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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.

                2. Sriracha and Spam are my favorite additions. Sometimes I'll drop a raw egg in there before everything sets.

                  My roommate in college used to add Nutella. Go figure.

                  1. I add salsa all the time.

                    1. rworance, I'm not sure how any of this is a problem. Boxed meals can be delicious or nostalgic all on their own and taste pretty good dressed up imo.

                      I love my boxed mac and cheese with tomatoes and a little squeeze of ketchup. Yum!

                      Those "Mock-i" rolls you showed would be delicious rolled in actual seaweed!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: joonjoon

                        Tomatoes and a squeeze of ketchup for me too, I like my mac'n'cheese kept plain and simple!
                        When I was a kid it was always served with hot dog pieces and ketchup as add-ins.

                        My Mother-in-law makes it with a variety of veggies, a can of baked beans, and extra cheese then bakes it in the oven. A meal I've never quite acquired the taste for, probably because of the beans. My husband makes a homemade mac'n'cheese bake that's very tasty with egg holding it together, tomato layer on top then a cheese crust to finish it off.

                      2. This may not may use at all in an urban area, but for us'n rural poor, stretch the M&C by gathering. I just picked a bunch of sorrel & chanterelles; add dandelion greens, ramps, mussels, fiddlehead ferns, etc, and one has an ersatz goour-met meal.
                        But I have avoid Kraft since '72, it holds no childhood or young adulthood nostalgia for me.
                        I have, however, listened to Kraftwerk since '79.

                        1. Leftover broccoli and carrots, extra-old cheddar cheese, and if I'm really being bad, cut up hot dogs. Maybe with a small salad on the side to ease my guilty conscience:)

                          I find KD WAY, WAY easier to make than homemade, and if I'm being honest, it hits the spot in a way that homemade just can't. I can't even blame it on nostalgia - I doubt it was even around when I was a kid. Now fried SPAM on white bread with ketchup, that brings back memories!

                          1. From my college days, Keilbasa Mac&Cheese.
                            Grilled Keilbasa
                            1 box of mac&cheese

                            Even simplier Chili Mac&Cheese
                            1 can of chili
                            1 box of M&C

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: dave_c

                              Second the chili mac. Really good with homemade.

                            2. I can't get Kraft three cheese shells at my regular grocery store, so my starting point is Back to Nature Crazy Bugs mac & cheese. (I saw a review where this was a winner, and they're right ... I've tried the other stuff from the same brand & it's not as good. The texture of the pasta is good and the cheese sauce has a nice nutty flavor. Not that you can taste the nutty by the time I get done doctoring it ...)

                              Then I brown a little ground bison with salt, pepper, freshly ground white pepper, soy sauce.

                              Cook the pasta al dente (8 min as opposed to 14-16 called for), then make the sauce with whole milk, the cheese powder, good shredded Parmesan, Velveeta, and organic butter! Add the bison, add the pasta, mix, serve immediately with sliced green onions or chives and grape tomatoes on the side.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: foiegras

                                You are bar none *the* most food open person I have ever had the privilege of reading! Velveeta and organic butter, Yum!!

                                1. re: just_M

                                  Thanks ;) A very nice compliment. Organic butter's very important--the tippy-top of the food chain. I always have both it and Velveeta on hand--I use Velveeta to give the dogs their pills. And borrow some for myself on the odd occasion :) Life is all about compromise ...

                              2. I like add ins as well, but the biggest trick I've found is to only use about 3/4 of the pasta/macaroni. All the rest stays the same and/or gets supplemented. YUM!

                                1. I would cook as directed, adding a little bit of grated onion and fresh parsley. Then put in a casserole dish, top with real shredded cheese, then top that w/ some buttered panko and bake in the oven until cheese is melted and panko is browned.

                                  1. In the early 90's one of the Seabee wives taught me how to make spaghetti/macaroni -

                                    2 - boxes mac & cheese
                                    1/4 - 1/2 lb hamburger
                                    1/4- 1/2 C milk
                                    1 can tomato soup
                                    garlic powder, S & P

                                    Brown the the hamburger (sprinkled w/garlic pwder, S&P) in one pan - in another pan boil mac. When the ground meat is done, check out the oil and if it looks like more than 1/2 cup, drain some. Your looking for between 1/4 & 1/2 cup fat, in place of the butter. Sprinkle cheese packets over meat and stir in, add milk, add tomato soup and stir add enough water that you like the consistency. It's done, and really good.

