Valentine’s Day Food Security Special: Hold the Pink Kraft Dinner, Serve Up Comfort Food

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

While compiling today’s Links, I stumbled upon a Leite’s Culinaria piece about Kraft’s launch of a pink-tinged Valentine- themed version of its popular mac ’n cheese – aka Kraft dinner, Kraft Introduces…Pink Mac and Cheese?

I’ve never much liked the original version of the stuff, although I was served up more than my fair share during my ski bum winters, spent in Whistler, British Columbia, where it was ubiquitous. Leite’s Culinaria notes “in Canada, where the gooey, cheesy staple known as Kraft Dinner (KD) is considered almost as sacred as poutine and butter tarts and defiling KD is tantamount to an unpatriotic act.” As with many so-called convenience foods, the convenience gained to me is never worth what’s lost in taste and nutrition.

But candy-flavored Kraft Dinner is apparently a bridge too far. As per Leite’s Culinaria:

No more noodling on what gift to buy,” stated the company in a press release. “There is no better way to show your love this Valentine’s Day than saying ‘you’re the mac to my cheese.’”

Uh. Maybe. Or you could just give them a box of spiders.

Kraft has been expanding its boxed cheesy macaroni line for years, but they’ve only recently gotten into the more unusual flavors. “After our success with Pumpkin Spice Kraft Mac & Cheese in the fall, we had our eye on what to do next,” explained Martina Davis, brand manager at Kraft Heinz. “We’re always up for a challenge, so for Valentine’s Day we thought it would be fun to change the color AND taste of classic Mac & Cheese by turning it pink and adding a bit of sweet candy flavor to celebrate the holiday.”

Kraft attempted to create a buzz for the new product – which has yet to be generally released – and was instead only available via a contest,

As NBC 5 Chicago elaborates, Kraft Launches Pink Mac and Cheese for Valentine’s Day That Tastes Like … Candy?:

On Wednesday, Kraft-Heinz announced a contest to give out free “kits” of its latest, limited-time mac and cheese. The box of Original Mac & Cheese will be joined by a packet of pink, candy-flavored powder to mix into one’s cheesy dinner. According to the brand, the mix will turn the noodles a bright magenta color, rather than that familiar orange.

So, what makes the powder pink? Is it crushed-up conversation hearts? Is it a special dust from Cupid’s arrow? Actually, according to a Kraft-Heinz spokesperson, the vibrant pink hue comes from beetroot and carrot concentrates. As for what makes it tastes like candy, the extra packet of powder contains fructose, natural flavors and vanilla extract, they said.

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t think of anything that would make Kraft dinner worse – which, to be fair, I didn’t much like anyway – than adding vanilla, sugar, and candy flavoring. But maybe that’s just me.

COVID-19 and Cooking

As I’ve posted about often during the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically increased food insecurity, not only in the U.S., but throughout the world. But at the same time, lockdowns, social isolation, and closed restaurants have led many to up their cooking game. Whether out of necessity, boredom, curiosity, or a little of each, is not entirely clear.

Myself included. I’ve always enjoyed thinking about and preparing food and when I cook or bake, it’s from scratch. Nothing comes pre-made from a box although I do have well-stocked spice shelves and a larder. And I’m always adding a pinch of this or a dash of that. But it’s my pinch. My dash. My creation. My comfort food.

A brief pause as I grab a light breakfast – some coffee and  a blueberry muffin from a batch I made a couple of weeks ago and froze. The advantage of making one’s own is that mine are modest in size and to our taste. I often reduce the sugar – as I did with the linked recipe and left the sugar off of the top – not necessary.

Jerri-Lynn here: Back to my post. Later today, that piece about Kraft mac ’n cheese will prompt me to whip up my own version for lunch. Mine’s nothing special and starts with a basic béchamel sauce. Tamasin-Day Lewis has a fine version in her Kitchen Bible – to which I was unable to find a link. There’s no great secret to mac ’n cheese other than to use good cheese. I sometimes use cheddar, sometime gruyere. And I’ve experimented with many other cheeses over the years. I use about 6 oz of cheese for a UK pint of béchamel (or to taste) and one pound of macaroni. At the moment we have a surfeit of cheddar, so I’ll likely use that, and finish with some freshly-grated parmesan on top, which I’ll mix with some butter and perhaps some bread crumbs to make a browned topping.

