It has been hot here, peoples. *sigh* This sometimes makes meal time a bit of a struggle, as the heat tends to make our appetites feel off. Plus, I don’t want to do anything that will make the kitchen unduly hot, which generally means I shy away from the oven.
So tonight, we decided that another of my “one skillet” meals à la Hamburger Helper style would be good. You remember Hamburger Helper, right? “Hamburger Helper helped her hamburger help her make a great meal!”
I’ve been making my own version of “hamburger helper” for years. It all started when I was casting about for something quick and easy for supper one night, and a recipe for “One Pan Curly Roni” on the back of a package of American Beauty pasta caught my eye. Ever since, I’ve been doing all sorts of variations on what hubby and I refer to as the “one pan roni,” varying the seasonings and ingredients based on what we have on hand, what flavors sound appealing, and how many folks we’re feeding. Regardless of how I make it, it always helps my hamburger (or ground turkey, or Italian turkey sausage, or whatever I happen to use) make a great meal — although that helping hand has yet to show up in my kitchen 😉
Tonight, we’re going for Latin flair with Mexican Rice Skillet Casserole with a pound of lean (93/7) ground turkey I’ve dug out from the freezer. And while we don’t like it in our weather, when it comes to our TexMex, we like it hot, hot, hot, so I make it with lots of spice. 🙂 (Go on, watch it — you know you want to! It’ll bring a much needed smile to your face, and you know it!)
But if you like it milder, then make it with less spice — that’s part of the beauty of making it at home.
I have several variations on Mexican Casseroles. Some are baked and some are one-skillet creations; some use pasta, some use rice, some use tortillas (corn or flour), some have chips.
When I want something easy, I love making homemade one-pan dishes. I keep them healthy by using lean meats (such as 93/7 or greater ground beef or ground turkey), cooking in a non-stick skillet to reduce the amount of oil needed, and because I try to focus a bit more on protein instead of carbs, I usually use a lesser amount of rice or pasta than is called for in many such recipes — or that is provided in the box of Hamburger Helper. Whole wheat and/or higher fiber pasta or brown rice would work well, also, and help boost the nutrition. Also, you may note that I don’t include any additional salt, either.
Because Mexican Rice Skillet Casserole cooks on the stove-top, it’s great year-round, whether you’re suffering under the sweltering heat of summer or the damp cold of winter. It requires little effort in the way of prep and it doesn’t require a lot of fussing. And it’s an economical, yet tasty, way to stretch the number of servings from a pound of meat — and it’s economically affordable to add some nutritious extras to get even more servings if, say, you’re feeding a horde of hungry kids (pre-teens and teens are like black holes when it comes to food — they can’t get enough!) or have some unexpected guests drop by.
This recipe makes about 4 to 5 servings, but you can quickly, easily, economically, and nutritionally increase the number of servings by doing any one or combination of the following:
- Adding another can (or two) of beans, rinsed and drained
- Add in a bit more rice
- Add in 8 to 10 ounces frozen or a 15/16 ounce can (drained) of corn (as opposed to the handful of corn I often add to give a bit of color to the dish)
- Add in some diced green, red, or yellow bell pepper (if peppers are in season and affordable)
Making your own “Hamburger Helper” variations at home is fun, easy, economical, and nutritious, even if the helping hand doesn’t show up. 😉
Hubby enjoys eating this with some tortilla chips. Sometimes I round it out with a tossed green salad (especially if I don’t include beans). You can also garnish each serving with your favorite TexMex condiments: sliced jalapeños, sour cream (reduced fat), guacamole or sliced avocado, salsa, cilantro, etc.
And vegetarians, you needn’t feel left out — I think you could either substitute another can or two of beans in place of the meat, or use “Soyrizo,” which may likely be spicy enough that you won’t need other seasonings, or your favorite vegetarian ground meat substitute that you would use for tacos.
Mexican Rice Skillet Casserole (Makes about 5 or so servings; you can easily increase the servings as described above)
- One pound lean (93/7 or greater) ground beef or ground turkey
- 1 packet taco seasoning and liquid as called for on package OR seasonings as you would for tacos
- 1/2 to 1 onion, diced/chopped
- 1 can beans, rinsed and drained (If making with turkey, I strongly urge that you use black beans or white navy beans; otherwise, almost any bean you would use in chili would work — Ranch Style, pinto, kidney beans, chili beans, black beans) (Beans are optional, but add more fiber, protein, and increase the number of servings)
- 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies OR 1 can diced tomatoes, liquid reserved
- 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce (I like to use El Pato, a spicy Mexican tomato sauce)
- 2/3 to 1 cup of rice (I usually use 2/3 to 3/4 cup) (Note: You can use brown rice, but I prefer white rice in this dish, as I find the nutty flavor of brown rice detracts from the TexMex flavors)
- Splash of Worcestershire sauce (Vegetarians — leave out or use a vegetarian substitute)
- Additional seasonings to taste, if desired: chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder
- Optional: Can of diced green chilies (If I don’t have Rotel tomatoes with the green chilis, I will add in a can of diced green chilis)
- Optional: Sliced black olives
- Optional: Handful of frozen corn
- Grated/shredded cheese (such as reduced fat cheddar, Monterey Jack, reduced fat American cheese — whatever you would like)
- Lightly oil or spray a large non-stick skillet. Brown ground meat. Add in onion and brown onion a bit.
- Add in uncooked rice and sauté a bit.
- Stir in seasoning mix and liquid as called for on seasoning packet. Simmer as called for on packet.
- In a measuring cup, pour in liquid from canned tomatoes and tomato sauce. Add in enough water to equal twice the volume of rice used (e.g., if you have 3/4 cup of rice, you will want to have 1 1/2 cups of liquid, total). You may also want to add in an additional 1/4 to 1/2 cup of liquid, if your tomato sauce is especially thick.
- Add in drained beans, splash of Worcestershire, and the liquid. If using, stir in black olives, green chilies, and a handful of corn.
- Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until rice is done — about 2o to 30 minutes for white rice; about 45 to 50 minutes for brown rice.
- If mixture is too thin or “soupy,” simmer, with the lid off, until it reaches desired consistency. (Remember that it will thicken a bit upon standing, too.)
- Remove from heat. Top with cheese and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving. Garnish each serving with favorite TexMex condiments, if desired.
- Refrigerate leftovers. For leftovers with a twist, use as a filling for low-carb, high fiber tortillas or in an omelet!
It smells so yummy and tastes so good, you’ll be dancing the conga — I promise!