Macaroni and cheese just might be the ultimate comfort food.
There’s something about that combination of hot and melted cheese with perfectly cooked noodles that just makes you want to grab a fork and start eating. Making homemade macaroni and cheese from scratch can take some time, and those boxed kits contain more sodium and calories than most adults need. Even if you’re pressed for time or have a fussy eater who hates most foods, you can still appeal to your whole family with some fun macaroni and cheese ideas.
Slow Cooker Recipe
The best thing about making macaroni and cheese in your slow cooker is that you can throw all your ingredients in the pot at the beginning of the day and come home to a filling dish after work. You don’t even need to cook the macaroni first. You only need dried macaroni noodles, your favorite cheese, a little butter and condensed milk. Toss everything into the pot with any seasonings you want, stir to combine and turn the slow cooker on low. You can also experiment and try using different types of noodles, cheese or spices.
Mac and Cheese Cups
If you have little ones at home who love serving themselves, mac and cheese cups are a great idea. You can use any type of macaroni and cheese for this recipe, including a homemade batch or a batch made from a kit. Spray the inside of a muffin tin with olive oil spray. Fill each cup with enough mac and cheese that it comes up just to the top. Sprinkle a small amount of breadcrumbs over the top before baking in the oven until the breadcrumbs brown. To make this dish a little more upscale for adults, lightly toast the bread crumbs first in butter or olive oil with a little garlic.
Many kids claim that they hate vegetables, which can make it hard to ensure they eat healthy. You can get your kids eating better when you sneak vegetables into mac and cheese. Butternut squash has a relatively mild flavor that pairs nicely with the cheese. Peel the squash, cut into large chunks and place in boiling water until the outside is cooked but the inside is still slightly hard. Thoroughly drain the squash before tossing right into your favorite mac and cheese.
Replacing the macaroni with spaghetti squash is another great way to get your kids to eat healthy. While you can find healthy recipes from Hampton Creek and other recipe sites, you might love this idea too. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, place on a cookie sheet and bake until cooked through. When you run a fork over the top, the squash will break down into strands that look just like spaghetti. Make your cheese sauce, combine with the squash and serve. If your kids turn up their noses at the long strands, cut the squash into smaller pieces to mimic macaroni.
Combine your love of chili with your love of mac and cheese to make chili mac. This dish is so popular that you might find it served in some of your favorite restaurants. The next time that you make a pot of chili, save a few bowls and store in the freezer. When you make macaroni and cheese the next time, simply combine equal parts chili with the mac and cheese before serving. You can make an even easier version with the frozen macaroni and cheese you see in stores with a simple can of chili.
If you love the gooey look and taste of a grilled cheese sandwich, you’ll love this version even more. Lightly butter one piece of bread, place flat down in pan on the stove and top with ½ cup of prepared macaroni and cheese. Butter a second piece of bread before placing on top with the butter side facing up. Lightly press down the top with a spatula until the bread browns before flipping and cooking on the opposite side. You can even make a mac and cheese sandwich on an indoor grilling machine or a panini press to get a crisp exterior.
When you turn this comfort food into a pot pie, you can completely transform macaroni and cheese night. All you need is butter, puff pastry sheets and prepared mac and cheese. You can find puff pastry sheets in the freezer section of most grocery stores. Spray the inside of small oven safe dishes with olive oil spray. Divide your macaroni and cheese equally into each cup. Cut the puff pastry into small rounds, top each cup and press down the edges before brushing with butter. Bake in the oven until the pastry puffs up and the mac and cheese heats through.
Even if you love macaroni and cheese, eating the same thing week after week can get a little boring. Look for new ways to transform that dish and make every member in your family a fan. Make mac and cheese cups, chili mac and other fun dishes.