Recipe: Jaime Surprise

Special recipe from childhood is cheap, filling meal for broke college students



Cheap, simple and comforting.

ANNA YOUNG, Evergreen reporter

Struggle meal … is that still a term? If it is, that’s what I’ve got for you today.

In fact, I don’t even know what to call this recipe. My parents made it a lot when I was a kid, and they just named it after my oldest sister: “Jaime Surprise.” Because I’m the one who always requests it, I think there’s some favoritism at play, but that’s beside the point.

Is it stroganoff? Weird spaghetti? Discount Hamburger Helper? No, really, I’m asking, because I have no idea.

Despite not having a real name, this recipe is a great college kid dinner for a few reasons. One, it’s cheap. If you spend more than $10 on it, you’re doing it wrong. Two, it only involves three ingredients, so there’s almost no way to screw it up. And three, it’s comfort food. That’s especially true for me, with the nostalgia factor and all, but you can’t really go wrong with hot food on a snowy day.


  • 1 lb hamburger meat (any kind)
  • 1 box pasta (again, any kind)
  • 1-2 cans cream of chicken (the cheapest you can find)

Yeah, that’s literally it. I used my Grandpa Heath’s home-ground venison hamburger (no joke) and Great Value garden rotini, but whatever’s clever. If beef hamburger is too expensive, I’ve tried it with turkey burger and didn’t notice a difference.

You can throw in your own spices if you’re feeling creative or chopped veggies if you’re feeling healthy. I was feeling neither, but sometimes I’ll add a good ol’ shake of Creole seasoning on the final product.

Okay, now for the hard part. Prepare yourself:


  1. In a large saucepan, cook the hamburger on medium heat.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook for as long as the box tells you to, stirring occasionally.
  3. Drain pasta in a colander. When the hamburger is cooked through, use a spoon to drain any excess fat.
  4. Combine pasta and hamburger in the large pot.
  5. Add in can(s) of cream of chicken and stir until everything is well-mixed.

Are you sweating? Because that was a lot of work. Fortunately, we’re on the last step:

     6. Eat.

My sous-chef Ellie, who happens to be a rat, got the first taste and approved. In my house, if it’s good enough for my four rats, it’s good enough for me. They’re the one with good taste (and no, I don’t mean in the “A Boy and His Dog” kind of way).

Like I mentioned before, there’s a lot you can do with this. Add some steamed carrots if you’re so inclined, or douse it with your favorite hot sauce. Pair it with red wine, oolong tea or your finest chocolate milk.

So yeah, that’s really it. Try it, and I think you won’t be disappointed. It’s got chicken noodle soup vibes, perfect for this winter weather we seem to have accumulated.