Racing Rachael: Mini Meat Loaves with Mac & Cheese and Seared Greens

So, here's the thing...Even though Rachael Ray's TV persona drives me up the wall with the overuse of her cutesy catch phrases (specifically "EVOO" and "Yum-O," if you need a reminder), I can't help but be intrigued by the 30 Minute Meals concept. Can a regular Jane without the benefit of an army of peons to clean, peel, chop, and clean for her pull off one of Rachael's meals in a mere 30 minutes?

The food: I whipped out my unused Classic Rachael Ray 30-Minutes Meals cookbook and made Ray's "Italian Stick-to-Your-Ribs" meal consisting of Italian Mini Meat Loaves with Mac & 3 Cheeses and Seared Greens with Red Onion and Vinegar. The meatloaves had good flavor and maintained their moisture. I'm a mac & cheese lover, but I'm not dying to eat these leftovers. The herbs on the breadcrumbs completely overran the taste of cheese. So sad. The greens were a little tough, but had a nice tang which contrasted nicely to the rest of the meal.

The time: 47 minutes of uninterrupted cooking. Not quite 30, but not too shabby.

The verdict: While the taste was generally solid, the disaster left in my kitchen after making this meal would definitely make me think twice before recreating it. Maybe if I wasn't in super-speed mode I would have cleaned as I cooked. The meatloaves will be added to my dinner rotation, as will a variation of the greens, using spinach instead of Swiss chard. The mac & cheese recipe may be made again sans the herbs, but I'm not convinced it was cheesy enough for my taste.

Ways to beat the clock: Omit those herbs, use pre-shredded cheese, and chop as fast as your little hands will go!

Happy (speedy) cooking!

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Carrie Applegate Jaeger