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 medium 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 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. Blanch for 2 minutes and remove greens to a blender. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

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

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

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

Spinach and kale tots

Spinach and kale tots | Me & The Moose. These “tots” are filled with super greens and come together quickly for an easy side, lunchbox filler, or snack. #meandthemoose #homemadetots #tots #totsrecipe #lunchboxrecipes #veggiesnacks #kidfoodrecipes #kale #spinach #kidseatgreens

One reliable way I could get some greens into M was to present things as a “tot.” He really loved the Spinach and Kale Bites from Trader Joe’s, but our store has been out of them for weeks. So here is my copycat version.

Take me to the tots (recipe)!

Spinach and kale tots | Me & The Moose. These “tots” are filled with super greens and come together quickly for an easy side, lunchbox filler, or snack. #meandthemoose #homemadetots #tots #totsrecipe #lunchboxrecipes #veggiesnacks #kidfoodrecipes #kale #spinach #kidseatgreens

Note my use of the past tense up there.

M is still in his picky phase that I’ve mentioned before. He’s off of hummus, but full steam ahead with smoothies. One day he loves yogurt and the next he won’t touch it. Some days, carrots are a safe food and other days broccoli is his only vegetable. One day he’ll ask for a bowl of peas (straight up with nothing on them) and another day he’s picking them out of his mac and cheese. It’s maddening.

However, food refusal is a normal part of eating for kids. It’s hard to learn how to eat! Their taste buds are changing, their caloric needs swing wildly from day to day, and part of a preschooler’s job is to push against boundaries, so if there are rules around food in your house, they’ll try to break them. It’s how kids operate.

Spinach and kale tots | Me & The Moose. These “tots” are filled with super greens and come together quickly for an easy side, lunchbox filler, or snack. #meandthemoose #homemadetots #tots #totsrecipe #lunchboxrecipes #veggiesnacks #kidfoodrecipes #kale #spinach #kidseatgreens

One of my big things is making the same food for the whole family, so the good news here is that I really like these tots and they’re packed with veggies, so they make a good snack for the grownups as well.

Make these tots! One day my kid will eat them, I’m sure. And until then, I’ll eat them.

Spinach and kale tots | Me & The Moose. These “tots” are filled with super greens and come together quickly for an easy side, lunchbox filler, or snack. #meandthemoose #homemadetots #tots #totsrecipe #lunchboxrecipes #veggiesnacks #kidfoodrecipes #kale #spinach #kidseatgreens

Spinach and kale tots

1 bag frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 bag frozen kale, thawed and squeezed dry
¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
¾ cup grated Parmesan
½ cup shredded mozzarella
Heaping ½ tsp sea salt
Heaping ½ tsp onion powder
Heaping ½ tsp garlic powder
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350.

Thaw and squeeze dry a bag of spinach and a bag of kale. To achieve a smoother texture in your tots, pulse the dried greens in a food processor 10-15 times. You may need to squeeze with another towel if more liquid is released.

Place the squeezed dry greens in a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well to combine.

Take about 1½-2 Tbsp of the mixture and press into a nugget shape with your palms.

Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or until the nuggets feel solid when you push on them lightly.  

Yield: about 24-26 tots 

Spinach and kale tots | Me & The Moose. These “tots” are filled with super greens and come together quickly for an easy side, lunchbox filler, or snack. #meandthemoose #homemadetots #tots #totsrecipe #lunchboxrecipes #veggiesnacks #kidfoodrecipes #kale #spinach #kidseatgreens

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

Purple kale and cabbage salad

Purple kale and cabbage salad | Me & The Moose. A simple winter salad with greens, cabbage, roasted vegetables, and garlicky pumpernickel croutons tossed with a shallot vinaigrette is as filling and cozy as a salad can be. #meandthemoose #salad #wintersalad #saladrecipes #vegetarian #kale #cabbage #purplefoods

Yada yada yada…take me to the recipe

Do your kids eat salad?

Leafy greens are hit or miss around here, as are all foods these days. M is doing a lot of refusing to eat at meals— and not just healthy stuff, but ALL stuff— and the struggle is real.

I follow @kids.eat.in.color on Instagram and her feed is a sanity saving reminder that kids’ appetites change dramatically from day to day and week to week for a variety of reasons, so I’m trying not to sweat this testing phase. I think it has a lot to do with control and independence because when he gets really hungry, he eats. Last night he took down about 8 homemade dumplings, peanut noodles, broccoli, and scallion pancakes.

I actually talked to a dietitian friend about it and her mealtime strategy is to serve everyone the same main dish, but to also put bread and hummus on the table so that her kiddos have an alternative if they aren’t into the main. If they ask for something else, her response is a gentle but firm, “Sorry, that’s not on the menu tonight.”