Being more or less locked down and isolated with my husband in New York, there are some things I’ve been doing to up my cooking game. One New Year’s resolution: 2021 would be the year I would learn to make fresh pasta. First step has been to make potato gnocchi. This was much easier than I expected. Next step: sheets of rolled out pasta. Finally, stuffed pasta. I’ve never made ravioli, but I’m of Polish/Lithuanian descent on my mother’s side, so I’ve often made pierogi, and I imagine the procedure is similar.

Another project: Austrian (Hungarian) baked goods. I’ve not got very far with this goal, but as you’ll see below, many Austrian bakers would not be surprised by the use of ground almonds in the flourless lemon cake I just made a couple of days ago.

And finally, fermented and preserved foods. I typically eat lots of yoghurt and when I’m in India, achaar and chutneys, but  I’ve been trying to eat still more fermented foods. So, I bought Fermentation, number 18 in the excellent series of River Cottage handbooks on various aspects of cooking, baking, or preserving food.  On my dining room table right now, several fermentation – aka science –  projects are currently in progress. A ginger starter – for ginger beer – thrilled me last night when I heard the ginger paste hissing and crackling, exactly as the instructions promised me it would.

In progress: red cabbage sauerkraut (with juniper berries); fennel and apple kim chi; cherry tomato bombs (with lots of garlic, and chilli peppers), and kale kraut. Next up: I’ll tackle the large and alien-looking celeriac that’s currently lurking on the kitchen counter. This will be fermented with buttermilk, to make a preserved version of a classic celeriac remoulade.

Also on the go is some beetroot ferment with garam masala, taken from a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe in the Guardian. While I have major reservations about many aspects of that paper’s overall journalism, I’m a longstanding fan of their food pages. Nigel Slater’s writing and recipes have been a source of great pleasure for quite some time.

Tonight I think the red cabbage sauerkraut will be ready to try and I have some good frankfurters that I bought from a butcher a little while ago that I’ll take out of the freezer. So dinner will be frankfurters, with my kraut, some German mustard, on rolls I’ll bake this afternoon. Hot dogs always remind me of my father, who loved them slathered with mustard and loaded with kraut. And hot dogs will be a nice contrast to last night’s meal: chicken tagine with oodles of vegetables: onions, fennel, carrots, potato, butternut squash, and garbanzo beans. We ate it with couscous. There were lots of leftovers, but none will go to waste and I’m sure we’ll enjoy eating them much more on Monday rather than back-to-back to last night’s meal. There’ll probably be enough for a lunch sometime during the week.

The COVID crisis has prodded many to turn to bread baking. I’ve been making my own bread for several years now, spurred by Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread recipe, which totally transformed my approach to bread. I usually make the whole-wheat version, and occasionally, the olive bread (to which I also add a whole head of chopped roasted garlic, and some chopped fresh rosemary). I’ve also taken to making baguettes, which in the short form I make them, are perfect hot dog rolls if chopped in two. The small addition I’ve made is to dust them with everything bagel seasoning before baking. In the last month or so, my husband has become the house bread baker.

For dessert tonight, we’ll have some Meyer lemon cake I made on Friday, a variation of Nigella Lawson’s clementine cake riff on Claudia Roden’s classic orange cake. This cake tastes better a day or two after the day on which it’s baked. Nigella’s recipe provides weights for the citrus, and includes a lemon option. If you don’t know Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food – which I recently bought – it’s magisterial, and weaves history, scholarship, recipes, and much more. A wonderful book for anyone who likes to eat, cook, or think about food. What’s unique about this cake is that you boil up the whole citrus fruit – skin, pith, and pulp – for a couple of hours. Which somehow draws out the bitterness. After the fruit cools, you throw the entire fruit in a food processor and mix the resulting pulp with eggs and ground almonds – no flour. No dairy. The result is a dense moist cake that in texture is somewhere between a cake and a pudding – the latter word used in its American sense, rather than in the English, where it would simply mean dessert.

Anyway, because it is Valentine’s Day, I will dress the cake up a bit, serving it with some crushed blueberries, perhaps sweetened or with a touch of balsamic vinegar – and some crème fraîche, which I made by souring heavy cream with a bit of buttermilk. I’ll taste and decide. I prefer the slightly tangy taste crème fraîche to sweetened whip cream with most sweets. When soured this way, the cream keeps longer.

