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10 Modern Variations on Macaroni and Cheese

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Photograph by Flickr user Christaface.

Macaroni and cheese is a traditional comfort food in America, born of the fact that it's relatively cheap, simple to prepare, and most importantly, kids like it. You don't stop liking comfort foods when you grow up, but occasionally you want to try something different. Once, I was visiting my parents on a school break and made some macaroni and cheese for my father. He said, "This is good. Is it from a kit, or did you make it from scratch?" I was a bit embarrassed to admit that it was ready made and frozen. Since then I have learned to make macaroni and cheese a few different ways that make me feel like I'm really cooking. However, most of the variations here are things I have yet to try.


Photograph by Flickr user Rosalyn Davis.

The macaroni and cheese we know today was developed by culinary visionary Thomas Jefferson, who built his own pasta machine to add improvements over one he'd bought. The traditional variations on putting cheese on macaroni (or using a boxed kit) include baking it with a crust formed by crushed potato chips or crackers; spicing it up with mustard or chili powder; adding crumbled bacon, diced ham, cut up hot dogs, or broccoli florets; and for feeding young children, sneaking in pureed vegetables. That never fooled my pasta-addicted kid for a minute. And then, at a certain age, children discover the "gourmet" version called fettuccine Alfredo. If you've never made macaroni and cheese from scratch, try a delicious homemade mac and cheese recipe without any of the extras (which you can add in the future). When you get more adventurous, here are some strange and modern variations.

1. Macaroni and Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers Wrapped in Bacon

There's not much to describe about this recipe from Carrie B at Bakeaholic Mama that's not in its name, except that I second the advice about handling jalapeños. You don't want the juice on your hands, because you'll eventually touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, and it will burn. Just reading the title Macaroni and Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers Wrapped in Bacon makes me hungry.

2. Deep Fried Mac & Cheese

You may have seen Deep-fried Mac and Cheese (on a stick) at your local festival. Yes, you can make it at home. Supereric at Instructables tell you how, step by step. The secret is to freeze the prepared macaroni and cheese so that it will keep its shape long enough to deep-fry.

3. Mac n Cheese Pie

JustJENN shows us a variation of baked macaroni and cheese with the addition of a delicious pie crust. It's your choice whether to make the crust from scratch or use a pre-prepared crust, and your dinner guests don't need to know you didn't make it all yourself.

4. Waffled Macaroni and Cheese

You can't exactly make mac and cheese in a waffle maker, because you have to have boiling water. However, Waffleizer has a way to dress up your leftover mac and cheese with the aid of a waffle iron. Chill it, bread it up, and mash it in a hot waffle iron for a completely different dish!

5. Macaroni and Cheese Sushi Rolls

Making sushi rolls out of macaroni and cheese is a presentation trick that contains no fish or rice, but will impress dinner guests. Dan at Food in My Beard developed the technique using boxed mac and cheese, taco meat, and sriracha sauce. He shows you how to do it in a series of pictures to go with the recipe.

6. Mac and Cheese Grilled Cheese

Many of us look at a grilled cheese sandwich as a comfort food from childhood, too, so why not combine those two recipes? Umm… because it's redundant? Foodies never let that stop a good experiment! Russell Warnick came up with a mac and cheese recipe with garlic and truffles to stuff between slices of bread. Now you can eat mac and cheese with one hand and no utensils!

7. Mac and Cheese Burrito

An even easier way to eat mac and cheese with your hands is to simply scoop the stuff into a tortilla and make a burrito. This simple dish has its own Facebook fan page. It's not very active, but hundreds of people like it.

8. Ramac and Cheese

You don't have to use traditional elbow macaroni or even shells to make mac and cheese. Ramen noodles will work, according to this tip from Serious Eats. The texture is different, so it is recommended that you put some crunch into it by broiling the top layer.

9. Chocolate Covered Mac and Cheese

Dan at The Food in my Beard came across chocolate mac and cheese at a restaurant and decided to recreate the experience in his own kitchen. You may feel better about it knowing that it is not a sweet dish, but contains poblano peppers, bacon, and very dark chocolate -no added sugar.

10. Mac 'n' Cheese Martini

The most bizarre version of mac and cheese ever must be the Mac 'n' Cheese Martini. It is supposedly from Donovan's Prime Steakhouse Restaurant, but since it is not mentioned on the website, there's a possibility it may be a temporary offering.

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13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


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There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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