Yes my friends, yet another Mac and Cheese recipe for you. I swear I should start a section of my blog just for Mac and Cheese. I can’t help it though, it is one of my favorite comfort foods so if I can find new ways to enjoy it you can bet I will do it!
I refuse to take all of the blame for this one though. One of the dishes I used to make for my kids when they were growing up was a chili mac and cheese and they loved it. They would actually request it for their “special” birthday meal! Now, remember, I didn’t really cook back in those days. I mean I cooked, but I didn’t “cook”. I lived out of cans and boxes. So their “special” meal boiled down to a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese mixed with a can of Hormel chili. They loved it, it was easy, nuff said!
Once I started down this road of trying to make our favorite dishes a bit more healthy this was probably the one they complained about the most. I have said in the past that Rachael Ray was one of my inspirations when I began cooking. She didn’t intimidate me and she made meals that you didn’t have to be a trained chef to prepare. My first blog was called Bobbi Renee and Rachael Ray (ala Julie and Julia) but I was afraid of copyright issues so I closed that one and began Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen. Anyway, whenever I would tell the kids I was making this dish they would beg me not to “Rachael Ray” it, which was code for changing it up.
I finally got them to enjoy it with pasta and cheese sauce made by me instead of that orange powder, but they refused to let go of their Hormel Chili. I have to admit, it was a very quick and easy with canned chili and they still make it that way. But now that it is just Kevin and I at home I get to tinker, or rather “Rachael Ray” it again.
I made this one pretty hot. I mean I thought about calling it 5 Alarm Chili Mac and Cheese but Kevin said it wasn’t THAT hot. OK I will say it might not be 5 alarm, but if you are not a heat lover please reduce the amount of cayenne pepper by at least 50%.
Kevin left me one serving and took the rest of the leftovers to work. All of the guys loved it!
Spicy Chili Mac and Cheese
8 ounces whole wheat elbow macaroni
For the cheese sauce:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup 2% milk
2 cups reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh ground nutmeg
For the chili:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon dark chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup beer
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained
Cracked black pepper
Shredded cheese and sliced green onions for garnish
Into a large pot of boiling salted water add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, approx 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well. Return to pot.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, jalapeno and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes or until onions and peppers are soft. Push the veggies off to the side and crumble the ground beef into the center of the skillet. Brown the beef, breaking it up into bit with a wooden spoon and it cooks. Combine with the onion mixture. Season with the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and stir to combine, cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the beer, scraping the bottom of the pan with the wooden spoon to get up any tasty browned bits. Allow liquid to reduce by 1/2, about 2 or 3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and pinto beans. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Pour cheese sauce and chili into the pasta pot and stir to combine. Ladle into bowls and top with shredded cheese and green onions if desired.