The Recipe Box: The Kitchen Sink Skillet

I’ve been a Hamburger Helper fan my entire life. I devoured Cheeseburger Macaroni when I was little; ate Beef Pasta all through my adolescence; and made skillet after skillet of Lasagna for The Boyfriend who later became The Hubby. And why not? It tastes good and is super-easy to make!

Oh, to be young and naive…to be blissfully unaware of GMOs and sodium content.

To have no idea what “processed food” means.

Those were the daaaaays!

Now that I’m older and finally starting to educate myself about what goes into certain foods and how to prepare healthier-but-still-delicious alternatives, I’m really trying to make an effort to steer away from overly processed foods as much as possible. If it comes in a packet or a box, I don’t eat it every single day like I used to. After all, I’m not super-skinny dancer chick anymore; I’m mom-of-one-and-hopefully-soon-to-be-two stay-at-home-mom blogger chick now. It’s not just about me (and The Hubby, for that matter) anymore. I have a little mouth to feed and I want to give him the best start I can. At the same time, I still love skillet meals like Hamburger Helper because they’re quick and easy to make…but now, I make them from scratch (or not from a packet or box, at least) whenever possible.

On one of my many occasions with cooking a skillet for dinner, I decided that I wanted to put vegetables into the pot, instead of serving them on the side. After attempting several different combinations, I found one I loved in green beans and carrots. I realized that, if you use the right ingredients, a skillet can truly be a “complete” meal in a single pot (aside from cooking the pasta on its own, of course) — and who doesn’t love having fewer dishes to do?

And that’s where the Kitchen Sink Skillet was born.

Monday night was one of those nights where I just needed to make something quick and (relatively) healthy, and that wouldn’t leave me with a sink full of dishes. So of course I decided to make the Kitchen Sink Skillet! All I had on hand, though, were canned soup and vegetables (which are obviously less than ideal); to make the healthiest-possible version of this dish, you definitely want to use fresh or frozen veggies (and make sure you thaw them first if you’re using frozen ones) and a homemade or storebought organic tomato soup or sauce. The dish also calls for pasta, and you could really use just about any shape you want but again, if you want to go really healthy, you should go for a whole-wheat or other similar variety of pasta.

Now that I’ve said all of that, let’s get cooking!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 1lb package of ground beef, chicken, or turkey (I prefer 93% lean turkey)
8oz (or 1/2 a box) of pasta (any shape and type that you like; I used Ronzoni SmartTaste elbows this time)
2-2 1/2 cups tomato soup or sauce (I used a whole 19oz can of soup; this amount is good if you like “saucier” dishes)
1-1 1/2 cups green beans
1-1 1/2 cups carrots
2-3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (more or less, to taste)
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons paprika
1/4 cup shredded cheese, any flavor (optional)

First, you should get your pasta going, so go ahead and boil a pot of salted water. Once the pasta goes into the water, go ahead and start browning your meat (no olive oil necessary for this).

Keep browning your meat until all the extra fat cooks off, and your meat is starting to caramelize, like this.

By this point, your pasta should be done cooking, so go ahead and drain it. Let it sit in the colander for a few minutes while you add 1 cup tomato soup or sauce to the meat in the skillet and stir to combine.

Once the meat has its saucy coat on, add your cooked pasta to the skillet, add 1 cup of soup or sauce, and stir to combine. Hello, gorgeous:

Now you want to add in your veggies, your Worcestershire sauce and spices (a little at a time, taste-testing as you go), any soup or sauce you have left, and cheese (if you’re using it) and stir to combine again.

Let it sit on the burner for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, to help the veggies heat up and the cheese to melt, and to allow the dish to come together. Your skillet should be practically overflowing at this point — it’s a lot of food, and a complete meal: meat, grains, dairy, and veggies all together in one pot! Have some fruit for dessert and you’re good to go!

Now go and enjoy!