In the nearly two years since we started dating (!), his diet has undergone a series of changes, and he now will at least try anything I make for him. Because of this, his father often refers to me as the Miracle Worker.
There are two things in particular that I can trace this change in his attitude to: the Japanese Steakhouse and the entrée I call Cheeseburger Mac.
The only "pieces and parts" food that his mom made that he was willing to eat was Chili and Rice. (It's exactly what it sounds like--warmed up chili served atop rice.) When I learned this, I decided to make for him Cheeseburger Mac. After he had it, he was a convert. Or, at least, he began his trek down the dark path.
And thus, I somewhat proudly present (with assistance from the wonderful Sam):
How to Make Cheeseburger Mac
To start off with, here is our cast of characters:
Pictured here are mustard, mayo, ketchup, Velveeta Cheese, shell pasta, sweet relish, 1/3 pound of hamburger, 3-5 cloves of garlic, and 1 slice of red onion.
(The reason it's only 1/3 pound of hamburger is this meal is intended for 2 people with enough for leftovers the next day if you serve it with side veggies.)
Also needed for this meal are these spices:
red pepper flakes, onion powder, garlic powder, marjoram, ground sage, black pepper, paprika, salt, rosemary, and thyme.
Yes, I like my spices. So sue me.
To start off with, we'll need to prep everything.
First we'll need to chop up about a 1/3 of a cup's worth of onion, or one slice's worth, as pictured here.
Go ahead and dice it up, as we'll sautee it and the garlic before we cook the meat. Once it's diced up, it should look about like so.
Set that aside on a plate, and then proceed to peel 3-5 cloves of garlic.
Normally I just use 3 cloves of garlic, but because these were so puny looking, I went ahead and did five in this instance.
Once you have them peeled go ahead and dice them up like so...
...and set them aside on the same plate as the onion you previously diced.
For those of you keeping score at home, that plate is older than I am. It's entirely possible that that's a plate my mother inherited from her mother, which I in turn inherited. (Mom? Grandma Nena? Buehler?)
Next we'll need to turn our attention towards that lovely block of Velveeta.
Originally I started using Velveeta because, at one time, we thought that dairy may be contributing to Sam's migraine issues. We'd later learn that it was caused by the growth hormones in certain dairy products, and we're now able to enjoy a much wider array of milk and cheeses. However, back when I first started doing this, it was Velveeta or nothing.
All I can say is that I love that man--it's the only reason I was willing to give up cheese.
But I digress.
You'll want to cube up the Velveeta, otherwise it will take FOREVER for it to melt. Trust me on this.
After you have it all cubed up and move it to its own plate, it should look like the above.
(I don't know why it looks so much more orange-y in that picture compared to the previous two, but we'll just roll with it.)
Some of you may have thought to yourselves, "Self, that did not look like a full block of cheese." You would be right--I'd used a small portion of it the other day for my Loaded Potato Soup, because I was out of sliced cheese. But normally, normally I'd be using a 16 oz. block, like the one pictured above.
Now that we have our onion, garlic, and cheese all chopped up, we're ready to move to the stove.
First, fill up a 2- or 3-quart sauce pan with water and set it to boiling on high so that it'll be ready for the shells when necessary. Next, throw a couple tablespoons of butter into a 10-inch skillet over medium heat.
While the butter is busy melting, pull out the hamburger from it's packaging to get it ready to throw in the skillet. (This is also known as killing time until the butter melts.) In case you wondered what a 1/3 of hamburger looks like, it looks like this:
Yes, we live on a budget. It works out though.
Once the butter has melted, throw in the onion and garlic.
You'll want to stir this until the onions start to turn translucent. Once it has, it's time to go ahead and throw in the meat.
You'll then want to start breaking up the meat with your spoon.
Once you have the meat fairly broken up, you'll want to add in 1/2 a teaspoon of each of these spices: onion powder, garlic powder, marjoram, ground sage, black pepper, paprika, salt, rosemary, and thyme.
Note: do NOT add red pepper flakes at this time.
About this time, the water for the shells should be at a boil. We'll want to add about 2 cups of shells.
(I know there's a bit more. I was excited.)
Keep an eye on the meat while you're doing all this, and stir it occasionally so you don't accidentally burn the meat/make it stick to the skillet.
Once the water is boiling again after you added the shells, kick it down to medium to medium-high to let the noodles cook.
By this point and time, the meat should be mostly cooked and ready for you to add in the Velveeta.
Please feel free to do so.
(And if you decide to steal a cube of it to munch on, I won't hold it against you.)
Here's what it should look like just after you add the cheese.
While stirring the cheese (to make sure it doesn't burn) you'll then add 3/4 cup of ketchup.
(I know it looks kind of sickening, but it gets better, I promise.)
As well as 1 large dollop of mayo, 1/4 cup of mustard, and 1 tablespoon of sweet relish.
You'll want to keep stirring it until it melts, which should take about 3-4 minutes or so.
Here it's getting closer. You can tell that I haven't been stirring it as much I need to because of the traces of ketchup juice that's floated to the top. That's okay if it happens--just jump in there and start stirring it again. (I believe this was because of either the green beans we were making or because Sherri and the cats were entertaining us.)
After the sauce was completely melted, I'd normally add the last batch of spices, which consists of 1/2 a teaspoon of onion powder, garlic powder, marjoram, ground sage, black pepper, paprika, salt, rosemary, and thyme, as well as 2 pinches of red pepper flakes.
For some reason, Sam and I missed it at this juncture and added them in later.
Once the sauce has completely mixed/melted and you've stirred in the remainder of the spices, allow the sauce to simmer for 2-3 minutes. Around this time the shells should be done, so drain the shells and throw them in, as shown above. Stir them in until all the shells are thoroughly coated, as shown below.
(This is where we went, "Ah crud, we forgot the second batch of spices. Go ahead and throw them in!")
After the shells are coated, allow the casserole to simmer for another 2-3 minutes while you set the table/finish the green beans/get drinks/entertain the cats, remembering to stir it occasionally.
Lastly serve on a plate and sprinkle with dried parsley and paprika. Voila!
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Size: 2-3 people
1/3 cup of diced red onion
3-5 cloves of diced garlic
16 oz of chopped Velveeta
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 lb of hamburger
2 cups of pasta shells
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup mustard
1 dollop mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sweet relish
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme
2 pinches of red pepper flakes
1 pinch parsley
Dice up red onion and garlic, then set aside. Next, chop up Velveeta into 1-inch cubes and set aside.
Fill 2- or 3-quart sauce pan with water and place over high heat to boil. Melt butter in 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Once butter has melted, add onion and garlic and sautee them. After onion is translucent, add hamburger. Next, add 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, ground sage, marjoram, black pepper, paprika, salt, rosemary, and thyme. Mix thoroughly.
Once water comes to a boil, add pasta shells and reduce heat to medium to medium-high. After the meat has browned, add cheese, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and sweet relish. Stir continually, adding 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, ground sage, marjoram, black pepper, paprika, salt, rosemary, and thyme. Add pepper flakes. Once cheese has melted, allow to simmer 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
After shells have finished boiling for 8-10 minutes, drain and add to sauce mixture. Stir shells until completed coated. Allow casserole to simmer another 2-3 minutes, stirring as needed. Serve and garnish with parsley.