Kale mac and cheese

Kale mac and cheese | Me & The Moose. This vegged-up pasta sauce looks green and packs a nutritional punch, but tastes like cheese. #meandthemoose #macandcheese #kale #greensauce #kidfood #dinnerrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

Mac and cheese is a perennial favorite for a reason. You can quickly make a huge batch and reheat it as needed. It’s perfect filler for lunchboxes or to whip up for dinner. And you can throw in any old proteins or veggies you have lying around. And it gets eaten. Huzzah!

Take me to the recipe!

Kale mac and cheese | Me & The Moose. This vegged-up pasta sauce looks green and packs a nutritional punch, but tastes like cheese. #meandthemoose #macandcheese #kale #greensauce #kidfood #dinnerrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

So! Easter and Passover just happened/are happening. My kiddo is at the age where he asks a lot of questions about everything, the deeper the subject, the better. The other day he hit me with, “Before I was born, where was I?”

Let me be clear: He was NOT asking where babies come from. He was asking a philosophical question about personhood. He wanted to know where his “self” resided before he had a body. He didn’t put it in those words, but that was the gist.

WHAT? WHY?

As you can imagine, religious holidays are tricky for us because this kid is constantly asking questions and we don’t always have great answers. “Why didn’t the Easter Bunny come to our house” was a little easier to handle than “Am I going to die?” but it was still tough! I stayed away from talking about religion and talked more about traditions, but I know that the questions are going to keep coming and get EVEN MORE complicated as his awareness grows.

Kale mac and cheese | Me & The Moose. This vegged-up pasta sauce looks green and packs a nutritional punch, but tastes like cheese. #meandthemoose #macandcheese #kale #greensauce #kidfood #dinnerrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

Since parenting has required so much mental gymnastics for us lately, I want to keep dinner as simple as possible. So, Mac and Cheese!

As you may or may not know, I prefer a stovetop mac and cheese to the baked kind. I feel like the baking process can dry out the sauce, which is not tasty, IMO.

Kale mac and cheese | Me & The Moose. This vegged-up pasta sauce looks green and packs a nutritional punch, but tastes like cheese. #meandthemoose #macandcheese #kale #greensauce #kidfood #dinnerrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

A couple of notes:

  • Do cook the kale a bit before pureeing. The more you cook the greens, the smoother the sauce will be. I only cook it for a few minutes though because I don’t want to lose too many of the nutrients.

  • Turn down the heat when making the sauce. It takes a bit longer, but will hopefully keep the milk solids from separating, which can make dairy-based sauces look curdled.


Kale mac and cheese

Time: About 25 minutes, mostly active
Yield: About 4 cups or 30 oz

1 lb small, dry pasta
1 bunch Lacinto kale, leaves stripped off of the tough center ribs
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
2 cups milk, divided (I used whole, but you can certainly use a lower fat variety if you like)
½ cup reserved pasta/kale cooking water
6-7 cups shredded cheese (combination of any nutty cheese like cheddar, gruyere, gouda, and Parmesan)
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp sea salt
Several cracks of black pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions.

While the pasta cooks, melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large sauce pan. Add the flour, stir well, and let bubble for 1 minute.

Turn the heat down to medium-low, add 1 and 1/2 cups of milk, and whisk to combine.

Add garlic, salt, and pepper to the milk and stir to combine. Let the milk heat up until there are small bubbles forming along the sides of the pan, about 3-4 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until melted, allowing the cheese sauce to bubble slowly, but try not to get the sauce too hot, about 4-5 more minutes.

Remove pasta from boiling water and add kale to that same water. Blanch for 2 minutes and remove greens to a blender. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Add the remaining ½ cup of milk to the green in the blender and puree until smooth, adding the reserved cooking water as necessary to puree the kale.

Add the greens to the cheese sauce and stir well. Allow the mixture to come up to a simmer again.

When both are cooked, combine 2 cups of the sauce with the cooked pasta and stir well. Add any additional toppings you might like.

