Cheeseburger Macaroni Casserole

So the first thing you should know about my house is, boxed casserole dishes are expressly forbidden.  I grew up on them.  But the weird, unpronounceable ingredients in those things have made me put my foot down and say absolutely not.  No way.  However I have kids, and having kids we all know that they will taste things like boxed casserole dishes and… to my grand dismay… they love them.

Yesterday we had a late day.  The traffic was horrendous when we were picking up the kids.  There were about six lights we got held up at while emergency vehicles took over.  Construction on every street.  By the time we got home and surveyed the damage (and by damage I mean Mt. Everest laundry pile that is still only 2/3rds folded) I realized dinner was going to be a huge pain.

We had burger meat thawing but it was still rock hard, and it was technically for Saturday night.  But man did I want it.  Like no words could describe how much I wanted it.  So I came up with a compromise.  Compile a dish which would be easy, and satisfy my burger craving.

I wasn’t even going to blog this to tell you the truth.  It’s hardly gourmet.  Cheeseburger macaroni casserole?  Not a phrase I’d ever say to an actual chef.  However the moment I dished it out, I got the most amazing response.  My husband took one bite of the sauce, stared me in the face and said, “If those noodles don’t finish cooking quickly, I will kill them.  I will kill them all.”

My picky children, who I swear give the term picky a brand-new definition, all declared it was the best meal ever.  No joke.  Best meal ever.  My seven year old, the child I have to bribe and BEG to finish half a serving of dinner on most nights, had two servings.  She stuffed her tiny face and while she spent half an hour on the couch moaning about her belly ache turned to me and said, “So worth it mom.  So… so worth it.” 

I mean, if this face is anything to go by.

10563060_10203563354376805_4075170187634043134_nMy middle daughter was slightly less enthusiastic, but also declared, “If you walk away from that pan mom, don’t be surprised if the entire thing disappears…….. INTO MY BELLEH!”

mac4Why yes those ARE bananas ripening for banana bread, how did you know?

So without further ado, the recipe which will restore your child’s love for you.  Or at least make you very popular for about ten minutes.

Just a note, this recipe I made is gluten free, but you can use any noodles.  (Also I have no ingredients photos because again, not planning on blogging.  To make up for it, here’s a picture of a fat cat heavy breathing, which pretty much sums up my life.)

heavy breathingIngredients:

1lb ground turkey (though any ground meat will do)

1pkg Macaroni noodles

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/1/2 cup cheddar cheese

2 tsp salt (divided)

1 tsp oregano

1/4 cup Ketchup

2 tbsp yellow mustard

1/2 cup cheddar for topping

 

Start your pot boiling for the noodles and preheat your oven to 375F.  In a pan, begin to brown the ground meat, adding in the oregano and 1 tsp salt while browning.  This should take about seven or so minutes.  Once the meat is browned, drain most of the fat, reserving about one tablespoon in the pan.  Add in the ketchup and mustard, and toss the meat until fully combined.  Set aside.

In a pot, heat the heavy cream and cheddar.  Stir on low heat until the cream and cheese is fully combined into a rich sauce.  Add in the remaining tsp of salt and stir.  Once finished, pour the ground meat into the cheese sauce and stir until incorporated.

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This part is delicious so restrain yourselves from eating it all.  It took great effort, let me tell you.

 

Once the noodles are done to al dente texture, drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.  If you’re using gluten free noodles like we did, they need a good, thorough rinse to get rid of the starch.  Also if you’re using gluten-free, the noodles to use best are the rice.  Quinoa noodles tend to be very heavy which will leave you with an extremely heavy belly feeling combined with the cream and cheese.

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Once the noodles are rinsed and drained, set aside.  Lightly prep (butter) a glass pyrex or other casserole pan.  Pour noodles, add sauce on top, then give a good stir until the sauce and noodles are combined.  Top with the remaining shredded cheese, and pop into the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is fully melted and slightly bubbly.

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And that’s it!

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Simple as that, and today I’m the hero mom who made the BEST DINNER EVER.  Won’t they be thrilled tonight when they see brussels sprouts on their plate.  Though they are getting burgers too so…. I’d better get SOME credit for that.  Sheesh.

Remember to check out my etsy store for delicious baked goods available in traditional and gluten-free!

Stay tuned for a recipe on Gluten-Free Chocolate Madeleines up next!

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Homemade Tuna Casserole

Who doesn’t love a good casserole, right?  Theoretically they should be easy, and once upon a time I was accustomed to the mushy noodles and flavorless sauces poured over some sort of meat and topped with cheese.  And yeah, those are technically the basics to a casserole.

But years of hamburger helper and boxed casserole, “just mix, pour, bake, done” meals I had as a kid put me off on the whole idea of eating some sort of combined meal in a pan.  Unless it was bacon-topped mac and cheese of course, and then all bets are off.

