I try to eat well on weeknights, really I do.

But some nights it’s not just my pantry that’s against me.

I came home exhausted and never quite did get that nap I wanted. Instead I settled down before the TV with my computer before me. As I did some mindless data entry, I watched home improvement shows. Surprisingly (or maybe not) this combination seems to sap my will to leave the room, go to the kitchen, and cook.

I love cooking, but often figuring out what to cook is the biggest challenge. I’d been out all weekend (coming home only to recharge my computer, load up more books, shower and … oh yeah, sleep). So I’d not refilled my pantry yet and was getting low on a few staples. In addition, the hamburger I took out on Saturday night had not been eaten; and so had to be used tonight.

So, I had a pound of lean hamburger and no bread, no pasta, no sour cream, no lettuce, and no cheese. This removed the options of: BBQ hamburgers, tacos, enchiladas, or even taco salad. I couldn’t use the oven (it’s broken), so that took away meatloaf or lasagna. I couldn’t make meatballs (no bread, remember?), or bolonaise sauce (no pasta). The beans were either dried or frozen, and I already had 3 cups of chicken chili frozen in the freezer. Frozen being the key word here. I had enough ingredients for hamburger soup, but that tastes best if left in the crockpot for 3+ hours.

The funny thing is – my pantry is almost full and both my fridge and freezer are in a similar state. I try to cook with what I have without buying special things, but I still end up with a fridge full of little bottles and oddities.

Searching through my freezer and pantry, I was able to scrounge a few things. Turning to the Food blog search for inspiration, I found a few similar recipes that mixed up potatoes, hamburger and some spice. They all sounded good, but what I could do was extremely limited by what I had on hand combined with the fact that I only had about 30 minutes to make dinner. Any longer and someone would be ordering pizza. Whether it would be me or my significant other was anyone’s guess.


  • 5 potato hash browns, frozen
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup hot homemade salsa (or salsa of your preference)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano (dried)
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 bag of mixed Californian vegetables (or any frozen vegetables of choice)
  • 2 tsp butter, divided (optional)
  • Ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Thaw the hash browns in a microwave (5-7 minutes on high). Then set them aside on a towel to drain. Note that they must be completely thawed.
  2. Meanwhile, fry up the hamburger and toss all the dried herbs and spices over the cooking meat. Brake the meat up into little chunks and stir often.
  3. Once cooked thoroughly, drained the meat well.
  4. Dump the hash browns into a big glass bowl and mashed them up with a fork.
  5. Add the Worcestershire sauce and the salsa to the mix, and stir well to combine.
  6. Add the drained meat to the mix and mix again.
  7. Put 1/2 the bag of mixed Californian vegetables into a bowl with a little water and a pat of butter. Cover it. Microwave the bowl for 5 minutes on high or until the butter is melted and the vegetables are warm to the touch and free of frost.
  8. Pour the hamburger-and-potato mix back into the frying pan with the rest of the butter. Fry it until everything is warm and somewhat steamy.
  9. Add fresh ground black pepper to taste.
  10. Serve the hamburger-and-potoato mix with the steamed Californian vegetables while hot.


We both liked it.
It was hot, filling, and spicy. It was almost too spicy for me (but that’s because I went nuts when I made the salsa and made it super-hot). The meal was well-rounded-ish and would probably be better with more vegetables added to the fry up. It would have tasted a lot better too if I’d shredded my own potatoes and added a shredded onion to it instead of starting with ready-made hash browns.

I didn’t add enough fats or liquids to make it stick together when I fried it the second time–so it was a bit awkward to eat; rather like a plateful of peas.  Tasty, but it takes time.

Half my plate was filled with vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and a few slices of carrot); while the other half was filled with the fry up, and I still have enough left-over for lunch today.

This is something I’ll definitely make again (with only a few minor changes).