                                    My husband and son love to eat Kraft mac w/ Doritos, either as a scooper or bottom of the bag crumbs sprinkled on top. My Gran always added Kraft singles torn up. I've never been a Kraft Mac girl, but all of these are pretty darn good.

                                    1. This isn't an add-in for boxed M&C, but when I DO make it, I make twice as much as I need and make macaroni salad with the leftovers.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Fuentes

                                        With Miracle Whip? What is your recipe for the salad?

                                        1. re: Fuentes

                                          You make a mac n cheese salad? Do you mind telling whats usually in it?

                                        2. Add 10 or more diced Scotch Bonnet chiles to the M&C and viola (sic), one has Scoville Mac N Cheese!

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                                            10 or more Scotch Bonnets! Wow! I though I could handle the heat, but that's way beyond my threshold. <bow to the master>

                                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                                              That sounds like it would be awesome deep fried into fritters...

                                              1. re: joonjoon

                                                Stuff the Mac into about 30-49 Scotch Bonnets and deep fry. Stuffed jalapenos are for whimps!

                                                Macho Keg

                                            2. i've made it, then spread out in a long oblong pan, so the mac is only 1-2 inches deep. let cool, then refrigerate. next day, cut into squares. put squares into freezer for twenty minutes.
                                              break eggs into a dish and beat lightly with salt and pepper, and a dash of milk. in another dish mix panko with parmesan, herbs. dip squares in egg mixture then coat in crumbs and pan-saute. OR coat in beer batter or tempura batter and deep fry.

                                              or put the squares between two slices of buttered bread and broil to make a grilled cheese on crack.

                                              or make a casserole - layer mac, then cooked, or roasted, broccoli, onions, garlic, and tomato, then ricotta cheese, lather rinse repeat and end with a layer of mac, then top with grated parm and bread crumbs. baked til golden.

                                              2 Replies
                                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                  Maybe you can write to Jack's Bistro for the recipe for chocolate mac and cheese
                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/577280

                                                  "the chocolate mac and cheese which had a surprising but not unwelcome hint of smoky bacon in it. The chocolate was a mild milk chocolate so its not overbearing at all"

                                                  For white chocolate mac and cheese you would have to contact the chef at Sea Rocket Bistro
                                                  http://searocketbistro.com/content/me...

                                              1. Buffalo Wing Sauce & Blue Cheese - Chicken or buffalo chicken sausage are optional

                                                1. I cut the milk down tremendously, add the powdered mix and butter, and then add about 1/2 cup freshly shredded chedder, or a few ounces of cream cheese. Then I spice it up depending upon my tastes that day..sometimes a sprinkle of crushed red pepper and Mrs. Dash, often a shake of Goya's Adobo mix with cumin, and cracked black pepper...sometimes all of these. The white chedder mac and cheese is tasty with the green jalapeno tabasco. Sometimes,crushed butter crackers or panko bread crumbs with a tad of butter drizzled on it, also finds its way in. If I have an abundance of fresh herbs and leftover parm or goat cheese...these too are tasty with the white chedder mac.

                                                  1. A capful of liquid smoke.

                                                    1. One of my faves:

                                                      Frozen peas (in with the boiling pasta three minutes before draining) & pancetta or prosciutto (or crispy bacon in a pinch, even tuna with a couple drops of liquid smoke), add some parmesan or romano and substitute white wine for half the milk. For true decadence I'll use half & half if I have any.

