Thursday, September 12, 2013

5 Minutes = Healthier Comfort Food!

Like mother like daughter.

I love macaroni and cheese.  I do.  I know it's on the top of the nono list for dieters-- tons of carbs and (horrors!) cheese!!!  But I love it, and I have to say, there is nothing so comforting as sitting down to a delicious bowl of macaroni and cheese when you're tired and hungry (which, as a mom of a toddler, I often am).

Luckily, this is on my picky toddler's list of foods she will eat.  Hooray!

Now, you can of course make it from scratch.  If you do that, I support you-- I applaud you in fact.  I tried it myself recently with this recipe from, and it was fantastic.  It was not unduly difficult, but it definitely took more time than ripping open a box and following the idiot-proof directions.  And lately, I kind of need idiot-proof.  I don't know, maybe it's the heat.

So how to make it healthier?  And in 5 minutes (you may know how I adore 5 minute recipes)?  Vegetables!

Why do these things only suddenly matter to me when I'm trying to get my toddler to eat?  I don't know.  Never in my life before child did I ever think-- you know, I should really put some cauliflower in my mac 'n cheese... or carrots... or broccoli...

But now that I have a toddler, that's all I think about.  How can I sneak into this toddler-friendly food more nutrition so I don't feel bad about feeding her simple carbs and cheese (oh my!)?

Little One is very picky.  She's big on visuals.  If it looks like the real thing, she'll take a stab at it.  Sticking green peas and broccoli in her yellow macaroni and cheese is a big turn off (that being said, she'll eat them at another sitting in another setting, but not with this dish... don't ask.)

Sticking steamed and pureed veges into the mix at the end of the cooking process is the perfect answer for us.  Last time I made the dish, I cheated even further and stuck some carrot baby food into the cheese mixture.  This time, I had left over cauliflower that was screaming to be used, so I followed Mark Bittman's advice, and put it in the macaroni.  Here's how my version goes... 5 minutes of actual working time and you're on your way to healthier comfort food!

Steamed Cauliflower for Healthier Mac 'n Cheese:
This recipe, although you have to wait for the water to boil and the cauliflower to cook, technically involves only 5 minutes of labor.  So it's easy.  Like really easy.  And you can do this once, freeze the leftovers, and simply add it in whenever you need it!

1. Take a head of a cauliflower and core and chop it into large pieces.

2. Boil water, salt it, and then add cauliflower and cook for 20-25 minutes until tender.

3. Drain.  Take a potato masher and mash it up together with a bit of olive oil, mustard, and nutmeg until really smooth.  Quantities are up to you.  My preference is 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1/2 tsp mustard, 1/2 tsp nutmeg.  (This can also be done in a food processor if you prefer... but it's more clean up time, so who needs it?)

4. Mix in your desired amount with prepared macaroni and cheese.  The trick is to add just enough cauliflower that you get the nutrients without overpowering the pasta/cheesiness.  For a box of mac 'n cheese, I used a cup of cauliflower puree.  I like to add some extra grated Parmesan so the dish doesn't loose it's cheesiness.

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