We've been giving the girls more choices when it comes to their meals. We've been doing a lot of "build your own" kinds of things. I've found that our girls tend to eat their meals with more gusto and excitement when they've had some ownership of what goes into it. They love it. And really who doesn't want to have choices as to what they put into their body? I want my girls to eat well but I also want them to think for themselves and have opinions. I don't want to tell them what they need to like and why. I desire for them to experiment and think and make choices. I want them to come to those conclusions on their own. My hope is guide them and allow them to make decisions for themselves. This is why I don't freak out when they all of a sudden hate anything green, or they protest a new food or meal. I love talking nutrition with them and educating them on why we choose to eat the way they do, and it's amazing what my 3 year old takes in. But no matter what I do, I cannot make them LIKE something. Let it be. I'm not out to create little mini Jen's. My desire is to raise two little girls who will grow into women that can think for themselves, have opinions, and be confident in their choices. Really what I'm trying to express is that my kids, like...no wait LOVE having choices. It empowers them to look at a finished product they created. I'm learning this applies to the area of food as well.
This brings me to the build your own Mac-N-Cheese. We started with a base of elbow rice pasta and then made the cheese sauce. Next we sat our lots of veggies and let the girls pick what they wanted. They loved it. We've been doing this with taco variations, sandwiches, baked potatoes, smoothies, pizzas....it's been great to see them get excited about what they are eating and take the pride of having created it. And quite honestly it makes meal times a lot more easy going.
Vegan Cheese Sauce
(adapted from a recipe on SavvyVegetarian.com)
- 1 cup water
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/4 cup raw cashews
- 2 Tbsp Arrowroot powder
- 1 Tbsp flour (reg. or gluten-free flour works equally)
- 1 Tbsp light miso paste
- 1 Tbsp tahini
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp turmeric (optional) (creates a more golden, traditional looking cheese sauce)
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 2 Tbsp water
- Combine all ingredients except for the last 2 Tbsp of water in a blender and blend until smooth
- Pour the mixture into a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until it starts to thicken
- Let it bubble for 30 seconds, whisking vigorously, then remove from heat
- Whisk in the remaining 2 Tbsp water until smooth
Cook elbow pasta according to directions. If you haven't tried Rice Pasta yet it is certainly worth it, especially if you think you might have a gluten sensitivity. It can be found online at places like Vitacost at a cheaper price or if you are blessed enough to have a Trader Joe's locally, they have fabulous prices on the Gluten Free Pasta.
Add Vegan Cheese Sauce (from above recipe).
Add veggies. Or create a "build your own Mac-N-Cheese" bar.
Topping ideas: peas, broccoli, red pepper, mushrooms, sprouts, finely chopped kale, garlic, tomatoes, olives, caramelized onions, and herbs.
Another option is to add pasta, cheese sauce, and veggies to a 9x13 baking dish. Top with homemade bread crumbs (try grinding rice puffs or rice cakes in blender for an easy, cheap gluten free bread crumb). Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until bread crumbs are lightly golden.