magic mac

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For anyone who has followed my multi-year search for the perfect mac and cheese recipe, I'm sorry. It's not exactly the cause I thought I'd champion when I finished grad school. The good news is that I finally found it: an easy, no-powder mac and cheese (slightly tweaked from Dad Cooks Dinner) that both boys loved on two separate occasions. I can make in the Instantpot—it's even easier than a stovetop version, And I can pack it in thermoses for their lunch boxes. And here it is:

MAGIC MAC

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt 
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 16 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

    Directions
  1. Stir the macaroni, butter, mustard, hot pepper sauce, salt, and 4 cups water in the pressure cooker pot. Lock the lid and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. Quick release the pressure and remove the lid.
  2. Stir in the evaporated milk and the cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly.

    ***This makes a ton so feel free to half it or store it in the fridge for a week or two and scoop out as needed. Heat up with a splash of milk or water.

 

 

annie's ruined us

After years of eating Annie's boxed Macaroni and Cheese, my kids won't touch the homemade stuff.

So last week I set out to find a mac and cheese recipe that would rival Annie's—that my kids would eat. My first attempt was a stovetop cheese sauce with this easy (no roux) method. The sauce was tasty but too clumpy, a dead giveaway. Let's face it, much of feeding kids is tricking their senses into familiarity. 

Next I reached out to an Alton Brown recipe which called for evaporated milk (that stuff in a can), egg yolks and cornstarch which I thought made an excellent cheese sauce that held up well to pasta but the boys found it "too cheesy." I know. And it's ok to wonder at times like these: why did I have children?

Finally I went all out. I ordered some sodium citrate from Amazon which according to the molecular gastronomy world can make cheese sauce out of water and it's true. It's magic! You take the tiniest bit of water and add a pinch of the powder, bring to a boil and then start adding shredded cheese and you get cheese sauce. We played it like a science experiment (again) which got Mack's attention just long enough to take this iphone shot.

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The result was superb., A thick gooey cheese sauce that actually tastes like cheese. I was most proud of this one but before I got the chance to use it for mac and cheese, the Superbowl came along so I used it for some kick ass nachos. Check these out:

Unfortunately, the cheese ended up kind of hard, dry and almost invisible as it cooled. I'm going to try this magic sauce with the macaroni because it's just so cool and easy, why wouldn't I? But you can probably predict the dinner table results. 

Anyway, Annie's is now banned from my house. Too bad for my kids they will never enjoy mac and cheese for dinner again. 

carrot mac and cheese

I'm not a big fan of making something with disguised veggies and protein to trick my kids into getting some nutrients. It's certainly not because I've been blessed with great eaters. Nate will eat hot dogs, apples and pasta with butter (he recently threatened to give up apples until I cried for mercy.) Mack is more adventurous and seems to take more enjoyment in food, but he won't eat anything Nate refuses and it's hard for him to sit still long enough to consume a whole meal. 

I've tried Jessica Seinfeld's recipes with little success. The banana-peanut butter-carrot muffins were sort of dense and nobody liked them, all 24 of them. The chocolate cake made with beets tasted like it was made with beets. And after spending a lot of valuable time on these, I sort of gave up and went back to broiling hot dogs. 

The one "kid friendly" recipe that has intrigued me is Melissa Clark's infamous carrot mac and cheese, adapted from her book here. It's simple to make and beloved by many. It has traveled far and wide into foodie circles as well as "kid-foodie" (there should be a term for this.) circles. So yesterday I gave it a try. The trick is that the shredded carrots look similar to the shredded cheddar and the whole wheat elbows so the child will get confused and not realize he is eating carrots. 

Well, not my kids. Neither of them would even touch it which was a real shame since it was pretty damn good. I ate a good portion for dinner and froze chunks of the rest to try again on Mack in a few weeks. (That kid has no memory!)