Ha ha, did that get your attention? There really is cheese, but that’s not all. So last Sunday, I sat down with my calendar and asked Derek, Calvin, and Zeeb what they would like for dinner once this week. Derek’s Pad Thai was a success, Zeeb asked for pizza and roasted cauliflower (if you’ve never tried roasted cauliflower, you have no idea how incredibly good it is. I don’t like steamed cauliflower, I think it smells like compost, but roasted? It’s like french fries), and Calvin, predictably, requested macaroni and cheese. I am personally revolted by the stuff in the box, and am mortally offended when he asks for this. There are so much better things in the world. He was introduced to it at someone else’s house, so I will not take the fall for it. But he does like it, and I did say he could have whatever he wanted, as long as he doesn’t complain on the nights when someone else chooses.

In the past, I’ve done a white sauce with orange food coloring, which is just the right sort of scary fake orange color that it tricks the little ones, but I’m not fond of using a lot of food color. So here’s my attempt at pulling a fast one on Calvin the healthy way.

Macaroni and Cheese

16 oz. macaroni
2 cups chopped carrots
2 – 4 T tomato paste
1 cup chopped onions
milk
3 T butter
2 T flour
2 cups grated sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, cover carrots with water, bring to a boil, and simmer about 20 minutes, or until pretty soft. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook macaroni as directed on package. In a frying pan, heat 1 T of the butter on medium, add chopped onions, and saute until soft, about 10 minutes.

When carrots and onions are ready, puree them in a blender with the tomato paste and some or all of the carrot water, adding milk if needed. In the carrot pan, heat the remaining 2 T butter on medium until it bubbles, add the flour, and stir for 1 minute. Add the pureed carrot and onion sauce and stir with a whisk over medium heat until it bubbles and thickens a little. Add the cheese and stir to melt. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the macaroni, return to the pot, and add the sauce. If it is too thick, add some more milk until it’s the consistency you like. It will be bright orange, and not quite smooth. The cheese doesn’t melt all the way, but I like that. Now I’m thinking that if you did the roux (butter and flour) and added warm milk to make a white sauce, added the cheese to melt it, then pureed the carrots and onions without adding milk, you could then mix the two and it might be smoother. Or you could just leave out the carrots and onions all together, add more butter and flour, and have regular mac n’ cheese. But I think it’s yummy.

You could also use this recipe to make a nice carrot soup if you left out the macaroni, and even the cheese. I bet it would be yummy with chicken broth instead of milk, and maybe some curry powder.

So, yeah. This will get a few more dishes dirty that a box of icky fake stuff, but you will be happier with yourself, and if your kids like it, won’t you feel like a success?

By the way, it did not pass the test with Calvin. He took one look, crinkled his nose, and said, “Mom, what did you put in this?” But Zeeb inhaled his “macaronicheese,” Derek liked it fine, and even my Dad cleaned up the leftovers the next day.

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