Do you ever find yourself missing those helpful boxed dinners that allow you to get dinner together in about a half hour with super minimal effort? I sure do. On rare occasions, I have seen gluten-free versions of these in stores, but they always cost at least twice as much as their gluten-filled counterparts, and turned out not tasting quite as good as I remember.
In an effort to recreate a gluten-free version one of those boxed dinners, I decided to dress up a popular, and less expensive, gluten-free boxed dinner: Annie’s Creamy Deluxe Rice Pasta Dinner. So if you cannot find any of the gluten-free versions of those helpful boxed dinners, or don’t want to spend the extra money on one of them, give this version of Chili Cheeseburger Mac a whirl.
I can find this at many of my local grocery stores, including Walmart and Target. It reminds me of the delicious shells and cheese dinner I used to enjoy in my pre-GF days; however, this version is made with all natural ingredients and tastes like real cheese – because it IS real cheese!
Gluten-Free Boxed Dinner Dress-Up: Chili Cheeseburger Mac
1 box Annie’s Deluxe Rice Pasta Dinner
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup fat-free milk
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
To begin, you need to cook your pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Then add the pasta. Stir immediately. The water will become cloudy – that’s normal.
Never follow the package directions when cooking gluten-free pasta. I usually just start with 6-7 minutes on the timer and check the pasta every minute after that until it’s done. Gluten-free pasta can go from done to mush in a minute, so be careful. Also, the water tends to foam up quite a bit, so stir frequently and turn down your heat as necessary.
While your pasta is cooking, brown the ground beef or turkey in a large skillet with the chopped onion; drain. (If you decide to use turkey, you’ll need to adjust the points appropriately.)
When the pasta is done, pour it into a colander and return the pot to the stove. The sauce packet included is only enough for the noodles, and we want to add more sauce for the meat! So here’s where you’re going to make more sauce.
Measure out your milk into a large measuring cup. Whisk in the cornstarch and other spices. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the pot that you cooked your noodles in and heat over medium-high heat. Stir constantly with a flat or regular whisk until the mixture comes to a boil. This is when it will thicken. At this point, you can whisk in the cheese sauce from the packet. Continue to heat until the mixture reaches your preferred consistency. If you prefer it a little cheesier, feel free to add a handful of cheddar cheese or another cheese of your choice and stir until melted. This will also help thicken the sauce a bit if you so desire. Once the sauce has thickened to your liking, remove from the heat.
If your noodles have since cooled down and started to stick together, run some hot water over them in the colander to loosen them up. Pour the noodles and the meat mixture into the cheese mix and stir until well-combined.
Serve with a leafy green salad and warm gluten-free rolls or cornbread. This is wonderful when reheated for leftovers the next day – I can personally attest to that!
(Serves 4 at 11 pts+/serving)