Kraft Dinner Mix-Ins

I think part of what turned me off to the Food Network’s “Semi-Homemade” cooking show, even before I heard the host’s voice, was the very concept of a TV show built around variations on store-bought / prepackaged food.   “People need to be told to do that?” and “God, how boring” where my thoughts.   Then I heard her oh-so-annoying voice and caught a long, lingering shot of how she set the table and it was all over.

This post really isn’t about Semi-Homemade cooking, except that lately when I’ve been adding things to, say, Kraft Dinner, people bring it up.  So no, I didn’t get the idea of adding cheese, or bacon bits, or garlic powder and mustard, or hamburger to Kraft Dinner from a TV show.   They came from my own brain, informed by other meals I’ve had and recipes I’ve read.

Which leads to the question: If you make Kraft Mac-n-Cheese, do you add anything to it?  My usual these days is bacon bits, shredded cheddar or a slice or two of American cheese, and lots of pepper.   You?

39 thoughts on “Kraft Dinner Mix-Ins

  1. i usually toss some frozen peas or broccoli in with the noodes just before they finish cooking. garlic powder, onion powder, a teeny sprinkle of crushed red pepper, and some shredded cheddar finish it off. nom.

    • I totally do the broccoli thing too! Sometimes I’ll throw in a handful of frozen spinach or asparagus if it’s in season and cheap.

      My favorite thing though, and this goes back to being raised kosher, is mac and cheese with fried fish. Everyone thinks it’s really weird but it’s like my favorite lunch ever. If I can have broccoli or asparagus with that I’m on cloud nine. Favorite lunch ever except maybe grilled cheese and tomato soup.

  2. I used to throw out the mac that comes with it and replace it with a different pasta, usually something multi-grainish since I was looking for more fiber and a lil more protein as well. Recently though, I found the powderey cheese stuff by itself at my local market house and I got so excited! Now I don’t have to waste that mac anymore. I like the out of the box, powdered taste, more than any real melted cheeses so I don’t do that, but depending on my mood I often add in a fair amount of hot sauce!

  3. I’m a mac and cheese snob: I only eat it made from scratch. My son and husband like the boxed stuff, though (although I’ve at least gotten my son to the point where he prefers the “scratch” mac and cheese). But I don’t add anything to it if I made it for them, and my husband will sometimes add in some baked beans, but that’s it.

  4. If I’m in the mood for mac and cheese, I don’t mix anything in. I guess I’m kind of a purist. I don’t eat the powdery cheese type mac and cheese very frequently, but when I do I just have it plain.

  5. Growing up my mom would put tuna, cream of chicken soup, and green peas in it. Actually pretty yum. Personally I love adding chopped chicken and a little light cream cheese, or ground turkey and tomatoes. Don’t even get me started this is the most fun product to customize on the fly! Now I’m hungry.

  6. I’ve been known to fling in cut up Vienna Beef hot dogs, chicken breast, or peas, depending on my mood. Oh, and almost always ketchup.

  7. Cubed ham and broccoli. Or sometimes cauliflower. I’ll add ham and broccoli to frozen mac and cheese too.

    Now if only I could find a recipe for baked mac and cheese that was closer texture/moisture wise to the frozen stouffer’s or the ol’ blue box. I like saucy mac and cheese, and all the from scratch baked recipes I’ve ever tried have been kind of dry. Cuttable almost, rather than spoonable.

    Which irks me no end. I can cook nearly anything from scratch and have it turn out good… except mac and cheese!

    • Try a recipe that’s closer to a scalloped potato gratin than mac and cheese recipe,then just sub in the pasta. I wouldn’t use just cream the way some gratins do (some have as little as 1/2 cup cheese to 2c cream), but maybe something half way between whatever you’re doing and a gratin. You’ll end up with a creamier, saucier casserole.

  8. Ham and broccoli is my favorite with Kraft’s mac & cheese. Easy peasy.

    I also love adding turkey sausage, green peppers, onions and mushrooms to Zatarain’s jambalaya mix.

    I have a cookbook called “Back of the Box Gourmet” which gathers a bunch of add-to-prepared-mix recipes. Some of my favorite recipes came from there.

    I truly am a open-a-box and add-a-can kind of cook.

  9. I used to love Kraft Dinner but the last time I had it, back when I was stocking up as part of my Overcoming Overeating process (my introduction to FA, and a blessing!), I bought some Kraft Dinner and didn’t like it AT ALL.

    Back in the day, though, I used to love it with peas and tuna.

  10. In grad school, I ate it–a lot–with frozen broccoli. Now I can’t really eat it anymore because it reacts…let’s say *badly*…with Metformin.

  11. I don’t eat it much, mostly because my 8 year old hates mac n cheese (what kid hates mac n cheese?) but I made it when we went camping and threw salsa in it and he loved it. It’s good with salsa.

    Maybe I’ll make some from scratch and add some to his portion? Nah, my younger son ONLY likes it from the box. Hmm. Time to experiment.

