Thanks to Dizzy Busy and Hungry (boy if that isn’t an apt name) for inspiring this recipe! I’m always on the hunt for crock pot ideas, since I really only have two go-to recipes — Brown Sugar Kielbasa, and Creamy Chicken Curry — and since they make such large portions, I can only use them here and there or risk revolt from the troops. This one has been a great addition to my repertoire and with minimal prep, I can get it ready all before work and then time it to be done as we walk in the door from daycare pickup.
Ground meat is notoriously hard to photograph in an attractive manner, but I did my best here because this was easy and tasty and I really hope you try it! I used ground turkey, but you can absolutely go with beef instead.
Since the recipe only calls for half a box of macaroni, I opted to boil the entire container and then use the other half to make scratch mac n’ cheese. I just threw in some butter and milk, added Wildtree mac n’ cheese mix and some shredded organic cheddar from the fridge, melted it in the same pan I used to boil the pasta, then topped it with bread crumbs and popped it under the broiler for less than two minutes. Voila: two different dinners for the price of one.
- 6 ounces (half a box) whole grain or fiber-enriched elbow macaroni
- 1 pound ground turkey (I used 80/20 lean)
- 1 small onion, diced
- 24 oz. frozen veggies with cheese sauce (I used Target brand; any will do)
- ¾ cup low-fat shredded cheddar
- 1 medium tomato, chopped (I actually used 4 or 5 roma, chopped)
- 2-3 pickles, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 TBSP ketchup, plus however much more you’d like on top
Cook the pasta until just becoming tender (about 5 minutes). Drain and set aside.
Mix the turkey, ketchup, and onion in a large bowl. Add the frozen veggies and cheese sauce, shredded cheddar and pasta, and mix until combined.
Place the entire mixture into the your crock pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 8-9 hours.
Serve with chopped tomatoes and pickles on top, plus a little extra shredded cheese!
Options: You can of course make this with ground beef instead of turkey. Turkey is healthier but tastes less “juicy” than beef does, which in turn makes this taste more like a turkey-burger casserole instead of a true cheeseburger casserole.
This recipe originally ran on Hungry Girl, which calls specifically for frozen cauliflower with cheese sauce as the veggie. Mark hates cauliflower so I subbed carrots and broccoli and it tasted just as good; go with whatever you prefer and can find at the store.
As for toppings, just pick whatever you would put on a burger! So obvious picks are pickles, tomatoes, cheese, ketchup and onions, but you can also shred some lettuce, or barbecue sauce, cilantro, hot sauce, honey mustard, or mayo — there are endless possibilities. Next time, I’m hoping to try some caramelized onions, or maybe pan-fried shallots with a flour coating, or perhaps even some jalapeno slices or a pepper jack cheese.
The great thing about this recipe is that it conveniently ‘hides’ a lot of veggies, which is something I said I’d never resort to with my child, but lo and behold here I am.
I really hope your family enjoys this one. It reheats extremely well and makes good use of late-summer/early fall tomatoes. (Although we still have so many that I’m doing this on Saturday to preserve them for sauce all winter!) And, of course, the best part is that casseroles travel very well to daycare and preschool, and the texture of this makes for very toddler-friendly eating. Plus, what kid doesn’t like cheese and ketchup??
Have a great rest of the week everyone, and if you have good slow cooker recipes to share, tell me in the comments below!