When my three-year old was younger (somewhere before age two) he ate everything I put in his mouth. I thought I lucked out with him, especially after hearing how picky kids are when it comes to food. I mean this kid ate sardines and rice and literally anything that had a bold and sometimes pungent flavor; nonetheless, I was proud. Sometime after age two he started to become picky. Foods he once loved became tantrum inducing if I even offered it! Although he never gave up too many vegetables, I've found myself trying to figure out ways to get vegetables into his diet without him noticing. This carrot and pumpkin mac and cheese is not something I figured out on my own. My good friend Sanchita gave me the idea and I couldn't wait to share the recipe with you all.
I realized in the earliest stages of being a mom that I would have to embrace those who have walked the path of motherhood before me, because this was something I couldn't navigate on my own. Having a support system is crucial, but sometimes that support doesn't need to come from only the people who are physically around you. A phone call is sometimes all it takes.
Sanchita and I went to high school together and she currently lives in NYC, where we both grew up. We talk sporadically now that we're both part-time working moms, but when our kids were younger and we were stay-at-home moms (sahms), we chatted a few times a week. Sanchita and I are both at the same stage of life with being young mothers and having a lot of responsibility at home. We both had our kids very close together and for that reason we always seemed to understand each other's daily struggles. She always made time for me and even if we couldn't chat, we'd leave whatsapp messages for each other and catch up when we could. She never got upset if I didn't return a phone call because she knew what life was like with two kids under 3 and no helping hand in sight (until dad came home).
I remember during one of my daily chats with Sanchita I told her Erik was going through a picky stage with food and she mentioned she adds some carrot puree to the mac and cheese she makes for her kids and they couldn't tell the difference. I was like, wha?! Carrot macaroni and cheese?! These are the reasons for mom friends. They help you in big ways with seemingly small problems. I gave it a try the next time I made mac and cheese for Erik and well, he LOVED it! He really could not tell the difference. Now, whenever I make this mac and cheese for him I also add Caribbean pumpkin to it, obviously because it's orange and has a mild taste, but he still can't tell the difference from regular macaroni and cheese.
How much carrot and pumpkin do I add?
So this is the tricky part. You have to play around with the recipe to see how much your child can eat without noticing the flavor difference. I started with just adding about 1 oz each of the carrot and pumpkin puree and gradually increased the amount every time I made the recipe. I did this because, well, more veggies the better, but I wanted there to be just enough that he didn't notice. Adding more pumpkin and carrot puree also changes the texture of the sauce. It isn't as stretchy and cheesy so I would recommend starting with a little then working your way up. The recipe listed here is what works for us. If I'm making pumpkin for dinner, I'll just reserve a small piece in the freezer for the next time I make this mac and cheese dish.
- 2oz medium carrot, chopped (about ½ carrot)
- 1oz fresh pumpkin, chopped
- 1 cup elbow macaroni
- 4-6 ounces cheese, shredded
- ½ tsp salt, add more to taste
- 1 tbsp butter for sauce
- water for pureeing vegetables
- Boil macaroni according to box directions. Drain and return to pot. Add butter to macaroni and mix, set aside.
- Steam pumpkin and carrots. Add to blender with enough water to make a smooth puree. Return to pot and turn heat to low. Add shredded cheese to puree and stir until sauce is stretchy.
- Add macaroni to sauce and mix until completely coated. Add salt and any other seasonings if desired.
Already pureed carrot and pumpkin may be used in place of fresh. I would recommend using organic and a brand that contains no seasonings.