The crushed blueberries are of necessity. I was baffled the other morning while unloading the dishwasher to find a plastic blueberry clamshell in the dishwasher’s top rack.

Then I looked down on the machine’s open door to find that the clamshell had obviously taken a swan dive off the counter while I was  stacking the unloaded dishes in the cabinet, then opened and deposited the blueberries onto the door. So, I collected the berries, rinsed them off, and tasted carefully to make sure I couldn’t detect any soupçon of Cascade. None, thankfully, but the berries were a bit beaten up. So ‘crushed blueberries’ it will have to be.

I may have gone on a bit with the food porn, and for that, dear readers, I ask your indulgence. But it is Valentine’s Day, which many celebrate with special meals or foods.

And there is a point to these meanderings: which is in the time of COVID, all of us have been forced to be more self-sufficient. Food insecurity is increasing and alas, I fear is only likely to worsen – as the end of the pandemic isn’t yet apparent, at least for those of us in hunkered down in much of Europe or the U.S. I’ve written before about increasing food security by growing one’s own food. Expanding my cooking repertoire and learning ways to ferment and preserve food also improves my food security. With the added benefit of knowing exactly what goes into any food that I prepare.

Comfort food to me never comes out of a box. Instead, it’s something I make, using my own hands, and which I hope provides comfort not only to me, but to anyone who dines at my table.

I now turn the floor over to you, dear readers: what’s on your Valentine’s Day menu?

Kraft dinner, anyone?

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  1. CitizenSissy

    Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! That pink mac-and-cheese looks disgusting. Your cake sounds scrumptious, Jerri-Lynn! I’ve made split pea soup with ham, and buttermilk biscuits. I’m very lucky to have a fireplace, and will hunker down later this afternoon.

    Smiled at your pierogi reference. My late Dad was Polish, and we had mashed potatoes or soup all the time; I’d made the aforementioned split pea soup many times in 100-plus degree weather.

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      The cake is delicious and dead easy to make. It does take time, because the citrus fruit must be boiled for 2 hrs before it’s cooled and pulped. But the boiling doesn’t require any active attention – just an occasional look to make sure there’s still plenty of water in the pot and it hasn’t boiled dry. I shared the recipe with my mother and she emailed me, noting just how easy the cake was to prepare. It’s very moist so keeps well.

      1. CitizenSissy

        I will definitely try; I bake a lot, and am always scouting for new recipes. You’re missing your calling as a food writer, Jerri/Lynn – your cake description is transporting.

        I have to (sadly) cut back on cake right now, but one of my favorite recipes is Marion Burros’s plum torte, which I double for a cake and substitute pitted cherries. Freshly whipped cream accompanies.

        I’m grateful to be able to have the luxury of food and the environment in which to cook. Many people don’t, and the situation is dire. My church’s food pantry tripled its client base, and the situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon.

        1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

          That split pea with ham soup sounds tasty and was also one of my father’s favorites. I make this whenever I have a leftover ham bone. Dad’s ancestors came largely from England and Scotland – although family lore says there’s also a smattering of native American blood several generations back. I don’t know whether to take this claim seriously or not.

          Dad also loved anything with cherries – pie, turnovers, Danish. I love sour cherries and have a good recipe for a tart where sour cherries are embedded in an almond base. This is also a Tamasin Day-Lewis recipe. This works with jarred sour cherries.

          In sour cherry season, there’s nothing finer than sour cherry sorbet or sour cherry strudel.

    1. Cancyn

      I love paczki! We moved this past year and the thing I am missing most in my new community is a good Eastern European deli/bakery. I do not think there will be any paczki for me this spring. Sigh.

  2. Larry Y

    It’s the Lunar New Year – search out regional Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc.

    Many traditionally eat dumplings, so since you’re already looking at ravioli, go for potstickers, mandu, and/or gyoza.

  3. carl

    Since my spouse is not from the US, V-Day has little significance for us. The real food thing, though, is a priority at our house. A couple of nights ago we made pasta from scratch, and no, we don’t have a pasta maker; dumped it into the turkey bone broth from Thanksgiving. Currently thawing an almond squash soup that we also had for turkey day. Last week, I made seafood gumbo for the first time. Dinner (and happy hour before) is kind of a two or three hour ritual. Can’t think of a better use of time.

