Fun Food: Smokey Critters and Mutant Mac ‘n Cheese

20120613-175708.jpgWithout fail, the munchkins get hungry at least three times a day… Sometimes in an effort to make eating more fun, I’ll snatch ideas from Pintrest. Of course, I’m very similar to my mom in that I can never seem to leave a recipe alone. So here is an adaptation from a Pintrest fun food that I think tastes much better.

First, gather the appropriate number of Lil’ Smokies (depending on the number of mouths you’re feeding), a box of Mac ‘n Cheese, a can or bag of peas, some extra cheese (Parmesan, shredded, velveta, etc in appropriate portions), and your children. ;First, I set water to boiling (including the liquid from the can of salt-free peas), as per the instructions for the Mac ‘n Cheese. While the water heated, I dumped some dry macaroni on the clean counter and handed my children a little smokey. I gathered several in front of me and began pushing pieces of dry macaroni into the smokies. My children and I chose to create bugs with ours. So, three fairly straight pieces on the lower portion either side formed legs, while two others were placed ;on the arbitrary front for antennae. Simon even requested that at least one be a spider, so I increased the legs to a total of eight for that one. Since we had just found a large stag beetle, we also made one in that design with very curved macaronis being his pinchers. My designs obviously turned out better than the efforts of my 2 and 4 year old, but they were pleased to participate.
20120613-180445.jpgOnce the water began boiling, the remaining dry macaroni were added to the pot and the critters were gently dropped in the water as well. It is necessary to ensure that the boiling nor the stirring involved ;not be too vigorous. Even with a modicum of care, some of our critters lost appendages during the boiling process. ;A few moments prior to the noodles being well-done and too soft, I fished the critters out with a slotted spoon to set aside. Then I drained the noodles as per box instructions. I then continued making the Mac ‘n Cheese according to instructions 20120613-180758.jpgding the cheese mixture). I then added the drained peas ;(if using frozen ones, I’d have boiled them with the noodles) ;to the pot as I continued to stir the Mac ‘n Cheese. I also added a few handfuls of shredded Colby-Jack and grated Parmesan cheeses to the pot. Once the mixture had attained the proper consistency, I laddled out portions for my children, topping with their critters. ;

The beauty of this meal is that there is a decent portion of several food groups present: dairy, meat/protein, starch, and vegetable. It also takes less than twenty minutes if using a box of Mac ‘n Cheese. Since the critters are present I was able to get my vegetable-only daughter to eat some meat. Also due to the critters, my carnivorous son ate peas and Mac ‘n Cheese. What a wonderful compromise! ;

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