The kids have “early release” today from school and it’s a soccer practice night. So I’m pre-planning an easy supper of chicken nuggets and a box of mac-n-cheese with a side of peas. I’ve figured out a way to assuage my guilt and health up this fast food while keeping it something that’s super quick and easy for me to make. (This idea is not even remotely my own–I was totally influenced by Jessica Seinfeld’s “Deceptively Delicious” cookbook)
Whether making my own cheese sauce from scratch or doing the box mix, I always add in pureed squash and simply omit the butter or margarine called for. I’m adding a vegetable, not to mention how squash takes mac-n-cheese from a two dimensional food to off the charts 3-D in its complexity and flavor. I’ve been doing this for about three years now and can hardly stand to eat mac-n-cheese that does not contain squash.
In season and when I have time, I buy a whole squash, steam, puree, then freeze it in individual ice cube trays so I can pull them out a few at a time (they’re great added to spaghetti sauce, chili, and tomato-based soups as well). But when I run out of the homemade kind, I simply purchase some Gerber 2nd foods squash and use 1 container per batch of Mac-n-cheese. Then I re-use the little container for lunch box items.
Squash adds a good bit of nutritional value because it contains carotene, which can help protect against cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Squash can also gives you a boost with its vitamin B1, folic acid, fiber, potassium, B6 and niacin.
(Note: do not add pureed carrots to mac-n-cheese. Although it adds a beautiful orange color, it also adds an incredibly funky sweetness that makes it practically inedible. At least…that’s what I’ve heard from…um…a friend…who tried adding carrots to…um…*her* mac-n-cheese…yeah.)