Kale mac and cheese | Me & The Moose. This vegged-up pasta sauce looks green and packs a nutritional punch, but tastes like cheese. #meandthemoose #macandcheese #kale #greensauce #kidfood #dinnerrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

Sheet pan dinner: White fish with potatoes and fennel

Sheet pan dinner: White Fish with Potatoes and Fennel | Me & The Moose. This one pan wonder dinner is ready in 40 minutes and features fish and veggies dressed up with all the sweet, salty, creamy, briny, and crunchy toppings you could want. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #onepandinner #dinnerrecipes #Mediterraneandiet #fishrecipes #pescatarianrecipes #glutenfreerecipes #dairyfreerecipes

This sheet pan dinner is ready in about 40 minutes (start to finish) and combines mild base flavors with all kinds of dynamic toppings so you can please even the pickiest palate.

Jump to the recipe!

Sheet pan dinner: White Fish with Potatoes and Fennel | Me & The Moose. This one pan wonder dinner is ready in 40 minutes and features fish and veggies dressed up with all the sweet, salty, creamy, briny, and crunchy toppings you could want. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #onepandinner #dinnerrecipes #Mediterraneandiet #fishrecipes #pescatarianrecipes #glutenfreerecipes #dairyfreerecipes

Well hello anxiety, my old friend!

Question for the caregivers out there: Are you able to separate your own happiness from that of your kids? It’s a tough question because if your child is having a hard time in any area of his/her/their life, it can feel weird to say that you’re happy anyway. It’s also hard to actually be happy anyway. But at the same time, it’s a lot of pressure for a kid to have that much impact on their caregiver’s well-being.

We’ve had a couple of good weeks recently. You know the ones: You suddenly realize that the littles are more agreeable, they actually eat the food that you cook, and they can entertain themselves with toys that they already own!

We were on one of those streaks when M suddenly had a really tough week last week. I felt myself getting more and more anxious about it. Then I tried talking to him about a specific situation at school and he wouldn’t tell me because, he said, “I don’t want to make you mad and sad.” CRY FACE EMOJI.

I realized that my sensitive butterfly could tell that I was getting upset about his tough times and that it was stressing him out.

On the one hand, it’s good for kids, especially in these self-centered toddler and preschool years, to know that their actions and words impact others. I mean, it’s our job to teach them about consequences. But it’s also not a kid’s job to make sure that their parents are happy. So how do you balance your kids’ stuff with your own? Do you feel happy even when your kids are having a rough time?

I have no answers. Just putting this out into the universe in the hopes that someone smarter than me has some guidance.

Sheet pan dinner: White Fish with Potatoes and Fennel | Me & The Moose. This one pan wonder dinner is ready in 40 minutes and features fish and veggies dressed up with all the sweet, salty, creamy, briny, and crunchy toppings you could want. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #onepandinner #dinnerrecipes #Mediterraneandiet #fishrecipes #pescatarianrecipes #glutenfreerecipes #dairyfreerecipes

When I feel anxious, as I have this week, I gravitate towards unhealthy food, which always makes me feel worse. So instead, I made this sheet pan dinner and it has done the trick! Every flavor is represented here: Creamy, tangy feta; briny, salty olives; sweet, piquant roasted red peppers; and crunchy, sour pickled onions. Throw on some aromatic fresh oregano and garlic butter and this simple fish, potatoes and fennel dinner is all dressed up in a more interesting package.

The various components cook at different rates, which is the only slightly tricky part of this meal. But good news: You can prep the next step while the earlier one is cooking.

Sheet pan dinner: White Fish with Potatoes and Fennel | Me & The Moose. This one pan wonder dinner is ready in 40 minutes and features fish and veggies dressed up with all the sweet, salty, creamy, briny, and crunchy toppings you could want. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #onepandinner #dinnerrecipes #Mediterraneandiet #fishrecipes #pescatarianrecipes #glutenfreerecipes #dairyfreerecipes

Sheet pan dinner: White fish with potatoes and fennel

½ lb small potatoes, halved or quartered
2 large bulbs of fennel, white part only, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
½-1 tsp salt, divided  
Black pepper, to taste
4 white fish fillets, about 6 oz each, fresh or frozen
2 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced  

Toppings (all are optional!):
½ cup green or black olives, pitted and chopped
2-3 oz feta, crumbled
Fresh oregano
Quick pickled red onions (See recipe below)
Roasted red peppers, sliced
Lemon wedges
Flatbreads, Naan, or Pita

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Prep the potatoes and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toss with 1 Tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 5 minutes.

