Friday, February 3, 2012

Food of the Month Club continues

I've just finished developing the Food of the Month materials for my congregation. We had lots of healthful cereals and other donations in January - the basket at the offertory was full!

Here's the text of my bulletin for February:

The Food of the Month for February is boxed macaroni and cheese.

Sometimes, especially in our cool, damp, and sometimes wringing wet winters, we need comfort foods. And everybody loves macaroni and cheese, or at least it seems they do.

For me, macaroni and cheese will always be elbow macaroni with homemade white sauce loaded with New England sharp white cheddar, baked in the square Pyrex dish - that is, the macaroni and cheese my mother made. I was in my late twenties before I had the stuff in the blue box, which my then boyfriend referred to as Kraft Dinner. Good thing - as I had to think of it as a different food.

Now there are many kinds of boxed pasta dishes. My great niece survived a decade of her childhood on Annie’s Shells and White Cheddar, and she turned out smart, healthy and beautiful, so it can't be all bad. After doing some market research, I conclude that the way to go is to buy the product with the shortest list of unpronounceable ingredients, weighing this against price. At my market, the Annie's was cheaper than Kraft organic. We always need to consider the health of those who receive our food donations, and the health of our planet, even with comfort foods for the hungry.

One of the great things about macaroni and cheese is that it is widely variable, and allows for various cheeses and all kinds of additions, especially vegetables. The cover of the February-March issue of Fine Cooking magazine announced 100+ variations - though if you tried every possible permutation, given pasta shapes, cheeses, spices and additions, it would be more like 100,000+. Not everyone would be equally tasty, of course - which must be why food editors appear to have such poor math skills.

I’m experimenting with lightening home made macaroni and cheese. I’ve tested Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook recipe embracing cauliflower, whole grain pasta, and lots less cheese. It's a different dish, too, but very good. Next up is using winter squash or sweet potato to develop the thick creaminess while lowering fat content in the sauce.

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