With many kids back at school, we are all finding ourselves falling prey to rushed schedules, carpooling to after-school activities and homework fights. How often does dinner get forgotten until 5 o’clock rolls around and you ask yourself, “What ARE we having for dinner?” I admit to doing this myself. Cooking can be a chore, and more so since you have to CLEAN up afterwards! So that frozen pizza or box of mac and cheese is looking mighty tempting right about now… kids are happy, no fighting over eating… Totally understandably. What if I told you there was a healthier way to make HOMEMADE mac & cheese with vegetables hidden inside so that the pickiest eater wouldn’t notice? Want to find out how?
Now, my oldest, the Professor) will eat his mac & cheese with peas (the only green vegetable he likes), but middle child hates peas. That’s when I found the cookbook, The Sneaky Chef. I was already doing similar things with vegetable purées, but certainly not to the extent as the author, Missy Chase Lapine. Plus, I am not as organized as Ms. Lapine, so I found myself doing a lot of cooking last minute. But I liked her premise: using vegetables of like color into kid friendly recipes.
For this mac & cheese you can use puréed cauliflower, zucchini, carrots or sweet potato. Now, I don’t usually have my purées ready and waiting in the freezer, so while the pasta is cooking, I add about 1 cup of the vegetable of choice to it. When I strain the pasta, I pick out my vegetable chunks and blend them with milk in a blender. Hand whisk in two eggs and the creamy mixture is ready. Then you layer in a baking dish the pasta and shredded cheese, pour the milk mixture over it and you’re ready. To add some crunch, you can smash a whole grain cereal like Total or Wheaties, mix in some wheat germ, and sprinkle this on top. Dot it with a little butter and pop your mac and cheese in the oven.
This was such a treat for the kids, because mom and dad helped themselves with a serving. And you can use this as a side dish too, with some roasted chicken. And since I used alphabet pasta made with whole grains and vegetables, they thought dinner was fun, and they didn’t care if it was nutritious.
Me? I felt like supermom and guilt-free!
- 1/2 lb macaroni
- 1/2 cup cauliflower, florets
- 1 1/2 cup milk
- 2 eggs, large
- 2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 cup whole grain cereal flakes
- 1/4 cup wheat germ
- 2 TBS Parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 TBS butter, unsalted, cut into small pieces
- Preheat oven to 375º F.
- Butter or apply non-stick spray to a 9" baking pan or dish.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add macaroni and cauliflower florets to the pot. Cook macaroni per package directions, until pasta is firm and slightly undercooked. Drain macaroni and cauliflower in a colander and separate cauliflower from macaroni.
- In a blender purée the cooked cauliflower, and milk until smooth.
- Pour cauliflower milk mixture into a bowl and whisk in the eggs.
- Put half the cooked macaroni into prepared baking pan and top with 1 cup of the cheddar cheese.
- Layer with the rest of the macaroni and pour milk mixture over the top.
- Sprinkle remaining 1 cup cheddar cheese over the top.
- In a ziploc bag place the whole grain cereal flakes. Crush cereal in the bag with a rolling pin, then add wheat germ and parmesan. Mix cereal mixture in the bag by shaking it, then sprinkle over the top of the macaroni and cheese.
- Dot the top of the cereal mixture with butter.
- Place casserole in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.
Cooking Tips: Use different shapes of pasta made of whole wheat, spinach and other healthy ingredients. Other vegetables you can use to purée in the cheese sauce: zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes, or a combination of them. You can also do this trick with boxed macaroni and cheese. Instead of using cereal, you can also make your own bread crumbs using your favorite whole grain bread.
Recipe adapted from Missy Chase Lapine, The Sneaky Chef
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 519Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 174mgSodium: 542mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 3gSugar: 1gProtein: 26g