My daughter loves mac and cheese, but I try not to give her just that alone—it’s great comfort food but not exactly a balanced meal for a toddler. The problem is, I try to give her veggies first, but as soon as she sees the mac and cheese, the jig is up. She has eyes only for the orange stuff. So today I decided to make my own mac and cheese where I could hide all the healthy stuff right in with the yummy stuff. The cheese sauce has pureed butternut squash in it, I used whole wheat pasta, and I added finely shredded chicken for protein. And the little one was none the wiser! You could even add in peas or broccoli before baking—I just didn’t have any on hand.
Packed Macaroni and Cheese
1 box whole wheat pasta
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1 tsp pepper
pinch of salt
1 tsp garlic
1 cup roasted and pureed butternut squash
1 cup milk
1 cup cream (you can eliminate this and add extra milk if you like)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cups shredded cheese (I used colby jack and cheddar that I shredded myself)
10 oz shredded chicken (canned chicken even works great and is easy to keep on hand)
1 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box, drain and set aside. Preheat your oven to 400°. In a large saucepan, melt the 4 tbsp of butter over medium-high heat and then wisk in the flour, garlic, salt, and pepper. Slowly stir in the milk, cream and Worcestershire sauce. Stir constantly until the sauce is smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 2 minutes.
Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue cooking for another 8 minutes. Stir in the squash puree and wisk until blended. Gradually add the cheese one handful at a time, allowing the cheese in the pan to melt before adding more (stirring constantly). Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the chicken and pasta, and mix well to coat.
Transfer the pasta to a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish sprayed with nonstick spray. Mix the tbsp of melted butter with the bread crumbs and sprinkle them over the top. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.