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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Kid Foodies : Macaroni and Cheese - Home Made versus Mac from a Box

Today is Saturday.  This is the weekend after our epic snow storms.  We fared a little better than some of our friends in other cities.  There were two days this week with 2 hour school delays.  I can't complain when I hear about everyone else's situation.  We awoke to more snow fall today in Colorado Springs.  So far I have stayed inside with my three children, but this afternoon we have things to do.  Laundry needs to be done - at the laundry mat.  Groceries need to be purchased.  Rooms need to be cleaned when we return.  So I decided to write this before all that goes down as a "pre-therapeutic" writing session.  It always calms me and helps me focus.
I was happy that we had a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the pantry so I could make a quick lunch for my hungry little "Mexigarian" children.  (Mexigarian is a term coined by my sister in reference to their combined Mexican and Hungarian heritage.)  Sebastien, my six- year- old, was the first to request that I prepare this box filled with ingredients I might not otherwise serve my children if I had the time, patience, and supplies to create the "Home Made" version that I have grown to appreciate.  So I began my quest to cook the noodles, melt the butter, add the little packet of strange colored powder that was to serve as the "cheese", and administer a splash of milk to the gloppy mixture so there was at least a hint of something nutritious in the finished product.
While I was going through the motions of cooking (in the loosest sense of that word) I had a flash back moment to the first time I actually tasted the most magnificent home made macaroni and cheese.  Up until I was probably 26 years old I had never experienced the wonder of this comfort food.  I grew up enjoying  a variety of home cooked foods courtesy of  my Hungarian Immigrant mother.  She cooked European style foods but was also well versed in other cuisines.  One of the few foods she did not present was the remarkable  Home Made Macaroni and Cheese.  That came from a box.  So imagine my surprise when I attended Thanksgiving dinner at the home of my first boyfriend and discovered the miracle of his Grandma Margie's delicious side dish.
I was hooked at the first taste.  I would never look at boxed macaroni the same way.  Grandma Margie had spoiled me by introducing me to the larger noodles with room for melted cheese inside their hollowed shells.  The creamy warmth of the saucy mix was tantalizing and I almost forgot the slices of turkey on the plate.  Thank You to that sweet lady for a new comfort food to enjoy.  I was determined to one day create my own macaroni and cheese treasure when I had my own family.  That day I learned that there's so much more to cooking that what comes in a blue and yellow box. 
My single years in Germany included many boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with a side of Pepsi Cola.  I found that adding cracked pepper to the dish slightly elevated the flavor.  It was my go to dish in a hurry, an inexpensive meal with my date as we watched a movie together, or the meal I made on Christmas Eve when I was an ocean away from my family.  So I do have fond memories of my relationship with this boxed gem.  However, the grown up me values the process of creating a home cooked meal that takes time and patience and practice.
I have tried on numerous occasions to share my love for Home Made Mac and Cheese covered with buttery Panko crumbs with my offspring only to greeted with, "I don't like that stuff, Mom."  or "That's not Mac and Cheese!"  Alas, I continue to encourage them to try new foods to expand their repertoire of flavors and textures.  My oldest child now asks for mom's special mac and cheese.  The other two children are holding out on the conversion.  I don't make it very often because of the cost and richness of the ingredients.  My sister, Nancy, makes a very elevated and expensive version that is a meal in itself!  I have been fortunate to have tasted her creation on at least two occasions.  
Cold, snowy weather has a tendency to make us crave comfort foods.  I found the following recipe if you are so inclined to try to convert your own Kid Foodies in your home.  But if they don't like it the first time, keep trying.  Then again, if you don't want to that's all right too.  Perhaps they will find a "Grandma Margie"  who will inspire them to try something different. 
Hope you are all safe and sound, warm, and well loved.  Take Care and Thanks for reading.

Cristina Ferrare shares a recipe for a macaroni and cheese with a sophisticated twist
(Note from Poetz Tree: You can make this without the truffle oil and it still tastes great.  I used this recipe with good results.)