I have this problem with grocery shopping. It always seems to take too much activation energy to make it worth it. I can subsist for months on free food from events around campus (yes, I am one of those people who shows up to events with plastic bags so I can smuggle the next weeks lunch home), so my budget is about $60 for food every three months.
But Friday night I got a text message from my roommate: "I'm making swordfish, what are you making tonight?" It had completely slipped my mind that our mutual friend (my bff) was coming to visit us for the weekend and we had planned to have a "fancy" dinner to welcome her. When I peered in the pantry my shelf had 6 boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese: 3 pokemon shaped (purchased around April) and 3 Scooby Doo shaped (purchased sometime in '09). Neither of which seemed fancy enough to accompany swordfish steaks. A couple minutes of googling later (search terms: box macaroni fancy, fancy mac and cheese, kraft mac and cheese recipes) I settled on attempting a random conglomeration of shit from the fridge. And here is the awesomeness that resulted.
THE BEST DAMN SCOOBY-DOO SHAPED MAC-N-CHEESE FROM A BOX. EVER.
3 Boxes of Kraft (or generic) Mac-N-Cheese
Some milk (about a cup)
Some butter (about 2 tbsp)
A bag of frozen corn that had been in the freezer >1 year*
A handful of white shredded cheese from the fridge**
A handful of orange cheese cut from a its cheese block
*feel free to substitute any vegetable you re-discover in your freezer or fridge
**stolen from a roommates stash
Begin by boiling the macaroni. Which means bringing the water to a boil and then putting the macaroni in (this took me weeks to figure out freshman year).
When the macaroni is about 2 minutes from being done (setting a timer when you put the macaroni in makes this easy to figure out) put in your bag of random frozen vegetables from the freezer. In this case, I used Mystery Corn!
Wait for the shriveled looking vegetable to puff up and look more edible and then turn off stove and drain the pasta/vegetable mixture.
First Cheese Sauce:
Put about a cup of milk in a sauce pan. Heat on low and stir pretty much continuously (burnt milk is gross :P). Put in however much butter (I put about 2tbsp) and melt that down. Once it's all liquefied start pouring in the 3 powdered-cheese packets from the kraft boxes (you didn't think I was going to let those go to waste, did you???). You'll want to pour one packet at a time while stirring and make sure it's completely dissolved before adding another or it'll clump up and will never dissolve. If you're having trouble getting it to dissolve the milk might be too saturated so add a bit more milk and try stirring again. Still having cheese clumps? Scoop them out and throw them away!
Spray a pyrex dish with pam (or lightly grease with butter). Dump the macaroni/vegetables mix into the pyrex dish (and because you've left it sitting after draining you get this awesome cylinder of macaroni and vegetables. This is partly why this dish is epic).
Use your stirring spoon to squish the pasta pile into dish and then pour the yummy totally-real-cheese sauce over the pasta trying to cover it all. Don't worry if some pasta is still pale and barren, next step is to intensify the cheese concentration!
And now apply the delicious real-cheese topping! I just sprinkled a handful of white cheese and then cut up some orange cheese and sprinkled that over the top. I could have put WAAAAAAAAY more cheese on but I got bored at cutting and got distracted when I realized I didn't pre-heat the oven.
Oh, Pre-heat the oven! 400ºF!
Here's a picture of me looking proud of my work!
Finally, shove that delicious pile of scooby-doo shaped pasta and delicious real and fake cheeses into the oven! Our scrumptious pineapple-and-swordfish-steaks were already finished grilling courtesy of my awesome roommates:
And our delicious apple cider had been simmering for a bit. (It began as apple cider and some unknown combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves was added. Then we added apple juice because too many cloves had been added.)
So we only left the dish in the oven for about 10 minutes, till it started bubbling around the edges and at the top a bit. A recipe online suggested 20 minutes, but our cheese was pretty melty before we put it in the oven, and we were hungry, so 10 minutes was sufficient.
The most delicious, cheesy, warm, lovely, moist, party-in-my-mouth mac-n-cheeese I've EVER had. It quite simply trumped the deliciousness of the swordfish steak. It out FANCIED the Swordfish. I didn't think that was possible.
The blend of the three cheeses and the sweetness of the corn was really quite brilliant.
So yeah, for no extra money (just what I managed to steal from my roommates) and a couple boxes of mac-n-cheese I wasn't going to eat anyways (I normally only eat pokemon shaped macaroni), I made something that is officially my new favorite food ever…. EVER.
You don't have to be a gourmet chef to throw together something that's probably incredibly unhealthy and ridiculously delicious. I say get in the kitchen and start throwing shit together! Document the steps and you may end up with something that'll become your new staple for dinner parties! Bon appetite!
(yes I have been watching Julie & Julia with my mom via Skype :P)