You Gotta Help Yo-self

The Story

On Wednesday I asked everyone for their favorite Hamburger Helper™.  It was fun seeing all the responses and also to realize that many of you, like me, have fond memories.

It wasn’t until my Dad passed in 1979 that we ever had anything to eat that remotely came from a box unless you counted cereal.  We grew everything we ate during Dad’s lifetime and the thought of his family eating food from a box was not acceptable on any level.  Turns out some of you had Dad’s who felt the same.

As you can imagine, our lives changed drastically after Dad passed.  Mother went to work full-time until making the decision in 1983 to return to school and get her degree in nursing.  My sister, Jill, had started working offshore in the oil field and convinced Mom that she would take care of the bills while Mother devoted all of her time to being a full-time nursing student at the age of 52.  I am 52 right now.  I cannot imagine taking anatomy and chemistry at the age of 52 and actually passing, but she did.  I remember countless nights of me going to bed around 10 or 11 pm and Mother would still be at the dining table writing papers and cramming as much information as she could before returning to school the next day.  She did this for three years and graduated in 1986.  Never let it be said you cannot achieve something if you want it badly enough – at ANY age!

Back to Hamburger Helper™ and why this blog brings back some really great memories.  During those nights of homework, something had to give somewhere and suppertime was it.  Exit homemade biscuits, a meat and at least three vegetables every evening.  Enter the era of “convenience food” i.e. Kraft™ Macaroni and Cheese, Rice-A-Roni™ and of course, Hamburger Helper™.  As a teen-ager this really excited me as I thought it was pretty modern to be eating out of a box (finally!) and living “high on the hog.”  I really thought it was a big deal.  We will overlook the gross amounts of sodium and MSG – we were blissfully ignorant in those days.  It was also my chance to start cooking some and honestly it wasn’t a bad way to learn your way around the kitchen.

I’ve mentioned many times since we started Food Flippers that my Mom is the real cook in this family even though her hands fail her now.  She was great at allowing me to watch as she cooked but she really didn’t have the patience to allow me to cook along with her.  I’m sure that having five to six mouths to feed every night had something to do with it.  Time was everything and schooling a pesky kid who constantly asked questions (nothing has changed there) was not her idea of getting a large meal on the table. So when it was just the two of us after Dad passed, she started asking me to help more.  I enjoyed cooking up a skillet of Hamburger Helper™ along with a salad and really felt like I was doing something special.  Our favorite flavor was the Potato Stroganoff.  I honestly did not know that they still make this flavor until working on this blog.  It has been years since I cooked anything out of a box and Cas has shared he was never a fan of any flavor. (I know, bless his heart!)

One night at dinner about two weeks ago we started talking about foods we ate in the 70’s and 80’s.  Naturally Hamburger Helper™ came up with me and Mom and that gave me the idea of revisiting our favorite flavor of Potato Stroganoff.  I made it one night this week and the look on my Mom’s face was priceless.  Her first words when she saw her plate was, “OH, you made our old favorite weeknight dinner when I was in school!”  That alone was worth the effort in figuring out how to rebirth this one.  It’s the little things folks.

I love how they always highlighted, “Made with Sour Cream”…how much real sour cream have you ever eaten that was a powder?

The Flip:

The biggest flip is of course that I made my version from fresh food and not from a box.  Take away the sodium, MSG and powdered “sour cream” sauce.  Add in flavor and richness that truly leave you with the great taste of the boxed version but a healthier result that you can still prepare in 30 minutes on a busy weeknight.

If you love stroganoff and understand the key ingredients used in making a sauce, you’re half way there with this remake.  Beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, sour cream and a little cooking sherry and you’ve got it made.

Remember the dehydrated potatoes that were like little baby potato chips?  You’ll replace those with yellow potatoes sliced really thin like you would use in making scalloped potatoes.  If you’ve got a mandolin – great; if you do not, slice with a paring knife with the skins left on.

Next, parboil the potatoes in a little salted water for about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and wait for the meat and sauce to be ready.  Instead of mixing it all together on top of the stove, I chose to layer the potatoes, meat and sauce in a casserole dish and bake for about 20 minutes once everything came together.  The result was spot on and the flavor was far superior, if I must say so myself.

If you’d like to take a walk down nostalgia lane without resorting to the boxed route, give this a try.  Go on…help yo self!


The Recipe:  Hamburger Helper Potato Stroganoff Revisited




1 pound ground chuck

1 medium onion, chopped

1 pound mushrooms

5-6 medium sized yellow potatoes, slice thinly with skin on

1 ½ c. soup cream

2 c beef broth

½ c cooking Sherry

1 t onion powder

1 t. Cavender’s Greek Seasoning

¼ c Worcestershire Sauce

1 t black pepper

½ t salt

½ c parsley

3 T flour




  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Wash potatoes and cut into thin rounds. Put in large pot and cover with water. Heat over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Parboil for 2-3 minutes and remove from heat.
  3. In a large skillet, sauté onions, mushrooms and ground chuck until meat is browned. Season with salt, pepper and half the Worcestershire sauce. Once meat is browned, sprinkle flour over entire skillet and stir.  Allow to cook for about a minute.
  4. Add in 1 cup of the beef broth and stir. Add in sour cream and stir.  Add Sherry and stir.
  5. Season skillet with remaining Worcestershire, and onion powder. Taste to adjust seasonings. Allow to cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add in remaining broth and remove from heat.
  7. In a large casserole, add a layer of potatoes in the bottom. Ladle beef and sauce over potatoes until just covered.  Layer remaining potatoes on top.  Pour remaining beef and sauce over top.
  8. Bake in and pre-heated 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until potatoes are fork tender and sauce is bubbly.
  9. Sprinkle fresh chopped parsley on top when serving.

NOTE:  You may want to toast some good French bread to sop up all the sauce!

Kids, this was some good eats!!


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