  4. farmboy

    Zoe Francis and Jeff Hertzberg, 5 Minute Artisan Bread Recipe’s does the sourdough path. Tassajara Bread Book was primer.

    1. Dirk77

      It took me seven weeks to get sourdough to work, mainly creating a starter from scratch. That said, I think packaged foods are considered “efficient” only if you don’t account for the mental and physical health benefits of making it yourself – within reason. Thanks for the post J-L.

  5. DJG, Reality Czar

    Your notes on bread are interesting: I made bread for most of last year, starting with a biga (starter) from Carol Field’s recipe, and then using a cup of semolina with the all-purpose flour. The semolina is an old Sicilian embellishment. When I bought it at Middle East Bakery here in Chicago (which has many staples besides its famous pita and hummus), the manager mentioned that, in the Arab world, semolina is for making sweets. Not for the Sicilians and their touches of extravagance. I am on pause: It seemed to me that I was eating too much bread–which I like way too much.

    Comfort food: I’m off to a lunch of dolmades (from the same store). There is something deeply comforting and atavistic about eating grapeleaves. To be even more atavistic and comforting, I added to the plate some grilled olives from Syria. I’ve never had a grilled olive till recently. It’s like eating history.

    For dinner: I have some red sauce that I cooked very slowly yesterday. Besides the tomatoes, the other main flavor is dried mushrooms in their mushroom water. So it started off liquidy and had cook down. The pasta of choice: Cavatappi. They are swirly and catch sauce well. There is enormous debate among Italians about the right shape for the right sauce. One could go on for hours…

    Dessert: Pistachios covered with dark chocolate. Just because.

    And as an appetizer–that most ancient of foods, the chickpea, roasted and salted. I feel like a Roman, sitting below the lares, waiting for dinner, munching and crunching.

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      I like cavatappi too – it’s also good for mac & cheese.

      And we also eat lots of chickpeas. As I mentioned above, we had some just last night, as one component in the chicken tagine with lots of vegetables.

      1. KLG

        Late to this party:

        Cavatappi is only thing I now use for baked mac & cheese, which is a “vegetable” in the South ;-) Nothing better as the pasta. Mine usually has three good cheeses, with real butter and cream in the mix, and fresh grated Parmesan on top. Bread crumbs sometimes. When I make it for a party (again one of these years, we all hope) there is never any left over…the non-southerners frequently respond the most enthusiastically. Their idea of mac & cheese seems to be the same as Kraft’s.

        As for the (boxed) Kraft stuff, when first married with no kids, Kroger sold it 4-for-a-dollar in the early-1980s. I’m surprised we didn’t get jaundice after eating all that orange powder. We never did the ramen noodle thing. But I won’t eat the Kraft stuff again until I am a destitute retiree.

  6. Basil Pesto

    I recently bought a book (published by a small outfit in Maine) – The ultimate pasta and noodle cookbook – don’t let kraft put you off sweet pasta dishes – this has a couple of very cool ones in the back.

    The Kitchen Shelf has a good mac and cheese template recipe with a few variations, which encourages experimentation. It’s also an excellent cookbook for any cook to have during a lockdown because of its concept, and is very beginner friendly.

    This bad boy has an excellent spaetzle recipe using gruyere and/or emmental, and much else besides to recommend it.

    One of my go-to comfort lunches is fried penne – it’s not mac and cheese but it’s similarly satisfying. For one person, melt ~1tbsp butter in a pot over medium heat, cook half a sliced onion in it with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes until softened slightly. Add 100g (about 3 handfuls) penne lisce (rigate will also do) and stir to coat with the butter and cook for another minute. Then add boiling water to cover the pasta about an inch and simmer until the water cooks off and the pasta is al dente. Couldn’t be easier and it’s the ultimate blank canvas. Finish with cheese if you like. Or fresh herbs (chives or garlic chives work well). Or, when you melt the butter, try adding chilli flakes or, even better, aleppo pepper flakes to taste. Tomato paste doesn’t go astray either if you want an umami kick. Or you could just add stock powder to the boiling water.

