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HOWTO Make Your Hamburger Helper Better

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I made myself some generic hamburger meal stuff today (you know, like "Hamburger Helper"). It's been a guilty pleasure of mine for decades. I love the stuff. Particularly the "lasagna" types.

Seriously.  The last time I made some, I just followed the directions on the box, and it looked... well, brown.  Brown?  For lasagna flavor?  I know I'm getting artificial flavoring, but even chewing gum makes an effort to hide the fact.

Notice that it kinda LOOKS like lasagna.
Even though it kind of sucks in its default state.  I do, however, have some ways to punch up your meal-in-a-box, particularly the kinds that are faux-Italian food.
  1. Get decent hamburger.  Can't emphasize this enough.  If you decide to use TVP (texturized vegetable protein) with the meat, you can get away with ground chuck (don't drain it if you use TVP), but otherwise get something better.
  2. Stir the mix in a separate bowl first.  This goes for all varieties.  Whisk that powder into the water you add before adding it to the hamburger.  Makes a huge difference.
  3. Add some spices while browning the hamburger.  Personally, I tend to add chunked garlic (garlic salt works in a pinch) and rosemary.  Doesn't have to be great quality for this purpose.
  4. Add tomato paste, reduce the water by about 1/3 of a cup.  Biggest difference.  Get the cheapest you can - though preferably without corn syrup.
  5. Add in some other veggies.  If you're using one of the other varieties - particularly the "cheeseburger" types - add some canned (and drained!) or frozen vegetables when you start the simmering part.  Adds more texture, flavor, and makes it a bit healthier.
  6. Do it yourself.  If you make this kind of stuff on a regular basis, get some decent noodles, whip up some seasonings in packets, and skip the box altogether.  It's not worthwhile if you make it once a month or so (like I do), but if you're doing it once a week or more... well, you'll have the stuff on hand, right?

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