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Easy weeknight meals: One-Skillet Cheesy Beef and Macaroni and more

Mon | Meatless meal

Ooh-la-la. Pretend you're in Paris tonight and serve a Bacon and Egg Bistro Salad for dinner. Dress mesclun greens with a mustardy vinaigrette and top with chopped and fried bacon and a fried egg. The warm egg helps to wilt the leaves a bit and the runny yolk makes the dressing more creamy. Serve a toasted slice of French bread on the side.

Tues | Back to school

Add One-Skillet Cheesy Beef and Macaroni (recipe below) to your school-night dinner repertoire. There will be plenty of food for the kids' friends or enough to pack into insulated containers for lunch the next day. Be a responsible cook and steam some green beans to accompany.

Wed | Rotisserie chicken

Open-face Chicken and Avocado Sandwiches make good use of the store-bought bird. Cube the chicken breast meat and set aside. Make a dressing of mayonnaise and smashed avocado brightened with fresh lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in the chicken and spread on slices of toasted whole wheat bread or an English muffin. Top with thin slices of radish or tomatoes. Fresh fruit on the side and some crispy potato chips.

Thurs | Schmeckt gut!

That's German for tastes good. Sausage With Apples and Sauerkraut may sound more like an Oktoberfest offering but it's delicious even in the middle of a hot summer. In a large skillet with a lid, melt some butter and add several links of smoked sausage — kielbasa or bratwurst will do — cut into 3-inch lengths. Brown on each side, then add apple slices and slightly drained sauerkraut. If it's too dry, add a splash of beer. Cook until the apple has softened slightly and sauerkraut is heated through. Serve with pumpernickel.

Fri | Take heart

Chicken and Artichoke Hearts is a simple stove-top dish for which you need 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a 6-ounce jar of marinated artichoke hearts and any variety of condensed cream soup you have. (I like mushroom.) Drain the artichoke marinade into a hot skillet, using the liquid to brown the chicken breasts on both sides. Add artichokes and soup and stir to combine. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. You may need pepper but not likely salt. Serve with egg noodles and steamed broccoli.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8586. Follow @roadeats on Twitter.

>>MODERATE

One-Skillet Cheesy Beef and Macaroni

2 pounds lean ground beef

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1 cup chopped red, yellow, orange or green bell pepper (about ¼-inch pieces)

1 cup peeled chopped carrots

1 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried basil

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes in juice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder (optional but recommended)

Kosher or coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

¾ pound dried elbow macaroni

2 cups (8 ounces) grated cheddar cheese

Heat a very large skillet over medium-high heat (it should be a deep 12-inch skillet). Add the beef and cook it until browned, stirring until no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Place the browned beef in a strainer and let the fat drain off, then set the beef aside.

Wipe out the skillet, add the oil and heat it over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, carrots, onion and garlic and cook until almost tender, about 5 minutes.

Return the beef to the skillet and add the basil, oregano, tomatoes with their juice, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, if using, and 2 cups of water. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Increase the heat to high and let it come to a simmer. Add the elbow macaroni, stir and cover the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the macaroni is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and/or black pepper as necessary.

Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top, then cover the skillet and cook until the cheese is melted, about 1 minute. Serve this right out of the skillet.

Cooking tip: Leftovers can be reheated on the stove over medium-low heat, or in a preheated 350-degree oven, for 10 to 15 minutes (you may want to add a bit of water if it seems like the macaroni is drying out). If possible, don't add the cheese until the very end, otherwise it has a way of dissolving right into the casserole and not staying on top in that appealing melty way. If you are serving half of the dish on one day and saving the other half for another, sprinkle 1 cup of the cheese over half of the skillet, leaving the other half naked for later.

Serves 8 with lots of leftovers.

Source: The Mom 100 Cookbook by Katie Workman (Workman Publishing, 2012)

Easy weeknight meals: One-Skillet Cheesy Beef and Macaroni and more 08/12/13 [Last modified: Monday, August 26, 2013 11:38am]
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