Being a mom is amazing: Fulfilling and thrilling and sweet and tender. The best thing I’ve ever done. By Far.
But being a mom can also be brutal: Exhausting and exasperating and heartbreaking and painful. The hardest thing I’ve ever done. By Far.
Putting dinner on the table is just one of many challenging aspects of raising kids, which is why good resources are worth cherishing.
Case in point? A delightful cookbook and guidebook on feeding little ones.
It’s just the sort of book I could have used when my own babies went from the “all liquid” diet onto solids. Breastfeeding struggles aside, there is something enviably uncomplicated about those first months when a baby’s sole nourishment is at the ready, at exactly the right temperature, no preparation required. Adding in cereals and purees, and then, gasp, “real” food, can be unnerving.
Baby & Toddler on the Go comes from Kim Laidlaw, a seasoned food writer, editor and mom who has real world tips and recipes so appealing, it made me want a “do-over” on the toddler years. Case in point are these little Mac and Cheese bites, a recipe perfectly suited to toddlers, but just as appealing for older kids (and grown ups, too). I added in broccoli for a boost of veggies in every bite. They’re also terrific for stowing in the freezer and popping into school lunches.
Mini Mac & Cheese with Broccoli
These tasty bites are perfect to pop into a container and take anywhere, and they are a great size for little hands. They're also nutritious, loaded with protein and calcium, thanks to the eggs, milk and cheese. Make them in mini muffin tins to have for supper or school lunch, or size them up and bake in a conventional muffin cups.
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 2 cups elbow macaroni (8 ounces)
- 1 1/2 cups tiny broccoli florets
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk, warmed
- 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 eggs, beaten
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 30 cups of a mini muffin pan with cooking spray (or 10 to 12 cups of a regular muffin tin).
Bring a medium saucepan full of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Use a slotted spoon to scoop the pasta from the water and drain well.
Bring the water back to a boil and blanch the broccoli until just barely tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain well.
In the same saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Slowly add the milk while whisking constantly, until smooth. Continuing to whisk, slowly add the cheeses until smooth. Add the macaroni to the cheese sauce and stir to combine. Remove from heat, add the egg and cooked broccoli to the pasta, and mix well.
Spoon the pasta mixture into about 30 of the mini muffin cups (or 10 to 12 regular muffin cups), filling them to the top.
Bake until crisp and browned around the edges and bubbling, about 10 minutes for minis, a little longer for regular-size ones. Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing (use a small knife to help dislodge them if necessary).
STORE IT Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or seal in a zippered plastic bag and freeze for up to 3 months. PACK IT Thaw 2 or 3 mac & cheese bites, if necessary, then pack in a small airtight container. If you are on the go for more than 1 hour, place in a small bag with a travel ice pack.
Recipe adapted and printed with permission from Baby & Toddler on the Go (copyright Weldon Owen and Kim Laidlaw). Mom’s Kitchen Handbook received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher.