June 17, 2010

Kid Friendly Chicken and Broccoli Mac N Cheese

Ok. This recipe was good, but it wasn't earth shattering. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that is why it was kid friendly.

Now begins my rant...

I'm starting to suspect that cooking for Steve's kids is going to mean cutting back on a lot of the flavor in certain dishes. Moms - is that true? Do you have to cook bland for young children? Or am I being over-paranoid or ultra-sensitive? I realize that I'm not an expert, but I have been secretly cooking for Steve's kids for months (meaning I cook, he takes it home, heats, serves...and gets the credit for it - which I don't mind tooooo much...he he he), and it seems like most of the dishes that they like are watered-down-in-flavor compared to my preferences (leave some of the heat out of the chili, finely dice and hide some of the vegetables in soups, use a milder cheese for the pasta, etc). Do most people cook differently for their kids? Do kids have really sensitive palettes? Or do you just cook like normal and let them slowly adapt to your tastes?

Either way - at this point, I am trying to convince them to try new things (I think their culinary existence prior to this was pretty boring, as was Steve's when we first met) without scaring them off of eating...and eventually cooking. When I decided to make this dish (and chose to use white cheddar) it was going to be for myself, Tara and Eli...I didn't plan on Steve and the kids joining us. I was a little worried that the flavor explosion that is white cheddar would be too much for the kids, but for whatever reason, the white cheddar that I used was very mild. Probably the reason why I didn't think it was earth-shattering but the kids loved it. If your white cheddar is very sharp (and you are cooking for kids with sensitive palettes), you may want to mix in some mild cheddar or (gasp!) American cheese. I know.

Here are the two recipes that I used as inspiration and guides for this recipe, and see below for my version:

Pasta with Roasted Garlic, White Cheddar, and Wine Sauce from Annie's Eats

White Cheddar Chicken Pasta from Homemade by Holman

PS - this is a little labor intensive for Mac N Cheese

Chicken and Broccoli Mac N Cheese

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 - 4 cups white cheddar cheese, grated (or whatever kind of cheese you want)
  • 1 head of broccoli, chopped to make bite sized florets
  • 1 cup of milk (you could use half and half)
  • 1 lb pasta (any kind you want - I would recommend rotini though)
  • 1/4 cup of dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 head of garlic
  • thyme, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
First, roast the head of garlic by cutting the top off of the head (so all the cloves are exposed), drizzling it with olive oil and wrapping it in foil. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour. Set aside. Side Note: Roasted garlic is delightful and wonderfully mild. Use it in everything, or just eat it on a toasted baguette. Yum!

Trim any icky stuff off of the chicken breasts, season liberally with salt and pepper. Grill until done. I know this might seem a little excessive, but the grill taste (especially if you are using a charcoal grill) really adds something special. You could also season the chicken with Italian seasonings, or more Dijon mustard (if that's how you roll). Chop the grilled chicken into bite sized pieces. Set aside.

While the chicken is cooking, blanch the broccoli until crisp-tender and cook the pasta until al dente. *Tip* throw the broccoli into the simmering pasta and water for the last 3 - 4 minutes of cooking and save yourself a pot to wash! Drain pasta and broccoli, set aside.

Melt butter in a dutch oven, and squeeze the garlic into it. Cook and stir for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the flour (making a wonderful smelling roux), cook for 1 - 2 minutes. Add the wine and the broth, let it simmer (stirring) for about 5 minutes or until it has thickened and reduced down. Add the mustard. Slowly whisk in milk and cheese, stirring constantly. Season to taste with thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. If the sauce is too thick, add more milk or broth. If it is too bland or thin, add more cheese and spices. When the cheese sauce is seasoned to your liking, add cooked noodles, chicken and broccoli. Toss to coat and serve!

Seriously - any advice on cooking for kids would be accepted and much appreciated!

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1 comment:

  1. My kids don't eat anything. That is my advice. I have to serve the bread separate from the meat on a sandwich for god's sakes. I keep trying. I keep serving things like this and then I throw it right in the garbage because they won't eat it. Maybe when they're older, I say, MAYBE. Cam does LOVE guacamole (just avocados, lime and salt) though so maybe there is hope :)