I LOVE this strategy and am going to implement it on our table. An apple with almond butter is M’s go-to if he doesn’t like what I’ve made. So instead of letting that be the end point of a power struggle, I’m just going to start putting it out on the table as a way to de-fang this dinner time dance we’re doing.

I just want to make sure that I don’t take the joy out of eating for M, you know?

I recently read the book The Eating Instinct and it was fascinating. The author talks about how we start off using food for comfort and connection when feeding infants, but pivot to a whole different way of looking at food for older kids and throughout our lives. Sure, food is medicine and can be vital to our health, but it’s also love and community and comfort and it should be all of those things.

Another of my takeaways from the book is that our culture’s messaging around food really undermines our ability to trust ourselves to know what and how much to eat. I really don’t want to do that to M. I want to trust him that if he’s had two bites of dinner, he really is done.

I realize what a privilege it is that I get to worry about my kid not eating a kale salad. I mean, it may not get bougier than that, right? So, I also want to let that bit of perspective slow my roll when I start to get worried or frustrated that he isn’t eating.

Purple kale and cabbage salad | Me & The Moose. A simple winter salad with greens, cabbage, roasted vegetables, and garlicky pumpernickel croutons tossed with a shallot vinaigrette is as filling and cozy as a salad can be. #meandthemoose #salad #wintersalad #saladrecipes #vegetarian #kale #cabbage #purplefoods

Anyhoo, when things are working normally, I have a few tricks to getting M to eat salad:
1) Let him help with mixing the salad and tossing in the dressing.
2) Cut everything really small.
3) AAC, or Always Add Croutons: Bread is pretty safe for most kids and the added crunch can be a fun textural element.
4) Deconstruct: If your kids like to isolate textures, you can also deconstruct the salad so they eat each element on its own.

Purple kale and cabbage salad | Me & The Moose. A simple winter salad with greens, cabbage, roasted vegetables, and garlicky pumpernickel croutons tossed with a shallot vinaigrette is as filling and cozy as a salad can be. #meandthemoose #salad #wintersalad #saladrecipes #vegetarian #kale #cabbage #purplefoods

This salad is lovely and complex, but shockingly simple. I made it with just carrots the day I took photos, but it’s better with the roasted radishes and carrots. The carrots are sweet, which is great for kids, but the radishes add a slightly bitter edge that balances that sweetness. Roasting the radishes also takes away about 99 percent of the bite, though, so they’re very mellow.

Purple kale and cabbage salad | Me & The Moose. A simple winter salad with greens, cabbage, roasted vegetables, and garlicky pumpernickel croutons tossed with a shallot vinaigrette is as filling and cozy as a salad can be. #meandthemoose #salad #wintersalad #saladrecipes #vegetarian #kale #cabbage #purplefoods
Purple kale and cabbage salad | Me & The Moose. A simple winter salad with greens, cabbage, roasted vegetables, and garlicky pumpernickel croutons tossed with a shallot vinaigrette is as filling and cozy as a salad can be. #meandthemoose #salad #wintersalad #saladrecipes #vegetarian #kale #cabbage #purplefoods

Don’t skip rubbing the bread with garlic once it’s toasted and before you cut it into croutons. So so good.

And don’t be shy with salt. Salads are so much better with salt.

Purple kale and cabbage salad | Me & The Moose. A simple winter salad with greens, cabbage, roasted vegetables, and garlicky pumpernickel croutons tossed with a shallot vinaigrette is as filling and cozy as a salad can be. #meandthemoose #salad #wintersalad #saladrecipes #vegetarian #kale #cabbage #purplefoods


Purple kale and cabbage salad

1 small bunch purple carrots, peeled and sliced into large chunks
1 bunch radishes, cleaned and trimmed on top and bottom, quartered
3-4 thick slices of pumpernickel bread
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
Large pinch of salt
1 bunch purple kale
½ small purple cabbage
½- ¾ cup balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below)
1 large clove garlic, cut in half
Aged gouda (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425.

Prep the carrots and radishes. Toss with 1 1/2- 2 Tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt.

On the same sheet pan, place thick slices of bread and brush with olive oil and top with a pinch of salt.

Roast the carrots, radishes, and bread for 10 minutes. Remove the bread slices and return the carrots and radishes to the oven. Cook, checking for doneness every 5 minutes.

While the vegetables and bread are roasting, chop the kale and cabbage into very small pieces and toss well with the dressing. Set aside.

When the bread is still hot, but you’re able to handle it, rub the raw garlic over the crusty bread. Cut into small cubes and set aside.

(If you plan to make this salad ahead and serve after a few hours, stop assembling at this step. Store your cheese, croutons, and roasted vegetables separately and assemble the components just before serving.)

