Some time ago I wrote about James Kraft and his invention of Velveeta processed cheese food. His small company morphed into a giant food manufacturer that has been responsible for some of the inventions that have made American cuisine what it is. Those inventions include Miracle Whip salad dressing, Cheez Whiz, Parkay margarine, and arguably the most famous of all, the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner that came into being in 1937.
Since then, there is probably not a single American child who has not had boxed macaroni and cheese. In fact, in our family it is a child’s favorite that is often preferred to Mom’s carefully crafted (no pun intended) macaroni and cheese made from the finest ingredients. The good news is that children’s tastes change as they grow older.
Recognizing the appeal of boxed macaroni and cheese dinners with kids, some time back when we were watching over some of our grandchildren for several days, I bought a box but wound up not using it. It came home with us and has been residing in our pantry for awhile (It is virtually indestructible and will probably last forever, along with my box of Velveeta). It has become a bit of an embarrassment, so when I was reorganizing the pantry a while back, I decided to use it with the sub-plot of disguising it so much that it would fool an adult.
Well, it turned out to be pretty well disguised, but sorry to say, you will not be fooled. Still it was a pleasant diversion and something that went ok with soy-sauce-and-lemon-vinaigrette-braised flounder.
Boxed Macaroni Dinner Incognito
- 1 7.25-ounce package of Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner
- 1 10-ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed
- 1 teaspoon Pernod (optional)
- 5 button mushrooms, sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (doesn’t need to be EVOO)
- salt and pepper
- ¼ cup panko
- 1 ounce Parmesan, grated
- butter to dot the top of the casserole
- Prepare the macaroni and cheese dinner according to instructions on the box. Pour the finished dinner into a bowl and set aside.
- With your hands, squeeze as much water out of the thawed spinach as you can. Chop finely.
- Saute the mushrooms over medium heat in the olive oil. Drain.
- Combine the spinach and mushrooms with the prepared dinner. Stir in Pernod to your taste, but be careful as it can be overpowering if used too liberally)
- Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper
- Top with panko and grated Parmesan. Dot with butter.
- Bake in the middle of a 350° F (177° C) oven for 40 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbling. Serve.