OK, we've tried A LOT of macaroni and cheese recipes in this family since improving our food choices and going without the blue box. I mean A LOT of recipes, check out all our Macaroni Recipes for a few examples. Before now, our family favorite was this Easy Cheese Sauce poured over macaroni. Obviously unbaked macaroni and cheese is a totally different category than baked (on the baked front, we like Fancy Homemade Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes).
But I do believe, after our unplanned family vacation, we've discovered the biggest hit for kids and adults yet. My 2-year-old niece (who is a super picky eater) actually drank the remains of her sauce from her bowl and asked for seconds. Her 4-year-old sister ate a second bowl and then asked that we save the rest for tomorrow so she could eat it again. My girls absolutely love this version, too. And, bonus: all the adults love it as well. It's especially awesome since Goose (our almost 3-year-old) has developed the family curse: tomato allergy. I'm sure you can imagine how tough that is with a whole foodie vegetarian mommy. Ugh. But I digress.
This version is stupid simple to throw together in about 10 minutes and all you need is butter, cream cheese, milk, a bit of flour and shredded cheese. We use Mexican blend cheese because that's what we keep around, but it'd be great with mild cheddar, too.
You should try this recipe today, your kids will thank you!
Note: I like to keep the sauce and macaroni separate at the end so the mac doesn't get soggy when you store leftovers. If you like, you can mix it all together instead. We simply pour our desired amount of sauce on top of our macs and mix it up in the bowl.
You can also use this cheese sauce on other stuff, like broccoli and cauliflower. Yum!
If you haven't boiled your noodles, start those first.
Meanwhile, melt butter and add garlic to a medium saucepan. Saute for about 1 minute at medium heat.
Stir in flour to make a roux. Note: If you're not good at making a roux, no problem! Just whisk in the flour after the next step instead. I've done it both ways (some days Mommy just isn't feeling the roux) and both work great.
Add cream cheese and milk.
Raise heat to medium high and cook, stirring frequently, until cream cheese is melted, about 7 minutes.
Add shredded cheese and whisk until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Salt to taste, if desired.
Pour sauce over macaroni noodles. (Keep the sauce separate and pour over individual servings if you're expecting to store leftovers.)
Mac and Cheese is a vegetarian potluck favorite. But it doesn't always have the prettiest presentation. The simple, yet somehow I've never tried it before solution? Place slices of tomato on top prior to baking for color contrast and bonus nutrients!
I found this little gem of a suggestion in one of my thrift store cookbook finds, the 1965 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens New CookBook. You probably know the one. It has a red and white picnic tablecoth-esque cover and is sprial-bound. Notably, this is also where I came across the notion of Everyday Cupcakes! What? Cupcakes every day! (Recipe to come.) But I digress.
Mac and cheese is, unsurprisingly, one of our family favorites, but we love to try new recipes since our toddlers' tastebuds are always changing. This one is pretty simple, but the tomato slices add that extra flourish for potlucks or company's-coming-over nights.
The kids and adults all loved it. Though Bug, our 4-year-old, refused to eat the tomatoes once they were cooked. She helped with the cooking and ate the extra tomato slices raw, and agreed the mac and cheese looked especially fancy. But when it came time to eat the cooked tomatoes, she politely asked her little sister if she would like to eat hers for her.
Goose, 2, ate double tomatoes without complaint and Bug ate nearly her own weight in macaroni.
My girls love helping in the kitchen. Unfortunately, not every recipe is conducive to their particular brand of "help." Sometimes the help is more of a hindrance, sure, but it's always an adventure. But my thrift store find, the Fix-It and Forget-It Kids’ Cookbook, makes the adventures simple and slightly less messy. I adapted the Super Spaghetti Sauce recipe (the original had meat, which we could've replaced with Lentil and Rice Ground Beef Substitute, but we prefer our "meat" optional in our sauce so we left it out) to a simple CrockPot marinara sauce.
While we have a favorite Slow Cooker marinara sauce, our kids aren't as fond of it as we are. It's a little too adventurous for them. This version is less spicy and they gobble it up even without pasta underneath it. Yes, that's weird. But hey, I've never claimed they're normal.
And of course, the most awesome aspect of this recipe is that I open up the cans for them, chop the onion and then I just hand them the ingredients. They put them all in the CrockPot and stir it up. Wander back into the kitchen hours later and wallah! Spaghetti Sauce!
Mom or Dad: Dice the onion, open all of your cans. Depending on your kids' ages, you can either measure out the garlic, spices and sugar and place them in a prep bowl, or have your kids do that for you.
Kids: Pour all of the ingredients (except the bay leaf) into a 4-quart CrockPot. Stir like crazy.
Drop the bay leaf on top.
Mom or Dad: Cook covered on LOW for 6-7 hours. If your sauce is too thin, take the lid off for the last hour of cooking. Remove bay leaf before serving over pasta.
With another of my thrift store cookbook finds, The Fix-It and Forget-It Kids' Cookbook, I found a pretty simple Alphabet Soup recipe. I had some pasta stars leftover from another dish, so I decided to go with that instead. I also swapped in minced onion for onion soup mix and TVP for stew meat.
This simple tomato vegetable soup is great fun for the kids to help make and enjoy the stars (or letters).
We've had a lot of colds lately, so this comforting and fun soup has been great for the kids. And they so love to help make it!
We love lasagna; it's a holiday favorite and an everyday favorite. And the kids love just about anything in cupcake shape. So when I saw Lasagna Cups recently on Pinterest, I knew I'd have to make them eventually. That was several months ago, but I finally got around to it. Which led to the creation of this beautiful Caramelized Onion Easy Marinara Sauce. Yum. And I went totally simple with the Lasagna Cups recipe, with just one layer of each item. After all, the sauce is packed full of yum, so it didn't need much else.