Make-Your-Coworkers-Jealous Mac and Cheese
So, if you are like me, then you often have no idea what to bring for your office potluck. I enjoy cooking and baking, and I want to bring something tasty, but I often don't have a whole lot of wiggle room to spend a bunch of time making a dish to bring to work. Not to mention, I don't have a lot of time to spend cooking. Usually, I would end up buying some fruit and just cutting it up and putting it in a bowl. Nothing really special.
Well, I was browsing the internet, and I found a recipe for crock pot mac and cheese. Sounds perfect for a work potluck, right? I thought so too. After reading the ingredients list, I knew that I could make improvements. I knew that I could take it up a notch and make it something truly delicious.
So what did I do? The recipe called for regular pre-shredded cheddar cheese. Well, I don't use that when I cook for myself, so why would I do that for my coworkers? I decided that I would get the good cheddar. You know, the one from the cheese section at the grocery store. Yes, I know the good cheese can be a little pricy. But, considering the other ingredients are very cheap, I figured I could give it a shot.
- 2 Boxes Macaroni, I like the small elbows for this recipe
- 2 Cans Evaporated Milk
- 2 Cups Milk, I typically have skim on hand, but you can use whatever you like
- 1/2 Box Velveeta
- 28-32oz Cheddar Cheese
What You'll NeedClick thumbnail to view full-size
- Since I like using the 'good' cheddar the first step is to grate, or cube, the cheese. Depending on the type of cheese you are using this could take a little while and some cheeses are harder than others. If you are trying to save a little or just don't have the time you can skip this step and just use the pre-shreadded bagged cheese.
- Dump all the ingredients in the crock pot. I use a 5 quart crock pot and there is plenty of room.
- Set the crock pot to low and cook for 2-3 hours. Just check on it every 20-30 minutes and give it a stir. Once the noodles are done you can set the crock pot to keep warm if your crock pot has that option or turn it off.
- Serve and enjoy!
Need a Crock Pot?
A little About This Recipe
So, the cheese wasn't the only thing that I changed. I doubled the recipe since each time I needed to make it I needed to feed quite a few people. I made this mac and cheese for my office's Thanksgiving potluck and the girls liked it so much I had requests to make it again for the Christmas potluck.
My office has about 14 people and this recipe was enough for all the girls to have some, with some even taking seconds, and for my boyfriend and I to have some for dinner that night.
And I know what you are thinking. Velveeta? Really? Growing up my dad would always make grilled cheese sandwiches with velvet, and I'll tell you those were some really good sandwiches. But, I have never bought it for myself since I have moved out on my own. I really try not to eat a lot of foods like that. And, as I have said, I like to use good quality ingredients and like the 'good' cheeses. But, I figured the velveeta would make the dish more creamy. And who doesn't love creamy mac and cheese? No one, that's who. I don't think the velveeta adds mush to the flavor since I used the good cheeses and they all had such unique flavors, but I do think it helped to make the dish creamy.
The StagesClick thumbnail to view full-size
How You Can Customize
What I really like about this recipe is how easy it is to customize. My boyfriend wanted to bring it for his office's holiday potluck and he wanted it to be a little different. Each time I have made it I have used several different types of cheddar, I feel that it adds a little extra flavor. Well, my boyfriend wanted to try it with a pepper cheddar. It defiantly had a little extra spice to it which was exactly what he wanted.
Not a huge fan of cheddar? That's fine. Try mixing in some gruyere. Gouda is always a great cheese for mac and cheese. Not sure what kind of cheese you want to try? Talk with the cheese monger at the store. Their job is to know cheese so they will be able to point you in the right direction.
So What Exactly Do I Use?
I really like cheese. I really like how the mac and cheese turns out using cheddars. I found a Welsh highland cheddar that I really like so I try to get that one whenever I can. I also really liked how the aged cheddar blended. A good sharp cheddar can bring a lot of flavor. When we made this recipe for Thanksgiving dinner I tried a smoked cheddar. Everyone loved it. I have never gotten so much praise for a dish before.
I really feel that using a blend of flavors just makes this dish a little more special. It is sure to impress whoever you serve it to. They will think you are a genius in the kitchen. Which, of course, is is only fair since this mac and cheese is just heavenly.
On another note, I realized on Thanksgiving day that I did not have evaporated milk. I simply made my own. I just took 2 cups of milk for every can of evaporated milk I needed and simmered it on the store, stirring a lot, until it was reduced by half. It took a while, but in the end I couldn't taste a difference from any other time I made this dish so I guess that means it worked.
What Happens If You Don't Have Evaporated Milk?
Twice now, I've gone to make this recipe (ironically both were for Thanksgiving dinner) I've realized at the last minute that I didn't have evaporated milk. Of course there wasn't an option to run to the store, it would have ruined the timing of everything for dinner. After a quick google search I was able to solve the problem.
If you take 2 1/4 cups of milk and simmer it not he stove for around 20-25 minutes it will yield about 1 cup of evaporated milk. It is important to not let the milk come to a full boil. To make this recipe you will need 1 cup of evaporated milk, you'll need two if you are making the doubled version.
I'll be honest, I cannot taste the difference between the canned evaporated milk and the homemade. If you have the extra time it might be worth it to make the evaporated milk yourself.
Pricing It Out
So, who much will this dish set you back? Well, that does depend on upon how much you make and what kind of cheese you get. I am a big fan of store brands for things like pasta and evaporated milk. At my local Kroger I was able to get the macaroni for $1 a box and the evaporated milk was on sale for $1 a can. I typically have milk on hand so I don't really feel that it needs to be included in the total. The velveeta would only be for this recipe since I don't normally eat that, and it is about $3.50 for a box. Now, the cheese is where it can get pricy. I buy my cheese from the fancy cheese section of the store. Each block was about .45-.55oz and they ranged from $5.50-7.25 per block. It is about $24 to make a double batch of this mac and cheese, which means it would be way less if you were just making it for a family dinner on a regular night. I don't really think that is too bad for an office pot luck or for a holiday dinner side.
My boyfriend and I have hosted Thanksgiving dinner for the last three years. I've used this recipe each year. It has never failed to impress. It works absolutely perfect with timing for the meal. Once the turkey is in the oven I start on the mac n cheese. By the time I've finished grating all the cheese the turkey has about 3 hours left in the oven. At that point I have two of the most important pieces of the meal finished. If we've had more than four people at dinner I've doubled the recipe, and I'll note that the doubled recipe is what is listed in this posting.