A couple nights ago, I made the Tempeh Helper from Appetite for Reduction. It was the first time I’d had *anything* Helper.
When I was a kid, my parents (by which I really mean my mom) refused to keep junk food in the house. While my classmates had Gushers and Capri Suns and those adorably small bags of Doritos overflowing from their Power Rangers lunch boxes, I had baby carrots and leaky thermoses of juice and homemade peanut butter and cracker sandwiches waiting for me. While my friends gleefully gorged on Captain Crunch for breakfast, I mournfully munched on cornflakes. While my peers sucked down Coke, I sipped on water. Soda and artificial colors and chips were just not welcome in my house, thank you very much. I always looked forward to road trips with my dad, because I knew he was more tolerant of junk food and would stock up on Pringles and Arizona iced tea. Score!
So, perhaps needless to say, we didn’t really keep any sort of Helper around the house, hamburger or otherwise. Therefore, my experience with Isa’s Tempeh Helper was my virgin foray into being Helped. Rawr!
I totally ignored Isa’s pasta recommendation for this dish and made it with my new favorite pasta shape, cavatappi. I can’t get enough of those big ol’ spirals! And I think it worked; they paired nicely with my “rustic” chunks of tempeh.
So, what did I think about this Helper experience? Well, it was tasty, but not mindblowingly amazing. I love me a nutritional yeast-based sauce, but I honestly felt that the Easy Breezy Cheezy sauce was a teensy bit bland. The sauce calls for two tablespoons of broth powder, and Isa recommends Frontier’s “chicken” broth powder. I was quite excited to discover that my co-op carries many a Frontier powder (thanks for the co-op membership, mum!), so I happily purchased a small bag of said powder. However, the Tempeh Helper recipe also calls for two tablespoons of the same broth powder, and I felt that the entire recipe (Helper + sauce) was sort of a one note deal – the “chicken” broth flavor overpowered everything else! Now, maybe that’s the allure of the Helper franchise, and perhaps anyone who grew up on Hamburger Helper would take one bit of the Tempeh Helper and be walloped with a massive smack of nostalgia. But my Helper-less childhood rendered me immune to those sort of attacks. That said, it was still a totally satisfying meal, and I’d probably consider making it again… but I’d mix up the spices for sure.
Were you a junk-food-deprived kid like me, or were your parents less strict? Have you tried Isa’s Tempeh Helper? What did you think?