Homemade “Instant” Mac & Cheese

What: Today’s recipe is an easy way to make Mac & Cheese just as quickly as you can out of the box. No baking necessary. A stovetop is all you’ll need.

When: Have extra cheese on hand? Whether you’re looking to get creative with leftover ingredients or simply want to skip the pricey boxed Macs, Homemade Instant Mac & Cheese is really a no-brainer.

Why: Right or wrong, thousands of parents across the country were shocked into despair a few weeks ago upon reading a bombshell report that their favorite foolproof shortcut kids’ meal, boxed Mac & Cheese, may have one of the highest concentrations of Phthalates (harmful chemicals found in plastics or, in this case, which migrate to high fat food from the manufacturing line). Though the veracity of the study is being debated (it wasn’t peer reviewed, for one, and there is debate over what constitutes acceptable levels of Phthalates), parents like myself who’ve been judiciously avoiding phthalates in toys and and plastic containers (to say nothing of BPAs), are probably more likely to err on the side of caution until more details emerge. Even for those already conscious of making “healthier” choices when it comes to our favorite “junk food,” the worst news was that even trusted organic brands were not immune from Phthalate contamination, particularly within the powdered cheese packet.

How: The trick to this recipe involves reserving some of the hot pasta water to create a sauce – you’ll dissolve slices of cheese in a small, microwave safe bowl, to create the creamy cheese sauce – you won’t even have to add Milk if you don’t want. All this comes together in nearly exactly the same amount of time as you’d need for the boxed version. Other bonuses include far less sodium (which may take your kids a bit of time to adjust to) and more opportunity for creativity! Play around with different Cheese blends and healthy mix-ins. My usual M.O. is to add frozen Peas and Carrots to the cooking pasta just a few minutes before it is done. The Veggies with thaw and warm right in the same pan, then you can drain the Pasta and Veggies and add the cheese. Guilt-free Mac & Cheese here you come. Check out the easy method below!


Homemade “Instant” Mac & Cheese


1 Cup Dry Small Pasta or Macaroni

3-4 Slices Organic American Cheese

Flour or Potato Starch

Salt & Pepper

Pat of Salted Butter, optional

Optional Frozen Peas and Carrots (if using, add the to the cooking pasta 3 minutes before it is done)


Set a pot of salted water to boil and the prepare Pasta as directed on the package, adding Organic Frozen Peas & Carrots about 3 minutes before pasta is done.

Before draining, reserve about a 1/3 cup Pasta Water in a small, heat proof and microwaveable bowl. Drain Pasta. Return it to pot.

Place about 3 Slices of American Cheese, Mild Cheddar, or a blend of similarly textured sliced cheeses. They should melt into the water with a little stirring, or if not, give them a quick zap in the microwave (30 seconds to start).

Stir to desired consistency and if the water looks too much for the amount of pasta you have, drain some off the cheese mixture. Stir Cheese Mixture into the Pasta and combine to coat. If the mixture is too thin, add a few pinches of Flour or Potato Starch to thicken. Taste for seasoning and add Salt if needed. Add a pat of Butter to enhance flavor and texture.


No-Bake Veggie Pasta Casserole

What: An easy layered pasta casserole that’s packed with veggies, and you won’t have to turn on the oven.

When: When you have odd amounts of vegetables or leafy greens to use

Why: Because you should never miss an opportunity to get your little ones used to greens. I like this dish because it incorporates vegetables without trying to hide them – it’s the same idea as our Mac ‘n Greens from a few weeks ago.

How: Slightly overcooking the pasta and assembling it while hot helps bind this casserole together. I recommend using small glass Pyrex covered dishes to store or freeze in several portion increments.

No-Bake Veggie Pasta Casserole

3-4  Kid-sized portions 


1 Cup Dry Orzo or other small pasta

2 Cups Lightly Packed Baby Spinach

1 Cup Broccoli Florets (frozen and defrosted or fresh)

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon Salted Butter, cut into dots

1/3 Cup Grated Pecorino Romano




In a food processor, blend Spinach Leaves and Broccoli with the Olive Oil until finely minced. The results should be a spreadable paste, loosen with a little water if needed. Set aside.

Prepare the Orzo in Salted boiling water, according to the package instructions. Cook an extra two minutes over recommended time. Drain.

To prepare, press a half inch of Orzo into the bottom of a glass container. Top with a thin layer of the Vegetable Mix. Sprinkle with Pecorino. Repeat, adding another layer of Orzo, Vegetables, and the Pecorino Romano. Dot the top of the casserole with the bits of Butter, pressing into the surface so that Butter Melts.

Allow casserole to set in the fridge at least a 15 minutes before scooping out portions with a spatula or spoon. Warm in the microwave or heat the glass serving dish before portioning.


Colorful Fusilli With Squash & Beans

Pasta is our go-to because our little guy loves it all the time. At 15 months, I think he prefers things he can grab with his little hands, and the fun shapes (remember how you used to love wagon wheels?) and colors don’t hurt either.


Easy Veggie Pasta For Toddlers

Three words for busy parents:

Don’t cook.



What: A simple method for customizable veggie pasta for your toddler.

When: Whenever you’ve got spare vegetable ingredients, simply chop them small and store them in the fridge in handy little containers.  You can add your favorite pantry or frozen veggie items when you’re ready to serve.

Why: It’s a fact that the less you heat veggies, the more of their all-important nutrients are preserved. Assembling meals with pre-prepped raw and (healthily) canned components means you’re always just minutes away from creating a custom dish. Just add the pre-cooked pasta of your choice (choose kid-friendly shapes like orzo or macaroni). You’ll also never waste odd amounts of leftovers again!

How: Our secret weapon – a little melted, salted butter poured over your pasta knits all the flavors together making it irresistible to kids.

Easy Veggie Pasta For Toddlers


Minced Raw Zucchini (peeled first)

Minced Tomatoes

Canned Beans (choose BPA-free brands such as Westbrae)

Minced Fresh Baby Spinach (we like Earthbound Farms Organic – it’s pre-washed)

Cooked Pasta of your choice

1 pat of melted, Salted Organic Butter, per serving


Combine all the above ingredients and stir in melted butter. Serve right away!