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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Countdown To Dinner: Cheesy beef 'n' salsa dish a favorite

Thursday, August 12, 1999

Tested by Suzanne Martinson

Even when you love to cook, as Elizabeth Ann Sedlak of Churchill does, a one-pan dish has an appeal all its own.

Sedlak's delicious contribution to Countdown to Dinner has only four ingredients (five, counting water) and is simple to make.

After she came upon the recipe on a Velveeta box, she never bothered with her old standby Beef-a-roni again, which required a separate pot to cook the macaroni.

"The thing that I love is, you throw it all in the skillet," she says. "That jar of salsa changed everything -- I can't tell you how many times I've made it."

It makes lots, too. She and her roommate may have it for dinner, then she has leftovers for another dinner, and "sometimes I have a little bit to take to lunch." She is a payment processor for the billing department at Magee-Womens Hospital.

The second youngest of four sisters and two brothers, she says she's been cooking since she was a little kid. "When I got home from school in eighth grade, my mother would have me cook dinner while she sewed. She sewed all our clothes; our father owned a grocery store," she recalls. "There was always a big meal on the table, including dessert. All of her daughters can cook up a storm."

Sedlak likes to make pastas and desserts and this summer has been focusing on recipes for the grill -- things to eat when friends are over for swimming. "I love recipes, easy ones, or hard ones."

With the accompanying dish, she typically just serves a salad, to give crunch to the meal."

This is a hearty, filling dish, and we asked if she thought you could reduce the processed cheese. She says she doesn't measure, but probably uses less than the recipe calls for, although she cautions that regular cheese probably wouldn't work as well because it doesn't melt as Velveeta does.

When we tested the recipe (my husband loved it), it came in 7 1/2 minutes under the required 30.

Velveeta Salsa Macaroni & Cheese

1 pound ground beef
1-pound jar Taco Bell Thick 'n Chunky Salsa
1 package (7 ounces) elbow macaroni, uncooked
3/4 pound (12 ounces) Velveeta processed cheese, cut up

Brown meat in large skillet. Drain. Stir in salsa and 13/4 cups water. Bring to a boil and stir in macaroni. Reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until macaroni is tender. Add Velveeta and stir until melted. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Do you have an entrée, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

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