The New York Daily News reports Chef Michele Weber, of Manhattan's Upper West Side restaurant Good Enough to Eat, plows through four cases of it a week, making "Crack Dip" and her special scrambled eggs.

Chef Ron Eyester, from Rosebud in Atlanta: "I use it in my restaurant mac and cheese – it's so creamy – but we don't say that on the menu description." - Every Day with Rachael Ray.

And last winter, when there was a shortage of this key ingredient just before the Super Bowl, the Today Show urged consumers not to resort to hoarding – their favorite queso dip could be made with substitutes.

Given the photo at the top of this post, you've probably guessed by now what I'm talking about:

Velveeta cheese.

A childhood friend for many, Velveeta has followed us right on into adulthood. Some claim it still makes the best mac and cheese ever, due to its supreme "meltability." Others swear by it for superior grilled cheese sandwiches.

I haven't purchased Velveeta in years, truth be told. But when I saw this recipe for DIY Velveeta on one or our favorite blogs, Brown Eyed Baker, I simply had to give it a try.

And darned if these four simple ingredients (shredded cheese, a packet of unflavored gelatin, dry milk, and water) didn't make a block of smooth orange "Velveeta."

In like 3 minutes flat.

So OK, you're not a Velveeta fan. But make this soft-yet-firm, creamy "cheese mixture" and I swear you'll find as many uses for it as there are old-timey dips, sauces, sandwiches, and casseroles out there using Velveeta – which is plenty.

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First, line a suitable container with plastic wrap. I used our 9" x 4" x 4" loaf pan, but go ahead and use whatever shape of pan you like.

Note: I later discovered this recipe fits perfectly into two plastic wrap-lined 3 1/4" x 5 3/4" mini loaf pans, the typical foil pans you find at the supermarket. Mini pans yield a more Velveeta-like shape.

The preparation couldn't be simpler. Put 6 tablespoons dry milk (I used our Baker's Special Dry Milk, which is nonfat) and a 1/4-ounce packet dry unflavored gelatin in a blender or food processor. Blend briefly, just to combine.

Add 1 cup boiling water, blending just until smooth. IMMEDIATELY add 16 ounces shredded cheese. I used a couple of 8-ounce bags of shredded orange sharp cheddar cheese. Brown Eyed Baker says to use a mild, freshly grated cheese, but this seemed to work just fine.

Process until the mixture is totally smooth.

Go ahead, dip your finger in to taste – that's the best way to tell.

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Pour/scoop the mixture into your prepared pan. It starts setting up pretty quickly, so don't dawdle. Gently pat the plastic wrap onto the surface; the less wrinkled the wrap, the smoother your final product.

Refrigerate for a few hours, until it's set. Take it out of the pan, and make sure it's wrapped securely – no bare surfaces showing. Refrigerate until you're ready for a grilled cheese.

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Or mac and cheese.

Or everyone's Famous Queso Dip – which is made with just two ingredients: this cheese, and a can of Ro*Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies (one 10-ounce can added to a pound of cheese).

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The recipe, which originally comes from Chef Michael Symon (you know, the guy on Iron Chef), says it's good for a month in the fridge. I can neither confirm nor deny that – I used mine up at a party within a week of making it.

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Yup, I admit it – I went all the way and made Famous Queso Dip. And trust me, it's making another appearance on Super Bowl Sunday.

I'll be feeding the same audience – and even the non-cooks in this crowd can figure out how to buy a bag of Fritos!

PJ Hamel
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

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