I have a confession to make: I am terrified of children. I don’t know what to say to them and I don’t know how to act around them. I grew up as an only child who never babysat to make extra cash. The last time I was forced to interact with a child under the age of 15, I froze and downed way more beers than I had previously anticipated.Afterwards, I was told that I had fallen on a professional crutch. "Yes, but can you tell me about the exact moment when you realized blue is your favorite color?" I was overheard saying.
Under awkward social circumstances I interview. Maybe I was taking notes with mustard on a napkin. Either way, I think my interview subjectwas unimpressed. I’ve always looked upon those who hold special communion with the Miniature People in awe.
Plus, kid food is boring. Especially American kid food. Hot dogs, mac and cheese from a box, spaghetti and meatballs. My fingers are falling asleep as I’m typing this. On the other hand, I hear cooking for children is a challenge because parents must constantly attempt to outwit kids in the vegetable ingestion stakes. In fact, that sounds like a culinary challenge, and I can get on board with that.
My version of mac and cheese is basically a vegetable gratin. But who has to know if all the healthy parts are hidden? I may not know how to talk to children, but at least I know how to get them to eat their greens.
Hidden Veggie Mac and Cheese
Serves 2 adults (with leftovers)
500g macaroni, penne or rigatoni pasta
1 small head broccoli chopped into small florets (substitute with cauliflower if the color green is a problem)
1 large bunch spinach leaves, chopped (substitute with a small bunch of cabbage leaves to avoid green)
1 tbsp butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1¼ cup sharp cheddar cheese or gouda
1 tbsp mustard
Pinch of nutmeg
½ cup breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 3750C. Boil a large pot of water and add a pinch of salt. Throw in the pasta, cook for four minutes. Then, add the broccoli in with the pasta and cook for one minute. Then, add the spinach, stirring until it’s wilted. Drain everything and set aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add onion and garlic, salt and pepper. Sauteé the onion and garlic until translucent. Sprinkle in the flour, cooking until the flour turns slightly golden brown. Add the cold milk in a stream, whisking the entire time until the mixture is smooth. Let the mixture come to a simmer. Add one cup of cheese, as well as the mustard and nutmeg. Set aside. In a baking tray, add the pasta and veggie mixture, toss with the sauce – it should be a bit runny. Sprinkle with the remainingcheese and all the breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.