The Office Food Trap


It doesn’t matter if you work in a newsroom, a corporate office, a non-profit or school there will always be the carry in. Some people call it a potluck. Others call it a pitch-in, bring-a-plate, dish-to-pass or any multitude of other words that all mean you bring something and have a feast.

Seems easy enough, right? You bring a dish and so do your co-workers. But that’s where it gets tricky. Some co-workers might be on a diet or are diabetic. Or can’t eat sugar substitutes. Or show their love with food or by commenting on your food choices. These landmines don’t have to be difficult.

Do what you can for your dish, the one you bring. If you love macaroni and cheese and have a fantastic recipe, make it! Don’t modify it unless you have to for yourself. That way you’ll know what goes in it and can tell your coworkers when they ask. Plus, you’ll know you can at least eat what you brought.

A note on co-workers asking what’s in the dish, it might be because they have an allergy or an intolerance or because they think the dish is so fantastic they must have the recipe. Be flattered and be kind.

You might feel obligated to take something because your boss made it, even if you already know you loathe the dish. That’s ok. Find a way to make it at least look like you tasted it. If that means cutting it up into teensy, eensy bites or hiding it under something else, fine, just be discrete.

As for an out on the whole thing all together you can always claim you forgot about the carry in, already made lunch plans or ate a huge breakfast and are stuffed. Regardless of whether or not you choose to participate, just be polite. Accept others food comments and occasional criticisms as a reflection of them, not you. Some people just show love with food.

How do you navigate the Office Food trap?

The best Macaroni and Cheese Ever

I love a good blue box dinner every once in a while. To be truthful, I compare every other macaroni and cheese dish against that standard. I blame nostalgia over anything else. Lately, J has taken over more of the cooking responsibilities in our house. Since he likes to try new dishes and tweak old ones, I’ve been spoiled. When he made this macaroni and cheese dish this weekend, I told him we could never go back to the blue box. Ever.

4 to 5 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter (plus 2 tablespoons to mix with cooked pasta)
4 large garlic cloves, minced garlic (the original recipe called for 2 cloves, but since we like garlic, we used more)
1 teaspoon onion powder (in the future, we’ll use regular diced onions)
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (while the original recipe said this was optional at 1/4 teaspoon, but we like cayenne)
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups half-and-half cream (reserve a little or keep milk on hand to assist with the mixing)
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese (we used a mixture of sharp and mild)
1 (16 ounce) package Velveeta cheese (cut into small cubes)
salt & freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
bread crumbs (we used our own, recipe to come!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a medium casserole dish (we used butter).  Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente (do not overcook the pasta) drain but do not rinse. Place the pasta a bowl and mix with 2 tablespoons butter to prevent sticking; set aside.
Melt 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add in minced garlic, onion powder, mustard powder and cayenne pepper; stir with a wooden spoon for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add in flour and stir for about 1 minute (this should look like a paste). Slowly add cream (or milk if that’s what you’re using) and cook, stirring constantly over medium until bubbly and thickened. (This is when you will need to watch the heat, you may need to turn it down.) Reduce heat and add in both cheeses; mix until melted and smooth. (If you’re like us and the oil separates here and the mixture turns into a big glob. We added a bit more milk to loosen it.) Add in the cooked pasta and toss to combine. (Do this slowly! A little bit at a time. Otherwise, it will be a giant mess!) Transfer to baking dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake 350 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes.

My opinion:
As I said above, I’ll never go back to the trusty blue box. I couldn’t stop eating this. Amazing.