Food Talk And Fabulous Finds - Intense craving for Kraft Tangy Italian Dinner

10-24-2011, 03:13 AM
I can't eat the noodles, because I avoid wheat and it seems ridiculous to buy the box just for the seasoning packet, but I'm sorely tempted.

There are much better (and cheaper per serving) pastas and spaghetti sauces, but it's the Kraft dinner sauce that I am craving specifically, made with tomato paste, not sauce (according to the ingredient lable the primary seasoning seems to be dehydrated onion with mystery "spices" as well as garlic, sugar, onion powder and celery seed powder).

I've checked the clone recipe sites, but so far haven't been successful (I found several people looking for clone recipes, and some "hints" but no definitive recipe).

I'm sure I could duplicate the sauce on my own, but I'd need to buy several boxes of the dinner, in order to do it.

I've also considered trying to reverse engineer lipton tomato cup-o-soup (and trying to de-carb it a bit). The main ingredients are whey and tomato powder, both of which I can get in my bulk spice store (onion and garlic powder are the main seasonings, along with sugar. I could use xanthan gum in place of the food starch, and Splenda in place of the sugar.

I know they're both "frankenfoods" but I'm craving them both something fierce (I usually keep a box of the soup in my pantry, but I haven't bought the Kraft dinner in years, and haven't even considered it since I've given up wheat - I just can't justify paying $2 for a seasoning packet, and crappy noodles I won't eat anyway, and even crappier parmesan cheese).

It's getting close to TOM, and I always get intense cravings around this time - but usually it's for beef and chocolate or sometimes salt in the form of french fries, chips, or onion rings.

The beef and chocolate cravings are "there" but in the background - very mild in comparison to the craving for this specific tomato sauce. It's not the noodle carbs I'm craving, because I'm even considering making it and eating it over french-style green beans. I just really want that sauce.

10-24-2011, 07:44 AM
I'm intrigued, because I've never had this, but I enjoy reverse-engineering recipes too. (My hard-to-shake cravings are inevitably for "cheeze", or whatever that mysteriously fake cheesy-salty powder is that makes Doritos so irresistible.)

I suspect part of the tastiness link in both cases is "umami", which may be supplied here partly by MSG. I don't have anything against MSG -- it occurs naturally both in tomato sauce and in mushrooms and cheese, as well as lots of other foods -- so if I were recreating that sauce I would probably put a bit in. A more "natural" substitute could be fresh (pureed) or dried (powdered) mushrooms, or just a bit of parmesan. (You could try sticking in a parmesan cheese rind during the simmer.)

Dried onion also lends a slightly different note than fresh onion, so perhaps that is part of the key too. I think you can find dried onion sometimes in the supermarket spice section, I remember selling it in school fundraisers as a kid.

Is there any indication on the packet it's vegetarian? Perhaps a chicken or beef soup cube.

Good luck!

ETA: Ooh! a bit of fish sauce also provides umami, though you'd never know that was the source if you only use a few drops. Or a drop of Worchestershire.

10-24-2011, 02:04 PM
MSG is one of the listed ingredients as well as hydrolyzed soy protein (the ingredients appear to be vegetarian - but I read in a thread by someone who said she had duplicated the recipe, using a splash and dash method (thus no recipe), said she started with Lipton (I think) beefy onion soup mix.

I also don't have anything against MSG and use quite a few asian ingredients that contain it, and I used to always have "Accent" in my cupboard (which I believe was either only or mostly msg).

You're the first person I have met who uses fish sauce the way I do (I wouldn't even bother buying worcestershire sauce if hubby didn't want it). It's the "secret ingredient" in my meatloaf, tacos, spaghetti sauce and other recipes that I'm always getting asked for (I've actually considered buying a dozen or so of the sample bottles to give to friends and family, because they're intimidated by the ingredient or asian grocery stores).

We're extremely lucky to have a baking/pantry supply store in our area. It's amazing, they have just about every spice, flour, and dry seasoning you could ask for (but it's also a minefield of frozen cookie, bread, and pastry does). They even have bags of three different kinds of "cheesy-salty powder (nacho is the fourth, but they don't always have it. I've combined the bright orange and the white cheddar with taco seasonings before to give popcorn the Dorito taco-like flavor). They also have sour cream and onion powder, ranch and other dressing mix powders, the tomato powder, and just about everything else (they probably even have msg).

I keep a lot of these on hand (and they're cheaper than grocery store spices, because they come in little half-cup tubs rather than shakers).

I even could make the hydrolyzed protein if I wanted to grind tvp in my spice grinder.

10-24-2011, 02:48 PM
Oh my Lord, I had no idea you could buy cheezy powder on the open market. I think on popcorn would be the only possible sensible use for it.

