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Better-for-you taco mac that is super quick

Sarah's love of food led her down what she calls "the culinary rabbit hole," leaving her management job to first apprentice on an organic vegetable farm and then to write about and photograph food professionally. Her agricultural backgro...

Mac and cheese turns into taco mac with these simple steps

This updated taco mac has all the flavor of the original comfort food but uses organic ingredients, homemade taco seasoning and lean ground turkey.

Mac and cheese turns into taco mac with these simple steps

Now that I have kids of my own, I find myself more often wanting to recreate dishes nostalgic to my childhood. It feels like a rite of passage to cook these meals for them, following in my mother's footsteps by sharing the flavor combinations we experienced at the family dinner table. I have to admit, though, that I rarely follow my mom's recipes to the letter. The food system, health recommendations and my palate have all changed in the past several decades, so I tend to reach for slightly different ingredients.

Take this taco mac, for example. I used Annie's Homegrown mac and cheese, because it's made with certified organic ingredients (a short list and all items I can pronounce, too!). I ditched the seasoning packet for homemade taco seasoning — a mix of chili powder, cumin, dried oregano and paprika, as well as fresh onion and garlic in place of powders. I didn't hesitate to replace the more typical ground beef with ground turkey breast. We didn't miss the extra richness, as the real aged cheddar and vibrant homemade seasoning mix contribute plenty of punch.

Topped with sliced scallions, diced tomatoes and, if you like it hot, diced jalapeño, this taco mac recipe has all the flavors I enjoyed as a kid and a lineup of ingredients I feel great about feeding my family.

Mac and cheese turns into taco mac with these simple steps

Annie's taco mac

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 pound ground turkey
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (6 ounce) box Annie's Homegrown Organic Shells and Real Aged Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese
  • 1 large tomato (or 5 small tomatoes), medium chop
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • Diced pickled jalapeños (optional)

Directions:

  1. Coat the bottom of a large skillet over medium heat with the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the ground turkey and sprinkle with the garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano and salt. Once browned on the first side, use a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the meat into small pieces. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned and cooked through.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the macaroni and cheese according to the instructions on the packaging.
  3. Stir the prepared macaroni and cheese into the skillet with the turkey. Fold in the tomato and scallions. Sprinkle with the jalapeño (or top only certain portions with the jalapeno if not everyone is partaking). Serve warm.

Mac and cheese turns into taco mac with these simple steps

This post was brought to you by Annie's Homegrown.

More macaroni and cheese recipes

Broccoli chicken macaroni and cheese
Roasted poblano macaroni and cheese recipe
Low-fat macaroni and cheese

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