Let’s be real.
Kids suck sometimes.
(Ack! That sounded crazed… Back-peddle! Back-peddle!)
I mean, don’t get me wrong, my kids are wonderful and amazing and I love them so much more than words can describe.
But they’re also little twerps who infuriate me.
“Why?” you might ask.
Because they won’t eat “vegables”. Or sleep through the night. Or treat each other with human decency. (Anyone else’s kids know the right pitch of “MINE!” to shatter glass? No, just mine? Sigh.)
If nothing else, I can tackle the “Vegables” thing. Maybe then they will be less prone to blood-sugar-crashing tears of rage. Maybe with a full belly they’d sleep through the night.
(Yes, I’m aware I’m delusion. Give me my moment. Hush!)
My oldest is going through a phase where anything new is poison, half the things she’s seen before are poison, and the only things she can trust are macaroni and cheese, and a few other “golden brown” foods that make my inner mommy (and outer mommy) weep.
Enter my desperate bid to make mac’ healthy.
As with many quests, this one was not successful at first try. Pro tip: Don’t mix cow beans and sweet potato when you’re trying to be stealthy. Pre-schoolers may not be the savviest connoisseurs of the culinary world, but they can taste when mommy goes cray-cray with the “healthy stuff”.
You may have noticed quotes around “macaroni” in the title. That wasn’t an oversight. There’s no cheese in my recipe, but you can add as much as you want and it definitely improves the situation. With this version, I’ve reduced the “bad foods” and upped the vegetable factor by a million, seeing as it composes ninety percent of what my eldest will eat. So if you’re only eating this once in a blue moon: Add cheese.
However if, like me, you’re trying to prevent scurvy and need to eat this stuff for a month, you can leave the cheese out.
Carrots are the “kid approved” vegetable for this one, but I’ve heard that butternut squash works nicely as well. Sub that in for a little bit of variety.
Macaroni and “Cheese” and Chickpeas and Carrots
Bonus: The carrots really give the sauce that “electric orange” colour found with “leading boxed mac brands”!
- All the water.
- 4 large Carrots
- 1 can Chickpeas
- 750g / 1.5lb Macaroni
- 6 Tablespoons total of Oil/Butter (I like a ratio of 2 butter to 4 Olive Oil)
- 4 Tablespoons Flour
- 1/3 Cup Nutritional Yeast (if you don’t have this, use a little dry bouillon and half the Soy Sauce)
- 1 Tablespoon Nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
- 1 teaspoon Mustard Powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon Chili Powder
- 3 Cups Milk (or milk substitute)
- 1/8 Cup Soy Sauce or salt to taste
- Two large pots
- A couple of wooden spoons
- Food processor, blender or immersion blender
- Instant pot, steamer, or pot
- Optional: large baking dish and an oven
Steam your veggies and canned chickpeas until the carrots are tender. I use my instant pot for 8 minutes. Stovetop takes about 20. If you want, you can boil them instead. Really, the main thing is that they’re mushy for the food processor so you can fool the kids.
Meanwhile, Boil the pasta. If you’re baking the thing, turn the oven to 350F to pre-heat.
Meanwhile, Add the oil to a large wide-bottomed pot and warm it up to medium heat (4/10 on my stove). If you’re using butter, wait until it’s fully melted. If not, give it about 5 minutes.
Add the flour and seasonings to the oil, and stir them around. If they get lumpy and dry, add a drop more oil. You’re looking for a “almost runny oatmeal” consistency. Yes, we’re making a roux.
Give the flour about 4 minutes to brown, then Add the milk, whisking constantly for about 30 seconds. Keep whisking every couple of minutes until the sauce starts to get thicker, then stir almost continuously until it’s even and thick. You can tell it needs attention when the whisk “mushes” across the bottom of the pot. Dig deep and make sure that “mush” doesn’t burn onto the bottom.
Add the Soy Sauce at some point before the sauce is too thick. Most of the time I forget this part.
Drain and set aside the macaroni when it’s cooked.
Puree the veggies and chickpeas. You may need to reserve some of the water from steaming/boiling the veggies to get a puree-able consistency.
When the sauce is thickened, Add the pureed veggies and chickpeas to the sauce. Mix thoroughly.
Add the macaroni to the sauce (or vice versa).
If you have 10 minutes to spare and your kids aren’t clawing at your leg for “uppies” Spread evenly in a baking pan and optionally top with cheese and breadcrumbs (about 1/2 cup). Pop in the oven for 12 minutes.