Dinner Doesn’t Come In A Blue and Orange Box.

Today I want to share some shocking truth with you. Brace yourselves. Here it comes…

The people at Kraft did not invent macaroni and cheese.

It’s true, they really didn’t. Some nice Italians in the 1800’s did. Regardless, Kraft put it in a box and nearly ruined it forever.

But not totally. There still remains, on some cloudy nights, people who are willing to share a trusted and handed down homemade macaroni and cheese recipe.  I happen to know that recipe. And guess what? I am not waiting for a cloudy night. I’m givin ‘er right here and right now.

How KD can destroy a childhood

Is Kraft Dinner is only called KD in Canada? That’s what wikipedia told me. Team USA fill me in please. Yeah, yeah, I used the wiki some times. OK, all the times.

There are many evil smellies lurking in a box of KD.

  • 1/4 box of KD contains 19% of an adult’s daily sodium requirement. Salt and sodium are listed 5 times in the ingredients.
  • Modified food starch. What is that? Ditto cellulose gum.
  • Corn syrup solids and maltodextrin, both corn sugars.

I pulled this info from the white cheddar and the original boxes. I didn’t want to be seen touching the bacon flavoured microwave cups. Cripes.

Have you heard of tartarzine? I hadn’t. I looked it up for you my peaceful muesli lovers. It’s a colour, Kraft uses it to make the orange cheese sauce orange. As the name suggests it is from tar. It is the most allergenic of all the fake colours.

Folks that have trouble with tartrazine experience- anxiety, migraines, depression, blurred vision, itching, weakness, hot flashes, rashes, sleep disruption. And here’s the big kicker, it is a known catalyst to hyperactivity.  This means that kids with hyperactivity problems could just be reacting to the fake tar based colour in their Kraft Dinner.

Now to be fair I only found it listed on the whole grain Kraft Dinner. Though it was the only box that listed which colours it used.

Team Kraft does a good job making us think that their box dinner is good for us.  They label them up with all kinds of sweetalk. Whole grain goodness and real cheese. FYI- my personal belief is that real cheese doesn’t come in powered form.

People- quality food hardly ever comes in a box. And it never comes in a box whispering sweet nothings about how healthy it is for you. It’s a ruse and don’t be fooled.  There is nothing healthy for you in a dinner that comes from a box bearing the name Kraft.

Move your cart along that grocery row. There’s nothing to see there.

But please Sir, may we still have cheesy noodles

Why of course. Just because Kraft besmirched the good name of a cheese and noodle casserole does not mean we must ban it forever. Au contraire good eaters.

Here’s what you need to produce homemade macaroni and cheese-

  1. Noodles- macaroni is an obvious choice. I never use the macaroni noodle, too little and too hard for little eaters to get on a spork. Use whichever noodle tickles your fancy. I highly recommend scoobi-doo because it’s fun to say. Penne is our standard.  I use rice noodles.
  2. Cheese- cheese makes or breaks your casserole. For the kids I use milder cheeses, mozzarella and mild cheddar. For fancy growed up noodles Gruyere is my absolute favorite. Mix a few up. Others ideas are smoked mozzarella, Parmesan, aged cheddar, goat, feta, provolone.
  3. Butter, milk, flour, salt and pepper. Necessary items
  4. Fresh herbs, prepared or powered mustard. If you are inspired.

 

8 Steps to make the world’s best mac ‘n cheese

I am skipping the boil water/cook noodle part. I am trusting you are all more than capable to cook noodles. If not please get in touch and we can have a remedial class.

One last thing. Cheese sauce making requires a little math. Wait, don’t leave, it’s really easy math.

  • To yield 1 cup and a bit of sauce use: 1 tbsp of butter, 1 tbsp or flour and 1 cup of milk.
  • To yield 2 cups and a bit more of sauce use: 2 tbsp of butter, 2 tbsp of flour and 2 cups of milk.
  • To yield 3 cups and more of sauce use: 3 tbsp of butter, 3 tbsp of flour and 3 cups of milk.

Get it?

Step 1.

