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.
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 Recipe
- 2 onions
- 4 medium zucchini
- 3 TBSP butter (or olive oil)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp adobo seasoning (or make your own)
- 1 tsp dried basil
- toppings (such as pasta sauce, Parmesan cheese, and grated cheese, optional)
- Thinly slice onions and use a spiralizer or peeler to make zucchini noodles.
- Heat a skillet over medium high heat.
- Melt butter in skillet.
- Add the sliced onion and zucchini to the skillet and saute until they are starting to soften.
- Remove vegetables from the skillet and place in a baking dish.
- Turn oven on to broil and place the baking dish under the broiler for about 7-10 minutes until vegetables are desired crispness.
- While cooking, brown the ground beef in the skillet and add the spices.
- Add the onions and zucchini back to the skillet, mix, and serve.
- Top with any desired toppings and enjoy!
What is your favorite stir-fry recipe? Share below!
Discussion (54 Comments)
I just made this for my three boys (and myself tonight). It went over better than expected. I used the smallest julienne blade on my mandolin for the squash (which was fresh from our garden). I used coconut oil instead of butter since all four of us are allergic to cow milk. My five year old usually fights any and all veggies and he has just finished whole bowl I have him. My two year old is on his third helping. Awesome! Thank you for this recipe.
The recipe calls for 1/2 cup butter, but I don’t see where it’s used. Is that just for cooking the onions and zucchini? Can’t wait to cook this up for dinner tomorrow!
Oops.. it is for cooking the onions and zucchini, thanks for the heads up!
Sorry – 1/4 cup!
Made this tonight. I added 1/2 C leftover cooked quinoa and used a bit less ground beef. It was delicious!
You avoid grains because you say they are unhealthy but you don’t have a problem eating meat which is way more unhealthy! Most meat (esp. that purchased at a grocery store) contains steroids, hormones, antibiotics that were pumped into the animals in the factory farms. There’s also been tests done on the chicken at the stores that shows it contains fecal matter… yes, POOP!!! Not only that studies show the relationship between the consumption of animal products and illnesses such as breast & prostate cancers, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, autoimmune disease, osteoporosis, and more. It concludes that people who eat a plant-based diet and reduce their intake of processed foods and refined carbohydrates will escape, reduce, or reverse the development of chronic diseases.
It is not true that meat is more unhealthy than grains… There are essential amino acids in meat that the body needs and can’t make while there is no dietary need for anything in grains that can’t be found in greater amounts in vegetables… I agree on conventional meat though… We buy ours grass fed and organic from local farmers and which has been tested to have extremely high levels of cla and healthy fats… All the studies done on red meat were done on conventional meat with grains still on the diet… And grains have been linked to higher autoimmune issues and other problems…
Do you mean “there are essential amino acids in GRAINS that the body needs” or “there are essential amino acids in MEAT that the body needs”? And further along in the same sentence, by “grabs” do you mean “grains”?
Just a bit confused, thanks.
She means in meat, there are essential amino acids.
Grains have nothing you need, and do you no good at all.
MARIA N TRUPIANO
GRAINS ARE ESSSENTIAL….READ HEALING WITH WHOLE FOODS BY PAUL PITCHFORD.
WELLNESS MAMA SHOULD ALSO READ THIS RESOURCE.
NOT NECESSARY TO ELIMINATE GRAINS. IMPORTANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU ARE BUYING
AND HOW TO PROPERLY PREPARE THE GRAIN.
Im curious though… My brother was diagnosed and has been being treated for a severe case of graves disease, which eventually also developed into graves eye disease. He recently switched doctors and ended up with a top autoimmune doctor. She put him on a fairly strict vegan diet with occasional fish. For the first time they started seeing results getting his immune system undercontrol enough for him to get the surgeries he has needed and stop the immune attacks. But that was due to a lack of both processed foods, grains and meats. I hate that there are so many different research studies all saying one thing or the other. A few months back i tried vegan, which was hugely fought by all family members, except myself. I read and read and read about how meat is bad. Now im trying paleo, with much more success and much less resistance from the fam. Both times i have felt wonderful, though i do think im fealing a little better on the paleo than i did the vegan, and i eat less because the protein stays with me longer. So with all the research that seems to both support and contradict veagan vs. Paleo, how can anyone know whats right. Eye yi yi
Great response! I appreciate your tackfulness in responding to someone seemingly just trying to slam you! Keep up the great work!
Can anyone comment on how they prepare their zucchini into “noodles”? I’m thinking of investing in a mandoline just for this purpose, but does anyone have success using a vegetable peeler (after slicing lengthwise maybe?) or just a knife? I can guess the size I’m going for based on the photos, but any comments on what the ideal size of zucchini noodle is?
I actually just slice the zucchini lengthwise into very thin strips and then peel with a peeler or sharp cheese slicer. I wish I had a mandoline, as I’ve see one work great for making more of a “noodle” size.
Thank you! That’s a big help.
I use the vegetable spiraler from World Cusiine and it works great……I got mine on Amazon a few years ago.
The new “Veggetti” is amazing and made just for this purpose. I got mine at CVS in the “As Seen on TV” section. I have also seen them at Walmart and Walgreens.
Great lil invention for us pastaless folks!
I use zucchini for my spaghetti noodles all the time! This recipe looks easy and I’ll definitely be trying it later!
This was yummy! Made it yesterday — we were outside longer than anticipated and I needed to ditch what I had planned to make for something quicker. I didn’t have any onions left, so made it without, and I imagine it would have been better with the onions 🙂 No one complained about the zucchini, and I usually have at least a couple of snorts and eye rolls there.
Cindy : )
What type of onion did you use? Red? White? Vidalia? My mom says I worry too much about being specific in recipes, but I’m a novice cook and details help! Thanks!
I usually use regular yellow onions, but vidalia or red are great too…
We made it tonight for dinner and it was a big hit! The yellow onions were perfect and it came together so easy! My 20 month old twins were eating it by the fist-full! They both asked for seconds! My four year old was a little skeptical, but she’s having a harder time adjusting to our new eating habits. Thank you so much for the easy and kid-friendly recipe! I love your site! : )
We make something similar in my house regularly, makes awesome leftovers too!
Looks delicious to me! I still have to hide the zucchini from some of my kids. They’ll eat it shredded in fritters.