Tag Archives: velveeta

Squash casserole (don’t hate me)

Too much squashWe are a little dim in the South. You know that old saying from Edmund Burke, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”  We do that every year. We plant squash.

We have been doing this for hundreds of years. As I said, we’re a little slow down here. In late April, it seems like a good idea. One plant. A few pounds of yellow squash, just for a squash casserole. Let me just say that anything, even one plant, that produces a vine is trouble. Here’s how the season goes.

April: Ah, spring. Time to get our hands dirty and grow our own vegetables. I will put the squash plant off to the corner of the garden so as to minimize its naturally invasive  nature.

May: The tomato plants next door to the squash plant become visibly upset as the squash plant has now turned into ground cover and is creeping slowly but confidently straight for them.

June: I move the tomato plants to the other side of the garden. It is my only hope of a tomato sandwich as the squash vine has now encircled them and is heading toward the peppers.

July: Well, I don’t really like peppers anyway. They have succumbed to the squash vine, which is now approximately the size of Delaware.

August: The squash are ready to harvest – all 10 acres of them. That is a substantial accomplishment considering I have a 10-by-12 foot garden. I make my squash casserole in a 9-by-9 inch pan. I need approximately six squash for this. That leaves me 857 squash to creatively give away. It starts with subtle subterfuge. I tell the neighbors, “I have a little extra produce from the garden – would you like some?” They know this is code for she’s going to try to force 10 grocery bags of squash on us. They do not make eye contact and politely refuse.

Church. I will take the squash to church. It will only taken seven trips.  If I go after dark, leave it on the steps of the parish hall and run quickly away no one will be the wiser. NO! God will know what I’ve done and who knows if that’s one of those things that’s a deal breaker in the afterlife. Squash dumper. Murderer. Rapist. It may be all the same to Him.

As I said, we are a little slow down here. This sad story repeats itself each and every year and it’s multiplied by the fact that we are all growing squash like it’s our birthright as Southerners.

Squash CasseroleSo here is my squash casserole. There are two schools of squash casserole makers – those who prefer the squash chunky and those who like it as a more homogenous part of the casserole. I am in the latter camp  so I grate my squash. There is also a divide between grated Cheddar cheese and Velveeta. I think you know where I stand on that.

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Squash casserole
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Serves: 4
 

Summer on a plate -squash casserole made with Velveeta and a buttery cracker topping (euphemism for Ritz Crackers).
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups seeded grated crookneck squash
  • ½ medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 ounces Velveeta, cubed
  • 24 Ritz crackers, crushed and divided
  • 1 egg, beaten

Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a sauté pan and add the squash and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Saute over medium heat until the squash begins to brown.
  2. Put the squash and onions into a bowl and add the Velveeta cubes. Then add ⅔ of the cracker crumbs and the egg. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Put squash mixture into a casserole dish, sprinkle with remaining cracker crumbs, and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

 

 

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Cheese grits

Cheese GritsGrits, it seems, are (is?) a very controversial topic. If you’re in the South, it’s whether to have them sweet or savory. Sweet is with butter and sugar. Savory is with butter, salt and pepper. If you’re not from the South you tend to dismiss grits altogether. And that is a tragic loss. Kind of like Southerners turning up their noses at corned beef hash, which is decidedly not Southern, but still utterly delicious.

So here is my theory about why some people don’t like grits. They don’t know how to cook them. And, sadly, some of the companies that sell them don’t know how to cook them either. Their directions are just slap wrong.

So here we go. Directions for cooking grits properly. First off, you don’t want instant grits. They come in a packet. You just add boiling water. Nothing good can come of that. What you want are Quick 5 Minute Grits. Except you don’t cook them for five minutes. You cook them for about 20 minutes, stirring until you think your arm’s going to fall off. That’s what makes them creamy. Just taste as you go. If the grits are, well, gritty they’re not done. Keep a going until you achieve creamy.

