Kraft-Style Mac + Cheese with Cauliflower + Sweet Potato

As a kid--and still, as an adult--I was (am!) obsessed with mac and cheese.

But my kid-self wanted nothing to do with any kind of homemade mac and cheese sporting a bubbling crust.

Gross!

No, if it didn’t come out of a box, I wouldn’t go near it.

It’s been a couple of years, but there are still a lot of kids out there just like me (and maybe some adults, too).

So how do you get your kids to eat a homemade mac and cheese that’s also packed with veggies?

You make it look and taste as much like the original as possible!

The base of this sauce is pureed veggies.

There's no butter and no milk.

But there are so many hidden veggies inside, it will make your head spin.

It’s time to lose the box (...at least, sometimes)!

Kraft-Style Mac + Cheese with Cauliflower + Sweet Potato

servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • ½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about ¾ cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ½ medium head cauliflower, cut into large chunks, (about 1 pound or 3 cups)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled + cut into 1-inch chunks (about ½ pound or 1¼ cups)
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1¼ + ½ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
  • 4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 4 ounces American cheese (6 slices)
  • 12 ounces macaroni pasta

Directions:

  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the macaroni. Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until tender—5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower, sweet potato, vegetable stock, and the 1¼ teaspoon salt. Bring this mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender—about 20 minutes. This should give you about ¼ cup liquid along with the veggies.
  2. Place the veggie mixture in a blender and process it until it is completely smooth. Add more stock or water if there is not enough liquid to blend easily.
  3. Then transfer the mixture back to the saucepan over low heat. Add the cheddar cheese, American cheese, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt; stir until the cheese melts (depending on the saltiness of your stock and cheese you may not need this extra ½ teaspoon of salt). Add more stock if your mixture is too thick or if it thickens over time.
  4. When the water boils, add the macaroni and cook according to the package directions. When done, drain and transfer the macaroni to the saucepan with the veggie and cheese mixture. Toss to combine and serve.

Notes:

  • You can use any combination of cheese that you like—cheddar, parmesan, fontina or provolone— though I do like to include a little American or Velveeta in my mix, as it gives the cheese sauce the right consistency.
  • This version is on the simple side; for a flavor that makes a bigger impact, I suggest stirring in some salsa or adding sautéed peppers to the mix.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Sweet Potato Boxed Mac + Cheese

Sweet Potato Boxed Mac and Cheese_SMALL.jpg

For this hack on your mac, I really wanted to bring some veggies to the partywhile also giving some new flavors and textures to the mac and cheese.

Sweet Potato Boxed Mac and Cheese_1.jpg

This is an exciting version to say the least, and it still involves almost no extra cooking!

Sweet Potato Boxed Mac and Cheese_2.jpg

Throw the sweet potato in the microwave, then puree it or just mash it with a fork.

Sweet Potato Boxed Mac and Cheese_3.jpg

Add in the the sage, nutmeg, cheese, and sweet potato, then mix it all up and top with pecans and cranberries.

You get a whole new flavorand seriously the only extra thing you did was put a sweet potato in the microwave!

Sweet Potato Boxed Mac + Cheese

makes: 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • One 14-ounce boxed mac + cheese with liquid cheese sauce (such as Kraft Deluxe Macaroni + Cheese Dinner Original Cheddar)
  • 1 small or medium sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped sage, more for a garnish
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped pecans

Directions:

  1. Place a medium pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the macaroni. When the water boils, add the macaroni and cook according to the package directions; drain when finished.
  2. While the pasta cooks, pierce the sweet potato all over with a fork. Cook the potato in the microwave on high in 2-minute increments until soft—4 to 6 minutes total. Then set the potato aside until it is cool enough to handle.
  3. Peel the sweet potato (alternatively, you can cut the potato in half and scoop out the insides) and place it in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth; this should give you about ¾ cup of sweet potato puree. If you don’t have a food processor, you can mash the sweet potato with a fork, adding a little of the hot pasta cooking water to make it easier to mash.
  4. Return the cooked and drained pasta to the medium pot over medium heat, adding the sweet potato puree, cheese sauce packet, sage, nutmeg, and salt, then stir until fully combined.
  5. To serve, garnish with the cranberries, pecans, and additional sage.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
Sweet Potato Boxed Mac and Cheese_4.jpg
 

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Sweet Potato Casserole with Apples + Cranberries

A sweet potato casserole is a good thing.

The sweet potatoes take on an extra sweetness, complemented by all of those warm fall spices.

Top that goodness with marshmallows, and you have a comforting side that’s always welcome on my Thanksgiving table.

But as much as I like a good sweet potato casserole, they always seem to be missing something. 

I've noticed that there's usually no texture--just a lot of mush.

And as much as the sweetness is nice, it gets a little too sweet after a couple bites.

So let’s make a better sweet potato casserole!

One with cinnamon spiced apples to give it a little bite and a slightly sour relief from all that sweet!

