Looking for another way to get more veggies into your child’s belly? I love to start with foods kids already like and go from there. Mac and Cheese is usually a winner for most kids, add some hot dogs and you are sure to have lots of happy kids! We love pasta, cheese, and hot dogs in our house too but I always like to build on that and have the focus of these meals be the veggies and the protein instead of the pasta and cheese. That is where my version of Mac and Cheese comes in.
Keep the pressure low and the adventure high
The Mac and Cheese varies slightly depending on what veggies I have on hand. For this recipe, I added shredded carrots and zucchini, which my girls say they can’t even taste, and then I added frozen peas and mini broccoli florets. If the broccoli is a hard sell, I recommend starting with making broccoli “sprinkles.” Shave off very fine pieces of the floret and just sprinkle a few on top of the Mac and Cheese as a garnish. Better yet, have them do it and ask them how many little sprinkles they think they can catch on their tongue.
Whenever, I turn trying a food into a challenge or a game the success rate is close 100 percent! After all, who does’t like a good game or a fun challenge? This way, you are not begging and pleading with them to try the broccoli. I have been there and from my experience it doesn’t work! Instead you are asking them how many sprinkles they can catch on their tongue. One? Five? Ten? If you can join them in the fun, the success rate goes up even more. Want to learn my thoughts on the “no thank you bite?” Check out “Why I traded the No-Thank You Bite for the Rate-It Game.” If you haven’t already, I encourage you to download and print out the Taste-O-Meter. You can keep it on your fridge as a reminder to make trying new foods fun.
Play around with the different kinds of veggies and the amounts of veggies. Start small if this is something new and work your way up. Keep your eye on the long term goal of raising healthy eaters who enjoy veggies. This takes time and patience! Misa’s Mac and Cheese has four cups of veggies, making the veggies the center of the dish, with protein next, and then the pasta. Pasta is delicious. We eat it often, but it has little nutritional value, so it is important to optimize the pasta dish with colorful veggies and a clean protein.
Cook and Learn:
If you are looking for more ways to incorporate plants into your family’s diet, I offer Cook and Learns where we spending time learning how to optimize our kid’s heath while enjoying a 4 course, gluten free meal, made with real food, organic ingredients. Our next one is Tuesday, February 21st at 6pm. If you are not local, I’m happy to offer the workshop virtually. Just reach out for details. Now on to the recipe.
1 cup zucchini grated
1 cup carrots, grated
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup broccoli florets, cut into bite size pieces or smaller
8 oz. dried pasta (I like Jovial Pasta for its clean ingredients and delicious taste)
1 1/2 cups cheese, grated (I like Gouda goat cheese but any high quality cheese is great)
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or milk of choice)
2 tablespoons butter (I like Kerrygold made with grass fed milk)
hot dogs, chopped ( I like Fork in the Road pasture raised beef hot dogs)
2 tablespoons avocado oil
- Heat large skillet to medium heat as well as boil a large pot of water for pasta.
- Once the skillet is hot, add avocado oil.
- Once avocado oil is heated, add chopped hot dogs, grated carrots, zucchini, and peas. Saute for a few minutes before adding broccoli.
- Cook for about 5 minutes, or until desired tenderness of broccoli. We prefer broccoli with a bit of a crunch.
- Once water is boiling, add pasta and cook for the recommended length of time.
- Once cooked, drain the pasta in a colander and set aside.
- Add butter, milk, and cheese to the pot and stir until cheese is melted.
- Then add the veggie/hot dog mixture as well as the pasta.
- Mix until coated. Add pepper and salt if desired.