From the Sneakychef
Mac & Cheese
(Quick fixes for boxed macaroni & cheese)
There’s not a kids’ menu in the United States that doesn’t offer some variation of macaroni and cheese – the favorite – if not the most popular – of American comfort foods. Kraft now sells more than one million boxes every day! The beauty, for the purposes of this book, of even the packaged version is that its cheesy creaminess offers ample opportunity for sneaky chefs to slip in extra nutrition that even the toughest little critics won’t detect. Try to keep a straight face as your kids beg for more of these surprisingly healthy variations.
SNEAKY TIP: Yellow macaroni and cheese usually contains yellow food dye, whereas the white version does not. If your child insists on yellow, you can add a slice of yellow American or cheddar cheese and a dash of paprika to the white cheese sauce, which will help safely change the color to yellow without affecting the taste.
Each of the nutritional boosters listed here have been kid tested and have proven to be undetectable in taste, texture and color. Start by adding the least amount recommended of just one of the nutritional boosters listed below. Add a little more each time you serve this dish (which is served in our house every day!).
> Prepare macaroni and cheese according to directions on package. Add White Puree into the cheese sauce, mixing until well blended. If sauce becomes too dry, simply add an extra tablespoon of milk and extra cheese (See below).
> Prepare macaroni and cheese according to directions on package. Add Orange Puree into the cheese sauce, mixing until well blended. This one works best with an extra slice of American cheese or 1/4 cup of grated cheddar melted into the sauce to help mask the carrots, which have a bit more distinguishable taste, in the puree.
Make-Ahead Recipe #4: White Puree
Makes about 2 cups of puree. Double recipe if you want to store even more, which can be done in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze 1/4 cup portions in sealed plastic bags or the small plastic containers.
– 2 cups cauliflower, cut into florets
– 2 small to medium zucchini, peeled and rough chopped
– 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
– 1-2 tablespoons water, if necessary
> Steam cauliflower in a vegetable steamer over 2 inches of water, using a tightly-covered pot, for about 10 to 12 minutes until very tender. Alternatively, place cauliflower in a microwave-safe bowl , cover with water, and microwave on high for 8 to 10 minutes until very tender.
> While waiting for the cauliflower to finish steaming, start to pulse the raw peeled zucchini with the lemon juice only (no water at this point). Drain the cooked cauliflower. Working in batches if necessary, add it to the pulsed zucchini in the bowl of the food processor with one tablespoon of water. Puree on high until smooth. Stop occasionally and push contents from the top to the bottom. If necessary, use the second tablespoon of water to make a smooth (but not wet) puree.
Make-Ahead Recipe #2: Orange Puree
This makes about 2 cups of puree. Double the recipe if you want to store another cup of puree. Store in refrigerator up to 3 days, or freeze one-quarter cup portions in sealed baggies or small plastic containers.
– 1 medium sweet potato or yam, peeled and rough chopped;
– 3 medium to large carrots, peeled and sliced into thick chunks;
– 2-3 tablespoons water
> In a medium pot, cover carrots and potatoes with cold water and boil for about 20 minutes until yams, and especially the carrots, are very tender. If the carrots aren’t thoroughly cooked, they’ll leave telltale little nuggets of vegetables, which will reveal their presence (a gigantic NO-NO for the sneaky chef).
> Drain the potatoes and carrots and put them in the bowl of food processor with two tablespoons of water. Puree on high until smooth; no pieces of carrots or potatoes should remain. Stop occasionally to push the contents from the top to the bottom. If necessary, use the third tablespoon of water to make a smooth puree, but the less water the better.