The name of today’s game is “cheap and easy” because, well, the recipe of this post is both cheap and easy to make. I’m talking $5 per serving and under 20 minutes to make. And under 500 calories per serving. Pretty good, right? Given the busy week I had last week, this recipe came in major handy, as it does at least one time every week.
But I can’t take all the credit for this one. I had some help from two of my favorite supermarket brands, Annie’s and Earthbound Farm. While I prefer to eat meals that are made from scratch with only fresh and whole ingredients, there are times when I bend my rules for the sake of staying sane. However, for me, being busy, tired and low in funds doesn’t mean a trip to a fast food joint. I still want to eat quality food that keeps me on track. That’s why I have go-to meals like this one that get help from brands I love and trust, like Annie’s.
My love for Annie’s boxed mac and cheese started at an early age. Growing up, we would spend weeks at a time every summer on a secluded island in the Canadian wilderness with up to 30 extended family members. Because trips to the grocery store were few and far between, pantry items like ramen, Kraft mac and cheese, and canned vegetables were almost essential, especially with 20 small kids running around. Well one summer, our cousins brought Annie’s boxed pasta shells with white cheddar cheese sauce instead of the traditional Blue Box. At the time, all I cared about was how delicious these foreign “Annie Shells” were. But as I got older and started to better understand health and food quality, I began to also appreciate the Annie’s brand commitment to packaged foods that are organic and free of artificial ingredients and preservatives. And 20 years later, I’m still craving and eating “Annie Shells” along with other delicious and consciously-made Annie’s products.
This recipe uses Annie’s Organic Ancient Grains Elbow Macaroni and White Cheddar, but you can use any of their numerous varieties. To add nutritional value and substance, I add a frozen organic vegetable medley to the almost-cooked pasta and boiling water. Then, off the heat, I make the included cheese sauce and organic milk. Lastly, I stir in extra shredded cheddar cheese and cracked black pepper, topping it off with a little freshly grated Parmesan cheese before serving.
It sounds so simple. And that’s because it is. But it’s also super yummy, satisfying, cheap, and healthy enough to keep my body happy. So next time you’re tired and/or pressed for time, but still want a wholesome and balanced meal that won’t blow your diet or your budget, give this one a try.
Fancied-Up Boxed Mac & Cheese with Veggies Servings: 2 (multiply as needed) Start to Finish: 20 minutes Calories per Serving: approx. 490
1 box Annie’s Mac and Cheese
1 bag Organic Frozen Vegetable Medley
3 tablespoons Organic Whole Milk
2 ounces shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
Black Pepper, to taste
Boil 6 cups water. Add pasta from boxed mac and cheese. After 5-6 minutes, add frozen vegetables to boiling water and pasta. Boil for an additional 2 minutes, or until pasta is done. Pour pasta and veggie mix into colander to drain. Set aside.
In the now empty hot pot, add milk off the heat. Stir in cheese sauce mix. Add hot pasta and vegetables to cheese sauce. Stir in shredded cheddar. Add pepper to taste.
Divide into servings. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan. Serve immediately.