All kids love macaroni and cheese. My son never cared for the powdered cheese variety so I started buying him the creamy kind, which I liked better, too. I am a cost-conscience mother though, so after a few boxes at $2.86 each, I decided we needed another option. I did the math and realized I could buy a pound of Velveeta and some generic macaroni and make an individual portion of macaroni and cheese for about 25 cents! Much better and he liked it, too (he is a bit picky).
I was not raised on Velveeta, I knew full well that it was processed junk food, but I just ignored my better judgment. We did this for a few years and then one day a friend mentioned how Velveeta has a shelf life of many, many years, unopened. It can not possibly be even remotely like real cheese if it can last that long at room temperature. Velveeta is basically like plastic! I knew this, but it was really helpful hearing it again. Sometimes we have to hear things a few times and from a few different sources for it to sink in.
I decided then, no more Velveeta. So I found a wonderful recipe for macaroni and cheese with REAL cheese and it tastes fabulous! It did take my son a few times of trying it to forget about the Velveeta. J Not only has he forgotten about the Velveeta, he LOVES this recipe! Sometimes when we switch our family off of a packaged food item we just need to not have that food item for a while, so they can forget about it. Then introduce another version and if they still do not go for it, wait a while longer.
This recipe is practically as easy as a boxed variety. It makes about 6 servings as a main dish; it will be more as a side dish. We enjoy ours with a side of broccoli with plenty of butter on it. If you have extra time, you can add an extra special touch - toss some fresh bread crumbs with melted butter and toast in the oven till golden brown, 375°F for approximately 15 minutes. Use these as a yummy, crunchy topping. Mmm, so good!
Bring 2 quarts of salted water to boil in a medium saucepan.
Add 3 cups macaroni or other small shaped pasta (14 oz.), cook until al dente; drain. Pasta is a compromise food regardless of whether it is whole grain or not. Do not be fooled by the new higher fiber varieties that promise Omega-3 and such. They are still packaged food. Pick pasta you enjoy and just do not eat it every night. J If you have issues with wheat you can find pasta made out of other grains at the health food store.
After you have drained the pasta, return it to the pan and add 2 tablespoons of butter. Turn the heat back on to medium and stir until the butter is melted. Add 1 cup half and half or whole milk and salt (I use abut ½ teaspoon) to the pan and keep stirring. (You can add an optional few dashes of mustard powder here. I know it seems strange, but it is really good, even the kids like it, it adds a bit of depth.) Add 8 ounces grated cheese (we like White Sharp Cheddar), 1 tablespoon flour (omit if you do not eat wheat), and stir until melted and creamy. Add an additional ½ cup of half and half or whole milk and keep stirring till heated through. Serve immediately.
Note: The key here is salting to taste. Taste your cooking before it gets to the table. I didn’t used to do this and now that I do, it makes a big difference. I can salt my food once it’s at the table, but a child is not likely to, they just know the food does not taste quite right. Especially when we introduce new foods to our families and try to cut out some of their packaged food favorites, we want that food to taste it is best, so do not be afraid of this important seasoning!
Update - Food made with real cheese versus Velveeta can be hard to clean off dishes. I have learned a trick that makes it easy. Fill the pan with warm water and generously sprinkle in baking soda. Add a couple squirts of dish soap. Let soak for a bit (10 min.). Scrub the pan WITH that baking soda liquid still in it, it seems to work better than if you empty the pan out. The cheese should come off easily. Make sure you have most of it scrubbed off before rinsing, the baking soda really helps release the cheese. For the plates and bowls I just sprinkle a bit of baking soda on and then scrub.