Friday, April 17, 2009

Homemade Vegetarian "Hamburger" Helper


Cindi Bower

My dear wife has written this for her BLOG and has graciously allowed me to share it here. For her BLOG please click on the highlighted "BLOG"'s.

For several years, my husband and I worked as teaching family counselors in group homes for mentally ill and mentally retarded adults. We taught social skills, personal hygiene skills, and basic living skills like doing laundry, cleaning, and cooking. A few of these adults could assist with simple recipes, but the bulk of the cooking fell to the two of us.

We worked in various homes over the course of our years in the field. The smallest group was six adult women; the largest was ten adult men. Not only did we have to feed the residents as well as our weekend relief staff and ourselves, we had a strict food budget. We had to find healthy recipes that were satisfying, inexpensive, and simple enough for some of the adults to help with the preparations.

Boxed hamburger helper meals were easy to prepare and were very popular, but were not especially inexpensive since we usually had to fix three boxes per meal. Plus, packaged meals tend to be high in sodium and preservatives, so are not good choices, especially for people who have to restrict sodium in their diets.

I decided I could probably come up with a recipe that imitated packaged hamburger helper but used mainly fresh ingredients. After some experimenting, I concocted the following recipe. In the group homes, we used hamburger instead of soy simply because I was not familiar with textured soy protein. Now that I'm cooking more meals with soy, I substituted soy for the hamburger.

This recipe, the hamburger version as well as the soy version, were instant hits. The adults in the group homes requested it every week (sometimes every day!) and my husband asks for the soy version at least twice a month.



Serves four

1 cup dehydrated textured soy protein crumbles
7/8-cup hot water
1 beef bouillon cube
Cooking oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 carrots, cut in 1/4"-thick slices
½ of a large green pepper, seeds and veins removed, julienned
1 large tomato, coarsely chopped
2 zucchini, cut in 1/4"-thick slices
1 cup tomato sauce
Salt, pepper, basil, and oregano to taste
1 package macaroni noodles, cooked and drained
Parmesan or other grated cheese, to taste

1. Put the textured soy protein in a bowl, add the hot water and bouillon cube, and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes until the water is absorbed.
2. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain.

3. In a large skillet, heat cooking oil over medium heat (I use just enough to cover the bottom of the skillet and add more during cooking if necessary).

4. Sautee the onions, garlic, carrots and green pepper until the onion is slightly browned. Add the re-hydrated textured soy protein, tomato, zucchini, tomato sauce and spices. Cook over medium-low heat until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat.

5. Add the cooked and drained pasta and mix well.

6. Top with grated cheese and allow the cheese to melt.

7. Serve with garlic bread and a tossed salad.


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