Instant Mac & Cheese Without The Box

What is that you ask?

That, my friends, is an escape from the hazardous box of macaroni and cheese that has served you faithfully when you had little time to prepare a meal, or needed an older child to feed him/herself or others.  Kraft macaroni and cheese sounds like such a good idea.  Pasta, milk, cheese – what could be wrong with that?   Well for starters, the macaroni is not whole grain and it is enriched.  You know, the old take-all-the-nutrients-out-and-then-stick-them-back-in in a form that is not as readily absorbed by the body?  Second of all, it’s dehydrated cheese.  It takes a few chemicals to achieve that in a form that anyone would WANT to reconstitute!  It’s certainly not the worst ingredient list in the grocery store but Kraft Macaroni & Cheese includes chemicals like: sodium tripolyphosphate, sodium phosphate, calcium phosphate, lactic acid, citric acid, enzymes and worst of all – Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 which are on the Center for Science in the Public Interests’ list of DO NOT CONSUME food additives.

My first attempt to dodge using Kraft-type mac & cheese was to buy Annie’s whole wheat shells and cheese.  Nice product.   WAY too expensive for what it is.  I only bought it on sale, and even then when you see how much it makes you can come up with lots of other ways to spend that 2$.  Next, I began baking macaroni and cheese the old fashioned way.  Everyone loves it except my son.  Really?  By the way, he also prefers what he calls  ‘factory chicken soup’ to my homemade.  Good thing he’s cute, eh?

So… being a nice Mommy at least once in a while and missing the convenience of telling him to make some mac and cheese for himself at lunchtime now and again, I decided to try and make instant mac and cheese without the box.

And what you see in the jar is a frozen portion of the sauce I made on the stove top in the same amount of time it took for the noodles to cook (including bringing the water to a boil).   The recipe was adjusted, several versions of fresh and frozen were kid tested and proclaimed to be as good as Annie’s.  Success!  I had hoped for almost as good (which is the highest praise any of my homemade soups have ever received from him), but to equal the Master – or Mistress – of Mac & Cheese?  Wow.  I think someone should fan me with a palm leaf and feed me grapes.

But first let me give you the recipe.

Instantly Healthier Mac & Cheese
adapted from Instant mac & cheese recipe on Cooks.com
Sauce:

  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 2 Tbsp. White whole wheat flour (what I used)
  • ½ – ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp dry mustard
  • ¼ – ½ tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter
  • ¾ cup grated cheddar cheese (Little Sis’ kids preferred less cheese, and they are awfully cute as well… Just sayin’)

Set water on to boil for pasta (preferably whole grain)*.
Make the sauce:
Mix the flour and milk in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Shake well to mix the flour in.  Begin the butter melting in a saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the spices and milk/flour mixture making sure to give another good shake to the jar before pouring the milk in.  Heat the mixture to boiling, stirring well.  Boil, stirring the whole time for 1 minute.  Turn heat to low and add cheese.  Mix well.  Pour over cooked pasta  You can freeze some of the sauce for another quick macaroni meal that a kid can easily prepare.

*I am a dumper not a measurer of things like pasta so I’m afraid I don’t have a set amount of pasta for this recipe – but leftover sauce can be frozen, and leftover pasta can be saved so please forgive the lapse.  Plus you can find your optimal amount of sauce per bowl of pasta when unencumbered by rigid amounts.  Good justification for not having to make this recipe right this second, don’t you think?  Even though it wouldn’t take long at all.

We’ve linked this recipe to Melt in Your Mouth Mondays on Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms.