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10 Creative Ways to Spice Up Your Mac & Cheese

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Macaroni and cheese is an American classic and a college student staple—but the commercially available orange powdered stuff can be questionable in both ingredients and taste. When you’re ready to take a step beyond the blue box, try out these ideas to give your mac some more zest.

1. CLASSIC BAKED

If you’ve only ever had mac and cheese from a box, homemade baked macaroni is a revelation. The classic recipe is a simple bechamel sauce: butter and flour cooked together with milk to create a thick sauce that simply needs shredded cheese to be perfect on elbow noodles. This macaroni is good as is, but absolutely wonderful baked with breadcrumbs on top.

2. STUFFED OR TOPPED

It’s certainly extravagant, but also delicious, to take macaroni and cheese and add it to other classic foods. Pizza, for example, or cheeseburgers, and even grilled cheese are all improved by mac and cheese, and that’s only the beginning.

3. BACON AND TOMATO

Bacon is a pretty standard addition to macaroni and cheese, but adding tomatoes makes the dish reminiscent of a BLT—another American classic.

4. SRIRACHA

For those spice fans, adding Sriracha or another hot sauce gives creamy macaroni and cheese more bite. If you enjoy sweating your way through dinner, this variation is definitely the way to go.

5. SPINACH ARTICHOKE

The classic dip is delicious on pita points or baguette, but this dish takes it beyond an appetizer. Spinach artichoke dip is already creamy and baked with a crumb topping, so adding macaroni noodles is basically a no-brainer. And a delicious one at that!

6. LOBSTER

If you’re looking for a classier version of the childhood staple, look no further than lobster mac and cheese. Expensive seafood might not seem like the most logical choice for macaroni, but the cheesy sauce and lobster are a match made in heaven.

7. CHILI MAC

This might stretch the boundaries of the definition of macaroni and cheese, but adding chili spices, ground beef, beans, and corn makes macaroni both delicious and filling. This variation is a perfect easy dinner, especially when you need to make a meal of simple pantry staples.

8. BUFFALO CHICKEN

Another classic combination, buffalo sauce and chicken make a great match with cheesy sauce and noodles. Buffalo is everywhere now, from wings to dips to salads, so why not add it to your mac?

9. VEGAN

While vegans avoid the butter, milk, and cheese that are generally components of macaroni and cheese, vegan versions do exist. Soaked cashews provide creaminess, and nutritional yeast gives a cheesy flavor that apparently closely mirrors the original dish.

10. DESSERT

This one isn’t for the faint of heart. Dessert macaroni and cheese exists, and you can make it. Noodle kugel paved the way for noodles in dessert, but a sweet bechamel sauce makes this dessert version of mac and cheese a distinct culinary innovation.

All images courtesy of iStock.

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London Grocery Chain Encourages Shoppers to Bring Their Own Tupperware
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Why stop at bringing your own grocery bags to the store? One London grocery wants you to BYO-Tupperware. The London Evening Standard reports that a UK chain called Planet Organic has partnered with Unpackaged—a company dedicated to sustainable packaging—to install self-serve bulk-food dispensers where customers can fill their own reusable containers with dry goods, cutting down on plastic packaging waste.

To use the system, customers walk up and weigh their empty container at a self-serve station, printing and attaching a label with its tare weight. Then, they can fill it with flour, nuts, or other kinds of dry goods, weigh it again, and print the price tag before taking it up to the check out. (Regular customers only have to weigh their containers once, since they can save the peel-off label to use again next time.)

Planet Organic is offering cereals, legumes, grains, nuts, chocolate, dried fruit, and even some cleaning products in bulk as part of this program, significantly reducing the amount of waste shoppers would otherwise be taking home on each grocery trip.

Zero-waste grocery stores have been popping up in Europe for several years. These shops, like Berlin's Original Unverpackt, don't offer any bags or containers, asking customers bring their own instead. This strategy also encourages people to buy only what they need, which eliminates food waste—there's no need to buy a full 5-pound bag of flour if you only want to make one cake.

The concept is also gaining traction in North America. The no-packaging grocery store in.gredients opened in Austin, Texas in 2011. The Brooklyn store Package Free, opened in 2017, takes the idea even further, marketing itself as a one-stop shop for "everything that you'd need to transition to a low waste lifestyle." It sells everything from tote bags to laundry detergent to dental floss.

[h/t London Evening Standard]

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Jellyfish Chips Might Be Your Next Snack Obsession
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When it comes to processed foods, the palate of the average American isn't very adventurous. A bag of pickle-flavored Lay's chips might be a radical snack option. But if researchers in Denmark are on the right track, we may soon be crunching a very different kind of treat: jellyfish chips, as Futurism reports.

The ethereal-looking marine animals are usually recognized for their squishy frames and sometimes as a threat due to their venomous sting. They're often prepared for human consumption in Asian cultures, with the body being marinated in salt and potassium for weeks to create a crunchy delicacy. Recently, Danish scientists at the University of Southern Denmark were able to expedite this process, using ethanol to create a crispy jellyfish chip in a matter of days.

A jellyfish chip is made from a jellyfish being dried out in ethanol
Mie T. Pedersen

Why bother? Due to overfishing, more popular seafoods are experiencing shortages. The jellyfish, however, have a flourishing population and are rich in vitamins and minerals.

Right now, researchers are focused on the microscopic changes that take place when processing a jellyfish from its gooey natural state to a hardened, crunchy form. It could be a while before any serious product development is conducted. And as far as taste goes, it might need a bit of seasoning. The current process for making jellyfish consumable results in a taste that some have compared to eating a salty rubber band.

[h/t Futurism]

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