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Mac & Cheese Makeovers

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Let's start with our standard recipe:

Ultimate Stovetop Mac:
In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, melt ½ stick butter over medium heat. Add ¼ cup flour and cook for 3 minutes, stirring. Add 3½ cups milk and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until thickened. Off the heat, stir in 1 lb grated cheddar and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 1 lb short pasta, cooked.

OK, so now you've got the basics down. But what happens when the kids ask for something beyond the easy cheesy version? Here are five fun ways to revive your 'roni.

Squash It. Stir in diced roasted butternut squash and a dash of dried thyme. Top with toasted bread crumbs to add a little crunch.

Spring Fling. Stir in diced cooked ham, peas, and asparagus tips.

Tex-Mex Twist. Stir in black beans, corn kernels, and diced tomatoes. Top with crushed tortilla chips.

Cowboy’s Choice. Stir in cooked crumbled bacon, caramelized onions, and chopped scallions. Add a swirl of BBQ sauce.

Picky-Eater Pleaser. Pasta takes on a whole new personality in fun shapes and colors from pastashoppe.com. Your kids can choose from bunnies to bicycles, lobsters to surfboards, moose to music notes. ($6 for 14-oz bag)

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