March 23rd, 2011

Annie’s Shells & Real Aged Cheddar

I’m coming to you live from my kitchen with one purpose in mind: to find the greatest tasting organic macaroni and cheese. Here with me is my usual crew, Jay, Clyde and Tanner, and our guest Gigi (whose unique blend of Persian Jew, Native American, African American qualifies her to represent the minority voice for the day). BigG is at work and wouldn’t participate in this test anyway because he doesn’t like macaroni and cheese.

My kids love the neon-colored household favorite that I’ll call Daft.  Daft claims to be “the cheesiest,” and I must admit that when brewed according to its “classic prep”—which means adding four tablespoons of margarine plus ¼ cup of 2% milk to the cooked pasta—its chemically-enhanced “cheese sauce mix” makes for a surprisingly “cheesy” dish. I say “surprisingly” because Daft does not actually contain cheese.

For years, I’ve been attempting to convert my dopey kids to one of the healthy alternatives in boxes touting claims that make a mother proud to drop them in her cart: No artificial anything! 0g Trans Fat! Despite my efforts, my kids claimed to prefer Daft, but I wondered: Do they really prefer Daft or are they influenced by its powerful marketing?

To answer my question, I concocted today’s taste test: I prepared four packages of macaroni and cheese, Daft and three organic alternatives. My participants were captive in a nearby room (door closed), and I brought them out blindfolded one at a time. I gave each participant four spoons and a cup of water. Each tasted one dish at a time, rinsing their palate between products. When a participant finished, I asked, “Of products 1, 2, 3 and 4, which was your favorite? Your next favorite?” And so on. To avoid risk of a tie, I also tasted each product. (I wasn’t blindfolded. Sorry.)

And the results are in: Four out of five participants (including me) chose Annie’s Shells & Real Aged Cheddar as either their first or second favorite. Happily, cheddar cheese is the second in Annie’s list of only nine ingredients, most of which I recognize. (I wasn’t sure about the sodium phosphate, but according to, it’s “well studied and generally considered safe.”) Of all of the products tested, only Annie’s did not call for butter, which makes it the least fatty contestant. Annie’s was also lowest in sodium, second lowest in sugar and tied for highest in protein.

The other news is that only Clyde chose Daft as his favorite. As his second favorite, Clyde selected an organic alternative that we all agreed tasted most like Daft. Annie’s ranked only third on his list. That said, Annie’s was first on mine, Gigi’s and Tanner’s. Jay initially ranked Annie’s second but later ate a bowl of her “favorite” followed by several spoonfuls of Annie’s, and then asked, “Can I change my mind? Annie’s is best.”

More from this Author

Momicillin on Facebook

This Weeks Tip

Need to remove chewing gum off of skin? (Dont’ even ask why we had to learn this trick!) Try Peanut Butter. Does the trick, and the kids think it’s hilarious. (note: if allergies are an issue, we would guess that Soy Butter or Sun Butter would work just as well,—though we haven’t attempted this in our test kitchen yet. And *hopefully* we won’t have another occasion to.)