Organic Fanatic

As one who likes to keep up with trends, health trends to be exact, a particular trend that has always piqued my curiosity has been the growing popularity of organic foods. I never really looked too much into what the term organic meant or why foods that were considered organic were healthier for you, to be on honest I always assumed it was a label that justified grocery stores charging me more for the same foods I already buy.

However, I recently read an article published by FIU Student Media that has begun to change that perception for me. In order to earn the honor of being considered organic, there are strict limitations and restrictions put in place by the United States Department of Agriculture that a manufacturer must adhere to during production. Chemicals, hydrogenation, trans-fats, pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones are all limited in the production of organic foods, which, considering some of the negative effects of consuming these things repeatedly over a long period of time, is a good thing.

The article made mention of the higher prices associated with buying organic products and it also cited a study that found no difference in the nutrient quality between conventional foods and organic foods. This, of course, made me question if I should even bother to look for organic foods. Nevertheless, the article concluded that organic foods were worth the extra money and worth the health benefits no matter how small in significance.

I kept this in mind as I searched for my quick fix this week. To my surprise, it wasn’t long into my search for mac & cheese that I discovered an organic mac & cheese (pause as the choir sings). Could Annie’s have done the impossible by giving the world a healthier instant mac & cheese for less than $4 per box? My answer to that is an unoptimistic “maybe”.

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Annie’s Creamy Mac & Cheese with organic pasta

Before I could get too excited, I realized the box said “Made with Organic Pasta”. So what about the cheese? When I took a closer look at the ingredients list, I was delighted to see the names of real cheeses that I was already familiar with. Maybe there was hope after all.

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Annie’s Creamy Mac & Cheese with organic pasta

I continued to read and I realized that the familiar ingredients I had seen at the beginning of the list did not continue to the end. As expected, a dairy product that has a shelf life of 1+ years is unlikely to be completely natural. Despite containing organic pasta noodles, Annie’s Creamy Deluxe Macaroni Dinner still contains ingredients such as Sodium Phosphate, Lactic Acid, and Sodium Alginate.

Well despite the logistics, you may be wondering how it tastes. Honestly, it was a bit of a let-down. As you can see in the photo, the cheese sauce came out of the packet in a way that was very unappealing to the eye. The supposed sauce reflected a glob of cheese mush and it was very difficult to mix the cheese with the noodles. However, once it was completely mixed it looked appetizing but had a bland taste which was even worst after refrigerating and reheating. From start to finish, this dish took approximately 15-20 minutes to make.

Have time to make a truly healthier mac & cheese? Skip the boxed dinners and check out these recipes and these tips:

  1. Start with an organic pasta.
  2. Only use natural cheeses. Look to limit or eliminate any artificial additives or ingredients.
  3. Try low fat milk, cream, or yogurt to make it creamy and give it a nice consistency.
  4. Add a vegetable like broccoli or spinach to boost the nutritional value.

 

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The Blue Box Blues

As the plate of golden perfection was placed in front of me, I was mesmerized. My mouth watered and my soul danced. I quickly raised my fork to my mouth shoveling down spoonful after spoonful of the warm deliciousness known as “The Blue Box: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese”. I had what they called “the blue box blues”. It was then that my everlasting love of Mac & Cheese began.

Yes, I’ve loved mac & cheese since I was a youngster, but a lot have changed since then. For example, now I don’t take pleasure in eating mac & cheese with powdered “cheese”. Nevertheless, with my hectic schedule, I rarely have the time to throw down in the kitchen and create praise worthy mac & cheese. So I often shamefully indulge in crappy box mac & cheese to satisfy my cravings.

I’ve set out to find a mac & cheese that I’m not ashamed of. I’m looking for something simple and quick that I won’t mind preparing after a 12-hour work day, but also something more adult. A dish that not only tastes good when it’s freshly cooked, but one that can be refrigerated and enjoyed for lunch the next day.

Despite my desire for a quick fix, I do not want to completely disregard the nutritional value. After all, the days I could eat unconsciously without going up a pants size are far gone. So in this, and my upcoming blog posts, you’ll get to enjoy me review numerous types of store bought mac & cheese discussing the cooking time, ingredients, and taste – both fresh and reheated.

First up is, you guessed it, the blue box! Well maybe not the one you’re thinking about, but Kraft makes a blue box mac & cheese without cartoon shaped noodles and powered cheese, to appeal to a more mature crowd.

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Kraft Deluxe Mac & Cheese

This one is called “Deluxe”, sounds luxurious already. In this box, they have also given us more cheese sauce AND bigger macaroni – you excited yet, because I am. But the best part is it’s “made with real cheese”!

Hold on a second, if this is made with real cheese why is it sold in the pasta aisle instead of with the rest of the real cheese in the refrigerator aisle? Now I’m a little concerned.

Let’s take a look at the ingredients. I consider myself a fairly educated woman and I don’t know what half this stuff is. So I’ve taken the liberty of looking up the ingredients in the cheese sauce. The noodle ingredients don’t frighten me as much as whatever they’re passing off as “cheese” that miraculously lasts for years without refrigeration. I don’t want to bore you and go through every single ingredient on the list, so I won’t be touching those ingredients that the product “contains less than 2%” of.

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Ingredients List

Whey, Milk, Canola oil, Milk Protein Concentrate, Sodium Phosphate, salt and Whey Protein Concentrate are main ingredients of this “cheese sauce”. Interestingly enough, these ingredients don’t compare to the ingredients listed in Kraft’s refrigerated cheddar cheese.

The cook time on this was approximately 15 minutes from start to finish, no heavy lifting involved. The creamy consistency and the taste were pretty good for a boxed mac & cheese. Don’t expect rich robust flavor but it’s worth the $2.50 I paid for it.

How’s reheating? Horrible. After 1 minute in the microwave you get something that looks and taste similar to plastic, disappointing.

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Reheated Plastic

Overall, taking into consideration the preservative filled ingredients, bland tastes, and the poor reheating ability, this mac & cheese leaves a lot to be desired.