With school back in full swing and a fall full of festivals, weddings and showers, I’m always looking for ways to save time. These pasta dishes are the perfect things to cook once and eat twice. The mac n’ cheese recipe is so easy and yummy, I guarantee you will never eat boxed again! And the spicy peanut pasta salad is a great dish to bring to parties or serve on the side of this fantastic grilled portobello mushroom burger recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod.
These recipes also feature some of my favorite tips for getting kids to eat their veggies, and some cooking techniques and time savers. For example, the mac n’ cheese is served over blanched broccoli, which I’ve found pleases kids’ palates much better than the over-cooked mushy steamed broccoli. It also features Ronzoni Smart Taste pasta, which is enriched with fibre, protein and calcium.
I also share a way to blanch the broccoli without a lot of extra steps, and a new-found secret to taking the bite out of onions by “deflaming” them. Finally, I sneak some brussels sprouts into the pasta salad for good measure. Note that all veggies in the following recipes were bought at the Cedar Falls farmer’s market. NOTE: you can make these recipes individually, just cook half the pasta.
Ingredients for Broccoli Mac n’ Cheese:
3 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 cup half and half
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets
1 box Ronzoni Smart Taste Elbow Noodles
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut up all of your veggies, keeping broccoli separate and in a strainer.
2. Cook one package of Ronzoni Smart Taste elbow noodles to al dente, according to package instructions. You will use half of the pasta in your mac n’ cheese and half in the pasta salad. (Use this tool to find Ronzoni pasta in a store near you).
3. Blanch broccoli by pouring the pasta water over the broccoli in the strainer. Cover strainer with pot lid and let steam for five minutes.
4. Drain pasta in a separate strainer. You can use half now for the mac n’ cheese and store the other half in a container to make the pasta salad later, if you’d like.
5. Melt butter in a medium-sized sauce pan over medium-low heat.
6. When butter is melted, add flour one tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly. Whisk for about three minutes or until the “roux” is foamy.
7. Slowly add milk and half and half, whisking constantly until the sauce becomes smooth (this should look, feel and taste like a cream sauce).
8. Turn down heat to low and add cheese. Continue to whisk slowly until cheese is melted.
9. Add 1/2 of the cooked pasta to your cheese sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
10. Put desired amount of blanched broccoli in individual soup bowls or plates, then top with mac n’ cheese and serve.
Tip: We serve this dish at our house this time of year with sliced apples and a mixed greens salad.
Ingredients for Spicy Peanut Pasta Salad:
3/4 cup chopped brussels sprouts
1 cup baby carrots
1/2 small red onion, diced and deflamed*
3 tbsp. organic natural peanut butter (use this tool to find Smuckers Natural or Organic Peanut Butter at a store near you)
2 tbsp. Nayonaise
2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
1/2 small green pepper
1 red chile
3 tbsp. cilantro sprigs
1 tbsp. honey
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Directions for Spicy Peanut Pasta:
1. Chop veggies.
2. Deflame your onion. To “deflame an onion,” I follow the Rick Bayless method. Put onions in a strainer, then place the strainer in a bowl of cold water with a splash or two of vinegar. Soak while prepping everything else.
3. Put all other ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
4. Mix dressing, veggies and pasta well. Chill for at least one hour before serving.