                                                      1. My mom used to cook some ground beef with garlic salt and add that to the macaroni and cheese... Haven't had that in years, I think I'll have to introduce my dear husband to that :D

                                                        1. Well, I've already copped to loving the stuff so I can't get all highbrow, can I? There was a time a very long time ago indeed when little Marci was prevented from eating anything of that nature because Mom just "didn't want to support that kind of bourgeouis lifestyle choice." It set me up for a lifetime of overcorrection for it, and I even understand with my palate that it's glop, but it's a glop I really dig the taste of!
                                                          So, once upon a time, not very long ago at all, (last Fall, to be exact) I found myself with a pot of good minestrone simmering on one of those Noahstyle days we had last year, and Biscuit the Dog had taken off with my parmesan rind. Then to add insult to injury, I went into the pantry and found evidence that a mouse had been into the tubetinni, which is as far as I'll elaborate. I did however have a box of old faithful Blue-box Kraft, and after I looked around the kitchen furtively, I dumped it all straight in there. It was one of the best soups I've ever made, and I'd do it again!

                                                          I also used to add shredded cabbage, beansprouts and crumbled hamburger into it to make a dish that my Mr. dubbed "trash in a bowl" and then proceeded to eat three bowls of.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: mamachef

                                                            Ha ha, I hear you :) Did your Mom also reject boxsprings and decent mattresses? Or to keep it food related - bread knives? Because bread must be torn!

                                                            1. re: mamachef

                                                              This sounds exactly like the kind of dishes my dear old dad would come up with. Then we'd have fun naming them! they always had a German sort of twist to them, which I can't even remember. But they were delicous- everythime!

                                                              1. Oh - slice up some hot dogs - the cheaper the better. Add them into the boiling water w/ the pasta. Do per the rest of the instructions. Nasty, but tasty and worthy of another bowl. I always add add'l milk to the mix.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: JerryMe

                                                                  I'm the opposite. Make without milk and maybe only a Tbs of butter--fine if you don't have any one hand. Just keep a Tbs or so of cooking water to blend the cheese in. Then you get an intense, cheesy sprinkle effect on your macaroni. The regular recipe was always way to saucy for my taste, and when I needed to make some in college when I had no butter or milk I never went back to the old way.

                                                                2. Green, Red and Yellow peppers, roasted (or thrown in boiling pasta water) and added after the cheese was mixed in. Mentioned this on another thread. Pretty as well as tasty. Reheated some today and added a sliced up hotdog.

                                                                  1. My neighbor just told me she stores the noodles in a plastic bag and uses the powder for a. cheese popcorn and b. corn on the cob. Not sure what to think. Isn't there a commercial powdered cheese whey product available? Isn't that basically what that is? Wouldn't it make more sense to buy a jar/can/box whatever of that? and if so where do you get it?

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: mamachef

                                                                      I think they sell something like that at my bulk store, come to think of it, that would be a very economical way to do boxed mac, or use as a base for real-er macaroni by adding grated cheeses.

                                                                      1. re: mamachef

                                                                        They do, but I've tasted it and while it's good in it's own right, and very similar, it's a bit different from the stuff they put in the boxed macaroni and cheese.

                                                                      2. Brocoli florets thrown in with the pasta for the last 2 minutes of boiling are standard at my house. I have also added leftover or dried up bits of cheese to good effect.
                                                                        But one of my favourites is to add ham or even better dry chorizo, black beans, and some pureed chipotle in adobo. YUM!
                                                                        Oh, and ironically, I'll totally cop to being a snob about my boxed mac n cheese. It's gotta be PC white cheddar. No orange KD for me.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: julesrules

                                                                          Thank you, Julesrules! (I like the boxed shells and white cheddar too, and generally add a good handful of mozzarella to it.)

                                                                          1. re: julesrules

                                                                            Broccoli is also the de facto in my kitchen or any veggies, really and some fresh basil leaves. If I have tomatoes and/or tomato sauce around, that goes in also. Top with parmesan.

                                                                          2. A secretive pleasure, left over from youth no doubt, but with the addition of just two ingredients, it is quite good. Lots of freshly- ground (coarse) black pepper- 1 to 2t. perhaps and I can of drained, albacore tuna mixed in. Fast and really good!

                                                                            1. So you can buy that in Guatemal? Or did you bring it down with you? We're leaving for Rio in a few days and I'm certainly taking some things that I can't get there, i.e., Spam :)

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                Spam and boxed mac and cheese (tho not Kraft) are plentiful in Guatemala and usually in the average market ... even gourmet, so to speak, flavors of Spam such as garlic or cheese. Someone at Wal-Mart must like both ... a good percentage of the major grocery stores are Wal-Mart owned.