Grate the cheese. Or if you are a lazy home chef get out your knife and chop it up. Like, you know, me. Don’t judge, it is neater and it is much funer to eat chunks of cheese while you are cooking. How much cheese? I knew you were going to ask that. I dunno, as much as you like. And then some extra- for tasting.

Step 2. Get your pots out. That’s a freebie to keep your spirits up.

Step 3. Make ready the milk. Pour milk and heat it until warm. Use either the microwave or the stove. Don’t let it boil, just until warmed. Set aside.

Step 4. Time for the roux!

 

Roux is a fancy word that means that which makes thick. Or something. Add butter and flour into your pot. I use a gluten-free all purpose blend. Any all purpose works fine. I have had terrible luck with whole wheat and spelt flour. Stick to white for this job. Turn on the heat to medium high. Or so. Whisk. Whisk like your cheese eating life depended on it. No, not really. When the butter is melted and the flour is all combined- it’s roux

Congratulations! This is fancy cookery stuff and you are doing it.

 

 

Step 5. Cook the roux. Just for a minute or two until it bubbles and thickens. Keep stirring.

Step 6. Make sauce. Add the milk. Start with just a little bit at a time. Stir, wait for it to thicken, add a little more, stir…

About halfway through, or whenever you get good and fed up with the add, thicken stir exercise, add the remaining milk. Stir. Thicken.

Once all the milk is in you might be feeling a little nervous about this unthickness of the sauce. Relax and say “Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust”

Let it heat up to almost boiling and it will thicken. Stir.

Step 7. Add the cheese. Let it melt. Stir. Turn the heat down if you need to. Add salt and pepper, herbs, mustard. Any flavours you like.

Extra credit step. If you are looking to up the healthy of this homemade dish. Here’s where you can do that. Add 1 to 2 cups of pureed cauliflower or squash. Maybe even sweet potatoes. Stand by with a little extra milk to thin the sauce if needed.

Add a can of pureed white beans. WARNING: white beans don’t really taste all that good in cheese sauce. But my kids still eat it. Everyday.  To fool growed ups, use very strong flavoured cheese.

Cauliflower helps disguise the beans.

Step 8. Add the noodles.

Super cheesy sauce meet noodles. When you drain the pasta, save some cooking water to juice up the sauce if needed.

Another extra credit step. You could add in chopped cooked chicken, tuna, ground beef, chopped cooked veggies. Or serve it straight up. You won’t be sorry.

Eat.

This can be eaten immediately or refrigerated and heated in the oven. The noodles will absorb the sauce as it sits so make it juicer than you think you would like. Top with bread crumbs drizzled with olive oil for baking.

Now- who’s game to make some cheese sauce?

 

Comments

  1. I’m having guilts now over Kraft Mac-n-cheese being a staple for many years.
    And I’m sure the microwaveable Stouffers brand I use now is not any better. But I’m afraid to look.

    But I have made my own. With celery and leeks added. It was the best ever mac-n-cheese. I should do that more.

  2. we do a homemade version at least once a week, but I’m super lazy. I just add a scoop of butter to freshly drained pasta, mix it up til it melts and then add a big handful of old cheddar with a sprinkling of fresh grated parm, and a pinch of garlic powder. sometimes i put it back on the still warm stove to melt the cheese til it’s creamy. Gotta eat this version straight away or it does get sticky!! Kids absolutely love it, we sometimes add frozen peas or corn to the pasta near the end of the boil. I actually think this could be easier than the box version, yes no? yumm, think I’ll make it today ;)

    • Excellent cheater method! And super fast. I’ve been using the full blown milk version because it was the only milk Clarabel was getting. But now she loves milk and Laila hates it. Sheesh.

  3. ps great post, I love it when you blast the big guys!! I’m positive my Morgan is allergic to tartrazine. She gets super, extra hyper after candy…I think it’s in most red-based colourings as well.

