CARTHAGE, Mo. —
I get it. Sometimes the prospect of planning a meal and then executing said meal is daunting.
You worked hard all day, whether it be inside the home or outside. So you reach for a box of Easy Cheesy Whatever that you just have to mix with boiling water for a filling family meal. Stop reaching for the box of instant dinner; instead, reach for the container you mixed up yourself.
Boxed mixes are full of fake food, stabilizers and preservatives. They will fill you up, but that's all you're going to get. There's little nutritional value, plus they don't taste that great. If your budget is your main concern when it comes to food, you can have the same ease and economic efficiency by making your own mixes. Dinner will be delicious and healthy for your family. You may even get away with a complete meal in one pot. I love that, and I know you do, too.
Boxed meal mixes come in a variety of flavors. Tuna, Chicken and Hamburger Helper have essentially the same long list of unpronounceable ingredients. Rice-A-Roni and its sibling Pasta Roni follow suit. Your own mixes will be just as easy to throw together.
To make the bulk of these mixes, you'll need a few basic spices and whole-wheat noodles or brown rice. Measure dry ingredients into small containers or plastic bags. Include an index card with quick instructions on how much water, milk or cheese to add. I like to throw whatever chopped veggies I have on hand into the pot for a complete, one-pot meal.
Use these recipes to try making your own boxed meals. Chickensintheroad. com is a great resource for additional homemade mixes.
Chili cheese hamburger: Use 1 pound of ground beef, 1 cup hot water, 2 cups milk and 11/2 cups elbow macaroni. Prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon paprika. Add 1 cup shredded cheddar near the end.
Beef stroganoff: Use 1 pound ground beef, 1 cup hot water and 2 cups milk (if you have sour cream, replace 1/2 cup of the milk with sour cream) and 11/2 cups small egg noodles. Prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon pepper with an add-in of 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms.
Cheesy jambalaya: Use 1 pound ground beef, 3/4 cup hot water and 2 cups milk, 1 cup rice, and 1 cup stewed or diced canned tomatoes. Prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon basil, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, near the end.
Lasagna: Use 1 pound ground beef, 2 1/4 cups hot water and 1/2 cup milk, 1 1/2 cups either lasagna broken into small pieces or small egg noodles, and 1 cup stewed or diced canned tomatoes. Prepare a sauce packet including 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon mixed Italian herbs, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir in 1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded, near the end, then sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese during the 5-minute standing period.
Brown and drain one pound of ground beef. Add 3 cups of liquid (water and/or milk) along with your 1 1/2 cups of pasta or rice (use only 1 cup of rice), the sauce packet and sometimes tomatoes. Simmer covered. The simmer time will be approximately 12 to 20 minutes for most varieties. If cheese is used, stir it in during the last few minutes of cook time and put the cover back on the pot. Turn off heat and uncover. Let stand to thicken at least 5 minutes before serving.
Adapted from chickensintheroad.com