And you add things. Like if you’re making shrimp and grits you use chicken stock instead of water. Grits are like tofu. No, that’s a lie. Tofu sucks. But they’re similar in that they easily absorb other flavors.

And if you’re making grits to nestle some sausage and peppers in you add Velveeta. Yes, Velveeta. The most superior melting “cheese” ever invented. I know it’s not real cheese. Just shut up and try it. And then if you feel a little racy, you add garlic softened in a little butter (okay, a lot of butter).

So just try making grits. The whole experiment will cost you about $4. And you’ll have Velveeta left over. It lasts for approximately 7 years in the ice box.

5.0 from 1 reviews

Cheese grits
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Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup Quick 5-Minute grits
  • 4 ounces Velveeta, cut into cubes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Whole milk

Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the minced garlic. Cook over very low heat until the garlic has given up its raw smell and is softened. Set aside.
  2. Boil the water in a 2-quart saucepan. When the water has reached a furious boil, add the grits and stir them continuously with a whisk for about 20 minutes until they are creamy. Taste as you go. You’ll know when you get there.
  3. Add the Velveeta and stir until it’s melted. Season with salt and pepper and taste.
  4. The grits will tend to solidify in the saucepan if you don’t serve them immediately. Add enough whole milk to thin the grits over low heat.

 

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Cheese and ground beef casserole

Velveeta CasseroleWell, I am just about to cry. After a week of the Polar Vortex, now I am given to understand that there may be a Velveeta shortage. How can there be a shortage of a cheese product? It’s not even real, but apparently people crave the cheese. I actually read a statistic that sales of the fake cheese increased more than 23 percent last year.

Why, given the increased knowledge of the American consumer about healthy and sustainable food, would the sales of Velveeta go through the roof? Because snobbery aside, it’s friggin’ delicious.  And it’s a childhood food memory. Never discount the allure of foods you loved when you were 5. My mother used to make my sister and I sandwiches that consisted of nothing but Velveeta cheese, mayonnaise and Wonder Bread. I believe all three were synthetic, but it was the 1950s and synthetic was in vogue. I cannot tell you how much we enjoyed cheese out of a can and we thought Swanson made the best fried chicken ever.

Noah has the same childhood memory involving Velveeta Shells and Cheese. Mommy was a bad girl when Noah was young because sometimes she didn’t have a whole lot of time to cook. And I’ll tell you the exact second that I came up with this ground beef casserole using the Velveeta. It was a night when Noah invited five of his friends over for supper with about 10 minutes of warning.

So I’m not ashamed about my love of processed cheese food. I can eat a whole pot of Velveeta Shells and Cheese without even stopping for air. Try it sometime. You’ll feel better. For at least five minutes.

 

Ground Beef Velveeta Casserole
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Serves: 6
 

Ingredients
  • 2 boxes Velveeta Shells and Cheese
  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • 2 tablespoons dried onion
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs

Instructions
  1. Prepare shells and cheese according to package directions.
  2. Brown ground chuck and add dried onion, tomatoes and smoked paprika. Mix with the shells and cheese.
  3. Put in a casserole dish and top with dried bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

 

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Bad, bad, bad (and a recipe for stuffing)

So the afternoon began with onion dip and potato chips. It went deliciously downhill from there. You will be appalled. I am, too. But I was a willing participant and I will now have to repent for 753 days. I am sorry, Jesus. I am truly sorry and I humbly repent.

The boy came home for Christmas break from college. He brought all his bad habits with him and he is trying to kill his mother. Or am I just committing suicide by a self-induced food coma? Noah could probably tell you. He’s smarter than me now.

Noah Onion Dip

It started with the Lipton Onion Dip and Kettle Fried Waffle Potato Chips. They’re a childhood memory for me. My sister and I used to eat onion dip and potato chips on Saturday mornings hiding in our bedroom closet. Louise and I would sneak downstairs and grab them out of the kitchen. My mother never knew. But that is possibly why my pediatrician put me on my first diet in third grade. No kidding.

