Living In A Processed World

For the better part of two years I’ve been trying to feed my kids real food, nothing from a box, but to be honest we fall off the wagon all the time. It’s almost impossible to completely take processed food out of their diet. Unless I want to homeschool my kids or never let them attend a birthday party, it’s pretty hard to avoid. And homeschooling ain’t gonna happen ever!

As a mom of three I get why fast/processed food has become a staple in so many diets. Life is busy, there’s not a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. It’s easy to see that grabbing a box of food from the pantry would be the more desirable choice. But when I read some of the ingredients on those colorful packages it makes me pause. There must be a way to make slow food a little faster…

Take mac & cheese for example. My kids are convinced that the boxed stuff is the “real mac & cheese.” They actually believe that the orange powder is genuine cheese, not a chemical cheese food with a huge list of ingredients I can barely pronounce.

But I think I’ve found a recipe that’s just as easy to make and tastes way better. No boiling pasta required! I can’t take credit for this idea – I saw it in BonAppetit magazine months ago. It’s as close as possible to the “real thing”. And I’m only using ingredients I can pronounce!

“Real” Mac & Cheese (adapted from BonAppetit)

Ingredients

¼ cup butter, unsalted (1/2 stick)

¼ cup flour

3 cups whole milk, or 2%

1 Tbsp kosher salt

½ tsp black pepper

1 lb. elbow or ditalini pasta

2 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided

Method

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. (Use a large enough pan to hold six cups of liquid.) Add flour to melted butter and whisk together for about a minute.

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Whisk in milk and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook, stirring often, until sauce gets slightly thick and glossy, about 15 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper, remove from heat.

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Toss pasta and 1 ½ cups of the cheese in a large shallow baking dish.

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Pour milk mixture over the pasta. Do not stir! The pasta should be completely submerged. It will seem like a ton of liquid but don’t worry it will become cheesy and gooey and yummy.

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Cover the pasta with foil and bake until pasta is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Bake, uncovered until pasta is tender, edges are bubbly, and top is golden brown.

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Let sit for 10 minutes, then dive in!

And the VERDICT is:

We were thrilled to have some guest tasters this week-

Big sis (age 8): “Best mac and cheese ever!”

Little sis (age 5): “Thank you so much – we love it”

Mom: “I’m inhaling it too and I was supposed to start a diet today”

No more boxed mac & cheese for us!

 

 

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Mac & Cheese

My kids are always asking me for macaroni  & cheese so the other night I pulled out a cookbook and decided to make a fancy version. It had Gruyere and mascarpone cheese, rigatoni noodles, and lots of butter- YUM. I couldn’t wait to make it and watch them gobble it up. Well, it didn’t exactly turn out as I had hoped… When I served this decadent, delicious dish, much to my surprise, I had an absolute MUTINY on my hands.  “This is not Mac & Cheese!” “The pasta is the wrong shape!” “Why isn’t it orange?” It was pretty brutal. But I wiped away the tears and gave it another shot.

This time I tried to go simple. I stuck to elbow macaroni and cheddar cheese. I was determined to turn this around! How could I serve my kids pasta and cheese and have them rebel? It just didn’t seem possible…. So back to the drawing board…

“The not so fancy version of Mac & Cheese”

Ingredients

1 lb dried ELBOW macaroni

3 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp all-purpose flour

3 cups whole milk (2% is fine too)

2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp hot sauce

Salt & pepper

1/2 cup seasoned Panko breadcrumbs

2 tbsp butter

Directions

Cook macaroni according to directions. Drain and set aside. This can be done ahead – just be sure to toss some olive oil in with the pasta before it is refrigerated.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in saucepan – when hot reduce heat to medium and add flour, stirring constantly. Add the milk a little at a time until it is well combined. Let the sauce come to a simmer and then add 2 cups of cheese and mustard. Whisk until cheese is completely melted. Stir in hot sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.

In separate pan melt butter and add breadcrumbs. Heat until breadcrumbs are lightly toasted.

Put pasta into baking pan, add sauce and stir until well combined. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. And then sprinkle breadcrumb mixture on top of that.

Bake until lightly browned and bubbly – about 25-30 minutes.

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (tough critic): “What are these crumbs on top!? No crumbs!”

Dylan (even tougher critic): “I don’t eat crumbs!”

Liam (the worst critic of the bunch): “I HATE mac & cheese”

I wish I was joking but that was the verdict. The breadcrumbs did me in! Happily once I scraped off the offensive “crumbs” they did eat their dinner. And Dylan even ate 2 servings of broccoli so all in all a SUCCESS!

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