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Homemade Skillet Chili Mac

Chili Mac 2If you’re anything like me, a sizeable portion of your life is spent devoted to creating dishes that are somewhat healthy, that your ridiculously picky tiny people will still eat. My girls are great with anything that revolves around “normal” fruits, bread, snack food, sugar, or chicken nuggets, but that is about the extent of their culinary adventurousness.

Which brings me to tonight. And another skillet pasta meal. They love macaroni and cheese, specifically the neon orange variety. You know the one I’m talking about….it starts with a “K”, ends with a “T”, and rhymes with “waft” (ing smell of chemicals) or ( a life) “raft” (of vegetables is needed to counteract this box). Eh. That’s the end of my creativity for the moment; insert your own wittier rhyme here, if you want something funnier.

So back to the picky jerks. They love macaroni and cheese. And they have finally accepted spaghetti into their lives (with beef or sausage and everything!). So told them I was making “spaghetti macaroni and cheese” to explain the color. And apparently they didn’t ever even notice the beans! You could add all sorts of hidden veggies into this, honestly. I find the trick with sneaking vegetables into things for my girls is to learn how to mince. The smaller it is, the less likely they are to notice it. Anyhow, this dish was made entirely from things I have normally in my pantry/freezer, and was thrown together last minute tonight.

Skillet Chili Mac (and not by Hamburger Helper)

Prep time: as long as it takes to defrost your meat? Cook time: 25ish minutes. Yield: 6 servings


  • 1 lb. ground beef (or chicken, or turkey, or emu, if you’re picky like that)
  • 1 can stewed diced tomatoes with onions, celery, and bell pepper (or make up your own trinity and sauté it after browning your beef and before adding everything else) AND the juice
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. granulated garlic
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. turmeric (which I added here specifically for color to help convince them it was mac and cheese, rather than it’s amazing health properties)
  • 8 oz. macaroni pasta
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus more for sprinkling (I only ever have sharp in my house, so that’s what I used)
  • 1/4 cup grated asiago or parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste (I used bacon salt tonight, because I could)


  1. Brown your ground beef. No matter how many times recipes tell me this will take 5 minutes, it always takes me 10. So feel free to take 5 minutes off of your projected completion time if that’s not true for you. Drain excess fat.
  2. If you’re using fresh celery/onions/bell pepper, sauté them with the ground beef until the onions start to get translucent. Add your spices, tomatoes and juice, your dried macaroni (or other pasta, if you prefer) and hot water. Stir everything to combine well.
  3. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until pasta is cooked through (if you don’t have a lid big enough for your skillet, use a cookie sheet; that’s what I do).
  4. Stir in your cheeses, continuing to stir until they melt. Stir in the black beans and season with salt and pepper (and hot sauce, if desired), until you feel it’s perfect.
  5. Serve with a bit more cheese sprinkled on top.

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