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Friday, February 17, 2012

From BOX to ROCKS!

I have two beautiful girls who love mac and cheese. This ubiquitous dish is loved by so many children and the most famous version of it, comes in a blue box. It got my wife and I thinking about the many foods we feed children and how many of them are processed and lacking compared to the real thing. We sacrifice the quality of food in exchange for convenience and simplicity. This trade off is justified because we say we never have enough time, but in reality many of this foods can be made in just a couple of more minutes or the same amount of time with the proper prepping and planning. Think of the things we feed our children on a daily basis, and ask yourself, can I make this in my own kitchen? Many of us in my generation grew up on process foods and therefore have fond memories of blue box mac and cheese or canned soup, or jarred spaghetti sauce, or packaged chocolate chip cookies. We have been indoctrinated to think that this is home cooking if it did come wrapped in paper with a side of fries in a box with a smile on the side. This has become our food culture. It is time for us to change this thought pattern and realize this is not what food was 50 years ago, and what it should not be. We see the outcome of this misguided thinking in the health of our generation and in the effect we are seeing way too early in the next. We can do better. I will use two examples of options you can try and replace, and implore you to think of other foods we feed our families that you can go from box to ROCKS!
Mac and cheese; Boil some elbow macaroni, drain and melt some butter in the drained pasta and toss. Add sour cream and shredded cheddar, a splash of milk and salt and pepper to taste. Place in casserole dish and top with some more shredded cheddar, and bake for 30 minutes at 375F.  Try different and fun pastas like cavatappi (corkscrew) pasta or add cubed ham. This can all be prepped days in advance, so all you have to do is pop it in the oven.
Spaghetti sauce: In a non stick saute pan, add 4 tsp of olive oil and add 1/4 cup each of onion and bell pepper until they are translucent (no browning) , add a can of organic can of crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen is a good option), and one clove of finely chopped garlic, and dry oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes and add to favorite pasta. Sauce can be keep in air tight container up to four days or frozen in an air tight container for up to 20 days.
These are not gourmet versions, it is my wean kids off of box and can versions, and an easy way to start you off on making real food in your own kitchens.
Make real food and be a Rockstar!


  1. These are great ideas! On the mac n cheese, once you've baked a whole casserole of it, will it reheat in the microwave well? (assuming the kids won't eat all of it in the first sitting)

  2. Sure it is microwavable, just make sure to mix it well after heating to reincorporate all the cheese and cream.

  3. Dave, do you have any other ideas for simple and healthy "kid" meals? My husband and I eat pretty healthy, but my two boys turn their noses up at a lot of what we cook. (They don't know how good they have it!)

  4. Hey Janet! A lot of time with kids it is not so much the content but how to present it. Some ideas that I have seen work is make the kids part of the process in the kitchen or at the table. For example, if you are making mexican food for dinner, try the make your own tacos or burritos. Breakfast can turn fun with a Micky pancake with berries and bananas for eyes. Also try changing the venue. eating al fresco on the patio or having dinner and a movie every so often may change how they eat.
    If they are older, you may want to ask them what they want. I know what you are thinking...we want sweets or fast food or pizza! But if you give them a list of ingredients and ask them what should we make with this they may come up with some interesting ideas and will be more willing to try it. Same content different package. Sounds like you are doing a great job by eating healthy and at home. If they still want something bad for them let me know, and i can give you some healthy alternatives. BTW stay strong and get healthy, we all know you can beat the crap out cancer!