  3. While the potatoes roast, slice the fennel into 1/8th inch slices. Add the fennel to the roasting pan and toss with the other 1 Tbsp of oil and another large pinch of salt. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the fennel starts to brown and the potatoes are fork tender.

  4. While the fennel roasts, wrap your fish in parchment packets. Cut a piece of parchment 2-3x as large as your fish filet. Place the filet in the middle and bring the two longer ends together and fold down. Fold up the remaining sides.

  5. Add the fish on top of the veggies and cook until it flakes easily. This will take slightly longer if you’re cooking the fish from frozen. (I check the fish after 10 minutes if thawed, or after 15-18 minutes if frozen. Open up one parchment packet and try to flake the fish with a fork. If it comes apart easily, it’s done.)

  6. While the veggies and fish are roasting, prep your toppings. Set aside.

  7. Mince the garlic. Combine with 2 Tbsp of butter and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute until the butter is liquid. Add a pinch of salt and stir. Set aside.

  8. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and carefully open the parchment packets. Discard the paper and the water that’s collected in the packets while the fish cooked.

  9. Top the fish fillets with the garlic butter.

  10. Top the sheet pan with any of the toppings you choose.

Yield: 4 servings

Quick pickled red onions
1 large red onion, sliced into 1/8 inch slices
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt

  1. Combine the onions with the pickling ingredients in a large container and shake a few times. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour, or up to 1 week.

Sheet pan dinner: White Fish with Potatoes and Fennel | Me & The Moose. This one pan wonder dinner is ready in 40 minutes and features fish and veggies dressed up with all the sweet, salty, creamy, briny, and crunchy toppings you could want. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #onepandinner #dinnerrecipes #Mediterraneandiet #fishrecipes #pescatarianrecipes #glutenfreerecipes #dairyfreerecipes

Pasta con ceci (and white beans)

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

A one-pot, healthy, vegan optional pasta dinner full of beans and veggies that comes together in less than 30 minutes? Oh, and it’s made with things you likely have in your pantry right now (or could easily get on the cheap)? Yes and yes.

Take me to the recipe!

This dish started with Victoria Granoff’s wonderful Pasta con ceci from Food52. It’s easy, fast, inexpensive, and shockingly complex considering the petite ingredient list and short cooking time.

However, that quick cook left the chickpeas a little too raw, in my opinion. And while I love a healthy fat, the original recipe calls for lots of olive oil and I wanted to lighten it up a bit. I suspect that the larger amount of oil masks the chickpea taste a bit, but I like the idea of replacing fat with fiber and not the other way around.

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

I tried to swap in white beans for the chickpeas entirely, but they cooked down too much. Half and half white beans and chickpeas, though, proved the winning combination: Some bite from the chickpeas and some creaminess from the white beans marries perfectly.

Use whole wheat pasta and throw in some julienned kale at the end and you have a rounded, healthy dish full of fiber and protein.

Even M, who’s been in an extended picky phase, gobbled this up and we didn’t even need to put other “safe’ foods on the table.

All that to say, MAKE THIS FOR DINNER TONIGHT!

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes


Pasta con Ceci (and white beans)

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/3 cup tomato paste
1½ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed  
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1½ cup uncooked orecchiete pasta (or another small shape)
3½ cups stock or water
1 parmesan rind (optional)
½ bushel Tuscan (also called Lacinto or Dinosaur) kale, julienned (about 1½-2 cups) 

For serving: red pepper flakes, more parmesan,

Heat the oil in a large pot over a medium-low flame, until hot, but not crackling.

Add the smashed garlic (it should sizzle in the pan right away) and cook until it’s deeply tanned, but not dark brown. Adjust the temperature as needed to avoid burning.

Add the tomato paste. It should also sizzle when it hits the pan. If not, increase the temperature. Cook, stirring and hearing the sizzle, for 30 seconds to a minute.

Add the white beans, pasta, water or stock, and salt. Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese rind, if using. Let simmer uncovered (you should have a decent simmer going and see bubbles popping throughout the cooking. If not, increase the temperature) for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened to your liking and the pasta is cooked.

Turn off the heat and toss in your kale. Stir a few times to let the residual heat wilt the greens.

Serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes