What's in the box?
Did you know boxed macaroni and cheese often contains sodium tripolyphosphate, an ingredient that is also used to make detergent and soap? Yuk! Some boxed brands contain artificial food dyes and preservatives that have been linked to many diseases. And a recent study revealed that chemicals called phthalates were found in the highly processed powdered cheese used to make the boxed version of this classic meal. Phthalates are industrial chemicals used as solvents in the adhesives and inks on the boxes.They leach into the powdered cheese through the equipment used to make the packaging. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system and have been linked to birth defects.
So, I'll ditch the boxed stuff and go for homemade.I"m all about saving time and making things practical and easy so I'm going to make macaroni and cheese in my slow cooker for Thanksgiving dinner.This will free up the oven for the turkey and the stove top for other side dishes. And I can make it ahead of time, turn on the slow cooker, and forget about it.
Some notes about cheese
Yellow and orange cheeses often have added food colors. Artificial dyes are harmful. Even a natural coloring agent may cause problems. Annato, a red plant extract that comes from achiote shrub seeds, is used to give many types of cheese an orange color. The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology did a study which linked annato to IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). So, I look for natural cheeses without artificial colors and I use some kind of white cheese, which contains no color additives at all, for at least half of the cheese called for in the recipe. I buy block cheese and grate it myself. Packaged grated cheese contains cellulose which is commonly made from wood pulp, Cellulose is used to keep the grated cheese pieces from clumping together. It is currently being debated whether this is harmful. But I don't really want to eat wood pulp with my cheese and it only takes a few minutes to grate.
Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
I have a large 6 quart slow cooker. If you have a smaller slow cooker, use only half the amount for each ingredient.
Cook two 12 oz. packages of elbow macaroni according to the directions on the package.
Drain the macaroni.
Rub butter over the inside of your slow cooker. Some folks like to use plastic slow cooker liners. But I'm skeptical about their safety. There's some question as to whether the chemicals used to make the plastic liners leach into the food when the liners are heated. Since I'm trying to avoid chemicals, I skip the liners. Besides, butter adds an extra oomph of richness and flavor.
Dump the drained macaroni into the slow cooker. If this seems to be too much macaroni to fit into your size slow cooker, take some out and save it to use in another recipe. Macaroni salad to go with the leftover turkey! You need to have at least 4" of space left after you put in the macaroni so that you have room to add and mix in the remaining ingredients.
Add 1 tsp. of salt, 1/2 tsp. of ground black pepper and a dash of turmeric.
Stir in 4 beaten eggs.
Grate 4 cups of your favorite kind of cheeses. I use a combo of cheddar, mozzarella, and monterey jack.
Stir 3 c of the grated cheese into the macaroni.
Pour enough milk over the macaroni mixture to just cover and stir again.
Sprinkle the remaining 1 c of cheese over the top of the macaroni mixture. Do not stir.
Put the cover on the slow cooker.
Cook on high for four hours.
Go sit down and prop up your feet with a nice cup of hot ginger tea and a good book while it cooks. Hah! Like that's gonna happen on Thanksgiving dinner prep day. But you can just turn it on and forget about it until dinner is ready and that's a big help on this big day. Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Real Food Cooking to All!