So many kids seem morally opposed to putting veggies anywhere near their lips. But sometimes, parents can help by introducing vegetables gradually – and by blending them in a dish kids already like. These sorts of hidden vegetable recipes are both delicious and (at least a little bit!) nutritious.
One prime contender is macaroni and cheese. Metro Parent stepped in the kitchen and whipped up this recipe that features plenty of kid faves – like noodles, three types of cheese and Goldfish crackers – along with a very subtle vegetable that’s packed with vitamins and minerals (not to mention, it’s a great source of fiber).
Try the recipe for Metro Parent’s original cauliflower mac ‘n’ cheese below. And if you’re feeling even more adventurous, check out our tips on how to get picky eaters to try new foods, too.
- Prep time: About 40 minutes (includes stovetop cooking)
- Final baking time: 30 minutes
- 1/2 stalk of cauliflower, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. white onion, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- Cooking spray
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
- 2/3 lb. dried elbow macaroni (substitute with noodles of choice; try colorful rotini to brighten things up)
- 3 Tbsp. flour (if your child’s palate is more adventurous, try a mix of half-regular flour and half-wheat flour, for a healthier option)
- 2 cups fat-free milk (can use 3/4 cup buttermilk, if desired)
- 10 oz. cubed cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese (substitute with mozzarella, if desired)
- Salt and pepper
- Goldfish Baked Snack Crackers
Cooking the cauliflower
- In a pot on stovetop, saute the chopped white onion in 1 Tbsp. butter.
- Add chopped cauliflower.
- For extra flavor, add the 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth (alternatively, just stick with water).
- Cook on low heat, about 10 to 15 minutes, until soft and tender. Be careful not to overcook; that makes the cauliflower too mushy.
- Mash up the cooked cauliflower with masher.
Preparing the noodles
- In another pot, cook up the dried elbow macaroni, following directions on box. Be sure the texture is al dente (slightly chewy).
- Drain the pasta in strainer.
Preparing the cheese sauce (thickening paste)
- In third pot, blend the other tablespoon of butter with the 3 tablespoons of flour, over low heat. Mix with spoon until well blended. Note: This is called a roux, and it serves as a thickening paste.
- Slowly, stir in the 2 cups of fat-free milk. It’s crucial not to add the milk too fast, or the roux will clump up and harden. Again, mix until well blended.
- Gradually add in the three cheeses. Mix until cheese is pretty much melted.
- Add a healthy pinch of both salt and pepper, for a bit of flavor. A dash of nutmeg or dried mustard also can enhance the flavor.
Putting it all together
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Pour the mashed cauliflower into the bowl of noodles. Mix well.
- Pour the cheese sauce into the cauliflower-noodle blend. Mix well.
- Pour the entire mixture into the casserole dish (make sure the dish is first covered with the cooking spray). Spread around so the mixture is evenly distributed.
- Top with a few Goldfish Baked Snack Crackers for a kid-friendly garnish.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.