Add the carrots, radishes, and croutons to the salad and toss. Top with slices or shreds of cheese and serve immediately.

Yield: lots of salad.

Balsamic vinaigrette

1 small or ½ large shallot
1 small garlic clove
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp Dijon mustard
Pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a small blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Check the seasoning. Dressing will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 2 weeks.

Yield: about 1¼ cups or 9 oz

 

Purple kale and cabbage salad | Me & The Moose. A simple winter salad with greens, cabbage, roasted vegetables, and garlicky pumpernickel croutons tossed with a shallot vinaigrette is as filling and cozy as a salad can be. #meandthemoose #salad #wintersalad #saladrecipes #vegetarian #kale #cabbage #purplefoods





Polenta, turkey, and kale casserole

Polenta, turkey, and kale casserole | Me & The Moose. This casserole requires one oven-safe pan, a few simple ingredients, and is an easy, fast, healthy, and delicious meal for any busy night. #meandthemoose #kalerecipes #polentarecipes #kalepesto #dinnerrecipes #onepotcooking #fastdinnerrecipes #casseroles

I don’t know if the abundance of sugar, salt, and fat change my tastebuds during the holidays, but I always struggle to live by the 80/20 rule in December. I indulge with the eating and drinking and then swear I’m going to be healthy the next day, but the healthy stuff never feels all that satisfying or tastes all that good. So I end up like a moth to a flame with the treats.

But you know what? I don’t have to toggle between bland salads and a dozen cookies. This polenta casserole may just be the middle ground: It’s still delicious and a little indulgent with a garlicky pesto and plenty of cheese on top, but it also features kale and ground turkey breast and is the perfect vehicle for any of those leftover veggies in your fridge that are about to go bad. Throw them in and see what happens!

I used my own kale pesto recipe, but cut down on the oil and nuts. But for ease, feel free to use any store-bought pesto that you can find. And to up the nutrition, add any veggies you have in your fridge. You may need to add a bit more pesto to cover the extra ingredients.

IMG_9124-3.jpg
IMG_9126-2.jpg
IMG_9127-2.jpg
IMG_9130-2.jpg
Polenta, turkey, and kale casserole | Me & The Moose. This casserole requires one oven-safe pan, a few simple ingredients, and is an easy, fast, healthy, and delicious meal for any busy night. #meandthemoose #kalerecipes #polentarecipes #kalepesto #dinnerrecipes #onepotcooking #fastdinnerrecipes #casseroles
Polenta, turkey, and kale casserole | Me & The Moose. This casserole requires one oven-safe pan, a few simple ingredients, and is an easy, fast, healthy, and delicious meal for any busy night. #meandthemoose #kalerecipes #polentarecipes #kalepesto #dinnerrecipes #onepotcooking #fastdinnerrecipes #casseroles

Polenta casserole

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
2 lb ground turkey
Large pinch of salt
¾-1 cup kale pesto (recipe below)
1 log premade polenta
½ cup mozzarella, shredded
½ cup hard gouda (not the softer, smoked variety), shredded
¼ cup grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 425.

In a large oven-safe sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium flame. Turn the heat to medium-low and sauté the ground turkey until no pink remains and it has just begun to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Season with a large pinch of salt.

Turn off the heat and stir in the kale pesto.

Slice the polenta log into 1/4 –inch pieces and layer over the turkey and pesto.

Top with cheese and cook in the oven for 13-15 minutes, until the cheese is brown and bubbling.  

Yield: 4 servings

Kale pesto

4 cups packed chopped kale
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp olive oil

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and fill another large bowl with ice water. Wash and chop kale, leaving the middle stems.

When water is at a rolling boil, add the kale and swirl with a slotted spoon a few times. After 1-2 minutes, remove it from the boiling water and add it to the bowl of ice water. Drain the kale (gently squeeze out the water) and add to your blender or food processor.

Roast the walnuts in a 350 oven or toaster oven for about 5 minutes or until just lightly browned and starting to smell nutty. You can also toast them in a sauté pan on the stove top. When browned, add them to the blender or food processor as well.

Add the garlic, salt, and lemon juice and start to blend, slowly adding the olive oil in a thin stream. If using a small food processor or a blender without a top that opens, just add the oil with the rest of the ingredients and process together. Blend until you've reached your desired consistency.

Yield: about 1 cup

Polenta, turkey, and kale casserole | Me & The Moose. This casserole requires one oven-safe pan, a few simple ingredients, and is an easy, fast, healthy, and delicious meal for any busy night. #meandthemoose #kalerecipes #polentarecipes #kalepesto #dinnerrecipes #onepotcooking #fastdinnerrecipes #casseroles