When you write about kids and food it is easy to get way too cute and brag about the latest mispronunciation as the most hilarious thing your child has ever done. I certainly fall victim to it... frequently. This week is no exception. From calling the bobcat sitting on the driveway (renos have begun!) a pomegranate, to the subject of today: macamoni and cheese.
It might be a not so secret food snob goal of mine to see if I can get my kids to adulthood without a taste of Kraft Dinner. Sure, they'll be tempted along the way, but I can police all their meals at friends' and daycare, right? Okay, but I know Grandma won't give it to her, and neither will Hubby. And so far she loves what Mama and Daddy give her in the way of macaroni and cheese.
For as long as Hubby and I have been together we've engaged in somewhat spirited debates about the best way to make macaroni and cheese. He in the melted cheese with a little bit of milk camp and I in the cheese sauce and baked with bread crumbs on top camp. We will happily eat each other's rendition, while secretly thinking ours would be at least slightly better. All that being said, I may have created a winner for both of us.
Before I go further I need to also get another food snob confession off my chest. I don't believe in hiding vegetables in food. Sure, there are things like zucchini chocolate cake, but that's just plain good. I'm talking about the sneaking in and stalking of vegetables, just for the sake of getting your kids (or partner) to eat vegetables, a la this book.
This recipe for mac and cheese, however, is one that would qualify as sneaky. I had a vague recollection of seeing something similar a few years back, but couldn't find the recipe. So I made one up. And have made it again and again and again. Use whatever cheese you have around, but the strong, aged ones are my favourites. Use whatever kind of squash - aside from a spaghetti squash - or even a pumpkin. The sauce contains more pureed squash (or pumpkin) than milk and cheese. It is creamy without being heavy. It is orange! It can be eaten straight as made or baked without drying out. It is so good, seriously.
Two real mom advantages of this dish are that you can feed your baby and the rest of your family at the same time. Make the puree for baby and use the rest for the mac and cheese. Plus, you can easily freeze it. I bake mine in two small pans. We eat one and I freeze the other for those days when Little Miss Sunshine and the Monster keep me out of the kitchen.
Sneaky Mac and Cheese
(makes one 9 by 13 baking pan or two 8 by 8 pans, or a lot from the pot)
4 cups dry macaroni
2 Tbsp butter
2 cups pureed squash or pumpkin (fresh or canned)
1 cup milk
5-6 ounces finely shredded cheese (your choice)
1 cup bread crumbs (optional)
2 Tbsp olive oil or melted butter
1. Cook your macaroni in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and return to pot.
2. While your macaroni is cooking, melt butter in a medium saucepan. When melted, stir in the squash puree and milk.
3. When squash mixture is hot, stir in 5 ounces of cheese until melted. Season well.
4. Stir the squash mixture into the cooked macaroni.
5. If you like your mac and cheese baked, then put it in a buttered pan, and top with 1 ounce of cheese mixed with the breadcrumbs and oil/butter. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
Is there any way to style mac and cheese to look good? I'm not a professional, but I couldn't do it.