Then I thought it would be a great idea to teach Noah how to make the Chapin stuffing. It’s a tradition he must carry on, including the two sticks of butter in the recipe. So we head to my beloved Publix for the ingredients. We pass the Velveeta Shells and Cheese on our way to the chicken stock. Dammit Boy. He grabs two boxes and winks at me. You had me at Velveeta. Of course it’s a perfect match for stuffing. I know immediately this is not going to end well.

Noah and Stuffing

So I teach him how to make the stuffing. This is a recipe that has been passed down for at least four generations.  And I grill a couple of pork tenderloins because at least that will be something slightly virtuous on the plate. Noah makes the shells and cheese and then adds cream and sour cream.  No, no, no. You’re killing me. How’s it taste?

Pork, Dressing, Mac and Cheese

So here’s the plate. This is so not like me. This is so…delicious! Stop it! I can’t. I pick dressing from the pan and when faced with putting the remaining Velveeta Shells and Cheese in a leftover container, I eat it right out of the pot.

Ms. Piggy

I am so ashamed. So very, very ashamed. And so comatose injected with processed cheese food, sour cream and butter that I pour a glass of red wine for myself right into King Daddy’s coffee cup.

I know with every fiber of my being that dressing and macaroni and cheese are not meant to coexist on a plate. But they looked so beautiful together. Kind of like Brad and Angelina looking up at me. Gorgeous. But tasty.

We will not do this again. Ever. Until next time. When Noah and I speak of this – and we will – this may go down as one of the greatest food memories of my life. No apologies (I’m sorry!).

Noah and Mom

 

Chapin Stuffing
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Serves: 6-8
 

Ingredients
  • 16 cups soft bread cubes, including crusts
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons crushed sage leaves
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Instructions
  1. Put bread cubes in large bowl. Mix the diced onion, celery and parsley together in a separate bowl. Mix the salt, poultry seasoning, sage and pepper together in a small bowl. Add the seasonings to the vegetables and mix well. Add the melted butter to the bread cubes and distribute evenly. Add the chicken stock and then the vegetable/seasoning mixture.
  2. Spoon into a loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the top is nicely browned.

 

 

 

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Old food

Mark and I were talking last night about cubed steak in the South versus cubed steak in the North. Down here, it’s breaded and fried like a lot of other things. We call it country fried steak.  It’s delicious. In my childhood in the North, it was broiled. Not much point in debating the merits of that.

But it got me to thinking about why my mother never made anything that required actual cooking. And that led me to wonder what foods she grew up on. My mother was born in 1916 so her food memories would have been made in the 1920s.

So I did a little research – and Bingo! – the secret to my mother’s love of boxed things revealed itself.

“The most striking development was the shift toward processed foods. Where housewives had previously prepared food from scratch at home (peeling potatoes, shelling peas, plucking chickens, or grinding coffee beans) an increasing number of Americans purchased foods that were ready-to-cook. World War I brought about new methods of food processing as manufacturers streamlined production methods of canned and frozen foods. Processed foods reduced the enormous amounts of time that had previously been taken up in peeling, grinding, and cutting.”  (1920-1930.com)

Processed foods were totally in my mother’s wheelhouse. They were considered modern.
And even more striking were the foods introduced in the 1920s that were so prevalent in the Chapin pantry of the 1950s. Take a look:
  • Wonder Bread (1920): I didn’t think there was any other kind of bread until I was in my 20s.
  • Welch’s Grape Jelly (1923): Ditto. What is this thing called strawberry jam? I had never heard of it until I was well out of childhood.
  • Peter Pan Peanut Butter (1928): The only brand in our house 30 years later.
  • Velveeta Cheese (1928): Truly astounding! Validation of my own continuing love of the processed cheese food. And, yes, a standard sandwich in the Chapin household of the ’50s was Velveeta sliced and placed atop a mayonnaise-laden piece of Wonder Bread.

 Other foods advertised in the 1920s were also hanging around our house 30 years later: Log Cabin Syrup, Van Camps Pork and Beans, Grape-Nuts (still my cereal of choice today!), Cream of Wheat (Northern grits – kind of), and Maxwell House Coffee (who knew our coffee was named after a Nashville hotel – maybe that’s what lured me to the South).

