Friday, October 19, 2012

Box Meal Made Fresh.

Hamburger, Chicken and Tuna Helpers have been around for a long, long time; and while there seem to be more and more varieties, it just never seems to taste any better. The newest commercial for Hamburger Helper is start with the basic ingredients in the box and add your own to make it special. I don't know, but wouldn't making the entire meal from scratch be more beneficial? Seriously, powdered sauces and cheeses are just not appetizing; and anytime I did use one of the products, I ended up "doctoring it up" anyway.

Then there is the newest product on the market by Velveeta; Cheesy Skillets. Now I have to admit that Velveeta, while might be a doubtful real cheese product, has its uses. I did try one of the new skillet meals and was very disappointed, mostly because the packet of "liquid gold" barely covered the pasta and meat in the skillet. Then there is the commerical using a blacksmith seducing a woman with his cast iron skillet and "liquid gold". Holy moly, but that guy creeps me out so much, I'd run before trying out the product.

Meat, cheese, sauce, and veggies mixed all together to make a meal; not a new concept, but manufacturers in the food industry have lowered the standard just way too much. I'm going to post for you my basic recipe for a creamy, cheesy meal that you can have as is; or doctor it up anyway you want. You'll know exactly what the ingredients are because you're putting them in your skillet; no mysteries out of a box. My recipe is for the crock pot, but can easily be made in a skillet by cooking the pasta at the same time you're browning your meat; then adding it all together.

I've also cut alot of oil and fat out of the meal by using very, very lean ground beef; and Velveeta made with 2% milk instead of whole milk. Why not real cheese like cheddar? You would have to melt the cheddar with milk to make sure it became smooth, not clumpy; and real cheese exudes alot of oil itself and who wants to see that floating at the top of your sauce? Like any of my recipes, you can tweak it to your liking, so if you want to use cheddar instead of Velveeta, go for it! Oh, and don't be worried that the meal looks too soupy after it's done; as it rests, the pasta will absorb liquid. Also, any leftovers will heat up easily and still be creamy; no spritzing water on it before reheating in the microwave.

Creamy Cheeseburger Macaroni


2 lbs lean (93% or more) ground beef
1 large onion, diced
1 cup diced mushrooms
4 cups uncooked pasta (small shells, rotini or large elbows)
2 cans (10.5 oz) cream of mushroom soup
1 ¼ cups milk 1 (32 oz) package Velveeta cheese, cut into ½ inch slices

Optional: 1 cup diced bell peppers or ½ cup diced hot peppers (either sautéed with the beef), 1 cup diced tomatoes (add in last ½ hour of cooking); substitute ground turkey for beef.


In a large skillet, medium-high heat, begin browning the ground beef, onion and mushrooms together until no more pink shows in the beef; drain what little oil there is. Place inside a 6 quart crock pot which has been coated with nonstick cooking spray.

Spread the pasta over the meat mixture. In a medium bowl, stir together the soup and milk; pour evenly over the shells. Layer the Velveeta slices on the top; cover and cook on low for 4 hours. It will look soupy at first, but begin to firm up as it rests; however it will remain creamy.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

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