Deliciously gooey, marvelously inexpensive and incredibly easy to prepare, microwaveable mac and cheese is a destitute college student's dream.
But as all mac and cheese fanatics know, the dish -- all starch and straightforward faux-cheesiness -- can get old pretty fast. To challenge the inevitable macaroni malaise, Target's blog A Bullseye View recently posted 9 genius "mac hacks" -- easy recipes that promise to add more oomph to that microwaveable dinner.
A few college kids put these "mac hacks" to the test and rated each recipe -- all of which star a bowl of microwaveable mac and cheese -- from 0-5.
Here are their top 5 picks:
1) Coconut Curry Mac
Recipe: Make mac and cheese using coconut milk instead of water; stir in curry powder.
“Unexpectedly good! This could easily pass as a gourmet dish,” said Becky, a student at Washington University in St. Louis.
2) Loaded Baked Potato Mac
Recipe: Stir in sour cream, chives, bacon crumbles and cooked frozen broccoli.
“Hearty and delicious—what’s not to love?” quipped Becky.
3) Walking Taco Mac
Recipe: Stir in crushed Doritos chips, Mexican cheese, shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes.
“Mexican mac n’ cheese -- love it,” said Princeton University student Charles.
4) Pepperoni Pizza Mac
Recipe: Stir in pepperoni slices, shredded mozzarella cheese and sliced olives.
“Nothing like a pizza but I’d snack on this again,” said Charles of the meaty meal.
5) Ballpark Mac
Recipe: Stir in hot dogs and yellow mustard.
“Classic American ingredients make this an instant home run,” said Becky.
Have a favorite mac and cheese recipe? Share it with us in the comments below!
Of course, as with any food, be sure to indulge in mac and cheese in moderation. For some tips as to how to sneak some healthy greens into your diet, click through this slideshow:
Not every step toward a more nutritious diet has to taste like one. Forget the steamed broccoli and try incorporating more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/11/colorful-fruit-and-vegetables_n_1323881.html" target="_hplink">great-for-you greens</a> into your favorite meals you're already making. We asked the experts to share with us some of their favorite sneaky ways to get more greens. Here are some of their most drool-worthy suggestions.
Try pureeing greens and adding them to muffins, suggests <a href="http://elisazied.com/" target="_hplink">Elisa Zied</a>, MS, RDN, CDN. When paired with other flavorful ingredients, like blueberries or <a href="http://www.food.com/recipe/chocolate-cupcakes-with-spinach-and-blueberries-260924" target="_hplink">chocolate</a>, you won't notice the <a href="http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=2236275" target="_hplink">spinach hidden in the mix</a>. "You won't even feel like you're eating vegetables," says <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/heather-bauer-rd-cdn/" target="_hplink">Heather Bauer</a>, RD, CDN. This trick even works with <a href="http://family.go.com/food/recipe-281285-deceptively-delicious-brownies-t/" target="_hplink">brownies</a>! (Just remember this isn't a free pass to eat the whole pan.)
<a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/MyPlate-for-Moms-How-to-Feed-Yourself-Your-Family-Better/196841697040535" target="_hplink">Elizabeth M. Ward</a>, MS, RD, swears by greens in omelets, especially <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/17/more-green-superfoods_n_2868810.html" target="_hplink">kale</a>, which you can easily buy frozen and throw into the mix whenever you're in the mood to make breakfast.
As you're just about finished cooking your favorite noodle dish, around the time when you might typically add some fresh basil, try adding heartier greens to the mix, says <a href="http://www.appforhealth.com/about-us/julie-upton/" target="_hplink">Julie Upton</a>, MS, RD, CSSD. Spinach works particularly well, she says. Greens also work in lasagna, says Zied, or instead of basil in homemade pesto, says <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cheryl-forberg-rd/" target="_hplink">Cheryl Forberg</a>, RD. (You can even try the pesto as a yummy condiment to serve on sandwiches, she says.)
To change up your morning routine, try mixing spinach or kale into those homemade fruit smoothies, says Ward. A handful of leaves doesn't have to make your sip look -- or taste -- green!
There's no reason you can't add a little green to your favorite homemade slice. A handful of leaves can add a refreshing factor to that warm and gooey cheese. Upton suggests baking your dough with just fresh mozzarella. Then when it comes out of the oven, cover the entire pie with a mix of arugula, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar.
"When I'm making black beans (with tomato, garlic, onion, cumin, etc.), I love to stir in a couple cups of chopped, blanched greens like spinach, chard or kale at the end," says Forberg. "Adds great color, texture and flavor!"
Just about any green can be pureed to make a thicker soup, helping to camouflage a distinct health-promoting taste, says Bauer. Whipping up a greens-based soup or sauce is an especially good trick for the severely veggie-averse, she says, who might not even want to see vegetables.