Mac and cheese is a child favorite and go-to holiday comfort food, but many versions are heavy in cheese and pasta and lacking the all-important veggie group. This season, let your little one help whip up a version the whole family can all feel good about! The orange pumpkin puree blends perfectly with the cheese sauce and adds a hefty nutritional punch. This recipe comes to us from Jory of teeny tiny foodie.
Food for Thought: Have you ever wondered why pumpkins are such a bright, beautiful shade of orange? Pumpkins are orange because they contain a lot of beta-carotene, an orange-colored nutrient that helps keep our eyes healthy. Carrots are a good source of beta-carotene, too. These days, food coloring makes most cheddar cheese orange, but a long time ago the cheese was naturally orange because the cows that made the milk ate a lot of beta-carotene, too!
Cooking Tip of the Week: For casseroles, instead of boiling pasta for the time recommended on the box, remove it from the boiling water a little early. This prevents the pasta from becoming mushy because it will continue to cook as you bake it in the oven.
Family Dinner Conversation Starter: What do you think the future will be like four years from now?
Adult: Heat the oven to 375°F.
Kid: Lightly grease a lasagna pan or large, deep baking dish.
Kid: Mix the reserved 1/2 cup of cheddar cheeses and the bread crumbs together in a small bowl for topping the cheesy pasta before you bake it.
Adult: Cook the pasta according to the package directions minus 2 minutes. After it has cooked, drain the pasta and return it to the pasta pot.
Adult: While the pasta cooks, begin creating the roux. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat. Once it begins to melt, turn up the heat to medium and let the butter begin to brown. Whisk in the flour until you create a thick paste.
Together: Slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time so it forms a thick sauce. Keep whisking as you stir in the puréed pumpkin and all the spices. Add the 1 1/2 cups of the mixed cheddar cheeses and stir until it is all melted. Taste and adjust spices as desired.
Together: Carefully, pour the sauce over the cooked pasta. Use a rubber spoon to make sure all the pasta is coated evenly. Pour the pasta and sauce into pan/baking dish.
Kid: Top with the bread crumb and reserved cheeses mixture.
Adult: Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese bubbles and the bread crumbs are lightly browned. Let cool for around 5 minutes before enjoying.
For tips on making your own pumpkin purée, visit teeny tiny foodie.
Calories: 492, Calories from Fat 81g, Total Fat 9g, Saturated Fat 4.4g, Cholesterol 657 mg, Sodium 65mg, Total Carbohydrates 8g, Dietary Fiber 2g, Protein 20g, Sugars 9g, Vitamin A 203%, Vitamin C 5%, Calcium 36%, Iron 21%