My son could eat mac ‘n cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Actually, my son has eaten mac ‘n cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And snack. Max just loves the stuff, hence his nicknames: Maxaroni and Max ‘n Cheese. Truth be told, I can’t get enough of it, either, and secretly pray he won’t finish his bowlful. Alas, he always does.
In the scheme of foods, homemade mac ‘n cheese can be nutritionally decent enough. It’s got good protein, and it’s so easy to health up. A few months ago, I discovered the most amazing version made with butternut squash—particularly genius because the vegetable is the right cheesy color, and it’s a good source of Vitamin E, Vitamin B6 and calcium. Max calls it mac ‘n cheese pie, and he devours it.
The first time I served it I asked my more discerning child, Sabrina, if she noticed anything special. “No, you’ve served this to us before!” she said, exactly what I wanted to hear. The kids had no clue this is healthy, and I have no plans on letting them know although one day I will. Really. I will.
I gathered some of the healthiest and tastiest macaroni and cheese recipes from around the web, with all sorts of genius add-ins: Carrots! Cauliflower! Spinach! Avocado! Quinoa! They’re from recipe developers, food bloggers and Michelle Obama herself, and every single one is mom-approved and kid-loved.
Enjoy! And save some leftovers for Max (and me).
Serves three to four
½ pound whole-wheat penne
¼ head cauliflower, cut into
8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated
½ cup 1% or 2% milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
2. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil, add the cauliflower, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft. Drain. Place the cauliflower in a blender and puree.
3. In a medium pan over medium heat, place the pasta, the cauliflower puree, the cheeses, and the milk. Stir gently to combine and continue stirring until the cheese is melted.
4. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the chopped parsley over the mac and cheese and serve immediately.
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