Hamburger Helper with Squash + Lentils

There is nothing wrong with classic comfort food, and Hamburger Helper was something that I grew up with and still has a special place in my heart.

I'm not trying to make the original super healthy or low-cal, I'm just making it from scratch and making smart choices so that it's as nutritious as possible while still tasting exactly how you remember.

Taste is always first in my book, the bonus is a little extra nutrition.

Nobody even needs to know that there is squash in the sauce and that you used half the meat because you added in lentils.

You'll be gobbling up this melty, meaty pasta dish only to remember at the end that you had a balanced meal.

Sounds kind of awesome right?!

Homemade Hamburger Helper with Squash + Lentils

servings: 6


  • 1½ pounds butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 6-8 cups)
  • 1 cup cooked lentils (⅓ cup dried)
  • ⅔ pound ground beef
  • 2½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-6 cups beef broth
  • 1 pound elbow pasta
  • ½ cup cream
  • 2½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ancho chili powder (or regular chili powder)
  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese (16 ounces)
  • 4 tablespoons chopped chives, plus more for a garnish
  • Pinch of ground black pepper


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the squash and cook it until it is easily pierced with a fork—about 10 minutes. Then puree the squash in a food processor (this should give you about 2 cups of puree) and set it aside.
  2. While the squash cooks, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Mash the cooked lentils with a fork and combine them with the ground beef. Using your hands, mush the lentils, beef, and 1 teaspoon of the salt together. Add the oil to the skillet and then the beef and lentil mixture. Cook the mixture, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks, until the meat is brown—about 7 minutes.
  3. Add 4 cups of the beef broth, the pasta noodles, squash puree, cream, garlic powder, paprika, and chili powder to the meat. Stir this mixture to combine, and cook it until the noodles are al dente, 10-15 minutes. Add more broth as needed until the noodles are cooked through.
  4. Add the cheese, chives, remaining salt, and a pinch of pepper. Stir to combine, again adding more broth if the mixture is too thick. Serve hot topped with extra chives.


  • You can substitute ancho chili powder with regular chili powder. The smoked paprika can also be subbed out for regular paprika—or you can use more chili powder in its place. A packet of taco seasoning can be used here as well, but you may need more liquid as some seasoning packets will thicken up the mixture. Also if your looking to make this dish a bit leaner add 2 cups of cheese instead of 4, you will still find it cheesy and flavorful.
  • When reheating this dish as a leftover, add an extra splash of water or stock. This will help bring it back to the right consistency.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
Hamburger Helper with Squash + Lentils Healthy

Find more recipes like this in Meat on the Side!


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Spicy Brussels Sprout + Lentil Soup

So great being on The Wendy Williams Show today! Check out the clip--and the recipe!--for my Spicy Brussels Sprout + Lentil Soup.

Spicy Lentil + Brussels Sprout Soup

servings: 4 Makes about 8 cups of soup


  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups yellow onion (1 medium onion), finely chopped
  • 1 cup red pepper (1 large pepper), finely chopped
  • 1 cup carrots (about 3 medium carrots), finely chopped
  • 1 cup celery (2 stalks of celery), finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt *check
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 cups veggie or chicken stock
  • 1 ½ cups brown or green lentils
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts (7-9 large Brussels sprouts), shredded (2.5 cups packed)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons chipotle peppers in adobo sauce*
  • 1 avocado, pitted + chopped into ¼- to ½-inch dice
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro


  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, and add the onion, peppers, carrots, celery, garlic, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Cook this mixture until the veggies are tender—about 7 minutes.
  2. Then add the stock, lentils, 1 ½ cup packed shredded Brussels Sprout, chipotles, and another 1 teaspoon of salt to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook 35-40minutes until the lentils are al dente. Taste soup and add salt if necessary and more stock or water if soup is too thick
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss the remaining 1 cup of Brussels sprouts, the avocado, lime juice, and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt together until well combined.
  4. To serve, divide the soup into serving bowls and top it with the Brussels sprout mixture from Step 4 and some cilantro.


  • Puree or finely chop the entire can of chipotles in adobo and use 1.5 tablespoons for this recipe. Store the remaining in the bottom of a Ziploc bag in the freezer and cut of tablespoon amounts as needed.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

Find more recipes like this in Meat on the Side!



Swordfish + Lentils



Every time I have moved in NYC (and those times have been many) there is always one very important question to ask before even considering the place.


Sure, you can ask about the cost, utilities, pets and other trivial things but let’s get down to the nitty gritty... because there is only one really important question, and that is....


Where is the closest grocery store??





You see there are many places in NYC where you have to walk 15-20 minutes for a grocery store. Some people even have to take a subway or god forbid...a bus!


And though some would argue that you can get your groceries delivered and it's not a big deal, these people obviously don't understand how often I go to the grocery store.





So when my current apartment building boasted a grocery store in the building well... I was sold.


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