Posted by: Erica Retrochef | January 9, 2012

Kraft Dinner with Cucumber Sauce

There’s a pretty big difference between macaroni & cheese made from scratch, and made from a box — most notably, perhaps, the brilliant orange color you get from packaged cheese powder. I think it’s the same thing they use to paint construction barrels.

Kraft began selling boxed macaroni & cheese under the name “Kraft Dinner” in 1937. (While it’s now “Kraft Macaroni & Cheese” in the US, it’s still “Kraft Dinner” in Canada.) It was a popular product, presumably because of the low price and easy, quick preparation.

Kraft apparently decided they wanted to make it even more usable than it already was by introducing a short pamphlet of recipes (You can serve Square Meals… Speedy Meals… with Kraft Dinner) — such as Kraft Dinner with Creamed Succotash, Kraft Dinner with Creamed Chicken and Carrots, or Kraft Dinner with Cucumber Sauce. Apparently the traditional preparation from my own childhood, “Kraft Dinner with Hot Dogs” on the side, just wasn’t fancy enough. (This pamphlet isn’t dated, but is estimated to be from some time in the 50’s — certainly before the product name was updated to “Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner” in 1958.)

Kraft Dinner with Cucumber Sauce

1 cup diced cucumber
2 cups cooked tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Dash of pepper
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
1 pkg. Kraft Dinner

Combine the cucumber, tomatoes, onion, salt, paprika and pepper. Cook until the mixture is slightly thickened. Add the parsley. Prepare the Kraft Dinner as directed on the package. Place in five greased custard cups. Unmold on a large shallow chop plate and surround with the cucumber sauce.

The sauce ingredients, after some opening of cans and chopping. I don’t understand how this is going to be a “cucumber sauce” (which makes me think of tzatziki) since there are twice as many tomatoes… we’ll see?

I decided to somewhat puree the tomatoes so they were more of a thick sauce consistency than just chunks — this won’t affect the flavor, and might let the cucumber chunks stand out more.

I let it boil about the same time as the macaroni takes to cook — 8 to 10 minutes.

You’re not getting any photographs of the macaroni cooking process. (You’ve probably seen it before, anyway. Boil macaroni, add milk to cheese powder, combine, done.)

I was pretty worried that these weren’t going to unmold — or, rather, that they would unmold into formless blobs rather than neat little mounds. Fingers crossed…

Woohoo, they stayed together!

I added the chopped parsley to the sauce.

And then spooned sauce all over the macaroni mountains.

This was actually prepared almost entirely without Buzz in the kitchen; he was there in the prep phase to help with the onions (which I can’t stand chopping) and parsley, but left before the assembly process. So when I brought this to the dinner table, he was quite shocked. The kids thought it looked very interesting.

Serving sort of damaged the integrity of the macaroni mounds. I tried to neatly transfer them with a spatula, but they tended to slop apart when landing on the new plates. So everybody just got a blob of macaroni next to a blob of cucumber sauce. (And then they had to eat it.)

While it looks fancy enough, the taste doesn’t measure up. It was a half-hearted attempt to dress up some cheap macaroni, with very little thought given to how this would actually taste once it landed on a plate… weird. Orange-cheese sauce doesn’t go well with tomatoes. (The only possibility I could think of was that maybe we weren’t supposed to mix in the cheese sauce — but that is part of the “dinner” in the box, and it doesn’t say to leave it out.) Cucumbers taste ok with tomato sauce, but then a little of the cheese would ooze and mix in with the tomato and it would get weird. And then there were bites with too much parsley which tasted pretty bad. None of the flavors really came together, and you were left feeling confused and disappointed. Which leaves me with just one question — who dreamed this crap up?

Vintage Kraft Dinner box and various historical tidbits come from idsgn.org; the recipe scan was shared by RabbitRaiments on Flickr.

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Responses

  1. Ooh, the minute I knew we were cooking cucumbers, I knew it would be bad, bad, bad. A friend was making a dish once which he started before realizing he hadn’t all of the ingredients. It called for zucchini; he dumped in cucumber, thinking, “close enough.” Oh, no, no, no, it wasn’t. Ugh.

    You have such a brave family.

    • Oh, we love cucumbers (although they’re generally better raw than cooked). In this case, the cucumber tomato sauce sauce was fine. I could have benefited from better seasoning, but it tasted reasonably good. What was really the problem was when the cucumber sauce and the cheese sauce got mixed together; that was quite bad.

  2. 😀

    This one made me laugh! I knew the minute I saw “cucumber” it was gonna be bad, and yes, you guys are brave! This sounds like an early, primitive type of salsa. I do enjoy red hot salsa or even ketchup on my mac & cheese.

  3. Looks like you’ve struck cucumber gold, Erica! Why oh why did these companies think they had to concoct such disasters, I wonder?

    Thanks for sharing…

  4. I love tomatoes with my Super Orange Mac & Cheese, and wonder if this concoction would have been better uncooked, more like a salad. Or maybe the tomatoes and cucumbers in separate bowls. Hmmm….


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