Macaroni and Cheese. It’s an American staple.
Thanks to all who shared their ideas for boxed mac and cheese additions for our Divine Interventions drawing. What fun! I’m looking forward to sharing those ideas with you and trying some myself. And I’m looking forward to announcing the winner of our Mac and Cheese Miracle drawing who will receive a free copy of the Guideposts compilation book, Divine Interventions. But first . .
Who invented Macaroni and Cheese? And just how long have Kraft dinners been around?
History is unclear about the exact origin of macaroni and cheese. The Smithsonian magazine says that Thomas Jefferson brought the idea over from France and served his new favorite pasta dish at a State dinner in 1802.
Kraft introduced boxed mac and cheese dinners in 1937. The Depression and the rationing of World War II made this cheap and easy meal idea extremely popular.
I thought I was the weird one because while my college friends ate Ramen noodles, I lived on boxed Macaroni and Cheese dinners during my dorm days. In fact, being a Home Ec major, I even did a comparison study of various brands of box dinners, asking the question, is Kraft dinners really worth the extra cost? In order to do that study, I had to eat extra amounts of Macaroni and cheese.
According to the Smithsonian Magazine, I wasn’t so weird.
Many college students do live on Mac and Cheese, and the introduction of the Mac & Cheese dinner cups in 2006 made it even more popular. The article didn’t say anything about chili beans.
Desperate to find a way to vary the dish after my initial scientific taste; I became creative in adding extra stuff. Tuna? Yeah? Hot dogs? Definitely. Then I did get weird. Canned Chili beans. Yep. Well, beans are nutritious, right?
I had so much mac and cheese, I invited my aunt to come share dinner in my dorm room. She wrinkled her nose at the chili beans, took one bite, and said, “Hey this is pretty good.” So there we sat on the floor in my dingy dorm room, eating Mac and Cheese and having the best aunt/niece conversation. It was awesome.
I married a man who also turned to the boxed dinner during college days. Preacher Creature told of eating an entire box in one sitting. Uh, no thanks. But, while I usually cooked homestyle meals and my family loved my mother’s recipe for homemade Mac and Cheese, there were still those times when we needed a quick fix of comfort food. Preacher Creature liked his plain, no additions, and Kraft was the best.
A Mac and Cheese Miracle
This all led to the event I wrote about in my story, “A Mac and Cheese Miracle” that appears in Guideposts’ new compilation book, Divine Interventions. And that fed my curiosity: what do other people add to the boxed Mac and Cheese dinners?
I can’t wait to try some of these ideas!
“I like to add chopped, fresh, sweet onions.” – Betty P
“We love to do a mac and cheese “make-your-own” buffet. But my personal favorite is to add shrimp to the mix. Yum!.” – Gloria V.
“I use the three cheeses macaroni in a box. Sometimes I add more butter and cheese.’ – Barbara J.
“I love the regular Kraft Macaroni and cheese, but my favorite way to have it is to fix it on the stove per the directions and then add more cheese and put it in the oven to bake.” – Jamie B.
“Ooohh!! My absolute favorite Mac and cheese when I was a kid was when Nanny would make the good Kraft powder Mac and cheese and add a can of drained tuna. Yum!!!” – Missy P.
“I use the Mac and cheese that has the creamy packet…put Hamburger on the skillet first.While that is frying and browning (about 1 lb)..I cook the mac per pkg. directions.Drain the burger (if you need to), put the cheese packet, a small can of something similar to( Veg-All).. or a whole can and 2 extra slices of American. Add pepper, and either a dash of onion or garlic powder, add the macaroni you have cooked, cook it JUST until hot thru, and serve. Dinner Is Served!!” – Marilyn G.
“For mac and cheese recipe, sriracha and jalapeno peppers are amazing to spice it up. (Sriracha is a red chili and garlic sauce commonly used in Vietnamese & Thai cuisine.).” – Allison V.
“Pork green chili mac and cheese. Put a pork roast in your slow cooker, and add a can of diced green chilies. Cook until the meat shreds. Make your boxed mac and cheese according to box instructions, and stir in some of the shredded pork. Add extra green chilies if you like. Garnish with fresh cilantro.” – Christine W.
“Bacon!!” – Donna S.
And then several responses reminded me that homemade macaroni and cheese is still better.
Karen B said:
“WELL, I have never used a boxed Mac and Cheese and would not. I have tasted what others have made out of courtesy and I know it is “not good”!!!
Why would you when all you have to do it buy a box of macaroni, almost any brand is ok, cook it according to directions, drain the water, add butter or margarine, milk and VELVETTA CHEESE, salt and pepper. Much better than any boxed Mac and Cheese!! You can eat it right off the stove or if you want to bake it, add a little extra milk put some cheese on top, Colby/Jack shredded works well, and the last few minutes some pats of butter and cracker crumbs.”
My mother’s recipe?
It’s too complicated for this column. And with all due respect to Karen B and other Velveeta lovers, Velveeta cheese was never served in our home. But there are days I still like easy. So, for non Kraft Mac and Cheese lovers, this recipe from Kris H. might appeal to you as it does to me. I’m sure you could use elbow macaroni or other small pasta instead of spaghetti noodles if you like.
Spaghetti and Cheese by Kris H.
- Lightly grease a 1 ½ qt casserole with butter or margarine.
- Layer with ½ amount of cooked spaghetti (usually I cook about 8 ounces).
- Sprinkle grated sharp cheddar cheese (about ½ cup), a little salt, pepper & a tiny bit of flour.
- Cut up 1 1 /2 Tbsp butter or margarine Place on top of spaghetti.
- Repeat layer—spaghetti, cheese, salt, pepper, butter & flour (easy on the flour, Kris says).
- Cover with milk. Bread crumbs can be sprinkled on top.
- Place covered in 350-375 degree oven for about one hour. Remove cover for the last ½ hour. Remove from oven when browned and bubbly.
Doesn’t that all sound yummy?
The best part about mac and cheese? Whether it’s out of a box or your own recipe, you can still share it with others. It’s a quick, easy, and inexpensive dish. No matter whether you’re a poor college student, a busy mama of preschoolers, or a widower on a pension, you can add your own special ingredient or leave it as it is, and take it to a church potluck or a needy family, or invite a friend to share a meal and good talk. Mostly likely you won’t have any leftovers.
Who is our winner?
The prize of the Divine Interventions book goes to . . .
(As randomly selected by none other than Preacher Creature)
. . . . Gloria V.
We’ll contact Gloria soon with details about shipping her new book.
Thank you to all who participated. I hope you had fun. I know I did. Now let’s go do some experimenting. (Where do I find sriracha sauce?)
Do you have a favorite way to dress up a traditional box of mac and cheese but didn’t get your idea in in time for our drawing. Share your idea in the comments below!