As a kid, my body didn’t really do dairy all that well, and my doctor suggested I cut dairy from my diet completely. Five-year-old me learned this meant she couldn’t eat mac and cheese anymore. Tears ensued. Luckily, I was eventually able to reintroduce dairy into my diet and found that cheese no longer any problem. So in this blog series, I’m trying out wacky, kid-friendly recipes, hoping to give families with cheese-loving kids fun, easy, and delicious meals to make together as I search for dishes that adequately make up for my cheeseless childhood. Missed last week’s post on Ramen Grilled Cheese? Check it out!
Growing up, I was a really, really picky eater. I had a bagel and cream cheese for lunch every day in elementary school. I only ate pasta with butter because I hated tomato sauce. My parents would bring a carton of eggs to a relative’s house on Jewish holidays because they knew my brother and I wouldn’t eat anything else. We even opted for eggs on Thanksgiving because we wouldn’t eat turkey. (See why giving up dairy was such an issue? I was basically only eating eggs even before mac and cheese or pizza was out of the picture.)
With my straight-up boring eating habits, there’s no way I would have been interested in Mexican food or any type of meat that wasn’t chicken cutlets at five years old. But, as a much less picky eater sixteen years later, I couldn’t help but try out the mac and cheese taco I found while researching recipes for this blog series. While I’m sure I would have turned down a taco shell filled with pulled pork at the time, the addition of mac and cheese filling certainly would have piqued my interest. Now that I think of it, my parents would have definitely been a lot more successful with their attempts to get me trying new foods if they just threw some mac and cheese on top.
Well, they may have missed out on that opportunity, but I still get to put mac and cheese in foods it was never intended to go into. My recipe inspiration for these tacos comes from Blog Chef, except I replaced the ground beef with pulled pork because I haven’t shed my pickiness completely and ground beef is just not my thing. I also cheated a bit and used pre-made pulled pork that just needed to be microwaved, but it worked out.
- Hard taco shells
- ½ pound pulled pork (or whatever meat or even vegetable you’re feeling)
- 4 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
- ⅛ cup butter
- ⅛ cup flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 small dash black pepper
- 1 cup milk
- 2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
I started by microwaving the pulled pork, because I like to make things difficult for myself, but you should start by boiling water and cooking your elbows for 7-8 minutes. At the same time, melt your butter in a skillet over a medium low heat and add flour, salt, and pepper. I actually waited until I drained my pasta to make the sauce in the pot the way you do with boxed mac and cheese, but my only valid reasoning for that was so I used less dishes. It worked out fine, so whatever you do really comes down to what’s more important to you: less time or less dishes.
After stirring your sauce mixture for 2-3 minutes, slowly add the cup of milk and stir some more. Then add your cheese. The recipe I used called for one cup of shredded cheese, but I used two because “Too Much Cheese” is a myth. Continue stirring until the cheese melts. If you’re microwaving the meat and are smarter than I am, this would probably be the right time to start on that (though if you’re making/heating it in the oven or stovetop, start on that before boiling your water).
Once your cheese sauce is nice and thick and melted, combine with pasta. Put your meat in the taco shells, and layer some mac and cheese on top. Blog Chef suggests topping with onions, but I took the advice of My Recipes instead and topped with more shredded cheese, because, again, “too much cheese”? Not a real thing.
The tacos were amazing. The flavors of the BBQ sauce and mac and cheese went really well together, with no flavor overpowering the others. The taco shells also added a great crunch (you may have picked up on this in last week’s post, but I really like foods that crunch).
The mac and cheese taco 100% makes up for my cheeseless childhood. It’s a super fast, super easy dish, and it’s a lot of fun to eat. I even think it could have turned me onto pulled pork and tacos ten years sooner. I would definitely recommend this recipe if you have a picky cheese-lover at home.
Up next, I’ll be seeing how mac and cheese waffles compare.