Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sunday #18: Maxaroni and Cheese Dinner!

I decided that as part of Sunday Dinners, I would recruit the kids to think up and put together a meal. I figure this'll give them a head start for when their home-ec teacher makes them practice opening a jar of sauce in high school.

Seriously Mrs. Wineberg, how is boiling a box of pasta and opening a jar of sauce a valuable life skill?

Max didn't seem all that interested but eventually we came up with a menu.

Okay, I came up with a menu that he agreed to.

Chicken Nuggets
Macaroni and Cheese
Fruit Salad

This Sunday happened on a Wednesday, because we didn't do anything at all for dinner on the actual Sunday #18. It worked out well because I had almost an hour of just me and Max time before Simon got there - plenty of time to prep.

Fruit Salad

We started with the fruit salad. I explained to Max that this was so it could be nice and chilled when dinner time came. Hooray for teaching!

Slicing bananas is serious business.

I helped too, in that I cut up all of the rest of the fruit and then it all went in a big tub. Oh wait - not all of it. He plucked and washed the grapes! Helper!

Let's see. There were strawberries, pineapple, apple, banana, grapes. Maybe there was more. I can't remember. I can tell you there wasn't orange because Mark was all "where's the orange? Noooooo" when he got home.

Part two of fruit salad involved vanilla yogurt, lemon juice and orange juice concentrate. That all gets whisked together and then dumped on the fruit.

Then you slap the lid on and let your kid obnoxiously shake the shit out of it before putting it in the fridge.
Fruit Salad! Done!

Macaroni and Cheese
After you fridge the fruit salad, you can then move on to Macaroni and Cheese. After, that is,  you call your kid back into the kitchen because he ran off to do something more interesting than cooking with mom. For his insolence you make him cube Velveeta.

He won't get away again. I shackled his feet to the oven.

So, I'm totally a snob when it comes to Velveeta. I don't know why I was so against it. Probably because it came in a box very similar to the stuff that came from the government cheese place.

I decided we would allow the V cheese because I wanted to keep the recipies we did simple.
I can't find the recipe we used now, but that doesn't matter because it's not like I follow those anyway.

Though I was really, really trying not to go too off-recipe because this was supposed to be something of a learning experience with Max.

I'm certain that this recipe at least begins with making a roux, adding in milk, and then melting Velveeta and Cheddar in it. Probably there were other flavors. I don't know what they were because it was a month ago!

Month Old Cheese

Okay, so while you may or may not be burning cheese, you also boil noodles. Max picked out these little half-button half-roni looking things. We got them in a 3 variety six pack from Costco. They were VERY fantastic at holding in all of the cheesey saucy goodness.

You have your nose-picking kid wash his hands again, and then have him butter a casserole dish.
Then you strain the noodles and dump the goo on them!
The noodles and goo go in the dish.

None of this is that complex. That's the point because I was cooking with a nine year old.

So, right when you think you're done you discover that your spouse-type fella has NOT in fact sat there and eaten the entire bag of bacon crumbles you bought at Costco the week before and you sprinkle that and MORE CHEESE on the gooy noodle wad.

Max and I had a discussion about the bacon. It was completely off-recipe but we decided to be BOLD - to be CRAZY! We took a chance, America.

Well, Max did anyway. Everyone knows bacon can only make things better, so I immediately knew it was the right thing to do. Max had to put some thought into it though. He did some serious considerations to make. Had he ever had mac and cheese with bacon? How novel! Did he dare?
After careful consideration, Maxwell dared.

Okay! Hooray for bacon! 
So that goes into the oven until it's brown and bubbly and while it's doing that you move on to the chicken.

Baked Chicken Nuggets
This recipe is very likely the one we used. I certainly remember the dipping-it-in-butter part

Can I just point out that if you're trying to do baked nuggets to avoid frying them because of lard issues, I really don't get the point in wallering the chicken in a half a cup of butter instead.

If you are a reckless mother you hand a knife to your child and also let him touch and cut raw chicken.

And then if you're me you let that happen for about 2 chicken tenders before you take over and shove him off to dip and crumb duty.
So... the butter dip.
Yeah, that didn't work out so well for me and Max. Probalby because our plan was to shove all the chicken in the butter bowl, stir it around, and then put it into the crumb mix and shake it.

That doesn't work because the butter solidifies before you're ever done cubing up chicken. A thinking person would have realized this. Too bad that's not me!
We did the butter wad plan anyway, and then put nuggets on a baking sheet. The breading didn't stick.It was a bad plan.

To fix I floured the chicken bits, then dipped them in egg, and then knocked them around in the crumb box. Why did I ever doubt that method? Oh, probably because I didn't want my helper slopping around in egg goo.

I took no pictures of this because my hands were goobered in egg, butter, crumbs, and chicken goo. You're fine with that.
That all got shoved in the oven to bake for 20 minutes, or as long as it took for the mac and cheese to cool from molten down to screaming hot.

Once those are out of the oven everyone gets to the table!

Max SUPERAPPROVES while someone else is
clearly phoning it in.

Fruit Salad:

Baked Chicken Nuggets:
Pretty ugly. But also tasty.

Macaroni and Cheese:
Melty Cheesy Awesomeness.
With Bacon.

When we all sat down to dinner Dad (who'd been working all day) asked Max to tell him all about it!

I wanted to include those conversational details here, but I don't remember how that went because it was a month ago.
So, what I went to Maxwell to have him chime in on this with some of his thoughts. Turns out he had better things to do, the wiener.

Special Note: That mac and cheese was the best I ever made. Who knew that a little bit of Velveeta was the answer? We had leftovers through most of the next week and every time you microwaved it it got melty and cheesy again. Prior incarnations would just get cheese lumpy curdles and dried noodles.

The secret?

I burnt the cheese sauce.

While my kitchen misshaps - particularly those to do with excess or prolonged heat - usually result in tragedy, this was nothing but win. The scorched sauce burnt, but rather than leaving it with the usual "mom burnt the shit out of dinner" flavor my family has come to expect, it left it with fancy cheese smokiness that was down right perfect.

Perfectly unreplicatable (that's a word today, folks.)


Hooray for salvaged failures! 
Mmm. Heart Healthy.
On opposite day.

Oh, one more thing.

Max also insisted we make dessert. This consisted of a store-bought chocolate "graham" cracker crust filled with Jell-O Oreo Pudding. I didn't take a picture of that and I didn't eat it either.

Because it's disgusting.

The End.


  1. You can't expect Simon to express overt enthusiasm for something his little brother had a hand in. It would ruin his elder brother street cred. FYI, sage derby in a too thin "cream"(2% milk)sauce curdles. But it sat long enough that the pasta soaked up the evidence. As you said it's also kind of subtle for mac and cheese. But hey, I've got 6 more servings!

  2. You have to write this forever. Just so ya know. <3