Discovery of the day: Blue Box Big Ass Salad

Blue Box -- aka mac & cheese 'dinner' from a blue box -- is a familiar, much beloved friend from my youth. In accordance with the circle of life, I've been serving BB to my kids for over 20 years now. I know it's not the 'best' possible food, but I try to make up for the insult to their overall nutrition by serving it with frozen vegs, either peas or (on special occasions) mixed vegs, in as close to a 1:1 ratio as I can get away with.

I was home this morning with my son. Lunchtime rolls around, he requests BB. OK, I can do that. The hardest part of preparing the meal is not eating the other 2/3 of the box.

I'm nuking the peas, I'm stirring the macaroni, and I'm thinking to myself I really do need to eat a BAS for lunch today, but I can't think of anything to put on it that sounds good, and boy, that BB is looking mighty fine..."

Hey! How about a BBBAS?

Best of both worlds, right? I threw a (generous) portion of BB on top of a bowl of lettuce and topped it with a respectable mound of little green peas. And it was good!

Now, I need to confess that the BB we're eating these days is not your old-school Kraft made with mass quantities of butter and milk. I do have a special place in my heart for it, but it's just too expensive, fat-gram-wise. I've recently switched to Annie's Organic, which doesn't call for butter, and I make it with rice milk.

However, I learned quickly that I had to adjust my technique.

Took me a few iterations but I think I've got it down pat. First trick is to drain the macaroni, but not to excess. Don't shake them dry. Some pasta water sticking in and on them is a good thing (ask Mario Batali). Dump them back into the pot and add the cheese stuff (I'm talking about the dry cheese sauce mix in the pouch). Stir it up well. There should be enough pasta water hiding inside the macaroni to get the sauce going. Then, add just a splash of milk (rice or otherwise) -- I swear, just a tablespoon or so -- and keep stirring. Add another tablespoon if necessary.

Adding just enough milk is the key. The first couple of times I added my usual amount of fluid and ended up with something closer to mac & cheese soup.

Another note: I've only tried the macaroni shape. If you're talking spiral pasta or shells, or cheese sauce in any color other than fluorescent orange, YMMV.

There you have it; my first recipe!

My boyfriend says artichokes for dinner tonight -- yay! We all know an artichoke's primary function is as a mayonnaise delivery system.

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