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

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