I have a confession to make (and no, it’s not about why I haven’t posted in the last two weeks).
Growing up, one of my favorite meals was — oh, dear, I’m really admitting this, aren’t I? — Hamburger Helper. Specifically the “Cheeseburger Macaroni” variety.
There, I said it. That wasn’t so bad.
But, the thought of making a box of “Cheeseburger Macaroni” today? Definitely bad.
I’ve long reminisced about my childhood love for that box of processed foodstuff, but I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t love it as much now as I did back then … and with “stuff” being the operative part of “foodstuff,” there’s just no way I’d make it today. The Chef and I avoid processed food as much as possible, opting for fresh, real ingredients instead … and when you can make something similar yourself — in about the same amount of time — why wouldn’t you?
Well, my friends, you can.
I did make a few tweaks to Cooking Light’s version, adding diced onion and carrot, switching out the garlic powder for fresh garlic, and amping up the spices, and I’m thrilled with the results. Warm, comforting, and with the perfect amount of spice, this is an even better version of the “Cheeseburger Macaroni” I remember. It’s the grown-up version. The real-ingredient, deliciously-spiced, grown-up version.
I hope you like it as much as I do.
Spicy Chili Mac
Adapted from Cooking Light/My Recipes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 3 large carrots, finely diced
- 3/4 pound ground beef
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 1/2 cups beef broth
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
- 8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
- 1/2 cup milk
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the onion, garlic, and carrot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the beef, coriander, cumin, and chili powder; cook, mixing with the vegetables, until the beef is just barely pink. Add the broth, water, and tomatoes; stir together, then bring to a boil.
3. Stir in the macaroni; cover and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until macaroni is almost done. Reduce the heat to low, then cook 10 to 15 minutes more or until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat.
4. In a medium-sixed saucepan, heat the milk and cream cheese over medium heat, stirring continuously until the cream cheese melts, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, then add the cheddar cheese in handfuls, stirring between each to allow the cheese to melt; continue until all the cheese is added.
5. Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni mixture; stir together until thoroughly combined, then serve.
Notes: The original recipe calls for skim milk, 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, and reduced-fat cheddar; feel free to use these if you like to make a lighter version.