    As you can probably tell I have a bit of a cookbook collection and it definitely expanded in 2020. A recent one was the Nordic Baking Book which I’ve yet to get properly stuck in to but has a wonderful amount of detail. Indeed all of Phaidon’s world cuisine monographs are just brilliant and I recommend them highly. Jerri-Lynn may be interested in The Jewish Cookbook which is similarly fascinating though maybe not as detailed. It also goes well beyond Ashkenazi and Sephardi cuisine and has a lot of Mizrahi dishes from across the middle east, as well as recipes from the Jewish community in India (including an incredible recipe for deep fried chat potatoes)

    Ottolenghi’s latest, Flavour, is excellent as well, with some really show-stopping recipes.

    I’ve not read it myself yet but for fermentation, The Noma Guide to Fermentation looks really good.

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Claudia Roden’s Book of Jewish Food, which I just acquired last week, also has lots of Indian recipes. I’ve not yet had a chance to study it. I also have several of her other books and have long been a fan.

      When I decided to jump into learning about fermentation, I also bought the Noma fermentation book but have yet to do more than skip through it. I’m working through the River Cottage guide carefully. I also picked up a book sponsored by the Weck canning jar company, called Weck Small-Batch Preserving and that also has some interesting things. Plus tips on practical aspects, which I’m finding especially useful as I’m using Weck jars. Partly because they’re so beautiful to look at, partly because I like the idea that the clips are completely removable and one can pop the jar and detachable lid into the dishwasher, leaving the metal clips to the side, so one doesn’t have to worry about corrosion.

      I have several of Ottolenghi’s cookbooks. One of them contains a wonderful frozen yoghurt recipe with juniper berries and lemon: the flavors of G & Ts. He certainly knows how to stop the show with some of his recipes. I just checked on my ferments bubbling away in the dining room and the beetroot with garam masala – his recipe – smells heavenly. It should be ready in another day or two.

  7. Mark Gisleson

    While on strike in 1976 I lived on Kraft mac’n’cheese dinners (5 boxes for $1 on sale).

    Times are better now (for me) and my new comfort food is batched cocktails. I would argue they’re healthier than Kraft mac’n’cheese dinners (I use local honey in lieu of simple syrup). Sometimes they’re even pink(ish).

      1. ambrit

        Add to that, Wolf brand chili and Rotel.
        See, Rotel:
        I was ‘turned on’ to Rotel by some Texicans on our floor in the dorm.
        I have always had a “sweet tooth” fixation for melted cheese over beans on toast. I think of it as a ‘Lumpen-proleterian Massian Opiate.’
        For more “civilized” dining, I’ll put a chunk of blue cheese on toast and pop it in the oven. It’s ready when the tops of the ‘blue veins’ jut up above the cheesy mass. Indeed, it is well worth a Mass.
        I have simple tastes, and have been accused of eating anything that doesn’t eat me first.

  8. Arizona Slim

    Me? I’ve used this time to up my fermentation game. Off to the kitchen to start another mead. Also monitoring the one I started back on New Year’s Day. It’s almost ready to bottle.

    BTW, are there any other homebrewers in the house?

  9. farmboy

    Terrior applied to flour and the utility of different varieties of wheat for end use is completely unappreciated. Ancient grains with few varieties are the beneficiary of some distinction in palate, but the only effort to distinguish varieties as opposed to classes is Shepherd’s Grain. Not only are the usual parameters of test weight, moisture, and protein, and the milling profile of absorption, ash content, color, loaf yield, among 23 flour specs tested for, but final product taste can vary even by location (terrior) and variety.
    This is the frontier in flour.

    1. Carla

      I think you mean terroir — otherwise, I was trying to figure out what kind of canine you were referring to — an Irish terrior, a Welsh terrior — or WHAT?

      Terroir: ” the combination of factors including soil, climate, and sunlight that gives wine grapes their distinctive character.” Merriam-Webster.

  10. bassmule

    Comfort food? I don’t have to think twice about it: Provençal Red Wine Daube. The recipe is from Patricia Wells, as well as the discourse on “dead reds.” As a retired industry guy and recovering French Wine Snob, I cook with cheap wine, but I won’t cook with anything I wouldn’t drink. Anyway, it is actually pretty easy to make, it warms the kitchen up when it’s cold outside, and the orange/olive combination yields a scent of North Africa. To me, a basic French strategy: Take the cheapest cuts you can find, and turn them into something you want to eat.