My husband and kids love a good casserole though.  At first I tried to appease them with things like Shepherd’s Pie and homemade pot pies, but it wasn’t enough.  One of my husband’s favorite meals is tuna-mac.  Literally Kraft mac with tuna and pepper and a handful of shredded cheese.  I can’t stomach it.  However—– I could compromise.  So thus was born my cheesy, melty, delicious homemade tuna casserole.

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Yeahhhh whaaaaaaat!  Look at that sumbitch.  Nom.

The steps are simple enough, even a n00b like me can pull it off.  It’s not a one-stop crock-pot level of easy though, so if you don’t want to deal with the mixing and blending and whisking, this recipe is not for you.

Ingredients:

12 oz bag of Egg Noodles (last night I used the No Yolk brand, but this dish can be made with any noodles.  Next time I’m going for the gluten free rice noodles because they are a huge family fave)

2 1/2- cups sharp cheddar (divided into 1 cup, 1 cup,  1/2 cup)

1- cup colby jack

2- 5 oz cans tuna (your preference.  I used regular packed in oil)

1- can peas (though if you prefer frozen those work too)

3- small sweet peppers or one large red or orange bell (red or orange because you want the sweetness of the peppers)

1- cup chicken broth

2- cups milk (if you’re using milk alternative go with one unsweetened, like unflavored almond or soy)

3- tbsp flour

3 tbsp butter (divided into 1 tbsp and 2 tbsp)

1 tsp salt (or garlic salt as I prefer)

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp oil (I would avoid coconut.  We used grapeseed but any veggie oil will do)

1/2 cup bread crumbs

tuna1Start by preheating your oven to 425F, and starting a pot of water to boil for the noodles. (remember salt is your friend, so don’t hesitate to sprinkle some into the water).  Next, lightly grease your (preferably glass) casserole dish.

In a small bowl, combine the veggie oil, lemon juice, basil, and pinch of pepper and give a quick stir with a fork.  Drain both cans of tuna, then toss together with the lemon/oil mixture and set aside.

Finely chop the sweet peppers/bell pepper and in a frying pan, melt 1 tbsp butter and give the peppers a good saute.  Feel free to sprinkle a little garlic salt (or even add in some garlic if that’s your fancy).

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Guard any leftovers lest the small beasties (read:children) come steal them

Remove the peppers from the heat and let cool for a couple minutes.  Meanwhile start a sauce pan on medium heat and melt the remaining 2 tbsp butter.  With whisk, vigorously stir in 3 tbsp flour and continue to whisk for about one minute– until flour is a nice golden brown.  Reduce heat and add in chicken broth.  Stir until flour is combined.  Add in milk and salt and continue to simmer and whisk until mixture becomes slightly thickened.  This takes anywhere between 5-10 minutes.  It won’t be pudding thick.

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It’s almost a caldo de queso.  Nom nom nom

Once thickened, turn off heat and stir in 1 cup cheddar and 1 cup colby jack.  Mix until melted and combined.  Don’t forget to taste, and if you want it cheesier, add more!  Also remember a pinch of salt can go a long way, so if the mixture tastes bland, try adding another pinch or two and see if that boosts the flavor.

While noodles are finishing their boil, add peppers to tuna mixture, give a good stir, and set aside.

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Cook noodles until almost done.  A little bite to them (al dente) is never a bad thing.  Drain and run cool water over them until the noodles are tepid to the touch.  This stops them from continuing to cook, thus preventing your noodles from going mushy during the baking process.  This step is important if you don’t like mushy noodles.  (And seriously the word mushy is bad enough, right?)

Once tepid, pour the noodles back into the pot.  Add in tuna mixture and desired amount of peas.  (I added about 2/3rds of a can), and give a good stir.

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Finally pour over cheese sauce and mix until fully combined.  Now, when I first made this I thought it looked like too much sauce.  I was afraid my casserole was going to come out all soupy and watery, so I didn’t use all the sauce.  While it was tasty, it was also dry, so lesson learned.  It may look like a lot, but it will continue to thicken and be cheesy and delicious when done.

Once the sauce is stirred in, mix in 1/2 cup sharp cheddar, give a quick stir and pour into your greased casserole dish.

While that’s setting (and this is a good step, let it set at least a minute) take the remaining 1 cup sharp cheddar and in a bowl, lightly toss the cheddar shreds with the bread crumbs.  Once mixed, top the casserole with cheesy-bread mix, and pop into the oven for about 12 minutes.

When done, the crust should be slightly browned.  Pull, set, serve.  It’s probably wise to let it cool for a few minutes but we are savages and start digging in the moment it’s out of the oven.  We have perma-blisters on our tongues.  But seriously, look at this bad boy.  SO worth it.

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So there you have it.  Homemade tuna casserole.  No need for cans of condensed soup, and trust me, it’s way better than anything that comes out of the box.

Note:  Before I forget, someone asked me to do UK conversions, so I will.  I need to look that up because I can’t brain when it comes to conversions or numbers.  So I’ll be getting on that.  At some point.  Bear with me.  ❤  ❤  (Timelord hearts means I love you all a lot.)