As a child (and even as an adult), one of my favorite meals was macaroni and cheese...especially the brand that claimed that it was the "cheesiest", and it really was no lie!
However, being the label reader that I am, I cannot get myself to prepare boxed macaroni and cheese to my children - even those that claim that they are "natural", a term that is used quite loosely in that "health food" world.
One of the many problems that I have with that blue box of cheesy-warm-goodness is the additives, one of which is the artificial dyes.
Why should one avoid artificial dyes?
Besides providing a bright and happy orange color that dose not add any nutritional value whatsoever, here are a list of reasons why one should avoid foods with artificial dyes such as yellow 5 and 6 that are found in most boxed macaroni and cheese :
- They are man-made in a lab with chemicals derived from petroleum (a crude oil product, which also happens to be used in gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt, and tar).
- They require a warning label in other countries outside the US.
- They have been banned in countries like Norway and Austria (and are being phased out in the UK).
- Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 are contaminated with known carcinogens (a.k.a. an agent directly involved in causing cancer).
- They cause an increase in hyperactivity in children.
- They have a negative impact on children’s ability to learn.
- They have been linked to long-term health problems such as asthma, skin rashes, and migraines.
Eek! Needless to say, I have stopped buying boxed macaroni and cheese for my children. Occassionally, I will buy the organic and "natural" versions...but $3 per box is just a little too much.
There is a cheaper and healthier way...homemade stove top macaroni and cheese! The recipe is super easy and the whole process takes about 8 minutes from start to finish!
For gluten-free or dairy-free options, please read the notes section below. The asterisks will notify you of what ingredients are in need of swapping.
...and now for the recipe!
Easy Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese
1 pound pasta, any shape*
1 1/2 cups whole milk (I prefer organic, you can also choose unsweetened rice, cashew, or almond)**
2 tablespoons flour*
2-3 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used white cheddar)*&**
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon powdered mustard
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Salt & pepper to taste
* For gluten-free version, make sure that you use gluten-free pasta, gluten-free flour (you can also substitute equal parts arrowroot powder for the flour in the recipe), and be sure to shred your own cheese! Many pre-shredded cheeses are coated with flour as an anti-caking agent.
** For dairy-free version, make sure that you use either almond or rice milk and vegan cheese. It doesn't taste nearly as good...but works!
Boil the pasta per directions, usually 7 minutes for al dente or 8 for soft, depending on the pasta. Set a timer and move onto the sauce!
Warm 1 cup of the milk over medium heat. With the other 1/2 cup of milk, whisk in the 2 tbs of flour until no clumps are visible. When steam rises from the warming milk, stir in the 1/2 cup milk and flour mixture. whisk gently for 3-4 minutes until the milk thickens a little.
Turn the heat down to low and mix in handfuls of cheese into the milk one at a time, whisk, and add more until you have used the rest of the cheese. Stir in the salt, mustard, and Tabasco sauce. Whisk until all the cheese has melted and the sauce is nice and creamy. Feel free to add more Tabasco sauce or salt and pepper to your liking. Remove the sauce from the heat.
At this point your pasta should be close to done. Drain and mix in with the cheese sauce.
Add ins - Most kids LOVE macaroni and cheese, so take advantage of the opportunity to add some veggies such as peas or broccoli, and some protein, like chicken!