I like macaroni and cheese. I really, really like macaroni and cheese. I would venture so far as to say that it is my favorite food. Even the stuff in the blue box. And my kids, being kids and all, absolutely love it. That being said, I have kids now, which means I am saddled with the sometimes depressing and often challenging task of providing them with mostly healthy meals most of the time. Macaroni and cheese doesn't typically fall into that category.
But oh! The convenience! The frugality! How can I possibly turn down a 50-cent box of creamy delicious mac and cheese?
So I use it, but I add to it. Sometimes it's just peas, sometimes it's something more elaborate. Take a healthy thing, stir it into some mac and cheese, and generally kids will eat it. It's a time-honored tradition among busy moms to do just this kind of thing.
Today, whilst tooling around the city with a good friend in tow, I mused, "What should I make my kids for dinner tonight?" His immediate response: "Chili mac."
Now, my kids are vegetarians, so at first the idea of chili mac didn't make a lot of sense. Until I remembered, of course, that vegetarian chili is not only possible, but delicious. And I happened to have a variety of delicious potential chili ingredients in my house. It couldn't have been more perfect. I made the chili (TONS of leftovers - TONS!), made the mac, and stirred them together to make...oh my dayum. Just look:
Hummuna hummuna nom nom nom nom...
And now, the recipe:
Vegetarian Chili Mac
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium cucumber, diced
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup hot water
1 cup vegetable broth
1 can black beans
1 20-oz can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 Tsp chili powder (or to taste - I made mine mild for the kids)
1 Tbsp chili sauce
salt and pepper
1 box macaroni and cheese
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp. butter
1. Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large sauce pot.
2. Add chopped garlic, onion, bell pepper, carrots, and cucumber, and saute until onion is translucent.
3. Add lentils and saute for 1 minute.
4. Add hot water, vegetable broth, black beans, and tomatoes.
5. Bring pot to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.
6. Add entire can of tomato paste and seasonings.
7. Simmer for 45 minutes, covered with lid tilted for ventilation.
8. During last 10 minutes of chili cooktime, cook mac and cheese according to package directions.
9. Once chili and mac and cheese are done, add chili to mac and cheese a spoonful at a time, stirring constantly to mix thoroughly. Stop when the mixture appears to be 50-50, or whenever you want really.
My kids gobbled this up, and I had a second helping. The creaminess of the macaroni and cheese really mellows out the intensity of the chili, making this a highly accessible, remarkably edible, pretty darn healthy version of a classic favorite. I THINK SO ANYWAY SO THERE.