Make-Believe Mac ‘n Cheese

My son will go through stages where he will eat anything I serve him; and other times, he will only eat macaroni and cheese.  He began to ask for his, “out-da-blu-box, mommy.”  I’m not sure of the who, what, when, where and whys; but somehow I said good bye to organic bunny macaroni and cheese (it’s white).  Except, I can’t buy the blue box.  My daughter is allergic to sodium phosphate.  What is one to do?  I like the whole wheat option and I want real cheese without additives.  Mommylution: make believe mac and cheese.

The following recipe is a happy compromise of  a healthy, cheesy, whole wheat, creamy goodness that will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.  Added bonus: a whole serving of vegetables too!

Ingredients:

  • 1lb box whole wheat macaroni pasta
  • 4 oz Monterrey Jack cheese or medium cheddar
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots
  • 3 Table spoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Steam carrots (in baby steamer, microwave, or stove top).  Cook Pasta, set aside.
  2. Add cheese, milk, salt and blend puree consistency.

Sauce Ingredients before blending

 

Make Believe Sauce - After Blending

3. Pour sauce into cooked pasta. Mix well.

 

Cheesy Goodness & Whole Wheat Pasta

4. Serve & Enjoy!

 

Delicious!

Doesn’t it look like the real thing?

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From Exhaustion to Efficiency: Or, How I Make it through My Week with Minimal Crying!

Whether you are a busy working mom trying to balance the scales without having anything fall off, or  a Stay at Home mommy in charge of all the littles and praying for an iota of conversation that does not involve high pitch inflection or anything Gerber related; we are all just doing the best we can, right? While I am a working mom, another important thing for me is that my family eats together, and that the meal is nourishing and healthy. As a result, I have to find extra time in my day to plan and prepare dinner, and as tempting as it is to order in Pei Wei (Spicy Korean, anyone?), I make sure we eat in 5-6 nights a week at least. Between kids’ homework, school schedules, my work and fitting in Grey’s Anatomy, that leaves little time for messing around.  People question my ability (and sanity, but that’s another post) to get it all done, but in reality, it isn’t that big of a deal. Eating healthy and together is important to me, and we tend to make time for the things that are important to us. Here are a few tips that have helped me along the way.

grady family

My taste-testers

 

1. Prep early. There are several things I do as soon as I get home from the store that help me later. I wash and bag my lettuce in a ziplocks with a paper towel inside to soak up moisture and keep it fresh. If I have bought celery and carrots, broccoli or green onions, I wash and chop those to throw in salads or other meals. I don’t pre-chop onions, because who needs a fridge that smells of pico de gallo all week, but once I use part of one, I wrap it in a wet paper towel and put it in a ziplock and voila! No smelly fridge. I also buy berries in bulk from Costco and although my kids inhale this fresh fruit, I usually freeze a quarter of the amount and use them for after school smoothies. Berries also get the tupperware/paper towel treatment and make sure they are dry so they last longer.

2. Have a well-stocked pantry. In my dream world, this means smoked oysters, truffles, artichoke hearts and Lindt Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt,  but those may or may not be so family friendly. Instead, I make sure to always have the following: white beans and garbanzo beans that I use to make hummus or throw in a salad, black beans and pinto beans that are yummy and go with anything Mexican and in lots of casseroles, tomato products (diced, sauce, crushed, whole, paste) to use in virtually anything or as a base for sauces of all kinds, brown and white rice, whole grain pastas (penne and spaghetti or angel hair), Cream of Chicken and Cream of Mushroom soup and Quinoa (which I pronounced /kwin o ah/ until it became popular and I figured it out), couscous, Lipton onion soup mix (as a marinating agent for pork or potatoes), canned tuna, canned corn and loads of chicken broth or stock. Even if you can’t make it to the store for a week straight because of consecutive bad hair days or temper tantrums, if you are stocked in this way you don’t have to! It is also important to have a few oils (Canola, olive, coconut) and some vinegars (balsamic, red, white and rice) and maybe some cooking wine (or some for drinking that you can toss in the cooking!)