  12. I make it semi-scratch. (Semi-scratch meaning, while the noodles are cooking, I stir the cheese sauce powder into milk, then melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the powder + milk, stir until it thickens – by this time the noodles are done – then drain and dump sauce into noodles.) It’s a little more work but not much more, and it makes the sauce a lot creamier and less powdery.

    (It’s also very little less effort than making it from scratch in the first place, since that process is basically the process for medium white sauce with cornstarch instead of cheese powder stuff – and from-scratch cheese sauce is just medium white sauce with cheese melted in it. So it would be more rational to just make it from scratch, but Kraft Dinner is not a rational thing for me.)

    I like chopped onions in mac and cheese. Not cooked or anything, just dumped in. Also those frozen bell pepper strips from Trader Joe’s. Adding different cheeses like blue cheese is interesting too. Lots of pepper always. Never thought of adding bacon bits but that sounds perfect with mac and cheese.

  13. This is going to sound really gross to people, but it’s actually very good – small cubes of (pan-fried without oil) Spam are really good mixed with macaroni and cheese. It’s something I eat very, very rarely (on the order of once every 3 years or so), but it is tasty.

  14. Substitute a couple tablespoons of sour cream for some of the milk. Seriously good.

    And maybe a little pepper on top.

  15. As a non-American, I’ve always been really bemused by all the US “recipes” I’ve seen that just seem to revolve around a tin of condensed soup, a tin of tuna and a packet of Jello in seemingly infinite variations… Not so much that people eat these things, but that these are actually presented as “homemade cooking” or “recipes” … really?

    • I’m with you on that one. I find a lot of the stuff I cook online, but I skip over anything that has those kind of ingredients. Partly because I’m a control freak and they contain things I don’t think should be in food, and also because I honestly prefer the taste of from-scratch meals. That’s just me, though, I know plenty of people who prefer ready-made.
      The change probably occurred slowly. At first, people only substituted some ingredients (garlic powder? Pre-cut frozen vegetables?), but as increasingly more people had less time for cooking, store-bought meals provided the feeling of having made something for the family while really doing all the work for you. I remember reading that when cake mixes first came out, you only had to add water. They were not received well, because they were TOO easy and people weren’t feeling involved.
      So I guess it’s a psychological deception created by the food industry. If all your life you’re told that you made a homemade meal, while you really just opened a bunch of containers and dumped their contents in a pan, you’re bound to believe that you did.

    • I don’t know anyone here who considers that scratch /home cooking, except maybe guys who work for the Kraft or General Mills marketing departments and the happy housewives that appear in their commercials. It’s convenience food.

      When I first moved to the States I was puzzled by the vast interest in such things until I found out that lunch hours here tend to be more like 20 minutes and the 40 hour work week is a joke. Seriously, many of the people I work with here consider two weeks a year a “fantastic” vacation package. I like a lot about being here, but when it comes to a “work/home balance” it’s the most bizarre place I’ve ever lived.

    • A tin of cream soup is essentially instant sauce/gravy/necessary moisture. I like to think I’m a good cook and I can toss together a basic butter-flour-milk sauce like nothin’… but I still resort to that cream of mushroom soup when I want that “Just like mom made it” feel. Plus? Way quicker. Much more foolproof. Set-and-forget, just dump-and-stir. And THAT’S an advantage on a busy weeknight with household stuff to deal with.

      I’ve come to interpret “homemade” as “the entire dish did not come with instructions printed on the box, nor was it pulled out of the freezer as-is.” If I’m a cheater for using boxed broth in a quick soup or cream of mushroom for a tuna casserole, then so be it.

      (…I am concerned that there’s a recipie that calls for soup, tuna, AND jello. The first two make sense, but… jello?)

  16. This is making me hungry! Mac and cheese with cut-up hot dogs is one of my favorites meals.

    I also like to mix in leftover holiday turkey or ham.

  17. I’m a strong supporter of tuna in the Kraft Dinner! It’s even better if you toss frozen peas in with the noodles while they’re boiling. Another favorite is frizzled up bacon and onions, or hot dogs. Man, haven’t done THAT in forever…

    My dad used to toss spaghetti sauce into a pot of KD, instead of the milk and butter. The results are a salty-cheesy-tomatoish thing that’s… maybe not wonderful, but very evocative of my childhood. Kraft Dinner A la Dad holds a special place in my heart.

  18. Hi, I actually was searching for a recipe that I used from the back of Kraft mac and cheese box with brocolli, ham, sour cream, etc. Then I came across your page and the thought occurred to me that, you are right, why can’t I just experiment and create my own – well kinda since I got the idea from the box – but still, I think maybe I can come up with something similar or better! Thanks for igniting creativity! I think we go to the ‘net for maybe tooooooo much!

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  20. I love KD and so does my son…we eat it for lunches and usually I put in hot dogs for him, I ALWAYS have ketchup on it…I put mixed veggies in there sometimes for me…but other than that i like it with ketchup lol and my son only will eat it plain!

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