the fridge up to 2 weeks.

-Once you have added the meat to your pasta or potatoes add cream or Water to thin to desired consistency. Use your own judgement as to how much meat you want. I like to use a liberal amount of meat, sometimes I puree’ the sauce slightly to help get my youngest to eat meat.You will want to start with approximately 2 cups worth of hamburger assistant to one 12 ounce box of pasta or 3-4 cups of prepared rice.

  • What Is The Best Pasta? We primarily use gluten-free rice pasta’s, I always look for pasta that is non-gmo, preservative free, and sprouted or gluten free. You can use whatever pasta you like. Most “healthy” pasta’s I find to be mediocre at best, I prefer white rice or potatoes over pasta because it’s cheaper and tastes better in my opinion, but the kids really love their pasta. We do eat spaetzle or egg noodles from time to time as a treat but the Ancient Harvest Quinoa Organic Pastais what I use most often for hamburger assistant skillets because it is really only good prepared in small portions and it is the cheapest “good option” that I know of. (It has a firmer texture and it a slight taste of corn, it isn’t so great reheated.) Brown Rice Pasta is also good but it has a longer cooking time and it isn’t ideal for those with picky digestion.

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::: Hamburger Assistant Variations :::

Bacon Cheeseburger: Use 2-3 cups of hamburger & tomato base, add 1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, 3-4 slices of chopped cooked bacon, 2-3 teaspoons of yellow mustard and a good squeeze of organic ketchup. Serve with pasta or hash browns (sweet potato hash is particularly yummy)

Sloppy Joe’s, Barbecued Beef : Use 2-3 cups of hamburger & tomato base, Add 1/3 cup molasses and 1/3 cup of organic ketchup with 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder, 1-2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of mustard.  Serve with your favorite sourdough bun or no bun solution. (a sweet potato latke works nicely for this) I think sloppy Joe’s are the very best with chopped raw onion and bread and butter pickles!

Nacho Pie: Use 2-3 cups of hamburger and tomato base, Add 2 tablespoons of cumin and chili powder, hot sauce to taste. Serve over crumbled organic tortilla chips with melted cheddar cheese. Sour cream, olives and pickled jalapenos are nice too. (We use prepared chili for this and call it “Nacho Pie B… word”  Ahem. I just admitted that? Yes…Yes I did.)  Chili is a whole different world of awesome in my house, we use it for potatoes, salads, casseroles and so on. Authentic Texas Chili is something that usually takes an afternoon. This quickie chili works great in a pinch.

For The Following Variations Omit the tomato paste and diced tomatoes from the hamburger base.

Loaded Baked Potato/Cheesy Hash browns : Mix 2-3 cups of your seasoned, browned beef helper with 1 cup of milk and 2 teaspoons of arrowroot. Stir until smooth-ish. Add 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese and pour over top of partially cooked, peeled, sliced potatoes. Bake until golden brown. (think mac n cheese or au gratin potatoes with hamburger) Serve with bacon, chives, sour cream or your favorite baked potato toppings. For cheesy hash browns combine the beef, milk and arrowroot and bring to a gentle boil. Remove from heat and add cheese. Stir until melted. Pour over prepared hash browns.

Stroganoff : Add 1 cup of milk to 2-3 cups worth of your seasoned, browned beef. Gently warm over medium low heat. Add parsley, dill and 1/2 cup of sour cream or more to taste. Serve with buttered noodles or spaetzle and saute’d mushrooms.

Cheesy Broccoli & Rice : Mix 2-3 cups of your seasoned, browned beef with 1 cup of milk and 2 teaspoons of arrowroot. Stir until smooth-ish. Gently bring mixture to a boil, add 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese and 1-2 cups of gently steamed broccoli. Serve over steamed white rice. (It is also great in baked potatoes or over cabbage)

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