Easy Mac & Cheese Burger Bake

Easy Mac & Cheese Burger Bake

As a homeschooling mother of 3, it should not come as a surprise to you that I spend a good deal of my day in the kitchen, creating 3 squares a day, that I liken to culinary works of art.  And by culinary works of art, I mean that yes, cereal counts as a meal.

But seriously, I cook a lot.  And there are days that I’m looking for shortcuts that don’t involve a trip through the local drive-thru.

Quite a while back, my children were grocery shopping with me.  This is not a sport for the faint of heart.  But often, shopping alone is a luxury that I’m not afforded.  As we traveled down the canned goods aisle the offspring took notice of the canned ravioli, spaghetti and meatballs, and such.  I waived them away since we extricated MSG from our diet.  But upon closer inspection, I noticed that Chef Boyardee does not contain preservatives and most importantly, NO MSG.  I tossed a few cans into the cart.

Over the next weeks, I began to silently thank the Chef in Chef Boyardee for making lunch a breeze for me.  And the kids always think it’s a special occasion if I serve them something warm for lunch.  As opposed to, you know, bologna.  But then again, they think it’s a special occasion when I wear clothes that match.

Anyhoo.

I was recently asked to participate in a Chef Boyardee promotion featuring some fun recipes on their website, as well as to come up with a recipe of my very own using the Chef Boyardee products.  I enlisted the help of my children as we shopped the grocery store canned goods aisle, and my oldest daughter came up with a culinary winner.

First of all, I had never considered tampering with Chef Boyardee perfection by adding other ingredients.  And after perusing some of the recipes on the website, I found one that I knew my children would love.

We’re a fan of lasagna in our house, but I don’t often have the time needed to whip up a batch.  So I thought I’d try the Chef Boyardee recipe for Ravioli Lasagna, tweaking a few of the ingredients because I am rebellious in nature.

Ravioli Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • No-Stick Cooking Spray
  • 1 cup frozen loose cut leaf spinach
  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) Hunt’s Diced Tomatoes, drained well
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded Italian blend cheese

Directions:

1.    Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 8×8-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Place spinach in microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH 2 minutes; squeeze spinach dry.

2.    Combine ravioli, drained tomatoes and Italian seasoning in medium microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH 3 to 4 minutes or until mixture is hot. Combine cottage cheese, spinach and black pepper in small bowl.

3.    Place half of ravioli mixture in bottom of baking dish. Top with half of cottage cheese mixture and 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Repeat layers. Bake 15 minutes or until cheese is hot and bubbly.

I veered from the recipe a smidge in that I added 1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder and 1/2 teaspoon of Basil into the cottage cheese.  (This is a secret addition to my regular lasagna that I love.)  And at the last minute I had to jettison the addition of the Spinach, because I always keep fresh Spinach in the refrigerator, but alas I miscalculated the expiration date and that bag of Spinach is now lying in state in the bowels of the garbage pail.

I also opted to use the Chef Boyardee Cheese Ravioli in Tomato & Meat Sauce because you can never have too much cheese.  You can quote me on that.  And pssst, I may never need to go to all the trouble to make my homemade lasagna ever again.

Now for the recipe that my daughter and I came up with.  When asked what my children want for lunch, inevitably they say Mac & Cheese.  Which is all well and good, but I like to get a little more protein in them.  To get them through the homeschool portion of our day.  Plus the addition of vegetation of some sort is always a bonus.

Therefore, we created:

Easy Mac & Cheese Burger Bake

Ingredients:

  • Shot of No-Stick Cooking Spray.
  • 2 cans Chef Boyardee Mac & Cheese
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup thawed peas

 
Directions:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Brown the ground beef in a skillet, adding the garlic powder and black pepper.

3.  Mix the cooked ground beef with the 2 cans of Mac & Cheese and cooked peas.  Place in a glass casserole dish after first giving it a shot of cooking spray.

4.  Place grated cheddar cheese on top, and bake for 25 minutes, uncovered.

By baking uncovered, the edges get just slightly crispy, adding to the flavor.  This recipe just landed in my “What?  it’s already 5:00 and I have no idea what to feed these people!” file.  I got a great big thumbs up all around the dinner table.  Add a salad to this meal and you’ve covered most all of your major food groups.

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You can have a chance to create and enter your own recipe into Chef Boyardee’s Make It Boyardeelicious Recipe Contest from December 29, 2011 through March 11, 2012 at Facebook.com/Chefboyardee for your chance to win free groceries for A YEAR as well as one of ten $500 weekly cash prizes.

Then, visit Facebook.com/Chefboyardee from March 26, 2012 through April 8, 2012 to vote for your favorite recipes from the “Make It Boyardeelicious recipe contest.”  Each day, one voter will be selected to win a $100 cash prize.

I can’t wait to see what you all come up with!

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