Kids can be picky. I know this probably isn't news to you. With the best efforts put forward most nights for their entire little lives, my kids can be picky, much to my chagrin and frustration. Most nights they do have a home-cooked meal on their plates. We don't eat many processed foods. Notice I said "many". I do my best to provide healthy choices, but even Mommy likes to eat an Oreo cookie every now and then. One positive I will point out about my kids (at least the boys) is that they will always try to eat what is on their plates.
What hits the mark in their somewhat diverse palates often doesn't converge. Logan will say he absolutely loves the salmon I made that night and ask me to make it the next night. Then, Aidan will pipe in and say it's not my best. Well, geez! What typically ends up happening is a groan from one and a smile from the other, which leads to my declaration that you can't have what you want all the time. Tonight, it's Logan's turn to have a favorite. Tomorrow, I will make you one of your favorites, Aidan. Ungrateful little you-know-whats (I'm thinking this with my teeth grating). My annoyance quickly goes away until I see Aidan get up with half of his food still on his plate and he is asking what's for dessert. Such critics I've created. I think half the time they should be on the panel for Top Chef.
I know I'm picking on Aidan. He means well and is just being honest. The same could be said for Logan on any other night. Heck, for that matter, I can call out Gary, too. Well, a couple of nights ago I decided to make my
Beef and Cheese Macaroni. It is actually one of my most popular clicks on the blog. When you're aiming to please family members of all ages, you can hardly ever go wrong with ground beef, macaroni, and cheese. It's easy, fast, and can be made up in one skillet. While I do enjoy my version from last year, I always felt like something was missing. It needed a kick to it. Yes, yes, this isn't gourmet fare. I know that, people. I also know when something, something is missing.
As I was walking through the grocery aisles thinking about what was wrong with the dish and what I could add, it hit me. Instead of looking at it like a spaghetti meat sauce, I needed to add some Mexican flavors and a little more boost of tomato. So, I chopped up a bell pepper. I added Aidan's favorite two spices: hot chili powder and cumin. And, then I added a can of tomato puree and a can of diced tomatoes with more Mexican seasoning. In essence it was the same dish, but the spices and stronger tomato base made it something entirely new.
And, guess what? The boys absolutely loved it. Loved it! I had to leave before Aidan had dinner. He actually called me on the phone to tell me it was so good and could we please have it again for leftovers the next night. And, the next night Logan told me that it was one of the best things I've ever made. What? What? It's just Skillet Beef and Macaroni. Hey, who am I to judge?
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16 ounce elbow macaroni
1 pound ground beef
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon Mexican chili powder
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes with Mexican seasonings, drained
1 15 ounce can tomato puree
2 cups grated Cheddar or four-cheese Mexican mix of cheese
Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain. Add 1 cup of the grated cheese and mix into the warm pasta. Set aside.
In a large pot, brown beef over medium heat until pink almost disappears. Add the chopped onions and pepper. Stir over medium heat for five minutes until the onions and peppers begin to soften.
Sprinkle the chili powder and cumin over the beef mixture. Stir to combine. Continue cooking for 3 minutes.
Add the drained tomatoes and the puree. Stir to combine with the mixture. Turn the heat to medium-low and cover. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes while the sauce thickens up.
In a large bowl, combine the pasta and the meat sauce. Stir to combine. Add the last cup of cheese to the top. It will melt fast.