Easy Mac and Cheese,  not from the blue box

I always have blue boxes on hand for easy meals. We don’t resort to them much, but I am not afraid to break them out. Boxed macaroni and cheese tastes…fine. It tastes like what it is. It’s dependable.  But I wouldn’t say it tastes…good.

So over the past several years, I have toyed with homemade mac and cheese. Sometimes the sauce breaks. Sometimes it’s bland.  Or gritty.  And if I get too crazy with the cheese variety,  the kids won’t like it. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon some shortcuts that I was able to make a version that was fool proof and kid proof.

Shortcut 1: Use canned condensed cheese soup. I use Campbell’s.

Shortcut 2: Use a couple ounces of Velveeta. Just go with it. Just enough to give the sauce viscosity without giving it that overwhelming, delicious salty plastic flavor.

With these two ingredients,  I can use whatever other cheeses I want. Smoked gouda? Fontina? Pepper jack? Yeah, use them all. Shred it, add it, melt it, taste it, add milk…work with the consistency and flavors that your family loves.

Sorry for the lack of recipe.  Once you get the process down,  it’s not really necessary.  And it’s about adding the type of cheese you like and fussing with it until you get the cheese sauce of your dreams.

To make our meal tonight, I will include diced ham, and a Caesar salad.

Do you have any mac and cheese secrets?

P.S. This version of macaroni and cheese is purely for the kids. I have learned over the past few years that I must invent kids versions and adult versions of the same dish. If I was having a dinner party, my m&c would include a roux…bacon…and a delicious mixture of “adult” cheeses. “Adult” cheese sounds dirty. I’ll just leave you with that.

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Satay-esque Peanut and Chicken Noodle Salad

I do not love peanut butter. Cookies, cake, brownies…sandwiches…crackers…not a fan. I’ll eat it if I am starving, but 9 times out of 10, I will move on without a look behind me.

But. Several years ago, I discovered that peanut butter in a savory application is pretty damned delicious. So that summer, the summer of discovery if you will, we ate peanut noodles at least once a week. At the time, I was a new step mom to a 4 year old and a 2 year old…and they were used to eating mac and cheese. And more mac and cheese. And more mac and cheese. But they loved peanut butter sandwiches, and obviously noodles, so this wasn’t a hard sell.

Time travel to the present: Remember when I said I often will make an awesome recipe only to forget I ever cooked it? Well, 2012 was the year of the peanut noodle and I think it is reemerging in 2017.

I found this recipe on Pinterest, and I am thinking I will make a few changes to it.

Change #1: I am going to cook the cabbage instead of leaving it raw. I might even scorch it some. I LOVE caramelized cabbage. The recipe calls this dish a salad, but I am going to push it over into the entree realm by cooking the cabbage.

Change #2: I don’t love curry powder. I think it’s the turmeric. Instead of seasoning the chicken with it, I will use Chinese 5 spice.

Change #3: Will not garnish with peanuts. Let’s not get crazy, ok?

Change #4: Honey instead of brown sugar

Change #5: Totes using bagged coleslaw instead of shredding my own cabbage.

Change #6: Garnish with cilantro.  Use fish sauce next time.