Kitchen Hint of the Day!

December 19, 2013 at 9:26 AM | Posted in Kitchen Hints | 2 Comments
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Where do you keep your scouring pads? Believe it or not, you can keep them in a plastic bag in your freezer. That way, you don’t have to worry about them rusting, and they’ll last a lot longer

One of America’s Favorites – Macaroni and Cheese

June 11, 2012 at 8:34 AM | Posted in cheese, Food, pasta | Leave a comment
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Macaroni and cheese, also known as “mac and cheese”, “macaroni cheese” in Australian English, British English & New Zealand English

A side dish of macaroni and cheese

or “macaroni pie” in Caribbean English, is a dish consisting of cooked elbow macaroni and cheese sauce.
Macaroni and cheese is a casserole, but “macaroni and cheese” often refers to the popular packaged dry macaroni and cheese mix pioneered by Kraft Dinner in 1937 and widely copied.
The dish is essentially a noodle gratin (scalloped potatoes) with macaroni pasta in place of potatoes.

A similar traditional dish in Switzerland is called Älplermagronen (Alpine herder’s macaroni), which is also available in boxed versions. Älplermagronen are made of macaroni, cream, cheese, roasted onions, and potatoes. In the Canton of Uri, the potatoes are traditionally omitted, and in some regions, bacon or ham is added.

Macaroni (“Maccheroni” in Italian) is mentioned in various medieval Italian sources, though it is not always clear whether it is a pasta shape or a prepared dish. However, pasta and cheese casseroles have been recorded in cookbooks as early as the Liber de Coquina, one of the oldest medieval cookbooks. A cheese and pasta casserole known as makerouns was recorded in an English cookbook in the 14th century. It was made with fresh, hand-cut pasta which was sandwiched between a mixture of melted butter and cheese. It was considered an upperclass dish even in Italy until around the 18th century.
“Maccaroni” with various sauces was a fashionable food in late eighteenth century Paris. The future American president Thomas Jefferson encountered the pasta in both Paris and in northern Italy. He drew a sketch of the pasta and wrote detailed notes on the extrusion process. In 1793, he commissioned American ambassador to Paris, William Short, to purchase a machine for making it. Evidently, the machine was not suitable, as Jefferson later imported both macaroni and Parmesan cheese for his use in Monticello. In 1802, Jefferson served a “macaroni pie” at a state dinner.
Since that time, the dish has been associated with America and especially the American South. A recipe called “macaroni and cheese” appeared in the 1824 cookbook “The Virginia Housewife” written by Mary Randolph, Jefferson’s cousin. Randolph’s recipe had three ingredients: macaroni, cheese, and butter, layered together and baked in a 400-degree F. oven. The cookbook was the most influential cookbook of the 19th century, according to culinary historian Karen Hess. Similar recipes for macaroni and cheese occur in the 1852 Hand-book of Useful Arts, and the 1861 Godey’s Lady’s Book. By the mid 1880’s, cookbooks as far west as Kansas included recipes for macaroni-based casseroles.

Pasta was however, still made by hand – a laborious process that often exploited slave labor and servants. Randolph’s cookbook addressed housewives in comfortable circumstances.[6] Cooking was done in kitchens kept in a separate building for reasons of safety and summer heat. At its heart was a large fireplace where cauldrons of water and broth simmered during most of the day. A brick oven used for baking was located next to the fireplace. Although the first American pasta “factory” opened in Philadelphia in 1798, most pasta factories emerged with the rapid American industrialization following the American Civil War. Crucial was the development in 1878 of the Marseilles Purifier – a device to improve semolina, the first hydraulic press in 1882, and the first steam powered mill in 1884. Also important in these developments were the influx of Italian immigrants increasing the demand in America for pasta. High class Americans would still purchase imported pasta for the snob appeal. In 1914, an artificial drying process drastically lowered prices of factory pasta. The First World War brought pasta imports to a halt, creating an opportunity for American factories. The number of pasta factories rose from 373 to 575 between 1914 and 1919.
Paralleling this was the introduction of cheesemaking factories. The first American cheesemaking factory was founded by Jesse Williams in 1851. Generic factory cheese, cheddar, became so common it was called “store cheese” or “yellow cheese.” The earlier recipes cited by Randolph probably used harder cheeses such as Parmesan. These economies of scale were driven both by the move of the population to the cities and the efficiencies of the railroad.

With the lowering of price of the factory-produced product, macaroni, and thus macaroni and cheese, lost its cachet. Fashionable restaurants in New York — even Italian ones — did not serve it. Food science, a new discipline from the 1890s, proclaimed fruits and vegetables were of little nutritional value and cost too much based on bread. In the 1920s, the millers promoted macaroni as “the divine food” and sponsored “eat more wheat” campaigns. It was at this time the practice of serving Swedish meatballs with buttered egg noodles emerged.
Boston Market, a ready to eat take-out, and Michelina’s and Stouffer’s, frozen food, are some of the more widespread brands of macaroni and cheese available in the United States. The dish still retains its Southern associations and is a common side at barbecue and soul food restaurants, but it has long held its place in higher end Southern establishments and working class cafeterias. Additional novelties include deep-fried mac and cheese found at fairs and mobile vendors (food carts). A precooked version known as “macaroni and cheese loaf” can be found in some stores.

Since the 1990s various “gourmet” mac and cheese dishes have emerged in fine “non-regional” North American restaurants. Since 2005 a number of restaurants operating on a fast-food model — but serving only macaroni and cheese — have opened in places such as New York City, Oakland, Portland, St. Louis, Manchester and Vancouver, Canada.

Packaged versions of the dish are available as a boxed convenience food, consisting of uncooked pasta and either a liquid cheese sauce

Kraft Mac and Cheese

or powdered ingredients to prepare it. The powdered cheese sauce is mixed with either milk or water, and margarine, butter, or olive oil. In preparing the dish, the macaroni is cooked and drained, then mixed with the cheese sauce. These products are prepared in a microwave, in a stove pot, or baked in a oven, often with any of the extra ingredients mentioned above.
A number of different products on the market use this basic formulation with minor variations in ingredients.
Kraft Dinner was introduced as a packaged mix in 1937 with the slogan “make a meal for four in nine minutes.” It was an immediate success in the US and Canada amidst the economic turmoil of the depression. During the Second World War, rationing of meat and dairy products lead to Kraft’s wide popularity. During this time it also became an acceptable entree rather than a side dish. Wartime popularity of the Kraft product lead to common variations of the dish made with processed cheese in the postwar era. The 1953 Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook includes a recipe for the dish with Velveeta, which had been reformulated in that year.
In Canada, the Kraft product is so popular that “Kraft Dinner” has become a generic trademark of sorts. The item is Canada’s number one selling grocery item and has assumed an iconic status akin to Vegemite in Australia, but is also stereotyped as a food staple for students and those in lower income levels.

In the United States, July 7 has been named National Macaroni Day; July 14 National Macaroni and Cheese Day and National Macaroni Day; and June 4 National Cheese Day.

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