Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Better Boxed Mac and Cheese

I will happily admit that I love cheese and starch. Bread, pasta, fondue, cheese danishes... the list goes on and on. Therefore, it's only logical that I really enjoy macaroni and cheese. But really, I'm not a fan of the box stuff. It just tastes fake!

Coincidentally, just as I was craving some mac and cheese, my friend M suggested we hang out. Logical solution? She'd come over and I'd make dinner!


Without any further ado, I'm going to give you an easy way to jazz up some boring boxed mac and cheese into something that tastes so much better!

What you'll need:
 - 1 box of your favorite macaroni and cheese
 - 1 bag of frozen peas
 - 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
 - 1/2 small onion, chopped
 - splash olive oil
 - mustard powder (to taste)
 - pinch salt and pepper
 - splash milk
 - crackers (any buttery Ritz-type crackers)
 - shredded cheese



For the mac and cheese itself, it's pretty straightforward. Start by preheating your oven to 350˚. Then follow the box's instructions for cooking the pasta, and when that's boiling away, you can start to get crafty...

Heat some olive oil in your skillet. Once it's hot, add your minced garlic and chopped onion. Cook until golden and deliciously fragrant.


This should only take a few minutes! Once they're cooked, turn your heat down to medium/low and add your cheese sauce from the packet. This brand's sauce comes in a sludgey liquid that I glooped out into the pan. There are no pictures--trust me, you're welcome. I added some milk to make it less clumpy and kept stirring until it was a proper liquid.

If your brand's sauce comes in powder form, dump that into the pan then slowly add the suggested milk. Stir like crazy because you don't want to heat your milk too fast.

Once you have a nice little liquid in your skillet, you can get fancy! I added a sprinkle each of salt and pepper, then probably about half a teaspoon of mustard powder. The spices take some of the fake-tasting edge in the cheese. All you need to do is stir the sauce until the spices are mixed in. This shouldn't take very long at all! When your sauce tastes delicious (it's an accurate indicator of done-ness), turn the heat off.

And remember, don't forget about your pasta! Once it's cooked, drain it and return it to the pot.

When your pasta's drained and your sauce cooked, it's time to combine! Chuck the sauce into the pot with the pasta, open your bag of peas from the freezer and put them in the pot, and then put a handful of shredded cheese into the mix. Stir it all together until it's evenly combined.


Now, your oven should be toasty, so it's time to get this sucker in the oven! Transfer your mac and peas (yep, I said it) into a pan. Doesn't matter what size, shape, whatever. Just a pan!

Crush some of your crackers up and put them on top of your mac and cheese, then top with a sprinkling of, uh, more cheese. Always more cheese.


Stick it in your oven for ten to fifteen minutes until the top is browned. I was a little distracted chatting to M (rookie mistake!) so mine is was a bit too brown... but it tasted delicious!


Dish it up and dig in!
If you don't feel like fussing around with any of the onions or garlic, don't do it! Just make your sauce as usual, and combine with the peas and the macaroni.

What's great about mac and cheese is that you can put anything you want in it. In the past, I've put jalapeƱos in, spinach and kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli... add anything! Then you get some vegetables in with your meal. It's a healthy and quick bonus.

In all, dinner took about 45 minutes from when I assembled ingredients to when M and I sat down to eat. Easy meal for some fun girl talk and a nice night!

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