                                                                                Now canned salmon ... that's a different thing. Almost unheard of. Occasionally there is the cheap ugly type with bones and skin in big cans, but even that is rare.

                                                                                Hmmm ... mac and cheese and canned salmon.

                                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                                  I keep forgetting about WM which is about an hour bus ride south of where we are in Rio. We bought a ton of stuff, even appliances, there when first setting up our place. Maybe now that we don;t HAVE to go there, we should take the bus down and see what's what. Our usual grocery has 2-4 Campbells soups and they're about US$5!

                                                                              2. My son made dinner for me one night and he added garlic, onions,and ground beef, sort of a homemade version of hamburger helper.With a salad, it was not really diet friendly but it tasted pretty good.

                                                                                Yes cheese, it seems kind of silly to add expensive cheese to these things but I'll fess up, I've done it. I mean why suffer if you have fontina. Also, ricotta. Ricotta cheese has many good uses, not so rich as cream cheese and will really make some dishes so much better.

                                                                                You could add canned tomatoes with chilies, or chilies alone.
                                                                                And then a recipe for Cajun Chicken comes to mind, where you add chili powder, and blackened cajun spices, and perhaps cream. For our little guy that wants mac and cheese all the time, in a hurry we add hotdogs and I've added the Louisianna hots to it too d(not for him).for the big kid.
                                                                                None of these are healthy,but maybe once in a while...

                                                                                1. To a box of White cheddar macaroni:
                                                                                  Cook the Macaroni
                                                                                  In a small skillet, saute 1/2 cup of diced white onion, 1/2 cup diced fresh tomato, 1 minced garlic clove
                                                                                  Salt & Pepper
                                                                                  Pour Onion tomato, garlic mixture over hot cooked macaroni
                                                                                  Sprinkle with powdered white cheddar package.
                                                                                  Delicious.

                                                                                  1. I keep it in my kitchen store simply for the off times the grands will want it and I want to know it's there. If it's something they like, and they do, I'll have it there to whip up for them. I also have used it during times where I needed 'that' kind of noodle for something and that was my only source [so] glad for it. Also used the cheese packet inside for other times too having nothing to do with Blue Box Mac&Cheese

                                                                                    As I mentioned in another thread, my crazy husband loves to mix it with a can of Beefaroni after making 'it' according to package directions, to each his own I suppose.

                                                                                    and yah, wut up with der price?

                                                                                    1. To be honest, while I do enjoy making my own in a gazillion different variations, the "blue box" is something I just consider good old "comfort food" from when I was just a little sprout. A nice helping of plain Kraft Mac & Cheese alongside a few cooked frozen Gorton's or Mrs. Paul's breaded fish sticks & some tartare sauce, & a crummy day just melts away. :)

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. Two things I have done recently with Velveeta whole grain mac & cheese for my kids:

                                                                                        * Add 3/4 can low sodium cream of chicken soup. This makes it amazingly creamy, a little stronger flavor. My kids asked for seconds, which we usually don't do.

                                                                                        * Top the mac & cheese with taco meat or spaghetti meat.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: starbucksbrew

                                                                                          Throw in some leftover taco fixings!

                                                                                          Ground beef seasoned with chile, cumin and garlic, fried onions, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, avocados.... tasty tasty times.

                                                                                        2. A friend of mine was telling me of a mac n' cheese soup she makes for her kids...She adds ham, a can of tomatoes, and chicken broth. Actually sounded pretty good!

                                                                                          1. Sometimes I add tuna and cream of mushroom soup to make it a cheesy tuna casserole. You can also add broccoli or peas to it.

                                                                                            1. When I was a kid I had this children's cookbook, and there was a recipe that called for Kraft dinner and canned chicken mixed together, served in a bologna bowl (just fry up a slice in a frying pan and it will rise and make a kind of bubble).

                                                                                              I know it sounds super ghetto but it was actually tasty, haha!

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: miss_habibi

                                                                                                I'm thinking the deconstructed elevated equivalent would be pancetta-laced macaroni aux quatre fromages, w/ a side of roasted chicken.