3. A little planning goes a long way! For the most part, I know that we will have one to two chicken dishes, a pasta dish, some pork or beef, and some fish throughout the week. If I am in a hurry, I can grill one of those, add a veggie sautéed in a little olive oil and garlic, and a starch and I am good to go. I like to get a bit more creative for the sake of my family, but if I have this stuff, it is very easy to create different combinations. I also use a few different food blogs for inspiration. If I have the  ingredients mentioned above and a well-stocked fridge, I can sometimes stop on my way home to grab the one or three things I may not have and then make a new meal that night. I also have a binder in my kitchen that is broken down by section: apps, salads, meat entrees, seafood entries, pasta’s, sides, desserts, cocktails (my favorite section), where I have printed out recipes or torn them out from magazines and organized them into a solid recipe book. I may or may not suffer from OCD, but whatevs! It gets me through, people. One thing I do is that the recipe doesn’t go in until I make it and it gets a score of 8/10 from me or the powers that be in my home. Otherwise your reliable book becomes not so reliable and filled to the gills!

4. Stick to a Schedule. I almost always start dinner the same time every night. I have left play dates early, picked the kids up from practice if it isn’t over on time or skipped things entirely if they get too much in the way of sticking to what works for me. This leaves me able to be spontaneous and either order in or have a GNO if I want to. However, if I didn’t make dinner and eating together a priority–well,  between exercise and work and the circus/shuffling that is our lives, I would just be another person in the take-out or drive through lines. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have a few trusty numbers memorized that can solve my problems in 20 minutes and I like to use them from time to time to feed our family, but for the most part, we are just used to saving that money so I can buy some Manolos. Kidding. Mostly. I do want some before I die, though.

5. Balance is Everything. Some nights I may not want my menu broadcast over the internet because it seems embarrassingly simple. Other nights I want to take a picture of the meal and frame it. Some nights my family of men swoon, and reward me with hand and foot massages and scented oils.  Okay, Oreo kisses and some satisfied belly pats. But still, I will take it. Some nights I fix stuff for my carb loving 6 year old blue eyed funny guy, some nights I cater it toward my freckled, good-natured 8 year old protein lover, and finally, sometimes it is for my 40 year old garbage disposal wonderful man that thanks me after every single meal I prepare. Sometimes I succeed and feel like a rock star, and sometimes I fail, but I always try, and it is always made with love. And that, ladies, is all that matters.

 

Indian Chicken (You Can Make TONIGHT)

The title of this recipe can be a bit decieving in that although it uses some Indian themed spices, you could not be an Indian food devotee and still enjoy this dish. I have also heard versions of it called “Butter Chicken,” and although butter isn’t bad and I like chicken, I don’t think those really go together. Maybe butter and bread. Maybe butter and toast. Maybe butter with popcorn.  Maybe “I can’t believe it’s not butter.” Someone stop me…..I digress. My point is, get over the title and make this tonight! The kids will even love it. Here’s what you need:

4 pieces boneless skinless chicken breasts or a pack of chicken tenders

1 onion, diced

1 lime, juiced

1 t salt

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp ground Coriander

1/4 tsp Cardamom

1/2 tsp Cumin

1/4 cup butter

1 can (14.5 oz) Tomato Sauce

1 can (14.5 oz) Petite Diced Tomatoes

1 pint Half and Half or Whipping Cream

1 bunch Cilantro, chopped to taste

2 Cups Basmati Rice or White Rice

Here’s what to do!! Step one, open up a nice bottle of Sauvignon blanc. Oh wait, that’s me, sorry. Combine chicken, garlic, lime juice and all the spices in a ziplock and marinate for several hours or overnight. You won’t believe what these flavors do together. Also, if you don’t have Coriander and are shocked by the sticker price at the grocery store (as my sister was who called me up to gripe about it in the grocery line), you can probably get by without it. However, it is a good spice to have and lasts forever. Onward….Start the rice if you haven’t already made it. Get out the marinated chicken and get busy. Saute the onion in the butter until it is translucent and soft. Add chicken and cook 8-10 minutes or so. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Cook for 25-30 minutes over medium to low heat with the lid. Add the whipping cream or half and half and cilantro just before serving. This dish is a bit spicy, but my kiddo’s loved it. You may want to only do half the cayenne, serve the littles, and then kick it up a notch for the bigs.

Enjoy! It’s a crowd pleaser. (Oh, and it really does pair well with a good Sav blanc, Brancott comes to mind!)

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