Yes, the Accent-type liquid is what I was thinking of, in Europe there is a version by Maggi, which is marketed here. I have an MSG-hating acquaintance who uses it all the time and has no idea it's liquid MSG.

In the Italian Dinner, what makes it "Tangy"? What kind of tangy is it? Like peppery, or vinegary, or what?

10-24-2011, 10:23 PM
Today I learned that they also have popcorn cheese powders (so that brings up the count to seven different powders, ranging from ivory colored to deep, day-glow orange). The popcorn cheeses have more salt and come in shaker jars (white cheddar, nacho and cheddar).

The powders in bags are called "cheese sauce mix" and all have recipes on the back for making cheese sauce.

I think the powders are white cheddar cheese sauce mix, cheddar cheese sauce mix, cheese sauce mix (the brightest orange), and nacho cheese sauce mix.

I've bought the white cheddar and the cheddar, mostly for hubby to make his own mac and cheese, but the white cheddar is really good sprinkled in mashed potatoes (with a little bit of the sour cream powder or ranch dressing powder).

The white cheddar powder has the fewest mystery ingredients (in fact, I think the only ingredients listed were whey, cheese cutures, and salt).

As for the tangy flavor in the Kraft Spaghetti dinner, it could come from black or red pepper or citric acid, or it may not come from the sauce packet at all (it may be the acid in the tomato sauce or paste that you mix it with).

Citric acid or vinegar powder usually are listed as seperate ingredients, but they could qualify as "spice" perhaps.

The ingredients listed in the Spice Mix

(Dried Onion, Salt, Food Starch-modified, Monosodium Glutamate, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Sugar, Spice, Dried Garlic, Dried Celery, Artificial Color)

Of course "spice" could mean or include almost anything. I'm pretty sure parsley is one of the herbs (from my memory of what the spice pachage looks and smells like). There definitely isn't much if any flavor of traditional italian seasonings. I think there might be a very small hint of basil (but if so, barely).

10-25-2011, 12:29 PM
Could you just buy it once, for a treat??

10-25-2011, 09:54 PM
I am going to buy a box or two, and I may even try to learn to duplicate the sauce (I like reverse engineering recipes).

I usually get a craving about twice a year - and when I was eating wheat, it wasn't a big deal. I just made it and figured it into my exchange budget (which I'll still do).

I'll probably use my quinoa noodles, and hubby can have the wheat noodles.

I think the craving is related to my being sick. I have a bacterial infection in my tooth and jaw and I think it spread to my throat and inner ear (or I got a flu on top of the bacterial infection). The sore throat and jaw/ear ache started a few days ago and yesterday and this morning I had room-spinning vertigo, cold-sweats, and stomach flu symptoms.

I'm starting to feel alot better (and the craving for the spaghetti is actually fading).

I think the craving came from "comfort food" mentality, because it was one of the foods my mother would make for us if we were sick when I was little. I didn't even think of that, until I noticed that the craving started to fade as I felt better.

11-23-2011, 09:18 PM
Well, I just couldn't justify paying $2 per box for just the seasoning packet, but yesterday at the salvage grocery, I found two boxes for 75 cents each.

Thank goodness there weren't more, I would have bought them all, and I would have been so disappointed.

As I said, I usually get a craving once or twice a year, but I realized that it's actually beem much longer since I've actually eaten it.

I made a double batch of the sauce (using the seasoning pack in both
boxes) because I only had a 12 ounce can of tomato paste rather than a 6 ounce as directed. So I made the double batch rather than mess with leftover tomato paste).

I put the pasta into a tupperware container for hubby to use, and I made myself some brown rice pasta.

The pasta was perfect, but the sauce didn't taste exactly as I remember it. Close, but way too salt and a bit bitter. At first I thought they may have changed the recipe, but I think it's just my tastebuds that have changed.

It reminds me of when I bought Captain Krunch with Crunchberries in a fit of nostalgia maybe eight years or so ago (it was before our move seven years ago).

I bought a box (hubby thought I was nuts) and the flavor was a little sweeter than I remembered, but still very good - but the greasy film it left on the roof of my mouth was extremely unpleasant.

For several years, I did continue to buy Oops Just Berries (the crunch berries without the Captain Crunch) when I found it, but I would measure out a quarter cup and add it to a bowl of unsweetened cereal or oatmeal.

I haven't done that in years either, and I'm guessing it would be disappointing too.

I'm by no means a whole foods purist (I'm not ready to give up diet soda, Splenda and a few artificially sweetened products) but I do eat fewer and fewer processed foods every year.

I'm glad my tastes are changing, but I do miss some of the "old favorites."