ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Smackaroni and Cheese,” from Eat, Shrink, and Be Merry, by Greta and Jan Podleski*
TIMING: Depending on how you cook your rice, about 1 hour
DIFFICULTY: Not hard if you know how to cook rice
TOOLS: Just a deep, wide saute pan (or, in a pinch, a soup pot) and a whisk, with some other normal pans
COOK TYPE: Stove top (and rice steamer or cooker)
HEALTH: For a family dinner, this is pretty good. You sort of sneak the veggies in there, as well as a whole grain rice, and the kids may not notice for all the cheese sauce and ground beef. Plus, carrots and peas tend to be family friendly, anyhow. It’s also way better than making one of those out-of-the-box dinners, like burger help or whatever.
EXPERIENCE: We made this before, and I repeated all my healthier alternatives. Originally, this was made with pasta and with a cheese-from-the-jar. You could go back (with a quinoa or protein plus pasta), or you could follow my lead. I think this dish is one that really holds up to a short grain brown rice.
NOTES: You are not going to want to make this for guests (unless your guests are your toddler nephews). It’s one of those weeknight, one-dish meals that a mom makes at the end of her wits and on her last ounce of energy. Then everyone sits down and stands back up feeling nourished and satisfied, but not in the least fancy.
Zucchini or green bell pepper would also work, with or instead of the red bell, peas and carrots. Just make sure you dice them up.
This makes a lot. If you want to avoid lots of leftovers, halve this for a family of 4.
- Cook 1 1/2 cups (short grain) brown rice however it is that you make rice. I use a steamer, but you could also use a rice cooker, pressure cooker, or stove top method.
- Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, whisk together 15 oz evaporated milk, 2 tablespoons all purpose flour, and 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder. Heat over medium heat, whisking until sauce is thickened.
- Whisk in 1/2 cup cream cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and 1 cup grated sharp cheddar until all are melted into the sauce. Remove from heat.
- In a deep, wide saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon safflower oil over medium-high heat and add 1 finely diced onion, 1 diced colorful bell pepper, and 3 diced carrots, sprinkle with salt, and cook until softened.
- Add 1 lb ground beef and cook, breaking up, until meat is no longer pink. Stir in 1 large, chopped tomato or 1 can diced tomatoes and 3/4 cup frozen peas and cook until peas are defrosted and hot.
- Add cheese sauce to the beef, then the rice. Mix well and (optionally) top with an additional 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar. Cover and let sit just until cheddar has melted.
Serve with nothing, or at least nothing fancy. As usual, a green salad would be a great accompaniment.
*Recipe has been changed from the original.