Dressed Up: 5 Easy Ways to Spice Up Kraft Macaroni and Cheese

Dressed Up: 5 Easy Ways to Spice Up Kraft Macaroni and Cheese

I have a good family and loyal friends, but when I look back at my life, it seems as though it is a handful of foods have always been by my side. One of my favorites, macaroni and cheese, has been with me since early childhood. As a kid, I remember eating it as “fun” shapes served along a hot dog during summer. During freshman year at college,  I would fill up a microwavable bowl with the questionable water from the hall, and sometimes accidentally spill some of the powder mixture on the tattered rug. Years later, for a special occasion, I celebrated at a steak house with the noodles smothered in rich, aged cheeses and fresh lobster.

When I don’t have time to make homemade mac or the funds to revisit my lobster filled glory days, I turn to my old friend Kraft. A blue box, some elbow noodles, and an envelope of neon orange powdered cheese — it doesn’t get more simple than that. But simple doesn’t have to mean boring. Here are my five favorite ways to spice it up.

Each recipe requires one box of Kraft Deluxe Mac and Cheese.

1. Jalapeño Popper Mac
Preheat oven to 350. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add 2 finely chopped jalapeños (washed with seeds removed). Cook for about five minutes. Mix in jalapeño, salt, and black pepper to prepared mac. In a separate bowl, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Combine the melted butter with 1 ½ cup of panko bread crumbs. Add the mac mixture to a buttered 2 quart baking dish. Top with bread crumbs. Bake until golden brown.

2. Philly Cheese Steak Mac

Chop one pound or less of sandwich steak (thin cut of steak at the butcher, sometimes also referred to as pepper steak in stores). Sauté in 2 tablespoon of olive oil. Add two chopped green peppers. Season with a teaspoon of onion powder, teaspoon of garlic salt, and some black pepper. Cook until peppers soften and meat is fully cooked. Boil and drain the noodles. When adding the cheese packet, also add 1 cup of shredded monetary jack cheese. Add the steak mixture and serve.

3. Spinach Artichoke Mac

Sauté 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 3 cups of fresh or 1 cup of defrosted, drained spinach to oil. After cooking for 4-5 minutes, add ½ cup of drained, marinated artichoke hearts, ¼ cup of roasted red pepper, and salt and pepper. Boil and drain the mac. When adding the packet of cheese also add 2 cups of hard grated Italian cheese (parmesan, asiago, and/or romano).

4. Taco Mac

Brown 1 pound of ground chuck, draining off any grease. Add one packet of taco seasoning mix. Add seasoned beef and one cup of cheddar or Mexican cheese blend to prepared mac. Pour in a casserole dish and top with any of the following ingredients you like: crumbled tortilla chips, guacamole, tomato, onion, chopped lettuce, sour cream, salsa, or cilantro.

5. Buffalo Chicken Mac

Smother one pound of cooked, shredded chicken in your favorite buffalo sauce. Boil and drain mac. When you’re mixing in the cheese packet, add 1 cup of gorgonzola or blue cheese. (Feel free to do ½ cup cheese, ½ cup of ranch dressing if the power of the blue is too much). Add chicken, 1/3 cup of diced celery, and mix.