Taking on big blue

I was in Walmart today, shopping for ingredients for a cooking project (I made it for lunch today, but it was for the newspaper and so I can’t scoop myself by telling you about it), and I noticed an end-of-aisle display for Betty Crocker Mac and Cheese. It’s in a red box the same basic size and shape as Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It comes in three flavors: original, grilled cheese and cheese pizza. I’ve bought a box of each, and I made the original for supper tonight.


This seems sort of foolhardy – Kraft’s blue box mac and cheese is one of the most famous packaged food items, well, ever, and there are some kids who seemingly refuse to eat anything else. Yes, there have always been store brands, but I can’t recall that any other big-name manufacturer has ever tried to take on Big Blue.

I was just about to fill a saucepan with water to boil the macaroni when I glanced at the directions. (Crazy, I know.) That was when I got my second surprise: the directions are completely different from those on the Kraft product with which I grew up.

Unlike Kraft, which has you boil the pasta, then drain it, then mix in the dry cheese sauce mix, milk and butter, Betty Crocker has you dump the uncooked pasta, cheese sauce mix, milk, water and butter into a saucepan and cook it all together. No colander is required. The pasta cooks in the sauce, just as it does in another Betty Crocker product, Hamburger Helper. This is, in a way, Hamburger Helper without the hamburger.

The resulting product seems a little soupier than Kraft, and it’s a bit bland, but it seems like it might appeal to the same kids who like Kraft. Fortunately, I also replenished my supply of Tabasco today. I’m curious to see if the other two flavors are zippier.

As if my top secret cooking project and trying out a new box dinner weren’t enough, I am – as I posted on Facebook – trying out the trick of making caramel sauce by immersing a can of sweetened condensed milk in water in the slow cooker. That won’t be ready until late tonight.