  4. Oh, you hit where it hurts. My guilty lazy, pleasure? Boxed mac n cheese on Friday nights. It’s my reprieve from cooking. I don’t use Kraft, I use one with ingredients I recognize, but still, the cheese is powdered. My family makes the best, most creamy, delicious mac n cheese. It’s just like yours with the roux, but it’s made with Velveeta cheese. Also not good, but it tastes sooo good. I’ve made it with other cheeses, and you may have just guilted me into cooking on Friday nights. Bleh.

    • What a minute- You are eating macaroni and cheese. What happened to being a vegan? Or was this pre-vegan?
      I am sorry to force you into cooking. There are other boxed varieties that have better ingredients but still tons of salt. You can make a massive batch of cheese sauce once a month and freeze it in weekly portions. Then you will only have to cook the noodles.

      • Oh, I make the mac n cheese for the kids and hubby and I fend for ourselves on Fridays. (He gets some nasty fast food meat and I stay vegan.) I wouldn’t eat that boxed junk even if I did eat it. :) Yeah, the salt is an issue. I’ll have to try freezing it.

  5. Joey @ Big Teeth & Clouds says:

    We don’t call it Kraft Dinner in the states, but my family eats some version of cheesy noodles at least once a week. It’s a staple of the kid’s diet.

    I’ve become choosy about what I worry over in recent years and mac ‘n cheese just doesn’t make the list!

    Interesting facts though.

    • I’m confused- do you make your own cheesy noodles or are you saying that you buy the premade version and aren’t going to worry about it?

  6. Kristin,
    Thanks for the recipe. I’ll try it. Will let you know what the boys think of it! Hopefully they’ll be fooled. If not, then maybe in time they’ll forget the Kraft kind.

    Oh, and no, we don’t call it Kraft Dinner here (not even in Michigan) but I knew you guys called it that. In my college days I went to many a BNL concert and dumped a box (or 2) during the finale. *blushing*

    • I never dumped Kraft Dinner at a BNL concert. I feel like my University days were lacking now.
      Hope your boys eat it up!

  7. It’s funny but as I was walking into work this morning in the brisk fall air, I thought “man, I really have to find a recipe for homemade mac and cheese.”

    No joke.

  8. Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points says:

    Interestingly, we made home-made mac and cheese for dinner last night.

    Not easy in my house.

    Himself is lactose intolerant.

    We’re ALMOST there with the dairy-free recipe.

    Last night we were undone by only having vanilla soy milk in the house.

    So close!

    • Can he eat the cheese? Or do you use soy cheese? I’m very curious.
      I once made fettucine alfredo with a can of sweetened condensed milk (I didn’t know the difference between evaported and sweetened condensed then)
      Ken ate it, it was like dessert pasta. He would give thumbs up to vanilla flavoured mac ‘n cheese.

      • Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points says:

        Yep, soy cheese, the whole non-dairly shebang.

        Except butter, butter doesn’t seem to bother him the way milk and cheese do.

        And a friend just mentioned some amazing non-dairy cheese, so we’re going to try that one once we can figure out what it’s called.

        I’m sorta desperate. I REALLY miss all my cheese recipes.

  9. I have never, ever heard KD before. And how bad is it that i’ve never made nor eaten real mac & cheese?!?

  10. Did you make this with regular flour or gluten free? I have yet to try a roux with gluten-free flour. My kids love it when I make homemade mac & cheese and will not eat the boxed stuff anymore, but it was eaten when they were smaller (about once a month). There are many days that I wish I knew then what I know now about food!

    Thanks for the info, Kristen.

    • I have done it with both. I used to use white all purpose flour and now I use whatever pre-mixed gluten free all purpose I have on hand.
      We do what we can and when we learn we do better.

  11. I think that I can DO this!

  12. Thanks for the great info! While I typically stay clear of processed, packaged foods I do on occasion indulge in instant mac n cheese. I have been using Annie’s which is organic. Do you know anything about that brand? I am wondering if Annie’s ingredients are indeed better or if they still have funny stuff in them.

    I am all for making my own (tastes better too) but every now and again I want an easy cheesy snack!