So now I’m thinking what will be hanging around Noah’s kitchen 30 years from now that’s sitting in my pantry today? Yes, Velveeta will still be sitting jauntily on the shelf, probably with exactly the same packaging. But he’ll also have DiGiorno Pesto Sauce for pasta, Thai Kitchen Cocoanut Milk for curries, and Supremo Chorizo for quesadillas. Will they seem as old-fashioned in 2042 as Wonder Bread seems today? Fascinating question, that.

 

 

 

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Cracked wheat salad

 

Self-control. Isn’t that just the hardest thing? I was at a gathering today with some of the Women of St. Paul’s and we were talking about the cardinal rules of weight control. If you are eating standing up, there is no caloric intake. If you are eating something that has broken off of the whole, as in part of a cookie, that does not count either. Then there is my own personal theory that if you have existed on twigs and sticks for several days, the body requires a jolt of fat, as in a cheeseburger, to keep the metabolic balance in check.

We were discussing this as I was eating the last shreds of a Velveeta, cream of (fill in the blank) soup, spaghetti casserole out of a sheet pan with a plastic fork. Of course, that doesn’t count either since it falls under the “eating something that has broken off” rule. In this case, the entire sheet pan was the whole and the 18 delicate forkfuls were the part.

But at some point, even with these dietary laws, you have to pay the piper, I’m afraid. So how about a nice, light, healthy cracked wheat salad. Oh, you know what cracked wheat is. It’s the good stuff in tabbouleh, which always contains way too much parsley, in my opinion. Who am I to argue with the peoples of the Mediterranean who love all that parsley? But I have a personal resentment. When my father died, and we were all drowning our sorrows in a luncheon before the funeral, one of my dad’s friends started making his way around the room with sprigs of parsley that he urged us to eat to mask the smell of alcohol on our breath. At the time, there wasn’t enough alcohol in all the world and I didn’t care one whit if anyone smelled it on my breath. If I could have smuggled a box of Chardonnay into the funeral I would have. Is that inappropriate?

At any rate, make this salad. Cracked wheat, or bulgur, cooks like couscous. Easy and quick. It has a nice nutty taste. You can substitute any kind of nut for the hazelnuts. I just happened to have some in the freezer. And you can substitute or add any kind of vegetable.

Cracked wheat salad

1 ½ cups water

¾ cup cracked wheat (bulgur)

½ cup roasted coarsely chopped hazelnuts

½ cup diced orange pepper

¼ cup diced red onion

2 tablespoons golden raisins

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the cracked wheat. Cover and let stand until the wheat is tender and the liquid is completely absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to thoroughly combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

 

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Top 5 ingredients you’re embarrassed to have in your pantry (and smothered country fried steak)

If you consider yourself  to be a sophisticated cook who routinely uses ingredients like fish sauce, beef short ribs and Thai red chile paste, should you be embarrassed that you routinely give some love to the cream of mushroom soup in your pantry? I think not.

Mark and I were considering this as I unashamedly mixed a can of cream of celery coup, with a can of beef broth (it’s not real beef, I assure you) and a packet of Lipton Onion Soup mix together for a country fried steak sauce. Yes, I know these are highly processed foods that are bad, bad, bad for you. But I don’t care, care, care. Every child of the 1950s ate this stuff routinely and most of us aren’t dead…yet.

So we made a list of the top 5 things we might be embarrassed to have in the pantry. Here goes (don’t judge me):

1. Cream of (fill in the blank) soup. You can make a Bechamel sauce and add flavorings, but I promise you it will not taste as good as cream of (fill in the blank) soup with a little doctoring. My Chicken Divan is a triumph of culinary excellence in part because I use not one, but two, types of cream of (fill in the blank) soup.

