Beefy Mac ‘n Cheese Casserole

For some reason dubbing oneself a “foodie” means everyone assumes you don’t like “normal” food. Like processed, slow cooker, fatty, pre-packaged food. My view of a foodie? You can appreciate ALL kinds of food – even the non-organic, boxed, out of season varieties.

Beefy Mac ‘n Cheese Casserole

1 pound ground beef
1 box Velveeta Shells and Cheese dinner
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup crispy onion strips (a la green bean casserole)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Set a medium skillet over medium-high heat for 3 minutes to preheat. Add the ground beef, onion, garlic salt, and pepper, stirring to combine. Saute until the beef is just browned, about 8-10 minutes. Drain the beef, return it to your pan and reduce heat to medium. Add the tomato sauce, stirring to combine. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, follow the package instructions for the Velveeta Shells and Cheese dinner. When complete, add the tomatoes, stirring to combine.

In a 1 1/2 quart casserole, add the Velveeta Shells and Cheese mixture. Layer the ground beef mixture on top. If desired, sprinkle with the crushed potato chips.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly around the edges. Serves 4.

Dinner for One: Garlic Shrimp Linguine with Broiled Buttery Baguette

With busy schedules, I sometimes find myself flying solo for dinner. I don’t know about you, but for me cooking for one started to feel like a drag, and after finding myself eating a bag of microwave popcorn for dinner I thought, “This can’t continue.” Cooking for myself is an interesting thing. The recipe needs to be quick, simple & satisfying, and the ingredients need to be staples in my kitchen, otherwise I won’t can’t find the motivation to start. Garlic Shrimp Linguine fits the bill, especially when you add baguette slices that have been buttered and broiled. Mmmmm…..

Here’s what you need:

  • Linguine – about 1/4 of a small box
  • 8-10 frozen RAW shrimp, thawed & peeled – remove the tail too
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 leaves fresh basil, chopped (you can substitute oregano or chives, or omit entirely – still delicious!)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Diced tomatoes for garnish (when in season)
Have these ready too: A baking sheet covered in foil, a large sauce pan, and a medium sauté pan.
And here’s how you make it:

The trick to making this a quick meal is to get your self set up before actually cooking. Turn your oven broiler on high to preheat & set the oven rack in the middle. Next, fill your sauce pot about 3/4 full of water, cover and set it on high to boil. Place your sauté pan with 2 tbsp of olive oil on a burner at medium-high. Lay your shrimp on a plate; salt & pepper the side facing up, then set aside.
Is your pasta water boiling? Add 3 tbsp salt to the boiling water, and then add your linguine. Reduce heat & continue boiling, uncovered. Set your timer to 9 minutes – you’re going to under-cook the pasta because it will finish cooking later.
Your sauté pan should be nice and hot, but not smoking. (If it’s smoking, reduce the heat a little before adding the shrimp). Add your shrimp, seasoned side down, to the pan – you’ll hear a sizzle! Season the side facing up with more salt & pepper. Don’t touch them or move them around! After 2 minutes, flip your shrimp. Cook for 2 more minutes & then remove to a plate. Set aside. Turn the burner down to low, you’ll need the sauté pan at the end.
Give the pasta a stir!
Cut two 1/2″ slices from your baguette. Lay them on your baking sheet and butter the tops. Set aside.
Drain your pasta. 
Go back to your sauté pan. Turn the burner up to medium and then add 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tbsp butter, and the garlic. Once the garlic starts to sizzle (about 2 minutes) add your pasta to the pan, stirring to coat. Toss in the basil & Parmesan cheese. Add the shrimp back to the pan, toss for an additional 30 seconds, and then you’re ready to plate the pasta!

Last step: put the buttered baguettes under the broiler for a minute, or until golden brown – I set the timer every time I make these because inevitably I forget about them & end up with burnt toast.

PS: Sometimes microwave popcorn hits the spot no matter what you can cook!

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