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Do you ever wonder what makes baked Mac-and-Cheese, Mac-and Cheese?  What makes you say “Yum” when you take the first bite?  Is it the cheese, the special ingredients, or the breadcrumbs on top?  My classmates and I set out to find what makes the perfect Mac-and-Cheese, and have found that all Mac-and-Cheese are not created equal. 

The Criteria

            In taking the role of scientists of the kitchen, we have come up with several uniform criteria for judging the quality of the Mac-and-Cheese.  For the texture, the aim is creamy and almost sauce-like, but still retaining the cheesy taste.  The cheese must, however, not be runny, and must coat the macaroni in a smooth consistency.  All of the recipes use elbow macaroni, and all will be baked at 350 degrees after boiling the macaroni, so the quality of the Mac-and-Cheese will depend mostly on the other ingredients and how they interact.  For flavor, the cheese taste should stand out without being overpowering.  Appearance is taken into consideration when evaluating the Mac-and-Cheese as a whole; as is ease of preparation. 

The Recipes

            The group raided the AllRecipes.com pantry for highly rated recipes and have found 4 that were 4 ½ star rated or above; Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese, Four Cheese Macaroni, Chuck’s Favorite Mac and Cheese, and Allie’s Delicious Macaroni and Cheese.  They differed in the types of cheese; Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese called for Cheddar and Velveeta, Four Cheese Macaroni for Monterey Jack , Muenster, Cheddar, and sharp Cheddar, Chuck’s Favorite Mac and Cheese for sharp Cheddar, grated Parmesan, and small curd cottage cheese, and Allie’s Delicious Macaroni and Cheese for cubed Cheddar, mozzarella, and Monterey Jack.  Other ingredients also differed in the recipes, such as the addition of sour cream and cottage cheese to the Chuck’s Favorite Mac-and-Cheese recipe, cayenne pepper and paprika to Allie’s Delicious Macaroni and Cheese, and pepper to Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese.

The Results

  1. Highly Recommended: Four Cheese Macaroni and Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese
    1. The Four Cheese Macaroni was rated an average of a 3.5, with mostly 3s and 4s given for texture, consistency, and flavor, and mostly 4s and 5s given for presentation.  The texture was creamy without being too saucy, and the different cheeses added flavor to the dish without overpowering it with sharpness.  The cook stated that the recipe was also easy to make, and she would recommend the recipe for those making Mac-and-Cheese at home. 
    2. The Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese was rated an average of 4, receiving mostly 4s across the board.  Some found the pepper to be overpowering, but others thought it added to the flavor.  Tasters noted that the texture was extremely creamy, and made the dish special.  The cook said that this recipe was a little difficult to make, but some may think this recipe is worth the hassle. 
  2. Recommended With Reservation: Allie’s Delicious Macaroni and Cheese and Chuck’s Favorite Mac and Cheese
    1. Allie’s Delicious Macaroni and Cheese was rated an average of 3, with some 2s and 3s given for texture, consistency, and flavor.  Tasters noted that the texture was a bit gritty and watery, and the recipe lacked flavor, being too bland for our liking. 
    2. Chuck’s Favorite Mac and Cheese was also rated an average of 3, with mostly 2s and 3s given for flavor, texture, and consistency.  The biggest reservation with recommending this recipe to readers was the texture of the dish; the breadcrumbs overpowered the macaroni, and were a bit stale after sitting in the fridge overnight.  Also, the cottage cheese and sour cream also made the texture of the actual Mac-and-Cheese chunky instead of creamy. 

The Conclusion

            The experiment came to the conclusion that some recipes gave a creamy texture to the cheese and gave flavor to the dish while some ingredients interacted in such a way as to either lack flavor or a pleasant consistency.  However, this experiment is just the beginning; in recommending these recipes to readers, I say play them by ear; change some of the recipes to fit your own preference for amount of pepper or breadcrumbs.  In my own repetition of these recipes, I plan to alter the Four Cheese Macaroni to include pepper, and possibly other spices, and make The Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese with less pepper.

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The Perfect Brownie

For my personal preference, the fudgier the better! When tasting brownies, the two that were homemade, and not box brands were the best, because they didn’t even taste like a brownie!  If I had not known I was doing a BROWNIE testing, I would have thought that I was eating fudge.  My favorite was the Arch Park Brownies (5) in the recipe by Ruth Reichl, but made by Marcus without flour!  My second favorite was the recipe on the back of the Baker’s chocolate box (3), whichh also had the strongest chocolate intensity and the fudgiest texture.  I gave both 5’s all around! While these recipes were the hardest to make and involved the most steps, it seems worth the efffort. 

Following the two fudgy brownies was the number one box mix, the Betty Crocker Hershey Mix (1) .  This, while not fudgy like the first two, was still a dense, and not cakey brownie, and the chocolate intensity was about a 3 out of 5.  I gave this brownie a 4 all around, but out of the box mises, it gave the best texture, and didn’t leave a bitter aftertaste in my mouth.

The two other box mixes, the Ghiardelli and original Betty Crockers were bland and too cakey and dry for my liking. While I thought that I would like the Ghiardelli because it had chocolate chips in it, it was bitter and very dry, and left my mouth with a strange aftertaste.  The other Betty Crocker mix was ok on the texture, not too cakey, not too fudgy (2 out of 5) but was very bland, so I didn’t give the chocolate intensity more than a 1 out of 5. 

After eating brownies all day and finding out that the homemade way is the best way, I cannot look at another brownie for quite a while!

I really enjoyed this website, Blog For Tea Lovers, because my family drinks tea every day, and I very much prefer teat to coffee.  If you guys like tea, check it out too!

The most interesting things I found was that Thyme Tea could be used to help clear your sinuses by breathing over a hot cup, and that it could be used as a natural antihistamine to help fight infections!
Also, Rosemary tea could be used as a hair rinse that can help promote hair growth!

There are other really cool articles, such as the one that talks about how drinking green tea can help lose weight. The link is http://www.blogcatalog.com/blog/blog-for-tea-lovers

Today, I read an article on how to start a food blog by the blog “It’s Amateur Gourmet, Charlie Brown!” on http://www.amateurgourmet.com/2005/08/my_1000th_post_.html

The most important thing I took away from this article is that one really NEEDS pictures to make a blog look interesting to readers.  I found myself looking past blogs that had low quality pictures, or none at all, and intrigued by blogs with pictures of food that looked completely perfect.  The article talked about how a little number of food bloggers can post things without regularly updating and posting pictures. 

FIRST THING ON MY TO DO LIST: UPLOAD PICTURES TO MAKE THIS BLOG INTERESTING! (:

*My favorite was number 2, which was the Vanilla Bean Hagen Daas, I thought that it was very smooth and creamy, and almost eggnog-y. It had a strong vanilla taste, which I gave a 5 and got this flavor by including eggs into its simple ingredients. I gave it an 8.5
*My second favorite was number 5, which was also Hagen Daas, but I gave that a rating of a 6 because the vanilla taste was more bland than the first. I liked that it also contained simple ingredients only, and used eggs instead of preservatives/hardening things, etc.
*Number 1 and 6 were Breyer’s and Friendlie’s, which I both gave a 5 for mediocre. I liked that both had a smooth dense texture, but said that both tasted fake, too strong, and buttery instead of vanilla. The interesting thing is thought that number 1 used simple ingredients to make the same flavor that Friendlie’s made with guan gum and other complex ingredients.
*My least favorite icecreams were number 3 and 4, both of which I said tasted bland, and both of which contained a lot of fake ingredients. I gave them ratings of a 2.
This was really fun! (: