Monday, October 1, 2012

Chili Cheeseburger Macaroni

So a couple of weeks ago I went fishing around on the web for some easy dinner recipes. Between school, homework, baseball practices and games, homecoming float building nights, my husband's grad school studies and my job search, dinner seems to have become an after thought most nights. NOT OK in my book. I love dinner and us all sitting down together each night. It soothes my soul. BUT, our family is maturing and everyone has their own "thang goin' on". Half of us are zigging when the other half are zagging. Some nights we just can't all sit down. So I went looking for some easy homemade dinners that I could make in the afternoon and we can just heat and eat as we come and go. At the very least, everyone gets a home cooked meal. No frozen dinners, no re-heated take out.

Amongst all the offerings on the ole internet, I found this recipe for Cheeseburger Macaroni. All the ingredients are pantry staples. Nothing obscure, odd or needing a special trip to the store. All things that are easy to keep on hand. Plus, it only uses two pans, easy peasy clean up! That alone will send it to the top of the list. But the very best part of this recipe is that all four of us loved it. The best I ever hope for in a new recipe is a couple of "it's good"s and an "it's ok". I almost never get a unanimous vote. This recipe delivered. I've also shared this recipe with two friends who have confirmed that it was a hit with their families as well. So thumbs up all around. Other than adding a step to blend the Rotel, I only made one other change from the original recipe: I renamed it "Chili Cheeseburger Macaroni".

You can make it with either beef or turkey (I'm showing turkey) and you could swap out the cheddar for some pepper jack to spice it up, or plain old jack to keep it mild. I've made a couple of variations on it but our preference, hands down, is beef and cheddar. See what you think.

Here's the Chili and Burger part: chicken broth (beef broth if you use beef), Rotel ( I like "Original" but you can use "mild" or "spicy" depending on your tastes.), ground turkey (or beef.), taco seasoning (I like a low salt version.), and elbow macaroni.

Here's the cheese part: milk (always whole for cooking.), cheddar cheese, butter, flour, salt and pepper.

Start by browning up the meat. Then drain off any liquid. If you use turkey there won't be much if any.

Meanwhile, blend the Rotel until smooth. You can totally skip this part if you like the tomatoes and peppers to be "chunky". My kids WON'T eat anything thing with chunks of tomato so this is a necessary step for me. Go figure, the kids will eat things with tomatoes and peppers, just no chunks.

Once the meat is browned and drained, add the broth, Rotel, taco seasoning and macaroni. Bring to a simmer then cover and cook for 14 minutes or until the pasta is tender.

While the pasta is simmering go ahead and make the cheese sauce. Start by melting the butter in a medium saucepan.

Add the flour and whisk to combine. Continue whisking and cooking until it turns a light brown color.

Looks kind of like this. This may have gotten a bit brown because I was trying to take a picture. Watch it close because it goes from light brown to burnt in a blink. You mostly want to cook out the pasty floury taste but if you want it to taste more "toasty" or "nutty" then take it to the browned phase.
Next, quickly whisk in the milk. Really whisk it around so there aren't any lumps. Cook until it starts to bubble and gets thick. Remove from heat.

Off the heat, add the cheese and stir until the cheese is all melted and the sauce is really creamy. Then season with salt and pepper.

When the pasta is tender, gently stir in the cheese sauce.

And that's it. A super easy, super tasty, heat and eat, week night dinner. It makes awesome leftovers as well. Enjoy!

Here's a link to the recipe printable: Cheeseburger Macaroni.
They also did a step by step which is purdier than mine, see it here.

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