23 June 2011

My Macaroni & Cheese Lunch

At times I find myself slipping from what I would consider healthy eating. I know probably everybody has their own idea of what that means, but for me, what I struggle with most is increasing the amount of vegetables that I eat and decreasing extra sugars, extra fats, and animal products, while still eating foods that are appealing to my family. Food is a sensitive subject to most people, and no less around our home. Still- there's this struggle within me to increase vegetables that my family eats, without upsetting the balance too much.

On to lunch today. Katie wanted macaroni and cheese. The obsessed mother that I am decided I can make mac and cheese, and add some vegetables, and we would both be satisfied. I gave a moments thought to what might work in mac and cheese and what I have available. I started by picking some herbs from my herb garden. Spearmint, lemon mint, and oregano. Then crimini mushrooms from the refrigerator. I chopped everything up, putting a pan on the stove with a little canola oil to heat.

I sauteed the mushrooms first, then added the herbs to wilt. The smell of mint cooking is an interesting one. Mint is one of my favorite herbs for a stirfry. The flavor is very different than you might imagine. It is not what one thinks as "minty", it is not gum or toothpaste or mouthwash. Instead, it is a rich herby flavor. It reminds me of middle eastern food.

While that was cooking, I started on the cheese sauce. A little water in the pot, mixed with salt, pepper, and flour, brought to a boil and thickened to a paste. I know this may also seem strange to some of you, but I am opposed to using milk, unless I really need to. Water works just fine.

Next, I added a can of petite diced tomatoes to the pan of herbs and mushrooms and left it to simmer and the flavors to mix.

Back to the sauce, here I am adding cheese to the pasty base. On low heat, added a little at a time the paste transforms into a thick cheesy sauce.

When all the cheese has been added to the sauce and melted thoroughly, it is time to combine the elements.

I put the sauce on low heat and finally started cooking the macaroni. I really like the shells form of whole wheat pasta best, but the grocery store was out of stock, so I bought macaroni this time. I think I like the shells better because they are able to be coated on all sides with the sauce, so they don't have the heavy flavor often associated with whole wheat pasta. Here's the picture of the final product. Appetizing, no? I guess that all depends on who you are.

The final assessment: Three girls come in for lunch. Right away Tiffany tells me how good it looks. I expected that. She's a food lover and hard to disappoint. The other two, however, fall into, I kid you not, howls of how awful this latest food monstrosity is. Not looks, but IS. I dished up bowls for the kids. I gave Tiffany a full bowl, Emily a generous scoop (about half a bowl), and Katie a mere two bites' worth. Yep, I know my kids and how much I'm able to coax them to eat even when they truly don't like something. Tiffany ate her bowlful, as expected, and had seconds, then thirds, raving the whole time. :) Emily continued her protest, I left the table to let mine cool, it was still pretty hot. When I came back, she not only tried it, she finished her bowl, then went back for seconds, and thirds. Yay! it was a hit for her as well. :) :) Well, then we were down to Katie. This kid is stubborn. She tried every dodging tactic. "Can't I eat a peanut butter and honey sandwich instead, mom?" "Or wheat thins?" "or peanut butter and honey on saltines?" I told her if she chose not to eat the (two bites!) macaroni, the only thing she could eat was fruit or vegetables. It took a lot of coaxing. She ate one macaroni and declared it tasted like a skunk smells. I finally suggested she put a little parmasan cheese on top. She did that, and ate her two bites all up, minus the vegetables. I then let her have a peanut butter and honey sandwich.

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