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      I make something similar, only my recipe comes from Geraldene Holt’s French Country Kitchen and yields a smaller amount. The only big difference is some anchovies in the mix. I typically tuck anchovies into the marinade or paste I use for preparing beef or lamb for braising.

      As for Patricia Wells, I must pass along her recipe for The Apple Lady’s Apple Cake (Gateau aux Pommes de la Reine des Pommes). This cake is just apples bound together with a light batter, and then glazed in the final stage of baking with a lemon topping. Easy and delicious; you really taste the apples, so this is best made in season with great tasting apples.

  11. The Rev Kev

    That pink mac-and-cheese looks as appetizing as a bowl of raw mince meat. Sounds like the marketing droids still have control over at Kraft. A coupla years ago here in Oz they launched a competition for a new name for their Vegemite Cheesybite (don’t ask!). So at the end they announced that the winner was “iSnack 2.0” I kid you not. The ridicule came from near and far and they had to yank that name promptly. Some people were very upset about the idiocy of this name- (3:49 mins – swearing alert!)

    1. ChrisPacific

      Kraft’s ‘management’ of the Cadbury business since acquiring it in 2010 has been a case study in how to run a once-proud brand into the ground. Prior to 2010 they would constantly top the list of most trusted brands year after year; now they are nowhere to be found in the top 20.

      Fortunately for us, there was a strong local company ready and willing to step into the breach (they didn’t have to do all that much other than stand back and watch as Cadbury repeatedly shot itself in the foot). I do mourn for the Cadbury that was though.

      1. ambrit

        When a tiddler, I would get a mini-Christmas box from Grandad. Some big bars of Cadbury’s chocolate were standard. (Mom would requisition most of those for baking with.) The contents of the Christmas boxes were the definition of “comfort food.” I remember Malteesers, Liquorice Allsorts, a variety of Proto Skittles, shortbread cookies, and always a tin of real Danish Cookies, straight from Elsinore as Dad once said. Plus items for the “grownups.” Marmite was a particular favourite of mine.
        The ‘Gold Standard’ was Dutch chocolate.

      2. Basil Pesto

        I can’t say I’ve noticed much change in Cadbury in Australia – it’s still very good for supermarket chocolate. I’m sure there’s been tooling around behind the scenes though.

        The best chocolate in the world also hails from here. I’m no chauvinist and have travelled to the big chocolate countries so I don’t make that claim casually.

  12. CanCyn

    Thanks for posting this J-L a fun read!
    First – my comfort foods are many, good long cooked braises, pasta dishes (more on KD to follow, it is NOT pasta IMO), soups or stews, roasted chicken. My husband requested his favourite – homemade pizza for Valentines Day. Made the dough this morning so the house smelled lovely and yeasty all day. Garlic-y tomato sauce, topped with thinly sliced shallots, roasted red pepper, olives, local salami, fresh mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Drizzled with good olive oil and fresh basil when it came out of the oven. Delish! Dessert was chocolate cheesecake. Made it yesterday because, like J-L’s cake, cheesecake is better the next day. Big enough to share, I delivered portions to the neighbours today.
    Now about KD! As a Canadian, I take offence at the notion that there is any ‘sacred’ about Kraft dinner here in Canada. I never ate it as a child, tasted it once in college and never ate it again. It is truly disgusting stuff. I can’t even imagine the pink version. As a poor student, I ate lots of pasta – bought on sale and topped with whatever canned sauce I found on sale or just olive oil. Beats KD hands down. To this day, I will tease anyone who eats KD. It is like dirty secret comfort food for people that I know who eat it. They aren’t proud about it.
    Although I grew up in the sixties when convenience foods like KD were just becoming a thing, I am lucky enough to have had parents who didn’t buy into that nonsense. My Mom tried Hamburger Helper once, I think it got thrown out and we had grilled cheese sandwiches instead. Overall, we ate very little processed food and we ate seasonally and locally long before it was even something to be named or done deliberately, it was just the way my parents approached food and eating. To this day, the only time I eat things like asparagus or strawberries is when they are in season locally. No blueberries in clamshells for me – there are wild Canadian blueberries in our freezer, the only kind I will eat.

