A skillet meal that's outside the box

November 15, 2006|By Jill Wendholt Silva | Jill Wendholt Silva,McClatchy-Tribune

The idea of a skillet supper is hardly revolutionary.

A staple in many American kitchens since General Mills introduced Hamburger Helper in the 1970s, the classic casserole was a precursor to today's popular and convenient "meal kits."

The problem with a meal in a box? From a health standpoint, the veggies are dehydrated specks and the seasoning mixes tend to be high in sodium.

This One-Skillet Italian Meal takes a worthy concept and freshens it up: Add sliced mushrooms, green pepper (buy chopped in the freezer case), fresh zucchini, canned tomatoes and fresh spinach.

Finally, substitute Italian vermicelli for regular noodles. Vermicelli is thinner than spaghetti, and it's easy to break up the noodles and add them to the pan. They cook through as the meal simmers on the stove top.

Spinach tips: Feel free to substitute alternative vegetable combinations to suit your family's tastes. Instead of 1 cup fresh spinach, try adding an equal amount of chopped Swiss chard, small chopped broccoli florets or frozen peas. Or use frozen spinach, thawed and drained well. Be sure to adjust cooking time accordingly so the vegetables remain crisp-tender.

Cooking tips: The ground round used in this recipe was 90 percent lean. We used Healthy Choice reduced-sodium tomato juice.

If the kids aren't crazy about tomatoes, use kitchen shears to snip the tomatoes (while still in the can) into small pieces that cook down and nearly disappear.

Jill Wendholt Silva writes for The Kansas City Star, which provided the recipe and analysis.

One-Skillet Italian Meal

Serves 6

1 pound ground round

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1 zucchini, cut into 1/2 -inch cubes

4 ounces dry vermicelli, broken into 2-inch pieces

3 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added whole tomatoes

2 1/2 cups sodium-reduced tomato juice

1 cup fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Spray a large (12-inch) skillet with nonstick spray coating. Cook ground beef, onion and garlic in skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until meat is browned and onion is tender. Drain and set aside.

Return skillet to heat and add olive oil. Add mushrooms, green pepper and zucchini; stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes. Add dry vermicelli pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally and very gently, until pasta is golden-brown and vegetables are crisp-tender.

Spoon cooked meat into skillet over pasta and vegetables. Add seasonings, tomatoes and tomato juice. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes.

Stir in spinach, cover and continue to cook 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan just before serving.

Per serving: 338 calories, 17 grams fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 55 milligrams cholesterol, 29 grams carbohydrate, 20 grams protein, 324 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber

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