When I was a kid, the sight of few human beings made me as happy as a vision of Betty Crocker’s anthropomorphic meal-time-in-a-box mascot, Lefty the Helping Hand, hanging out on our kitchen counter. Because that meant only one glorious thing: Helper was coming!
As I’ve mentioned before, my mom is not a fan of the kitchen. So Helpers were a common sight in our house — much to the joy of little Bridget. They were so gooey. So noodely. So salty. So yum.
In particular, I adored the 1990 version that featured Lefty wearing a Russian hat:
The Berlin wall is down! Creamy noodley goodness for all!
Anyway, that was 24 years ago. Flash forward through slap bracelets, Tamogotchis, Britney and Justin’s matching denim ensembles, MySpace and the resurgence of all things Apple, and while 29-year-old Bridget no longer eats animal foods, I still cherish the hell out of some Helper memories.
So, not too long ago, I decided I was going to turn this most-dear childhood staple into something a little healthier. The first step? Way less salt. And, obviously, no artificial preservatives. Easy peasy.
Now, your typical stroganoff sauce consists of sour cream, oil, butter, beef broth, onion, garlic powder and salt and pepper. As you know, I don’t play with those first four items. So I improvised. I traded out cashews for the artery-clogging trifecta of cream, oil and butter, added apple cider vinegar for the sour tang, and replaced the beef with a combo of vegan, meatless soy crumble and vitamin-D-packed mushrooms. Mmm, shrooms.
I also felt the need to squeeze some green into my ode to a healthier Lefty. I went with a cup or so of frozen peas, but spinach or kale would be a good plan, too.
The results did not disappoint.
Before I give you the play-by-play on how to whip this up, here’s a little info on why cashews are so awesome:
While they’re not fat free by any stretch of the imagination, cashews certainly kick butter, cream and plain old olive oil’s asses. First of all, they’re actually less fatty than some of their other nut brethren, and they boast unsaturated fat (the kind that’s good for you). They’re also made up of a bunch of minerals, which make your skin, hair and nails all pretty-like. Plus, cashews provide B vitamins, and they contain several antioxidant compounds regarded as anticancer agents. Also, they’re actually a seed (Mr. Seed to you). Who knew?
And now, let’s pig out!…
Stroganoff Non-Hamburger Helper
Sauce (makes about 3 cups)
- 2 cups non-dairy milk
- 1/4 cup water or vegetable broth
- 3 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup soaked raw cashews
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- A generous shake of dried parsley
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 6 oz. non-egg noodles
- 6 oz. vegan meatless crumbles (I used Gardein)
- 4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup frozen peas (or other veggies, such as kale, spinach, etc.)
- To make them as creamy as possible, soak your cashews for at least a half an hour. If you are lucky enough to own a Vitamix or similarly turbo-powered blender/food processor, then you can skip this step.
- Combine all your sauce ingredients in your blender/food processor, and whiz until smooth.
- In a non-stick skillet, combine noodles, sauce, mushrooms and peas and heat to boiling, stirring occasionally.
- When mixture bubbles, turn heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Dig in!