My daughter doesn’t need any trickery to get her to eat macaroni and cheese, but that’s no reason to not make her food a little more interesting and what’s more, her love of the stuff makes it an ideal vehicle for the goodness of hidden veggies. Plus, the little munchkin is obsessed with cake, so anything that even remotely resembles cake should at least get one bite. Considering she turns her nose up at most food I offer her without so much as a taste, one bite is a success. Another bonus is these mac-n-cheese cakes make self feeding much cleaner than just straight up goopy, sticky macaroni and cheese. For this recipe I used a boxed macaroni and cheese mix, but if you have a favorite from scratch recipe, then by all means use that and use whole grain pasta too. These mac-n-cheese cakes have hidden lentils and carrots all wrapped up in one cute package.
- 1 box macaroni and cheese mix (plus any ingredients needed to make it)
- ½ cup red lentils
- 1 cup grated cheese of your choice
- 2-3 finely grated carrots
- Cooking spray
- Bread crumbs
- Prepare the macaroni and cheese according to instructions. When cooking the pasta, add ½ cup red lentils to the pasta water at the same time as you add the pasta. The small elbow pasta I use takes 7-8 minutes to cook and this is just enough time for the lentils to cook. Time your lentil cooking accordingly depending on your pasta. Red lentils are a perfect addition to macaroni and cheese as they don’t require any presoaking, cook quickly, and soften and disappear into the cheese mix.
- As the pasta and lentils cook, grate carrots using a fine grater. The finer you grate them the more easily the carrots will disappear into the cheese mix.
- Place the grated carrots into a microwave safe bowl and add ¼ to 1/3 cups of the pasta water, enough to moisten but not so much that the carrots are swimming (1 or 2 ladlefuls). Cover bowl with a damp paper towel and microwave at 1 minute intervals 2 minutes or until soft. Stir the carrots during cooking to avoid drying them out.
- When the macaroni and cheese is complete, mix in the softened carrots and 1 cup of shredded cheese. The carrots will have some liquid in them but this small amount of moisture is OK.
- Spoon the mixture into muffin tins, just shy of filling them. Lightly press down the mixture with the back of a spoon to pack it in and make it firm. If you have non-stick muffin tins you can use them as is, if not, spray them with cooking spray and coat with a thin layer of bread crumbs (of course you can do this with non-stick pans too for a little added texture).
- Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top and the cakes are firm to the touch (you don’t want them to fall apart after all that work). If you use mini muffin tins, they will cook faster. You can also choose to make thinner patties by using less of the mix in each muffin cup and cooking them for a shorter time.
- When your cakes are done, remove them carefully from the muffin tin and allow to cool a little and set up before serving.
I may have mentioned before that my official little taste tester is not too keen on carrots so I braced myself for rejection at dinner time. However, these little cakes were a success and she did indeed think she was eating cake. She didn’t even miss smearing cheese sauce all over her face.