Hamburger Assistant

Like the idea of Hamburger Helper but don’t like the smarmy little glove? Need a quick dinner? Try this.

Ingredients
1 lb. Ground Beef
2 packages Beef flavored Ramen Noodles

Cook the ground beef about 3/4 done and drain the fat off. Add seasoning packet from one of the Ramen packages and continue to cook. Meanwhile, boil the noodles from both packages together (no seasoning) for two minutes and drain well. Mix the noodles with the cooked beef, and add remaining seasoning packet to taste. At least a half packet, you may want the whole thing.

This has always been my go-to dish when I’m Mr. Mom. The kids love it, and so do I. At $0.20 plus a pound of beef, it’s a lot cheaper than the glove too.

Salsa

Several years ago, I decided to try my hand at making salsa. The experiment was a success, however, the notes I made on how I made it were promptly lost. Months later, I tried again. I made another satisfactory batch of salsa, took good notes, and lost them again. Since then, I’ve made salsa on a number of occasions, ballparked it each time, and gave up on writing it down. A couple days ago, I made a batch, and decided to document the recipe while it is still fresh in my memory.

Before I get to the recipe, a few notes. The reason I decided to make my own salsa in the first place is that I don’t care much for supermarket salsas available in jars. These products are too wet, containing much more liquid than vegetables, and are often too sweet. I like fresh salsa, full of lots of fresh vegetables, and not a lot of liquid. These days, you can often find decent fresh salsas in the produce or deli section of the supermarket; when I first tried this recipe, this wasn’t the case. Fresh salsas which I’ve enjoyed from the local megamart include Rojos, here in the greater Philadelphia area, and Sister’s Salsa, found in Maine.

I’ll also note that this salsa recipe is a work in progress. I’ll probably make some adjustments next time; I’ll discuss some of these after the recipe. I’ll also add that my taste runs to medium-hot or less, if you like your salsa rocket hot, you’ll want to crank up the fresh hot pepper content, and possibly adjust the seasonings as well.

Fresh Salsa Recipe

  • 4 cups Roma tomatoes (approx 12-14 tomatoes)
  • 2 cups finely diced onion (I like 1/3 red onion and 2/3 Vidalia)
  • 2 cups diced orange and yellow bell peper (1 large of each)
  • 2 medium jalapeƱo peppers, seeded and finely minced
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried cumin
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 lime, freshly squeezed

To prepare the tomatoes, slice each lengthwise into quarters. Using a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon, remove any seeds and inner membrane from each quarter, leaving only the outer flesh of the tomato. Dice. Combine all of the vegetables in a large bowl.

Combine the salt and all of the dried spices in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle about half the mixture over the vegetables and toss. Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.

Remove the salsa from the chill chest and stir well. Have a taste, but take note… the salsa isn’t really done yet. You just need to decide how much more of the seasoning mixture to add. I usually add about half the remaining mixture, holding the rest in reserve. Toss again to combine, and add the cider vinegar and fresh lime juice. Refrigerate another 12 hours. You can serve it now, but it improves with age- it’s really good after a total of 48 hours fridge time.


Its worth noting here that I’ve never quite gotten the seasoning nailed down. I always make approximately 3 tablespoons worth, and add it a bit at a time, sampling as I go. The first couple times, it always seemed too hot at first tasting, so I needed something to reduce the heat. I found that a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar seems to fit the bill. At a later tasting, I end up adding more seasoning anyway, so I’m sure there’s more tinkering to do. The lime juice was a new addition this time around, as I had limes on hand for adding to Corona, and I think it added a bright note. Next time I may try the juice of a whole lime.

For those watching salt intake, I’d suggest that the salt in this recipe is necessary. The salt draws moisture out of the vegetables, allowing them to soften slightly, and helping the flavors to mingle. Also, 1 1/2 tsp (or less, depending on how much seasoning you end up using) in about 8 cups of salsa should work out to a reasonable amount per serving.

One of these days, I’ll make a full batch of vegetables, split it into 4 batches, and try a few variations on the seasoning concurrently, to try and nail the recipe down. The other thing I want to try is to use some fresh herbs to help shape the flavor, perhaps with less dried seasonings. The obvious choice is cilantro, but I’m not a very big fan. The taste seems to overwhelm everything else in a dish. If you should try this recipe, please post a comment with your thoughts, as well as any changes you may have made.