    • I vote Annie’s the best box mac ‘n cheese on the market. If we are traveling or camping it’s the one I will choose. The ingredients are better, still lots of salt. And that powdered cheese.

  13. Now you’ve just gone too far! Ha ha! I never fell for any of the ads claiming healthfulness (who are they kidding? seriously who?), but yeah, I get a blue and orange box occasionally. I know it’s nasty, awful and evil, and I DO prefer the real deal, but it’s more of a nostalgic comfort thing I think. Like a former smoker who enjoys just a drag every once and a while. I’m not about to slip into full convenience food regression, but guilty pleasure?… yeah, I admit to it.

    I love your step-by-step on making the roux… that’s the part where I have trouble sometimes when making mac ‘n cheese from scratch. Thanks for that!

    • You’ve got the nail on the head with the former smoker analogy. I know lots of super healthy eaters that indulge in the blue and orange when no one is looking.
      Hope you have good roux making luck. Let me know how it goes.

  14. Homemade mac n’cheese is so easy I’ve even made it by accident!
    But in a pinch what about Annie’s? http://www.annies.com/products
    I like to add broccoli to mine (not pureed just little florets)

    • If I choose a boxed variety (for camping or traveling) I will go with Annie’s. The ingredients are a little better but still a lot of salt. I vote Annie’s the best box mac ‘n cheese on the market.
      But as you said, easy peasy to make at home. And florets is a great idea. I puree to hide from picky eyes.

  15. Leslie @ crunchybetty says:

    This is epic! Except (and I’m sorry if you covered this), but I have a hard time liking the graininess that goes along with homemade mac and cheese. Is there a way to avoid that? A special cheese, say?

    I haven’t ever made homemade mac and cheese with rice noodles, which is odd because I friggin’ LOVE rice noodles. You have inspired me. Yet again.

    • Graininess? I don’t have a grainy problem. Well, I do with the beans but that’s a whole other issue.
      Let’s get to the bottom of this. Are you using whole wheat flour?

  16. Mel Gallant says:

    i love homemade mac and cheese! so much tastier than KD. i like the idea of adding pureed squash or cauliflower. that’s a great idea. don’t know if the white beans will fly in this house, but i’m willing to give it a try. thanks for sharing a delicious recipe! ps: the amount of sodium in KD is alarming. yowsers.

    • The white beans are really not a nice flavour. I could only get it in when I used Gruyere and old cheddar. But my kids eat it up. I send it in my daugther’s thermos everyday.
      Cauliflower is lovely though, very sweet.

  17. Perfect timing! Hubby just cashed in a Valentine’s Day coupon for his favorite meal – Mac’n’cheese. I’m supposed to use his family’s recipe, but I’m going to use yours instead because it’s so much healthier! Couldn’t be more excited to try.

  18. I have never heard it called KD before, and I’ve spent time in many U.S. states. We strictly call it mac-n-cheese, and everyone assumes you’re talking about the Kraft kind in a box. If it’s homemade, they’re like, “Oh, you made this yourself?”

  19. I don’t know how I missed this!
    My mom always made a baked Mac and Cheese but yes, w/ Velveeta. I’ve made some made up/homemade fresh version but never w/ any consistency.
    But let me tell you how you sold me: the way you broke down the recipe and your commentary. LOVED IT!
    Damn woman, I like your style! Down w/ the blue and orange box!

    • I’ve never looked at the ingredients on a box of velveeta so I will reserve judgement. For now.
      I am thrilled that you found this recipe/post helpful! Hope it brings you years of delicious homemade mac n cheese.

  20. Sunshine Samson says:

    Mmmmmm, Sounds delicious

  21. I never make the Box KD as something about the unnatural bright orange scares me. (My husband also toured the plant where they make it once and swore he would never touch the stuff after seeing how it was made). I have tried several times to make my own Mac n Cheese, however I think i have always had the proportions wrong. Just made this for a quick dinner for the kids and it turned out great, even using whole wheat flour. I added chopped broccoli and used 3.25% milk. I love the idea of using Gruyere, I HAVE to try that sometime. Thanks for the recipe!

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