January 21, 2013

Easy Cheesy-Chili-Macaroni Dish

I tend to make a lot of quick and easy one-pot meals for dinner since it is just the wife and I.  While I do cook quite a few varied meals I'd have to admit the majority the the evening meals I cook  revolve around a handful of proven dishes.

With regards to the kitchen on some most nights I just want to get in, get done, and get out.  I've found that a little bit of pre-planning goes a long way towards cutting time out of my cooking routine.

One of the things I've done is to prepare certain recipe items in batches to be used later.  This is one of those recipes...something I call "Hamburger Helper" even though I don't use hamburger and the ingredients largely come from a jar out of my cupboard, not a box off a store shelf.  The results are far better.  I doubt it is cheaper, but it is definitely frugal in more ways than one.

Hamburger Helper Chili
Pre-prepped mix

  • 1 Tablespoon Corn Starch
  • 1 Teaspoon Paprika
  • 1 Teaspoon Chili Powder (can easily substitute another teaspoon of paprika)
  • 1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Sugar
  • 2/3 Cup Powdered Milk
Other ingredients
  • 1 Pound Ground Meat*
  • 3 Cups Hot Water
  • 1 1/2 Cups Elbow Macaroni*
  • 1 14oz Can Diced Tomatoes*
  • 1 14oz Can Corn*, drained
  • 1 14ox Can Kidney Beans*, drained
  • 1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese*
*There is some flexibility with these ingredients.....

I start by browning about a pound of meat in a medium sized pot.  I wrote "about" because I tend to use ground turkey which tends to come in 20 oz packages.  I personally prefer 80-85% lean and I don't drain the fat off because there is too much flavor in what little fat there is.....and I'm lazy.

"Hamburger Helper" Chili Being Cooked
Ingredients added to cooked meat
When the meat is cooked I dump in all the other ingredients save the cheese.  I usually end up using about 2 cups of macaroni and I prefer to use some diced tomatoes that have chilies and some chili seasoning in them.  If you do that regularly you may wish to substitute a teaspoon of paprika in your pre-prepped mix in place of the chili seasoning.  While I like kidney beans, we have used other beans and we really like garbanzo beans....which I found surprising.  

"Hamburger Helper" Chili Ready to Eat
Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the macaroni is cooked (7-10 minutes).  Add the cheese, remove the pot from the heat, and give it a good stir.  Let the pot sit for five minutes to thicken and give it another good stir.

I like to add a generous helping of hot sauce, or even better, Sriracha Sauce.

Six future meals all measured up
For me the time saver comes from having a bunch of little half-pint jars sitting on the shelf.  I only have to get out all my spices and powdered milk once for a series of meals.  With all the fiddly parts done all I have left to measure out is pasta, water, and cheese.  I'm careful on the water measurements, but I'll just use the measuring cup as a scoop to get the macaroni and I don't measure the cheese.  I just cut off a couple inches off of a 2# block and chop it up.  If I'm a little heavy or a little light on the cheese it still comes out just fine.

Heck, lately I don't even bother to keep track of the cooking time.  When the macaroni looks done I add the cheese and remove it from the burner.  The recipe is pretty forgiving.....

......and I take advantage of that where I can.
Shared 2013.01.21

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