I am the mother of a 17-month-old toddler who loves to be fickle at mealtime. He is a GREAT eater, loves his fruits and veggies, but there is no rhyme or reason to what he is willing to eat on any given day. What he liked yesterday, he hates today. What he ate for lunch, is what he is throwing off of his plate at dinner. Can you feel my frustration? There is no telling how he will react when the food hits the tray…OY!
How do I deal with my lil’ Jojo’s unpredictability? Well, I have to stick with the foods I know he likes and create new meals that incorporate these key ingredients. Jojo LOVES PEAS & PASTA. He will request them as soon as his cute little bottom hits the highchair. I don’t know what it is about these two foods, but he loves them and they are my go to foods. I am constantly creating and/ or seeking out new recipes that incorporate them so Jojo will be happy, healthy &FED!
Peas and pasta are my vehicle for introducing Jojo to the deliciousness of other veggies. During a spare moment I had the other day (while Jojo was in for his afternoon nap), I decided to curl up on the couch and see if I could find inspiration for a new meal in one of the 25 episodes of The Chew that lay idle on my DVR. I scanned the episode titles as I scrolled through every episode from the month of May and June until, EUREKA! the Bite N’ Blog episode tweaked my interest (I wonder why?). It just so happened that one of my favorite mommy food bloggers, Catherine McCord (from Weelicious.com) was a guest sharing a great Green Macaroni and Cheese recipe. Her recipe included pasta, peas (awesome), cheese and other veggies. PERFECT!
I made this recipe for Jojo that night and the first words out of his mouth (other than peas and pasta) were “mmmmmmmm” and “more”. I give this recipe and A+. Thank you Catherine McCord!
Here is the Weelicious recipe and a link to the Bite N’ Blog episode on the chew.
Green Mac and Cheese (serves 8 )
Prep Time:10 minutes, Cook Time: 30 minutes, Total Time: 40 minutes,
1 pound elbow macaroni (you can also use campanelle, cavatappi or shells)
3 cups whole milk
1 cups packed fresh spinach
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
4 cups grated white cheddar cheese
2 cups chopped broccoli florets
1 cup peas
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Cook pasta in salted water for about 3 minutes less than package directions call for, until al dente. Reserve half a cup of the pasta water and strain.
- While the pasta is cooking. Place the milk and spinach in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth.
- In a large pot melt the butter and then add the flour, whisking continuously over low-medium heat for 2-3 minutes to make a roux. Slowly whisk in the milk mixture and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes, or until sauce is gently bubbling and starting to thicken.
- Add reserved pasta water and cheese and whisk until melted. Stir in the pasta, broccoli and peas.
- Transfer to a greased 13″ x 9″ baking dish and bake for 20 minutes, or until
Of course I always tweak the recipes I cook to fit the needs of my family. When I searched through my fridge and pantry to collect the items necessary to prepare this recipe, I realized that I did not have elbow pasta or a pound of any of the same type of pasta. I decided I would go with an eclectic mix of the leftover pastas I had. I made 1 lb mixture of shells and rigatoni since I had a half a box of each lying around. Then I realized that we were out of fresh spinach, so I quickly substituted a box of frozen chopped spinach instead (defrosted and drained). NOTE- if you decide to use the frozen spinach your Mac and Cheese will be EXTRA green and it will yield more sauce because of the water in the spinach. Since I love sneaking in extra veggies, I also added 1 zucchini peeled and grated (I mixed it into the pasta before adding the sauce) and topped the dish with breadcrumbs mixed with parmesan cheese. It was delish!! Oh and I may have over measured a bit on the cheese…I mean who doesn’t love cheese :). Prepare it however you like it!
Photo: Courtesy of Weelicious.com