As the mom of a toddler who hates (HATES! DESPISES! DETESTS!) all green vegetables that aren’t either roasted, pureed, or fried, I’ve had to get creative about how to serve them to my little guy. What he doesn’t hate, though, is cheese. and what does he LOVE? well, mac ‘n cheese, of course. like everyone in all the land. My plan? combine what he hates with what he loves…. *diabolical laugh*
I’ve had some die-hard mac-n-cheese fans turn up their noses when I’ve mentioned adding vegetables to their most favorite food, but (and I can say this from actual experience and from the perspective of someone who REALLY loves Mac’n cheese,) it’s deeeeee-licious. Want to test it out on your own picky eater? (…or yourself. No judgement. I eat this off my little guy’s high chair tray BEFORE he can. it’s that good. I’m not ashamed about it. 😉 Here’s the recipe!
What you need:
1 sweet potato- peeled and cubed
1 bunch (or 1/2 bag of spinach)
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 minced clove of garlic (you can use onion here or a shallot to make it fancy, but I like the garlic)
3 cups of pasta (I prefer small shells to macaroni… I like the way it scoops up the cheese sauce)
1/2 cup of Parmesean cheese
1 cup skim milk
1 cup of fresh mozzarella
salt and pepper to taste
What to do:
Boil the sweet potatoes and mash them with 1/4 of a cup of the milk (if you have an immersion blender, this is the time to break it out to really make the sweet potato smooth.) I’ve heard of baking/roasting the potato first, but seriously? when the Mac ‘n cheese craving strike who has time to wait for a POTATO TO BAKE? Torture. Boiling is the way to go here, even if you loose a bit of sweetness.
Rinse your spinach, and tear it apart. (You can have whole leaves, but prefer the smaller pieces.)
Heat the rest of the olive oil in a saucepan and sautee’ the garlic until it’s fragrant. Pour in the remaining milk, and then add in the parmesean and mozzarella cheeses. Stir this until it makes a smooth, creamy cheese sauce. (I forgot this step the second time I made it, and ended up just pouring the milk and the cheese in separately over the pasta. It still works, and tastes good, BUT the macaroni gets a bit goopy rather than creamy. in fact, see below for the goopier result).
Once the cheese has melted and combined with the milk into the sauce (truly, don’t forget this step. It’s a MUCH more gorgeous result), pour it over the pasta and then add in the spinach. Stir until wilted, then salt and pepper to taste. The sweet potato creates this gorgeous orange color… it will trick any toddler or kindergartener into thinking it’s from the kraft box, but with SO MUCH more flavor and healthiness. Veggies (superfoods, even! Can you imagine this with KALE?) and mac ‘n cheese. What? You’re nominating me for the MacArthur Genius grant?! Well, I’m flattered, but not surprised. Also, I probably don’t deserve it as there are lots of other sweet potato mac ‘n cheeses out and about on the interweb… but mine may be the easiest (which is great when you’re feeding a ravenous 1.5 year old) 😉