2. Velveeta. Yes, my beloved Velveeta, which I know is not actual cheese. It is a “cheese product” and I think it should just hold up its head and be proud of that. It is essential for making macaroni and cheese. I’m sorry, but when I see a recipe for mac and cheese that involves real Cheddar I just cringe. Rubbery. That is all I have to say on that subject. Velveeta is also what makes my squash casserole worth the price of admission.

3. Stovetop Stuffing. Be honest. You cannot make stuffing better than Stovetop. And it takes five minutes! Just look on the back of the box, try the recipe for the chicken breasts with Stovetop Stuffing and cream of (fill in the blank) soup and tell me it isn’t divine.

4. Ritz Crackers. You never know when you’re going to have to add a crunchy, buttery topping to something. You can saute some panko breadcrumbs with butter, but why bother when you have all the essential ingredients in that beautifully golden Ritz cracker.

5. Rice-A-Roni. Do not follow the package directions! They are wrong. The directions say to add two cups of water to the rice after you saute it with the butter. Add a cup and a half. You will end up with soggy rice if you ignore my advice. I do not understand how the Rice-A-Roni people have not figured this out. And Rice-A-Roni is terrific in cold rice salads. Here’s a recipe.

So those are my guilty pleasures. What are yours? Tell me the top 5 things you have in your pantry that you would not want Food Network to know about.

Smothered Country Fried Steak

4 cube steaks

Soy sauce

Flour

Vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

1 can cream of celery soup

1 can beef broth

1 package Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix

Liberally sprinkle steaks with soy sauce and let sit for 30 minutes. Put the flour in a gallon bag, add salt and pepper to taste and coat steaks liberally with the flour. Heat about a ½ inch of oil in a skillet over medium high heat and fry the steaks until a deep golden brown on each side.

Mix together the soup, broth and onion soup mix. Put the steaks in a 9-by-9 pan (or whatever fits) and cover with the soup mixture. Cover the pan with foil.

Back at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Serve the steaks and sauce over mashed potatoes for the maximum effect.

 

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Grilled pimento cheese spread and bacon sandwiches

Grilled Pimento Cheese Spread and Bacon Sandwiches. Please note the oozing cheese and red pepper garnish for health reasons.

As you all know, the Chicks at the Community Resource Center celebrate every Wednesday with bacon. And we had a truly revolutionary Bacon Wednesday a few weeks ago. Betsy made her grandmother’s pimento cheese spread. We used it on bacon and pimento cheese sandwiches. I am just going to say that we were happy nobody else was here because there was no sharing.

I have Googled this extensively and there is nothing like this recipe on the Internet so this will be a world premiere of Callie Everett’s pimento cheese spread. I will warn you that Betsy’s recipe makes about two gallons of the stuff. You can refrigerate it and use it again. In fact, Betsy had it on crackers this morning, about three weeks after she made it. So the shelf life seems to be, like, forever. It contains Velveeta, after all.

A word about my beloved Velveeta. Yes, I know it’s not real cheese. But I don’t care one bit. Any of you out there wanting to hate on my Velveeta just leave it alone. If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. More for me.

By the way, you will question the use of dill pickle juice. Don’t. It makes the recipe.

Pimento Cheese Spread

1 pound Velveeta

1 16-ounce jar mayonnaise

1 small jar pimentos

Dill pickle juice to taste

Melt the Velveeta in the microwave just until its softened. Fold in the mayonnaise and pickle juice to taste. Spoon in the pimentos, adding a little bit of the pimento juice. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

 Recipe by Callie Everett, Betsy Everett’s grandmother

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We are worms

It is the first day of Lent. If you are not Catholic or Episcopalian, this probably means nothing to you. But if you are, this is a BIG season. From now until Easter, it is the season of self-examination, introspection, denial, and, yes, worms. As in, whatever riches or fame we have…it just doesn’t matter. We are sinners in search of redemption. We are worms.

