Might the ultimate comfort food come from a box? If so, can we parents at least make it organic? Kids answer: No. Don’t even try to touch my Kraft cheesy powdered mac-n-cheese with anything whole wheat, organic or homemade.
In search of the ultimate winter comfort-food for adults and kids alike that is super flexible, I recently landed on a recipe for Mac-n-Cheese that includes multiple cheese variations, breadcrumbs and roasted tomatoes from Martha. In previous attempts, I’ve added mixed veggies, ham and bacon to the dish. As far as the kids are concerned, it wasn’t quite Kraft. I needed to try again.
It really frustrates me that they prefer Kraft to mine, which included way too much yellow onion in their opinion. They gave it a thumbs down. I tell them the difference in ingredients. I have my 8-yr-old son, Calvin, heavily involved in the shredding of the four cheeses, tearing and processoring of the bread into breadcrumbs and vigilantly monitoring the whole mix flour mix so that it doesn’t burn and reaches the perfect consistency.
Maybe had they not had the Kraft version ever, I’d be able to sway them (they’ve been around for 75 years; see their Facebook page) My kids – Calvin and 8-yr-old Ava – have quite a palette for cheese. I thought they would, or rather should, be open to Guyere, Pecorina and sharp cheddar. Some of their reaction could have been due to last minute missed steps and presentation. We made the dish on a Sunday with the idea of popping it in the oven on Monday night for dinner after the workday. Something was lost in translation.
Despite a handwritten note to my husband and an email with the link to the recipe, the dish did not get the breadcrumbs added and did not see the likes of the oven. Rather, it went straight from fridge to microwave, losing much of its appeal. I arrived home later than their dinner time and realized the mac malfunction. I made it right for my version in a 350 oven.
I thought it worth it with the surprise element: breadcrumbs. I have never been a crouton fan (my Dad did not claim to recognize them on a salad we served him years ago), nor into breadcrumbs. They made the dish. I discovered the importance of multiple textures in a dish years ago, and this was one such example that was more satisfying because of that mix. I would suggest not to skimp on this step if you make a mac dish. I also knew the roasted tomatoes on top would be a tough sell for the kids. I sauteed them on the side and added a green salad to round out the meal.
One kid said straight up, “Mom, you’re not gonna wanna hear this, but I actually hate it.” The other couched it more gently. I made that one most vocal kid try my more perfected version. He admitted a step up, but he was not willing to budge overall. At least we had fun making it – shredding, tearing, processing and thickening. I also polled other mommies who echoed my frustrations – another factor lessening the blow. But Kraft, just so you know, I’m keeping at it, in search of my kids’ ultimate thumbs up on my homemade mac-n-cheese.