As a kid, I remember eating things like Hamburger Helper (or Tuna Helper *cringe*) on the regular. This MSG, hydrolyzed corn protein and enriched wheat with folic acid infused one-pan meal was a staple of the 80s and my friends and I would bemoan its existence over equally processed school lunches (obviously, I had not been taught my own food rules to cure picky eating at that point!)
As the saying goes, “when you know better, you do better,” and I can honestly say I’ve never purchased a Hamburger “Helper” or any other variety. That said, I can understand the appeal!
A meal that comes together in 20 minutes and only needs one pound of meat?
A 20-Minute Real Food One-Pan Meal
Hamburger helper certainly did have one thing right… the convenience!
In fact, I’m sure its low price and extremely simple preparation were some of the major reasons it gained so much popularity (the taste… not so much!).
With a few simple and equally inexpensive real-food ingredients, you can replace the pre-packaged one-pan meals with more nutritious options. Certainly, you could use organic gluten-free noodles or shirataki noodles, in place of the regular noodles in these types of one-pan meals, but this recipe is perfect for using various types of vegetable noodles.
Turn Vegetables Into Noodles…
I often use our spiralizer to slice zucchini into thin noodles for this recipe (if you don’t have a spirazlier- get one! they do magic tricks in getting kids to love making and eating vegetables!)
Another benefit to this recipe is how easy and fast it is to prepare. My kids love that they can help prepare this recipe (and the older kids can now prepare this all on their own without my help!)
This simple stir fry is a regular in our meal planning rotation and is also my go-to for busy nights when I don’t have anything else ready to cook.
Zucchini is our favorite vegetable in this recipe but you can use any vegetable you have on hand. Some that readers have used and loved: carrots, yellow squash, kohlrabi or sweet potatoes- as the noodles instead.
You can also make mix it up with a variety of spices for completely different flavors. Some of our favorites are:
- 2 teaspoons cumin and 1 teaspoon of chili powder. Top with salsa, sour cream and cheese for a Tex-Mex flavor.
- Add some Italian Seasoning and a can of diced tomatoes. Top with Parmesan for an Italian flair.
- Use curry powder in place of the spices listed and add a little coconut milk for a deep and earthy flavor.
- Try toasted sesame oil in place of the butter, add some extra garlic and top with coconut aminos (similar to soy sauce) for an egg-roll like flavor.
Our favorite beef and zucchini stir fry recipe…
Beef and Zucchini Skillet
Yield 4 -6
An easy stir fry that has a texture similar to pasta and kids love it! Use a spiralizer to make vegetables into fun noodles in this recipe.
- Heat skillet over medium high heat. Melt butter in pan.
- Thinly slice onions and add to skillet.
- Using a spiralizer, peeler or food processor that can julienne, slice the zucchini into "noodles" and add to skillet. Peel them first if you have kids who don't think they love zucchini.
- Cook until starting to soften. This step is optional but adds great flavor.
- Remove from the skillet and place in a baking dish.
- Put under the broiler and cook about 7-10 minutes until desired crispness.
- While cooking, brown the ground beef and add spices.
- Add onions/zucchini back to the skillet, mix and serve.
- Top with any desired toppings and enjoy!
Serving Size 1.5 cups
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 17 g
Saturated Fat 9 g
Sodium 554 mg
Total Carbohydrates 9 g
Dietary Fiber 2 g
Protein 14 g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
What is your favorite stir fry recipe? Share below!