I feel confident that every family has a “fright night.” You know, the one that sees three people heading in four different directions, with dinner happening at various times for all involved. Our wildcard weekday is Thursday, and it looks a little something like this:
Kid A works this night and needs to leave the house by 4:45 p.m. Kid B has basketball practice after school and doesn’t get home until 4:40 p.m. Kid A would like to eat something before he leaves, but prefers to have a heartier dinner when he’s home at 8:00 p.m. (translation: he needs two dinners). I drive Kid A and a friend to work, and also pick them up, so in between I head to a Starbucks where I treat myself to a sweet and steamy hot chocolate and work (uninterrupted!) for 2 ½ gloriously quiet hours.
Rob holds down the fort at home, feeding Kid B and the baby the dinner I make for the boys at 4 p.m. He eats a bit himself just to tied himself over until I get home, because Thursday night is our new date night (translation: dinner on the sofa with a glass of wine and mind-numbing TV before heading to bed early because the littlest person in our house, who usually wakes up at 4am, has taken to being up between 2:30 a.m. – 5:00 a.m. and we can’t function if we don’t get to bed before the nightly news begins).
We take turns planning our dinner dates, as we don’t eat the same thing as the boys, and usually have wine and cheese, wine and dessert, or wine and pizza. The brilliance in this plan is that I make sure to cook something for dinner that yields hearty portions, resulting in a lot of leftovers for the next day’s lunches.
When I get home with Kid A, the babe is in bed, Kid B is usually done his homework and chores and is chilling for the night, Kid A eats his (second) dinner before starting his homework, and we have that well-deserved date night. On days like this, when you need a people-pleasing 30-minute meal that yields lots of leftovers, this Mexican macaroni will definitely save your night. You can use the ground meat of your choice - sometimes I opt for pork, or turkey, or even beef depending on what's available in the freezer - and when added to whole grain pasta and beans it's a meal I feel really good about serving. Plop some green vegetables on the plate, too, and maybe even a salad, and you have a dinner that's destined for your back-pocket recipe repertoire.
Peace out, Thursday.
- 1 Tbsp. canola/sunflower oil
- ½ onion, diced
- 1 lb. ground meat (beef/pork/turkey/chicken)
- 3 cups tomato sauce
- 1 – 19oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 Tbsp. chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Kosher salt
- 1 lb. whole-wheat macaroni
- 1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese
Heat the oil in a large skillet (12-inches would be best) set over medium heat. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the ground meat, breaking it up with the back of wooden spoon, and cook until no longer pink.
Add the tomato sauce, black beans, chilli powder, cumin, and oregano, and season generously with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the pasta directions.
When cooked, reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, drain pasta and add it to the skillet. Toss until well combined; add some of the reserved water if the sauce is too thick. Sprinkle with grated cheese and stir until the cheese melts into the sauce and becomes slightly gooey. Serve warm.