Now, then. The classic feature of Lent is giving something up. And that most often involves food. Isn’t that telling? The most painful, self-sacrificing thing we can think up to deny ourselves is food. So for most of the day, I have been thinking about what to give up. My friend, Kim, noted that usually you figure this out before the Imposition of Ashes, or as we call it, “getting ashed.” I got ashed at noon today and at 8 p.m. I am just getting around to the denial part.

So I have been pondering. Wine? Should I give wine up? No, no. no. That would be creatively counter productive. And unhealthy. Wine is one of the good food groups, being primarily made up of grapes, which is a fruit. We need our fruits and vegetables and since they don’t make wine from radishes, I need to keep the grapes.

Hamburgers. I dearly love hamburgers. But giving them up would mean 40 days of never darkening the door of Five Guys. Can I really pass by Five Guys for more than a month? Well, maybe. Let’s put that one on the possible list.

French fries. Geez, if I’m giving up hamburgers French fries would be a breeze. But this isn’t supposed to be a breeze. This is supposed to be hard. French fries aren’t epic enough.

Velveeta. Oh, gosh. Velveeta not only involves the processed cheese block, but also the slices that go on the sausage bagels. I have a package of those cheese slices in my icebox right now. Will they keep until Easter? Who am I kidding. They’ll keep until William and Kate produce an heir to the throne.

What else? Pigs in a Blanket? No, don’t eat those often enough. Pizza rolls? Ditto.

God is watching me now. He is taking a close personal look at me. My choice is important. I know this.

O.K. I’m digging deep here. Hamburgers. No more hamburgers. Five Guys, Rotiers, Brown’s Diner…bye, bye for 40 days. Do Krystal’s count? Yes, unfortunately they do.

However, there is one catch in the contract that Episcopalians keep at Lent. It’s the “Sunday only” rule. That is, if denial is just too much you have an “out” on Sunday. Slackers. We are not only worms, but we are also slackers.

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Cheater’s casserole

My son, Noah, got very lucky when he entered high school. He found forever friends. And I got lucky, too, because they’re all adventurous eaters and they like my food.

Think about this. Noah was a freshmen when he met Anna (at the top of the photo), who was a senior; Linda (next one down), who was a junior; and Evie, a sophomore. (That’s Anna’s friend, Daniel, at the bottom – visiting from New York City). What are the odds that upper classmen in high school would allow a freshmen to infiltrate their ranks? Four years later, they are still fast friends although life has taken them to different corners of the country. Anna is an aspiring actress in New York, Linda is studying at Tulane and Evie is an art major at Warren Wilson outside Asheville. Noah is, of course, at the University of Tennessee leaning toward a major in business administration (much to the delight of his mother who still cannot do percentages).

Food. I’m getting to the food. So it’s Christmas break and everyone’s home. “Mom,” Noah says one day. “Can Evie come to supper?” Of course, she can. “And Anna might come, too.” That’s fine. Somehow I conveniently forget that Anna is bringing Daniel and that – how did I miss this? – Linda is coming, too. All of them. In an hour.

So I resort to the cheater’s casserole. It’s quick. It’s tasty. And it involves Velveeta, as so many truly outstanding casseroles do. I made up this recipe a few years ago under similar circumstances. If I were a professional culinary person, I would say I “developed” the recipe. But when you see what’s in it, you’ll understand why that would be too grand a description.

It just consists of two boxes of Velveeta Shells and Cheese, ground chuck, a can of diced tomatoes and a few special flourishes. I cannot express to you how good this stuff is.

By the way, reading a food story about the guilty pleasures of chefs on the Huffington Post made me feel so much better about my love of Velveeta. Do you know what Wylie Dufresne’s guilty pleasure is? American Cheese! And what is American cheese at its core? Velveeta, of course.

Cheater’s  casserole

2 boxes Velveeta Shells and Cheese

1 pound ground chuck

2 tablespoons dried onion

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

½ cup panko bread crumbs

Prepare shells and cheese according to package directions. Brown ground chuck well, until parts of it brown. Drain excess grease and add dried onion and tomatoes. Mix with the shells and cheese. Add the smoked paprika. Put in a casserole dish and top with dried bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

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