For a person who loves to cook, I sure do struggle to do it sometimes. The problem isn’t a lack of ingredients. We keep our fridge, pantry and freezer well-stocked with all of the staples I need to make a healthy and delicious bean and vegetable soup; a roast beef dinner with all of the trimmings or even a simple salad or plate of pasta. The problem also isn’t a lack of inspiration. I read enough food magazines and blogs to have enough under 30 minute meals in mind to feed us for months. The issue is, without a huge amount of free time, and so many tasty restaurants nearby, it is easy to cave in on a night when we’re tired, and go out and relax over a restaurant meal rather than prepare it, and have to clean up afterwards. There is nothing wrong with those relaxing dinners out. I am so glad to have the freedom to do this sometimes, but we go out more than I’d like to admit, and more than realistically we should on our budget. Every now and then on those tired days, inspiration strikes, and leftovers pair with an easy pantry staple, and we surprise ourselves by pulling together a quick, easy satisfying meal. The rules on these nights are:
1. Use whatever needs using;
2. Make something yummy that makes you glad you are eating at home;
3. Make it quickly and with as little mess as possible; and
4. Work together. Many hands make light work.
Tonight, the stars aligned over our kitchen, and a very easy, very craveable meal was born, which is best described as a Taco Salad – Mac and Cheese Mashup. Pictured below, is the vegetarian version. It was darned good.
Before I go further, let me say a few words about Macaroni and Cheese. Boxed Macaroni and Cheese, specifically, Kraft Dinner is my ultimate comfort food. To me, Kraft Dinner is one thing, and Macaroni and Cheese is completely something else. I really like traditional casserole-style macaroni and cheese made with real cheese now and then, but it is Kraft Dinner that is my true favorite. I have been making it since I was very very little, and no matter what anyone tells me about preservatives, or orange powdered sauce mix, I don’t care. I’m always going to eat it. I love it so much that I wrote a paper in my college composition class called The Kraft Dinner Connoisseur.* Both Kraft Dinner, and a traditional, from scratch Macaroni and Cheese have a solid place in my recipe repertoire. Tonight, it is Mac and Cheese, out of a box, yes, but Kraft Dinner, no. I keep a box of 2% Velveeta Shells and Cheese in the cupboard. It is a nice portion for two, with some leftovers. It might be a teeny bit healthier, being that it uses 2% milk fat instead of whole milk fat in the cheese sauce. And another plus, you can make it even when you have no milk or butter on hand, since all you do is stir the pre-mixed cheese sauce into boiled noodles. Pictured here is the omnivore version…
I made the Mac and Cheese and added a a nice creamy scoop to our bowls, the rest was leftovers. Leftover magic! We had tacos last night, and so we reheated the ground beef taco meat, and the vegetarian Taco Filling by Fantastic Foods** and added a scoop to our respective bowls. Bjorn assembled the fresh taco fixings: Chopped tomatoes, and avocado, cucumber, chopped green lettuce and radicchio, chopped green onions, salsa, a sprinkle of Monterey Jack cheese and a few crumbled chips. It was GREAT. And by great I mean yummy, creamy, and indulgent, and I dare say, somewhat complex, since the meal consisted of two distinct dishes that usually only end up on the same plate at a pot luck. It met requirements for a meal that needs to satisfy, be quick, use what we have, and require very little cleanup and make us happy to eat at home. And now, I even crave it when we aren’t in need of a quick fix. If you aren’t morally opposed to eating Velveeta 2% Shells and Cheese, and you need a quick and tasty supper, give this mashup a try.
*If a person who wrote a paper in college entitled The Kraft Dinner Connoisseur wasn’t destined to be a food blogger, I don’t know who is. I got an A.
**Yowza. For a person who believes in the health benefits of from-scratch home-cooking and avoiding preservatives and commercial foods, I’m really showing my convenience food-using stripes in this post. I stock a few convenience foods that we eat purposefully because they are delicious and they make life easier.