I made a vow a while back not to serve my children boxed mac-n-cheese anymore. In a moment of weakness, after a long weekend of single parenting while hubby was away with the boys, I caved. I had no energy to do anything else for dinner and I'm not proud of that.
What I AM proud of is that after my awesome weekend in Scottsdale with Bosch and Chef Brad (most amazing chef ever--check his site www.chefbrad.com) he told me about an easy way to incorporate good-for-you grains into your diet.....Just make up a couple of cups of different grains and store them in the fridge each week and pop them into whatever else your making to add a little extra good nutrition. Finally, after three weeks, I did it and was so very proud to have some whole wheat couscous to toss into the kids' boxed mac-n-cheese Sunday night! And I know that there are a lot of other parents out there who's children won't eat much more than those little orange noodles, so if you can follow my lead here and add some extra goods--quinoa, couscous, millet--you can feel a little better about serving it to them, not to mention having something good to feed YOURSELF during those busy weekdays instead of crappy kiddie food. If you don't have time to make up a batch of grains each week, just cook them in the same water you cook your other pasta in and adjust the cooking time to meet the grain. The couscous cooks fast so put it in with the pasta/macaroni the last five minutes of cooking time. If using quinoa, it takes about 15 minutes to cook, so start a handful of it in boiling water first, then add in your pasta after 7-8 minutes (depending on how long your pasta needs to cook) and drain it all together, add cheese, butter, milk, etc. I was certain my kids would notice the diference aesthetically, and I think they did, but were so excited for this tasty treat they hadn't had in months, they didn't care and dove right in. The taste of the pasta/macaroni is actually enhanced with the extra grains. I'm pretty sure that my kids will never eat plain pasta again (or Kraft mac-n-cheese). Its just too easy to make it better.
Here's a little lowdown on the grains above. Starting in the top left corner, Red Quinoa has the best amino acid profile of all the grains, they are quick cooking, high in fiber, B vitamins, folate and magnesium. Red quinoa is sweeter than white quinoa packing a delicious nutty flavor. Next is Millet. Millet is a grain that was very popular in China before rice became predominant. It is rich in iron and is great as a side dish in lieu of pasta or rice. Quinoa is also packed with iron and fiber. It contains more protein than most other grains. Whole wheat couscous is also a fast cooking grain rich in iron. It has the flavor and texture of regular couscous but with the added benefit of whole wheat. If you add 1/3 cup of whole wheat couscous to the children's pasta, you are packing in an extra 8 grams of protein! Last but not least, I have lentils pictured here which are not a grain, but a legume. They can also easily be incorporated into pastas adding a good amount of lean protein, iron, folate and fiber. But we'll talk more about legumes at a later date. This is all about grains, but don't the lentils make the picture pretty?
Pictured below is plain ol' pasta (my daughter's one and only favorite meal) with some white quinoa mixed in. She devours it every time! If you're worried about how to explain the little extra grains, try "bubbles", "wheels", "baby baseballs"...use your parenting genius!