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How do you solve a problem like boxed mac and cheese?

First ... I'll concede it is just as easy to make it from scratch and ooooohhh so much better. So please no 'witty' replies like "throw the box away'.

These are tough times. I remember my college days when the boxed mac n' cheese on sale at 5 for $1 were welcome ... not to mention quick to make when cramming for exams.

Usually I'd add whatever meat and veggies were leftover. The most creative I got was when I had a few apples that had started to go and added sliced apples and a bit of cinnamon. That was tasty.

What got me thinking about this was a recipe from a Honduran newspaper (don't ask) where they added cheese to the boxed macaroni and cheese ... what a concept. It never occurred to me. It is in Spanish, use an online translator if interested. Basically add chopped onion, garlic, ground beef, chopped chile, black pepper, Italian herbs, a bit of tomato sauce and the cheese of your choice.
http://cocina.hondublogs.com/2008/10/...

Chow has a recipe for glop which adds ground sausage and a can of pork and beans
http://www.chow.com/recipes/11521-glop

I also went to the mothership to see what Kraft thought to do with its little blue boxes
http://www.kraftrecipes.com/recipes/s... =&scopetype=KR-Recipes

Even Kraft has recipes that add cheese to its boxed macaroni and cheese ... Kraft cheese, of course. They seem to focus on adding their own products to it such as various Oscar Meyer cold cuts, Kraft Italian salad dressing, Knudsen sour cream, Knudsen cottage cheese or Ritz crackers,

What other ideas for boxed mac & cheese?

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  1. Frozen peas, broccoli florets, sriracha, indivudually or any combonation of the three really helps.

    5 Replies
    1. re: bookhound

      The sriacha sounds good.

      I've been Googling a little more about different ideas for the box. This one uses sriacha to make mac 'n cheese sushi rolls.
      http://www.thefoodinmybeard.com/2009/...

      Seriously, you have to click on that link. This is hilarious. The presentation would make any four star restaurant proud. Sometimes it pays to play with your food. If one must eat boxed mack and cheese, why not make it look elegant?

      the blogger writes " I think these would be a neat finger food to pass around at a party. The cool thing is you can make them way ahead of time, so it frees you up to just reheat at the party. I like the idea of foods that look fancy, but are really something that everyone is familiar with. "

      1. re: rworange

        Ha!, I give him an A for presentation but the idea of cold taco meat wrapped in cold mac and cheese makes my stomach churn a bit...

        1. re: bookhound

          He says you could use ground beef or spinach. The taco meat just was available. One of the comments suggested hot dogs in the center.

          1. re: rworange

            Cold ground beef isn't any better and neither is a cold hot dog! I just keep thinking of the coagulated fat.

            1. re: bookhound

              I was thinking the same thing, but there is a 'reheat in the oven' step right before serving. It doesn't seem that they are hot but they are probably warm enough for the fat to be back to an edible and much more delicious state.

    2. i think it's really just a matter of the flavors you like - you've already got the general idea. veggies, spices, fresh herbs, meats, other cheeses, pesto, tomato sauce, leftover shrimp or other shellfish, canned tuna or salmon...

      or you could always make fried macaroni bites/balls - prepare as directed (adding any optional ingredients if you want to), chill, form into balls, dip in egg wash, coat with panko, and fry!

      2 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        Yes. A little more googling turned up this link where the blogger uses a lot of those items and manages to make the dishes look good
        http://en.petitchef.com/recipes/jazzi...

        There's
        - Spicy Tuna Mac
        - Chicken Alfredo Mac
        - Sweet Pepper Salmon Mac

        I'm just intrigued by this ... mac and cheese topped with Rice Krispies. It doesn't start from a box, but since the Rice Krispies are used for the topping, what is underneath could be anything.
        http://www.ricekrispies.com/recipes/c...

        Then, as long as doing low-end box cooking, why not go all the way and add SPAM
        http://www.spam.com/recipes/detail/40...

        This blog went the opposite direction by trying to make the boxed stuff healthier and adding vegetable purrees
        http://www.education.com/magazine/col...

        There's even a cookbook ... 101 Things to Do with Mac and Cheese
        http://search.barnesandnoble.com/101-...

        This blogger got the book as a gift and despite skepticism, found there were some good recipes. Here's the variation of the book's mac and cheese cake ... a sort of sweet kugel dessert
        http://www.weheartmacandcheese.com/20...

        There are lots of soups in the book and it would never occur to me to use boxed mac and cheese. This site write
        http://mymacaroniandcheese.info/unusu...

        "Macaroni and cheese soups can be made by starting with a chicken stock base. Noodles, cheese, and vegetables are added to complete the soup. Vegetables commonly used in macaroni and cheese soup are onions, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, carrots, and corn. Ham or hot dogs can also be added for extra flavor"

        Funny. Strietching a box of mac and cheese by making soup out of it.

        The index link on the book site lists all the recipes. Here are a few
        Garlicky Soup
        Pomodoro e Zucchina Minestra
        Cheddar Mac Salad
        Fruit Salad (really? Well, I did put apples in my mac and cheese)
        Macaroni, Tomato, Corn and Basil Salad
        Macaroni Chef Salad
        Chicken Potpie (if the mac and cheese is used as the crust, that's a cool idea)
        Dr. Pepper Bake
        Potato Macaroni Gratin
        Canned Rueben
        Cavatini
        Chop Suey
        Frito Pie
        Paladin Blue Macaroni
        Creamy Basil and Almonds
        Christmas Stew (kind of sad, if you think about it)
        Denver Omelet
        Chili Dogs
        Meat Loaf

        I was wonderingg about mac and cheese salad and found a recipe. It sounds both revolting and oddly alluring with Miracle Whip and gherkins and tuna (cucumber and tomato optional
        )http://www.paperbackswap.com/recipes/...

        Another idea, not a salad, was adding creamed corn to mac and cheese.

        1. re: rworange

          I'm actually intrigued by the soup idea. I like cheese soups.

      2. My go-to college mac and cheese "improvement" was to only use half the milk and butter, then let the batch sit in the fridge over night...

        1. I like to add little smokies. Oh man, that's some comfort right there.

          1. My mother used to make a tuna casserole by using one box of mac&cheese made as instructed, 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, 1 can of tuna, and a handful of frozen peas. Mix together, pour into casserole dish and top with your favorite crunchy topping and bake until bubbly.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Jen76

              This is strangely tempting to me.
              I am hoping I can forget about it.
              ;)

              1. re: rabaja

                Yes, I'm not sure it "solves" any "problem" with boxed mac & cheese - perhaps merely adds to it. Oddly enough, it's not entirely repulsive. ;)

              2. re: Jen76

                Our version of this tuna casserole is like your Moms, with two exceptions:
                cream of chicken soup insted of cream of mushroom
                drained can of cut green beans instead frozen peas

                1. re: Jen76

                  when i graduated high school, me and my friends ( a group of boys) went to hawaii to stay in our friend's apartment. i had to make tuna casserole on request for one of the guys which was mac'n'cheese with canned tuna added in.... that was all.