It was 12:30 on a Friday afternoon. I had been thinking about what to make for dinner all day. The chicken I had taken out the night before was almost fully thawed in the fridge. I wondered if either Matt or I had it in us to fabricate, make bread crumbs, dredge and cook chicken cutlets. Then I got the text from Matt: "I have dinner." Yes! Whatever it was, I was happy.
He came up the stairs carrying fried chicken that he made at work. "Ooh, can we have it with mac and cheese!?" I asked.
Macaroni and cheese. A staple in a kid diet. We used to have that Velveeta mac and cheese dinner, with that squishy neon orange cheese pouch. It paired well with Minute Maid Berry Punch. But as I grew and my tastes evolved, I somehow came across Annie's Shells and white cheddar. That lovely purple box with the rabbit of approval.
I don't know when it was that I first had this uncommonly delicious food. But it was probably when I was babysitting kids with a mom who had good taste in dinner. Whenever it was, I became hooked. No more of that squishy pouch for me.
White shells and cheddar was mild but cheesily delicious. The shells absorb and hang onto the sauce. A little bit of butter, a little bit of milk and you have lunch, dinner, breakfast, snack. Didn't matter.
It was a staple for quick but wholesomey dinners. Burgers with a side of Shells and white cheddar? Dinner in your dorm room? Yes, if you can stand to cook the pasta on high for fifteen minutes, almost scald yourself trying to pour water down the drain, and not manage to drop it with the heat of the bowl. Don't ask me how I know that......It was the first thing I made for Matt in that early stage of dating.
Then something wonderful happened. Trader Joe's started selling Annie's microwavable Shells and Cheddar! In single servings! And it was good. A few seconds under the directed cooking time and you have a slightly al dente alternative to peanut butter crackers. The trick was to under cook it slightly and add slightly less water to boil. That made the sauce thick and cheesy and bold and delicious.
I tried a box of Velveeta Shells and cheese last November. Just to see how it was after all these years of purple box bunny goodness. It was kind of "Meh." After boxes of the Shells and Cheddar, Peace Pasta and Parmesan, and other delicious varieties, Velveeta just didn't compare. My favorite Shells and White Cheddar with half a cup of sweet corn. Holy goodness. Crisp, sweet yellow corn nestled inside the wee shells that are coated in white cheddar? You can't say no to that.