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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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How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
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Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

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Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
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TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]

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