I am experimenting with ways to sneak in more vegetables into my nieces’ diet… I know their moms try very hard, but they take the path of least resistance often to avoid confrontation. Hey, I understand perfectly after spending 5 glorious 24-hour days with them.
Because they love macaroni and cheese, I thought I would try how it would taste “sneaking in” some carrots. I have done this with butternut squash and pumpkin in the past… so why not try with another orange vegetable? And carrots are cheaper and more readily available in my fridge than those other options.
I was fascinated by the concept of hiding vegetables and nutrients into kids’ diets when the book Deceptively Delicious came out. I think it’s a great concept and one to try not only with kids, but for us as adults too. Sometimes you know something is good for you, but you just don’t like to make it just for yourself… or you just like certain vegetables in certain preparations, not others. What I also liked about the book is that besides “sneaking” vegetables into kids’ meals, it stressed you should always include a side of vegetables on your kids’ plates. The fact that added veggies are hidden within the recipe does not excuse the fact we need to teach kids it’s important to eat salads and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. The hidden veggies are just an insurance policy if they decide not to try the side of veggies that time around.
The mac and cheese turned out really nice… because I first tried it on myself and I was not too keen on dirtying my food processor, I just mashed the carrots into the sauce. But the time I actually do make it for my nieces I will puree the carrots to make it blend in more with the rest of the cheese sauce.
UNDERCOVER CARROT MAC & CHEESE
3 medium carrots, steamed and pureed 1 cup buttermilk ½ cup Cheez Whiz – I don’t normally use this ingredient, but I had it in the fridge and I felt bad just throwing it away. You can substitute very well with cheddar cheese ½ cup cottage cheese ¼ cup parmesan cheese, divided 1/3 lbs of whole-grain pasta – I used whole wheat penne
- Pre-heat oven or toaster oven to 350 F.
- Bring a large pot filled with very salty water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. I usually give it about 10-12 minutes.
- While the pasta water is coming to a boil, prepare the cheese sauce… in a medium sauce pan over medium heat add the buttermilk and carrot puree. When that is warm, add the cottage cheese, most of the parmesan, cheez whiz or cheddar and let it all melt together. Watch out it does not boil because it will make the buttermilk runny/watery… just enough for all the cheeses to come together as a sauce.
- When the pasta and sauce are done, drain the pasta and combine it with the sauce. Place them in a pyrex casserole dish, sprinkle with some of additional parmesan cheese and place in oven.
- It will take about 15-20 minutes for the cheese on top to brown… that’s when you take it out.
- Wait about 20 minutes for the cheese sauce to stop bubbling and dig in…
When I make these recipes, I usually don’t measure and eye-ball the ingredients. I had some extra sauce that did not fit the casserole dish and used it to top some steamed potatoes… they were extra delicious too.