Mix that in with the usual suspect and a couple of eggs for a fluffy yet firm dish.

Finally, top it all with a simple (but simply tasty!) cranberry sauce and some crunchy granola and you have a mouthwatering side dish that tastes like your traditional holiday staple--just better!

It's balanced, textured, and so completely addicting.

I like a classic Thanksgiving Day sweet potato casserole as much as the next person, but this sweet potato casserole will make you fall deeply, madly, in LOVE!

Sweet Potato Casserole with Apples + Cranberries

servings: 6 ; makes three cups of cranberry sauce

Cranberry Sauce:

  • One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest + juice of 1 orange
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Sweet Potato Casserole:

  • 5-6 medium/large sweet potatoes (about 3 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 apples (about 1 pound), peeled, cored, + diced
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ cups Cranberry Sauce
  • 5 marshmallows, halved crosswise
  • ⅓ cup granola

Cranberry Sauce:

  1. In a medium pot, add the cranberries, sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and salt. Cover the pot to avoid splattering and cook over medium heat until the mixture reaches a jam-like consistency (keeping in mind that it will thicken as it cools)--about 25 minutes.

Sweet Potato Casserole:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1-inch cubes. Add the sweet potatoes to a baking sheet, toss them with the oil and ½ teaspoon salt, then cook them until they are fork tender—about 45 minutes. You might also choose to leave the sweet potatoes whole and unpeeled, cooking them until they are fork tender—50-60 minutes.
  2. While the sweet potatoes cook, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until it is browned—about 5 minutes. Add the apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cook this mixture until the apples are tender but not mushy—about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Once they are done cooking, remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and turn it down to 375°F (if you left the sweet potatoes whole and unpeeled, peel them once they are cool enough to handle). Add the sweet potatoes to a large bowl and mash them with a fork or potato masher, then mix in the milk, brown sugar and eggs and stir until well combined. Next, stir in the apple mixture along with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt.
  4. Add the apple and potato mixture to a greased 8½ by 11-inch casserole dish and bake until it is firm and slightly darker in color—about 25-30 minutes. Then remove the casserole from the oven and top it with the Cranberry Sauce, marshmallows, and granola. Return it to the oven and cook it until the marshmallows are brown and crispy and the cranberry sauce is dark red—10 minutes more.

Notes:

  • REHEAT + TOP - To make ahead, prepare the casserole as indicated in the recipe, then bake it for 25-30 minutes at 375°F; however, do not top it with the Cranberry Sauce, marshmallows, and granola. Instead, refrigerate it and on Thanksgiving Day, remove it from the refrigerator and let the casserole sit until it reaches room temperature. Then reheat it in an oven preheated to 375°F for about 10 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and top it with the Cranberry Sauce, marshmallows, and granola. Return it to the oven and cook it until the marshmallows are brown and crispy and the cranberry sauce is dark red—10 minutes more.
  • ASSEMBLE + BAKE LATER - Or you can leave it raw, so that you only follow Steps 1 through 3 above; refrigerate it until Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving, complete Step 4 to bake and prepare the casserole. You may need to bake it for an extra 5 minutes due to the fact that it will be coming out of the cold fridge.
  • TIMELINE - You can make the casserole up to 3 days in advance; you can make the cranberry sauce up to 5 days in advance.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Caramelized Sweet Potato + Crispy Kale Pizza

 

 

Kale chips are all the rave (they have been for a while now!)--and for good reason.

 

 

 

 

 

The crispiness you can get from kale is amazing, and the texture and flavor are addicting.

 

 

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Sweet Potato Souffle

"We're NUMBER ONE! We're NUMBER ONE!"

This is the chant of sweet potatoes everywhere...

What the heck does this mean? It means that the CSPI ranked all vegetables giving them points for things like Vitamin A and fiber and deducting points for saturated fats and refined sugars. And the sweet potato ranked NUMBER ONE with a score of 184!!

It outscored the next highest vegetable by more than 100 points!!

But when you smother this nutritional dense vegetable with butter and sugar it turns a once all-star food into something not quite so good for you. So...why not add just a touch of sugar, some super vibrant spices and some greek yogurt for creaminess?!

Sounds pretty good doesn't it? ;)

RECIPE:

5 lbs sweet potatoes

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4tsp nutmeg

1/8tsp cloves

2tsp Salt

1/4 cup honey

2Tbs Dark brown sugar

2 egg

2 container Oiko Greek Yogurt - Plain

Pecans and dried cranberries to top

Cut sweet potatoes into 1/2inch to 1inch cubes. Steam until soft, about 15minutes and mash or puree potatoes. Add spices, salt, honey, sugar, eggs and greek yogurt, and stir to combine.  Pour mixture into a baking pan and bake for 40-50minutes at 350 until top is slightly brown. Top with pecans and cranberries and bake for another 5 minutes. Serve hot and ENJOY!

 

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