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Going from Boxed to Fresh | Guest Post from Darbi Townsend

Darbi Townsend


Sep 15th, 2014

Dinner Made Fresh

In hopes of convincing me that a healthy lifestyle can actually be full of taste AND easy to do, a challenge was born…make one meal that I would typically whip up according to the directions on the box and make it with fresh, nonboxed and noncanned ingredients.  If you’re anything like me you might be thinking to yourself, yah right!  Can’t be done unless you spend a minimum of an hour slaving away in your kitchen using ingredients that are never in a normal home, then another hour trying to convince your kids to just try it!  I do like a good challenge though and to be honest both my two kids and I are starting to tire of the same old boxed meals.

My ten year old daughter laughed at me when I told her about this crazy plan to cook a whole meal from scratch and laughed even harder when I told her it should taste better than the boxed stuff.  I’m a single mom of two great kids and also work full time.  The last thing I want to do at night is to be stuck in the kitchen cooking for hours to try to give my kids a healthy dinner.  And let’s face it, when they’re hungry…they’re hungry!  I find myself searching for the quickest and easiest thing just so I don’t have to hear that insufferable phrase every mom dreads…What’s for dinner?!?

I planned on fulfilling this challenge on a Saturday night.  That way I could start it early and, since we all know recipes take at least twice as long to cook as the instructions claim, I could have it done before the kids started whimpering like starving pups.  I got everything out I needed.  I took several deep breaths.  I then…began to cook.  The recipe seemed fairly straight forward, but if anyone could screw it up it would be me!

I took the one pound of ground beef and put it in a skillet with a little oil to brown.

Ground Beef

While the meat was cooking, I took all of the spices and mixed them in a bowl and set aside. Win for me on planning ahead!



Once the meat was thoroughly cooked, I poured in the 2 cups of elbow macaroni noodles.  Hey, anything with elbow macaroni has to be good….right?



Then the milk…



And the water.



After a quick stir, I added in the spices.  See?  That planning ahead came in handy!

Pouring Spices


At this point I feel it is only fair to mention that the directions said that the meal would be ready in 20 minutes.  I’ve spent roughly eight minutes thus far.  Realizing that all I have left is to let it come to a boil then cover and simmer for ten minutes, I begin to get a little excited.  Could this healthier version of my boxed meal actually be done in the same amount of time?  Of course this is me and I know that all could fail at any moment.

I bring this incredible smelling concoction to a boil…

Then cover and let it do its thing for about ten minutes being mindful to stir occasionally since I know this is necessary with those other dinners.  You know, those dinners before I smelled this dinner.  Those dinners I always thought were so easy to throw together at the last minute.  Those dinners I think just might be replaced…

Once the ten minutes is up and the noodles are al dente (taste good enough to eat, you’re welcome!) I pour in the 2 cups of shredded cheese.



By now the kids have each come into the kitchen at least five times commenting on how good it smells but that they still don’t think they’ll like it.  And I’m thinking in the back of my mind…I hope you don’t!  More for me!

I stir it until the cheese is melted through and dish it up.



One word…YUM!  This meal was so good and the kids absolutely loved it!  I did it with no boxed or canned ingredients (still trying to wrap my head around that one) and it tasted better than my old way of “cooking” in the same amount of time.  Plus, and here’s the real kicker, it made twice as much!  So now I have enough food to feed my little family for two meals! 

Give this quick and easy meal a try and you’ll be sure to get the same smiles this mom did.

Get the recipe:


Happy Kids




2 Responses to Going from Boxed to Fresh | Guest Post from Darbi Townsend

  1. Buggie 16/09/2014 at 7:33 pm

    Great job! Looks delish and want the spices you used to create the meal as well!

  2. Lynda wilcox 20/09/2014 at 9:55 am

    Looks like a dsh I make that is freshly made, and is similar to a box. Same hamburger and spices only add Campbell’s tomatoe soup, and Mac. ( I use sea shells) cooked in a separate pan. Toss all together, yum. My family, kids and grandkids, love it. I’ll try yours if you try mine?

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