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Kraft Mac & Cheese Cheddar Explosion

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Full disclosure: I like Kraft Mac & Cheese (in particular the spiral variety). So, if Kraft wants to give me a free box of some new variety, I'm going to take them up on the offer. In this weekend's paper there was such a coupon, so today for lunch I had Kraft's new "Cheddar Explosion" variety. From the box:

More Cheese Sauce

Bigger Shapes*

(*than our regular macaroni & cheese dinner)

Here is the packaging in all it's explosion-tastic glory:

Cheddar Explosion.jpg

So again, in the interest of full disclosure: I never prepare the spiral variety according to the package directions. For starters, I actually use the "classic" proportions of milk and butter, which results in a much higher fat sauce. Second, I discard about 1/3 of the pasta, but use the full amount of sauce. So by Kraft's definition I was already eating "cheddar explosion." In theory, this stuff should be right up my alley. But—and I realize this throws all sense of fair comparison out the window—for this review I followed the package instructions to the letter, using all of the pasta, and not cranking up the quantity of butter.

My basic verdict: needs more butter! Now, before you think I've gone all Paula Dean on you: in the old days, the spiral variety called for three tablespoons of margarine per box. This newfangled stuff calls for 1/2 tablespoon of butter. I have no idea if they actually changed the formula for the cheez to compensate, or if they just figured no one would notice. But there is at least some historical justification for the sextupling of the butter quantity in the preparation. Point two: the larger spirals hold more cheez, and that's good, to a point. My usual technique for the regular spirals results in a very over-sauced pasta, but that was the whole point, and I was OK with it. With these larger spirals the sauce is actually attached to pasta, decreasing the sauce-to-pasta ratio: maybe my Italian friends would appreciate this shift, but I'm not sold. Last, and this may be related to the lack of butter, it had a sort of odd metallic/minerally aftertaste that lingered for a while after I finished it. I don't recall this from the original product, but I can't imagine they are actually using a different sauce here, so presumably it's just in the preparation.

I think I'll stick with my modified preparation of the original Spirals.

Chris Hennes
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This reminds me when everything became "extreme" back in the early 2000's. I joked around with a colleague at the time that next thing you know, there'll be Extreme Jell-O, and wouldn't you know it, about two months later, I noticed the exact same thing in the grocery store.

And to keep this more on-topic, while I do love a great homemade macaroni and cheese, the stuff in the little blue box sustained me through my many years of collegiate life. And, like you, I started with the directions provided on the box and by the end of my tenure at Case Western, had deviated to a tweaked recipe that much more suited my tastes at the time.

Going from 3 tbsp of margarine to a 1/2 tbsp of butter does sound like a pretty dramatic reduction though. Unless you're using half-and-half as your milk component, I can't believe you wouldn't be able to pick up the lack of richness.

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This talk of 1/2 tbl or 3tbl of butter made me go look at a standard box to see if they had changed that since I last bothered to look. The regular Kraft dinner box say 4 tbl of margarine...

I do like the newest commercial for Cheddar explosion with boy describing his dads' love of cheese....


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  • 2 weeks later...

It's been years since I've made boxed mac and cheese--I'm suddenly wishing I had a box in the pantry.

Is the cheese still in powder form like the old days, or is it in one of those pouches where you cut the corner off and it oozes out?

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The regular Kraft dinner box say 4 tbl of margarine...

My box says 50ml of butter or margarine, which is almost 3 1/2 tablespoons to the 225g of pasta. For me, one tablespoon is enough and four is over the top.

I've had substandard experiences with Kraft M&C products that deviate from the original. I'm encouraged to revisit and give the CC Explosion a shot.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

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Moe Sizlack

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  • 2 weeks later...

I use the President's Choice White Chedder variety. It calls for 1/4 cup each of milk and butter, but I replace that with 1/2 cup of whipping cream.

Then I add a bunch of grated cheese and more whipping cream.

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Thanks for the review, Chris. I think we'll stick with the Original Recipe, both times a year we indulge.

In fact, I was feeling quite poorly the other week, and DH made the only possible dinner for an invalid -- the plain old original blue box, prepared with the regulation amounts of butter and milk (we don't use margarine). Fortunately, he bought a couple extra boxes, because he came home early from work yesterday with a nasty cold, and I made a batch for him.

The one he made for me tasted much better -- somehow, it always does.

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My toddler can nearly eat as much as I do, if I let him. He loves cheese. Noodles are one of his favorite foods, if not the tops.

He won't eat this stuff.

Every time I've made the stuff for myself, I've always used less liquid than suggested. People prefer runny mac n cheese?

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