  13. Ook

    Agree 100%, CanCyn. My family’s been in Canada for 140 years, and KD isn’t generally on the radar, except as an example of corporate food that someone with no money might eat if they had no other choice. And I never ate poutine or butter tarts growing up either.

    Valentine’s Day, my modified version of gapao rice.

    1. Carla

      Thank you so much, TRK — — that is a great map! However, I must inform you that the favorite candy of Ohio is the Buckeye. For those unfamiliar with the confection, it is a ball of sweetened peanut butter, two-thirds encased in a thick coating of soft, succulent milk chocolate so that it shows its peanut butter center. We are the Buckeye state, and whether we bleed red or blue, politically speaking, we ALL love us some Buckeyes!

  14. MichaelSF

    For those of you who make bread I’d like to offer this recipe for your enjoyment:

    Third Bread:
    1 package yeast
    3/4 cup rye flour
    3/4 cup cornmeal
    3 cups bread flour
    1.5 tsp salt
    1/2 cup honey
    1.5 cups very warm water

    It is dead easy to make (one standard loaf, baked for an hour at 350F), the bread is slightly sweet, and it is a dense loaf with a very chewy crust. It has been a standard for me for several decades. We just finished off a loaf, and we enjoyed it toasted with slathers of butter, strawberry jam and Cambozola cheese.

    Stouffer’s frozen M&C is usually what my spouse wants when she is unwell and can’t face eating anything else, so a supply is kept on hand. The Kraft stuff sounds horrible. I often make cornbread from scratch (using my grandma’s Wagner cast iron skillet) but I’ve got a few boxes of Jiffy corn muffin mix in the cupboard — they are “good enough” when I don’t want to go to extra effort (which isn’t often but happens).

    We had pulled pork and an artichoke for V-day — no pink involved.

  15. Carla

    DEAR Jerri-Lynn — I have often thought the only thing missing on NC was recipes, but was too afraid to say so. Our favorite Christmas dessert also suits quite well for Valentine’s Day, as long as one thinks ahead and freezes a bag of cranberries:

    Cranberry Cake:

    Grease and flour a 9-inch spring-form pan. Preheat oven to 360 degrees F. Melt 3/4 cup salted butter and let it cool. Using a hand-mixer, beat 2 room-temp. eggs with 1-1/2 cups sugar until “fluffy” (whatever that means). Beat in cooled butter and 1/4 cup Amaretto. Thoroughly stir in 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2/3 cup chopped pecans, and two cups fresh or frozen cranberries. Batter will be STIFF. Turn it into the prepared pan and even it out as best you can. Bake for 1 hour. Test until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. (Sometimes it takes an hour and 10 minutes to get done, especially if you start with frozen cranberries.) Cool in the pan on a rack. Release the sides of the pan and remove. Will keep under a cake cover for days, although it usually doesn’t last for too many.

    It’s fun to make food out of all real ingredients that have existed for hundreds of years!

  16. BAH

    We had a family meal, best described as Thanksgiving in February. I found a bone in full turkey breast, frozen for just under $3 a pound. There was “stuffin’ muffins”. The traditional bread stuffing/filling recipe is taken to another level when cooked in a mini muffin pan. Every bite is soft and crispy. We had sweet potatoes, cubed and cooked in a cast iron pan with a thin layer of ghee. There was some decent asparagus at the grocery store, cooked in a grill pan with olive oil and thyme. It was all tied together with turkey gravy that I took my time putting together. The very best part of the day was the smell. We are a family of four and a dog comfortably sharing a two bedroom apartment. The roast turkey, stuffin muffins and gravy made our apartment smell divine. And not one valentine card was shared.

  17. a different chris

    No-knead bread??!!!??

    That confirms my suspicion that Grandma and her precursors were kneading that dough so angrily because they were second class citizens in a society run by a bunch of blundering male idiots, and they needed (pun not intended) to let off steam. Not because it was really necessary.

    I myself like kneading bread to assuage my frustration at being one of those idiots.

  18. drumlin woodchuckles

    Kraft Pink Mac’n’cheese Dinner for Valentine’s Day?

    One hopes they put it in a pink Heart-Shaped box.

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