Too Easy Cheesy Noodles
Ok, I’ll be the first to admit that Too Easy Cheesy Noodles isn’t a recipe. It’s more of a solution. At first, it was a solution for my attempt to satisfy the boxed mac and cheese requests I was getting (but refusing to serve). I had tried countless homemade mac and cheese recipes, which my husband and I thought tasted delicious, but I could not convince the kids. I began to wonder why I was making such a fuss about it. Why not simplify it. So, I essentially gave up and made Cheesy Noodles instead.
After years of serving them though, I began to realize they were a solution for quite a few other dilemmas as well.
Like the time crunch. When kids need to eat (like now), Cheesy Noodles are quick. Boil the pasta (whole grains and fun shapes are a good choice), drain the water, add a bit of butter or olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking, serve with shredded cheese on top and whatever veggies you have on hand (cooked or raw), cut up into bite sized pieces.
We go through a lot of cheese around here so, in order to further help with the time crunch I like to shred a whole brick of cheese at a time using my food processor. I keep the cheese stored in an airtight container in the fridge and it’s ready to go when I need it.
Cheesy Noodles are also a great solution for a group of kids with different tastes, whether they are all you own or guests. This is my everyday. The great thing about Cheesy Noodles is you can chop up a variety of veggies and each child can decide which veggies they would like. Served here with grape tomatoes, frozen peas and yellow bell peppers.
For children who like their food separated, deconstructing what is traditionally a casserole, gives them more control. They get to decide which veggies they want to add and which they want to eat on their own. I find that often, having this choice makes kids more adventurous about mixing their food and is a great bridge to eventually moving on to more casserole style dishes.
Chessy Noodles can also be a very effective way to introducing new or unfamiliar veggies. New foods tend to be less intimidating when set beside familiar, well liked ones. It’s easy to get creative here. You don’t have to stick with vegetables. Bit size pieces of cooked chicken and other meats, nuts or dried fruit would all work too.
Letting kids mix their own ingredients, essentially creating their own recipe, is also one of the earliest ways to introduce kitchen skills, setting the groundwork for a love of healthy eating and cooking. Naming the “recipes” they create can be fun too. The kids came up with the name Cheesy Noodles and it stuck, but renaming it, based on what each child has added, makes for some fun conversation at the table.
And if all that isn’t enough, Cheesy Noodles pack up for school lunches in a snap. Just add reheated pasta to a thermos along with containers of shredded cheese and cut up veggies etc. The cheese can be added to the warm pasta at school, along with whatever else they choose.
So, even though this “recipe” started out as a bit of a cop out, in the end it has served us very well. Sometimes keeping it simple really is best.