This one goes out to my friend Melissa. Melissa's mom raised her on Hamburger Helper, apparently, for some reason*–and thus I'm sure the initial appearance of this soup would terrify her.
I hope she'd be brought around, though, by the knowledge that it contains no helpful chemicals/preservatives/flavorings of any sort… with the possible exception of the calcium disodium EDTA in the chili beans, which even the wacky alt-health sites don't say anything about. (Oh, except this: it can apparently be used in huge quantities as a chelating agent, so some of the woo-wooier of the woo-woo sites recommend taking it (in suppository form, yet!) to help rid your body of "toxins." Ohhhh-kay. I doubt this soup will have any such effect, but hey, knock yourself out. I recommend consuming it orally, though.)
Anyway, you'll probably die from a heart attack from eating the beef (present in minute quantities in this soup) long before the calcium disodium EDTA does anything to your "toxin levels."
In all its beany tomatoey noodly beefy goodness, this soup is what Hamburger Helper wishes it could be if it were to live a good life, attain Enlightenment and die under a bodhi tree somewhere. Oh yeah, and be more like soup.
Chili Mac Soup
1/2 pound ground chuck (or not-too-lean ground beef)
1 medium-to-large onion, chopped
1 Tbsp (or more!) chili powder (or ancho chile powder, which is what I used)
1/2 tsp salt
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (I used "Italian seasoned")
2 14-ounce cans chili beans, undrained (I recommend S&W brand)
3 or 4 cups beef broth, depending on how soupy or unsoupy you want the final result to be–if you use canned broth, be aware it will probably be very salty and you might want to omit the salt in the previous step
1 cup small elbow macaroni
Salt and pepper, to taste
Grated cheddar cheese for serving
In a soup pot, combine beef and onion over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently to break up beef, until meat is well browned and onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. If needed, drain off excess fat. (You don't want more than a tablespoon or so of excess fat swishing around in the pot.) Add chili powder and salt; cook, stirring, one minute more.
Add tomatoes, beans and beef broth. Bring to a boil; add macaroni. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until macaroni is tender, about 20 minutes.
Correct salt and pepper; serve hot with cheddar cheese grated over each bowl. (If you feel like getting fancy, try sprinkling on some sliced black olives too. Ooooh, downscale gourmet.)
This soup is, perhaps unsurprisingly, especially popular with children. Way more so than calcium disodium EDTA suppositories, anyhow.
* Which inspired her to become a fisherwoman of some repute, which is pretty awesome.