Teaching my kids to cook: Macaroni Cheese

Recently I’ve been teaching my kids to cook. I figure I’m equipping them with the life skills they may need if they ever choose to leave home. There’s every chance Ollie may live here for ever, still climbing into bed with me and the cat every morning until the day I die, but we live in hope.

A few nights ago, Melie made macaroni cheese for dinner, which she loves. The main benefit of learning how to make macaroni cheese is the need to make a bechamel sauce. Once your children have this mastered, you open up a world of dishes. In this version, we added the flour to the bacon and onion in fat they’d been cooked in, which reduced the risk of the sauce going lumpy once the milk was added.

Anyway, give it a go with your kids. Feel free to add your own spin with extra herbs, different meats (shredded chicken would work) and cheeses (parmesan would make this a bit more sophisticated). You could also top this with panko or bread crumbs, although I didn’t.

MACARONI CHEESE

500g tubular pasta (I used penne)
50g butter
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups grated cheese, plus extra for topping (I used a combination of tasty cheddar and mozarella)
salt/pepper to taste

  1. Heat the oven to 200ºC.
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2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add dried pasta and cook for as long as the packet says. Drain pasta, rinse with cold water to prevent pasta overcooking, and set aside while you prepare the cheese sauce.

 

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3. Chop onions and bacon
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4. Melt butter in a heavy based, oven proof pan over a moderate heat. Add onions and bacon and cook, stirring, until onions are soft and translucent.
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5. Sprinkle flour over the cooked bacon and onion, and stir to combine. Cook for one minute, then slowly add the milk, stirring constantly to remove any lumps, until the sauce has thickened. Add cheese, and stir to combine. Cook until cheese is melted, adding a little more milk if the sauce becomes too thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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6. Add the pasta to the sauce, stir to combine. Sprinkle extra grated cheese over the top. If you want to use a different baking dish, or individual dishes, you could transfer the mixture now, and then top with cheese before baking.
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7. Put the dish in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, or until the cheese on top is golden brown.
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8. Remove from oven and serve!

 

 

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One for the kids: chicken meatballs and alphabet soup

I have a confession to make. I generally cook for myself. I cook the things that I like to eat, with little regard for whether others will like it or not.

By “others” I don’t mean my immediate family. Of course I think about what they like. If I didn’t feed them food they appreciate, I’d never hear the end of it! I cook to avoid complaints from my husband and children. Which sounds terrible.

That means that most of what I cook is now food for adults. My children at 12 and 13, eat most of what my husband and I eat. The notable exception being anything with too many vegetables in it, in the case of my 12 year old son.

So this week, I decided to be less selfish. To think about those of you that may have children younger than mine.

There’s two things I know to be true:

  1. Every child likes L’Authentique Chicken Chipolatas or Chicken and Bacon sausages.
  2. Every child likes alphabet soup.

What’s not to like about pasta shaped like letters, creamy tomato soup, and real chicken sausages with no nasties? Good for parents and kids.

L’AUTHENTIQUE CHICKEN MEATBALLS WITH ALPHABET SOUP
Serves: 4-6 (depending on size of child and hunger)2017-06-28 11.04.46 v1

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
2 x 400g tins crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup alphabet pasta
1/4 cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste

6 L’Authentique chicken chipolatas or chicken and bacon sausages

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring until vegetables are soft.
  2. Pour over tinned tomatoes, stir to combine and cook until tomatoes are thick and reduced to mush, and liquid almost all gone.
  3. Add chicken stock, stir to combine, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook pasta to manufacturer’s instructions. Drain, refresh with cold water, and set aside.
  5. When soup is cooked, blend until very smooth (you may need to push through a sieve). Adjust seasonings to suit your children, then add cream and stir to combine.
  6. Remove skin from sausages. Roll each sausage into three small meatballs. Heat oil in a fry pan over a medium/high heat and cook the meatballs in batches until golden brown and cooked thoroughly.
  7. To serve, ladle soup into bowls with pasta. Top with as many meatballs as your children can eat!