CAMDEN, NY - Macaroni and Cheese is a simple dish, but it’s often challenging to master it. A group of sixth grade students at Camden Middle School have done exactly that while competing on a state-wide stage. Mrs. Willson’s homeroom placed second in the Middle School division of the New York State Agriculture in the Classroom “Mac and Cheese Challenge” held this Winter.
The students delivered their runner-up triumph in a competition that featured over 200 submissions, and did so in a somewhat limited amount of time during their homeroom period.
The class started off the process by developing a base recipe that would provide options for enhancement later on. The base recipe consisted of elbow pasta, salted butter, half and half, evaporated milk, extra sharp cheddar, and american cheese.
The students then worked on developing the flavor further through the use of seasonings to create a unique recipe of their own. The students explored multiple possibilities that included cilantro, garlic, and a local favorite, Buck’s Seasoning. After some testing, students determined that garlic was the best way forward.
Using classroom-friendly materials like a slow cooker, they created a Garlic Macaroni and Cheese that impressed the judges.
Students were also tasked with creating a marketing slogan and jingle, which they wrote to the tune of Joan Jett’s smash hit “I Love Rock and Roll”. They used the last line as their slogan.
“I love mac & cheese.
Add a little garlic salt to it, baby!
I love mac & cheese.
Grab yourself a spoon and eat with me!”
While the dish was delicious, making the cheesy creation included a sharp educational focus. Students worked on basic kitchen skills while also putting their creativity, teamwork and problem-solving acumen into practice.
The project also helps to build awareness of what New York State agriculture does to put food on tables across the nation, as New York is one of the nation’s leading dairy producers. The agricultural emphasis is a component that students can take into the Middle School’s new agriculture curriculum in the years ahead.
“I love being able to introduce my 6th graders to aspects of agriculture,” Willson said. “My hope is that it somehow sparks their interest and they are motivated to learn more. I am so grateful that our district is investing in an agriculture program for our 7th and 8th graders this year. Students are excited to have hands-on experiences with Ms. Marshman, our agriculture educator. She's been an awesome addition to the middle school and the kids are loving her classes.”
Established in 1985, New York Agriculture in the Classroom (NYAITC) is a partnership of Cornell University, the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, the NYS Education Department, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the New York Farm Bureau.
GARLIC MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE
16 ounce box elbow macaroni
4 Tablespoons salted butter, cubed
12 ounce can evaporated milk
1 ½ cups half & half
3 cups total shredded Extra Sharp Cheddar cheese (2 1/2 cups for in the mac & cheese and 1/2 cup melted on top of mac & cheese)
1 cup American cheese
½ teaspoon garlic salt (A very important ingredient!)
¼ teaspoon pepper
Cook the pasta according to the package directions until al dente.
Use the butter to “grease” the slow cooker.
Put the cooked macaroni into the slow cooker.
Pour in evaporated milk, half & half, 2 ½ cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, American cheese, salt, and pepper.
Stir all ingredients together.
Cover and cook on low for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until all cheese is melted and it looks smooth. Stir occasionally.
During the last 15 minutes of cooking, top with the remaining cup of shredded cheddar cheese.
Cover the mixture and allow the cheese to melt on top.
Once done, turn the slow cooker to the warm setting until ready to serve.
When done serving, the mac & cheese can be kept in the refrigerator and warmed up for leftovers. The leftovers are delicious.