Sneaky foods: Cauliflower mac n cheese

We are pretty blessed by the fact that The Blueberry has a fairly diverse and at times, refined palate for a 4 year old.  She has tried and enjoyed every kind of fruit and vegetable that we have, every protein product under the sun, a variety of stinky and non-traditional dairy products as well as cultural specialties.  You know what she doesn’t like?  Pickles and mustard.  That’s about it.  However, that is not to say that she is a perfect eater.  Far from it.  There are days that I fear she would starve if cheese and peanut butter didn’t exist.  During those times, she typically eschews any kind of fruit or vegetable product instead driving us crazy by constantly requesting what she considers to be the four basic food groups: chocolate, candy, milk and butter.  Not exactly a balanced diet.

During those times, I am happy to be inspired by books like Deceptively Delicious and The Sneaky Chef whose sole mission seems to be to feed our children the way we want them to be fed without them knowing it.  Sounds like ridiculous parenting, no?  Well…no.  I mean-think about it.  Of course I want my child to prefer a carrot stick to a chic-0-stick but it isn’t always going to happen.  Despite the efforts I put into making a variety of healthful, veggie filled meals, there are going to be times where her stubborn nature rises and she says “Actually, momma.  I’m a dragon and I don’t eat vegetables anymore.”  (Sigh-quote from lunch yesterday.)  During those times instead of forcing her to come to a joy of veggies and fruit on her own, I’m going to give them to her while letting her feel that she has won the food battle.  Enter in sneaky mac n cheese.

This is a great recipe for days where you have too much going on and not enough time.  I’d love to give you a totally healthy scratch recipe for mac n cheese, but that ain’t happenin today.  Instead I give you Annie’s white cheddar mac:

picture courtesy of Annie's

picture courtesy of Annie’s

And God’s awesome creation.  That crown of cruciferousness.  That casanova of caulis.  That babe of brassica…Cauliflower.  Also known as “I’m not eating that crap” in my house.

pic courtesy of God.  Oh, and health.com

pic courtesy of God. Oh, and health.com

So anywhoo…cook your mac and cheese according to the box directions.  In the last 30ish seconds of cooking time, drop in a few pieces of frozen cauliflower.  It could also be fresh, but dang, that stuff is expensive in my part of the country and almost impossible to get organic, so we go with organic frozen.  While your mac is draining, take those now nuclear hot pieces of cauliflower (owwie, my hands) and drop them into a blender with 1-3 Tablespoons of milk and the cheese flavored packet.  Well, not the whole packet..you know, the contents….blend well.  Return the smoothish (as smooth as cauliflower can be) back to the pan to warm up.  Once warm, incorporate your mac and voila…healthier mac n cheese!

I typically sprinkle “shreddy/sprinkley” cheese on here to disguise the slightly lumpy texture, but The Blueberry eats it up like crazy.  And I’m crazy about the fact that despite her efforts to the contrary, I have just provided a more nutritionally sound meal with not a lot of extra time/effort.  If you get a chance, I’d love to hear what you are doing to sneak in some health for those “no way” days!  Happy cooking!

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Cookie day and a lesson on captivity

We have a friend of Sheldon’s staying with us right now as his family makes the move from DFW to this part of the country.  He’s a very nice guy and we’re enjoying his company although The Blueberry is under the impression that we invited him here to be her exclusive entertainment provider.  How do I know?  Well, this was the convo in her bedroom the other night:

“Blueberry-it’s time to get ready for bed.”

“Where are the boys mama?  I want to go hang out with them.”

“Well, Daddy is outside putting up the animals for the night and Mr. C is downstairs.”

“What is Mr. C doing?”

“I don’t know-maybe talking to Mrs. C?  Why?”

“Because I want him up here.”

“Blueberry..he is our guest, not our captive.  We can’t make him do everything we want.  It’s not polite.”

“Captive?  What’s a captive?”

“Well, it’s someone who is held against his will and forced to do what the people holding him want him to do.”

“Mama…I think I’m a captive.”

So, begins day 3 of her captivity because of the ice storm.  It’s not terribly bad here but if I don’t have to take her out on the roads, I just figure why bother.  Sheldon went into work this morning and because we park our cars outside it took no joke-30 minutes of scraping to get all of the ice off his truck.  I think it was between 1-2 inches thick.  That is good times!

To pass the time, we have done some sledding down one of the hills (who needs snow when you have faster ice?!), we’ve played Kinect games and now we’re currently enjoying Mary Poppins…

WP_001884

Someone call Amnesty International…look at the deplorable conditions our captive is facing…

…but in a few minutes we are going to begin making reduced fat oatmeal raisin cookies.  These cookies are one of Sheldon’s very favorite and they always satisfy my need to bake when the weather gets cold like this:

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4-1/2 cup applesauce (I give a broad range here because you just need to watch your mix.  Start with the smaller measurement and add more if you notice the mix is too dry)

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

2 teaspoons cinnamon (we are cinnamon junkies in this house)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups uncooked oats

1 1/2 cups AP flour

1 cup raisins

Parts that I have riffed on:

I’ve made these many times omitting the butter completely.  In that case, just increase your applesauce to one cup.  The cookies will have more of a cakelike texture but they are still awesome.

I’ve also substituted 1 cup of dried cherries, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, etc for the raisins

I’ve successfully included chia and/or flax seeds without any complaints from The Blueberry…In fact, I think we’ll be adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of flax seeds today.  Because I’m adding the flax seeds, I’ve decreased the oats by about 1/2 cup.   If you haven’t yet discovered either of these seeds, I STRONGLY recommend that you check them out.  The health benefits for these seeds are just phenomenal and they can be snuck into all kinds of baked goods.  The chia seeds have a bit of a slimey texture in some wet applications, so I probably wouldn’t add them to eggs, but hiding them in cookies, cakes and crackers-super genius!

Preheat your oven to 350.  Cream together butter and sugar until it looks fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time and then add vanilla-this becomes your wet mixture.

That's not dirt on my mixer, I forgot and added the cinnamon early while the mixer was on.  Not. Genius.

That’s not dirt on my mixer, I forgot and added the cinnamon early while the mixer was on. Not. Genius.

In a separate bowl, mix together your flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.  Then incorporate this into the wet mixture one cup at a time.  You don’t want to overmix it because flour will begin to form gluten which can make cookies a bit too tough.

Once your flour mixture is in, mix in your oats and dried fruit by hand until incorporated.  I then use the 2 spoon method to drop them on to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat.

I like big cookies and I cannot lie..

I like big cookies and I cannot lie..

They don’t spread out, so pretty much how you plop them onto your sheet is how they come out.  Bake for 8-12 minutes depending on oven.  If you omit the butter, they won’t get terribly brown, so try a small first batch to see how long you really need to cook.  Let cool on a rack and then stuff them in your face.

nom nom nom nom

nom nom nom nom

According to Calorie Count, it’s about 41 calories per cookie with sugars and fats both under 9 grams respectively (fat under 2 grams)  Adding in the flax seeds adds some fat but it also adds a very nice amount of protein and fiber, so while it is not quite like eating a celery stick,  it’s still healthier than eating a full fat cookie.  At any rate, I can’t blog any more because I need both hands free to shove em in.  Happy baking!