Sunday, December 15, 2013

Macaroni & Cheese for One

Our son Will, like most kids who don't have dairy allergies and are able to eat full meals, LOVES macaroni and cheese. If I make him a plate of mac & cheese, he will quietly eat his lunch and oftentimes clean his plate. There are a couple of problems with this, however, when it comes to classic boxed macaroni & cheese:
  1. Will needs to gain weight. While the macaroni & cheese you get from a box does have more fat in it than the typical adult would prefer to have in their diet, our doctor had suggested we try to sneak more fat into our buddy's diet.
  2. No toddler can polish off a box of macaroni & cheese in one sitting, and it tastes terrible on the second day so leftovers are (kind of) out of the question. Which means that if I make Will M&C for lunch - it means that I also will be having macaroni and cheese. And typically this means that I end up having a little over half a box. Which I probably shouldn't be having. (2a - I LOVE MACARONI & CHEESE! Especially with some peas mixed in and a dash of black pepper... oh man...) Really... this is the bigger issue as there are a million ways to sneak more fat into Will's diet and I am very, very weak-willed when it comes to mac & cheese of any kind.
While I was pondering this issue, I remembered that I had once come across a recipe for "revolutionary macaroni & cheese". I had made it once for a friend of mine & I and it was delicious. I knew that I could adapt the recipe for one serving and fatten it up so that our little man was getting a fatter mac & cheese (in fact, in our house we call it fat-mac) AND I wouldn't have to be subject to a half of box (or more) of mac & cheese very time he had some (oh the horror...). A couple of tries, and I have perfected it! There are even a couple of veggies that I sneak in for total nutrition awesomeness for my toddler buddy.

Macaroni & Cheese for One 
Adapted from Revolutionary Mac & Cheese from Macaroni & Cheesecake

  • 1/2 cup pasta (penne, tri-color mac, rotini.... your choice)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas
  • 3 tbsp - 1/4 cup frozen spinach (or 1/3 chopped frozen broccoli)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

  • In a small saucepan, put the pasta & milk and bring to boil. This will happen faster than you think - so don't walk away! As soon as it starts to boil, bring down to a simmer and make sure to stir constantly. 
  • About 5 minutes after bringing to a simmer, add the peas & spinach. Bring back to simmer & cook until noodles are tender (about 5-7 more minutes).
  • Remove pan from heat - DO NOT DRAIN!!! Add both cheeses and stir vigorously until cheese is melted in. The sauce will thicken upon standing. Add salt & pepper and serve. Or just eat it out of the pan, after all - this is only for one person.

A couple of things... first, this will easily feed two toddlers or one adult. I usually fill up Will's plate and then there's a few bites left to fulfill my macaroni weakness until I make it for him again. If I were to make this for myself - I would substitute in skim milk for the whole milk and it would work just as well and be just as delicious. Will loves this stuff; we've tried it with a couple of different cheeses but this seems to be the way he likes it the best. He'll eat either spinach or broccoli in it for us - whatever we have in the house - but the peas are a must. And in the long run it's cheaper than boxed mac & cheese... really, this is a winning situation all around! 

If you are in need of a quick comfort food fix or a good lunch for your kiddo... definitely give this a try. You won't regret it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

With a Thankful Heart...

During the month of November, I took part in a sort of meme that I had noticed people were doing leading up to Thanksgiving. Each day, I posted a picture and note of something that I was thankful for. Some of them were relatively inconsequential - like sales on kids clothes - and some of them were a bit deeper - aspects of my faith or family and friends. Originally, I wasn't going to participate in this meme and then I thought about it a bit before I jumped in. There were a couple of reasons that I decided to go ahead and take part.

30 Days of Thankfulness - Days 1-6
Running water, imagination, ability to cook, kids' sales & coupons, childcare workers, our family photographer

The first reason is that while I am always grateful for the things in my life, there is something about intentionally thinking about the many ways that I am either blessed or touched or impacted that really helps me to persist in being genuinely grateful. From my husband to my kids to running water to the minds that invent washable crayons - there are so many things both big and small that I can be thankful for at any given point in the day. If I ever stop being thankful, I might start to take my blessings for granted and not see them as gifts given to me and others by God. And so, every once in a while I think it's a worthwhile exercise to stop and reflect on the various things I am thankful for in my life.

30 Days of Thankfulness, days 7-12
God's promise to be there, great minds, answered prayers, our veterans, our new baby's health, and my husband

The second reason I went through this exercise was that I had a small hope that I would also inspire other people to pause and think about the things that they are thankful for in their lives.

30 Days of Thankfulness, days 13-18
My parents, great medical care, people who invent recipes, our pediatrician, my moms group, & being a stay-at-home mom.

Why now? Because I feel like the real reason for the Thanksgiving season is often lost in a shuffle of giant feasts and food comas, family obligations, high expectations, football rivalries, and preparations for intense shopping expeditions. While I think that any of those things can be an extremely fun experience, I also think that it's important that we take MORE time during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to pause and be thankful for what we have in our lives - no matter how little or how plentiful it is.

30 Days of Thankfulness, days 19-24
Our Will, his relationship with his Daddy, our friends, my siblings, our church, and NAPS!

My posts on "30 Days of Thankfulness" technically ended yesterday, but I feel a renewed sense of gratitude for the many ways God has provided for my family, answered prayers according to his plan for our family and friends, and just cast His love out in so many ways. I am thankful for the various ways He has gifted people that make our world such an interesting plays. God is so, so good. I am thankful for His plans, I am thankful for His love, and I am thankful for his blessings.

30 Days of Thankfulness - Days 25-30
Children's perspective, my extended family, our Journey group, critical folks (PD, FD, EMS, etc.) working on holidays, God's abundant provision, Jesus' death on the cross

I'll close with a wish of a wonderful holiday season to everyone who reads this and their families. May you enjoy richly all the ways you've been blessed.

"Let me shout God's name with a praising song, let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks." (Psalm 69:30, The Message)