The Anti Mac N Cheese
Like most American kids, Neko eats a lot of macaroni and cheese. I’m not proud of it, and although I do try to at least use some kind of unique cheese when I make it for her, I reach for the powdered stuff in the box probably more than I should.
The issue is lunch. Neko generally skips breakfast. She’ll have a glass of milk or two and that’s all she wants. Occasionally she’ll humor me by taking a single bite of cereal, but usually she turns up her nose at breakfast foods. So by 11 a.m., the girl is ready for some sustenance. It’s my job to provide it for her and I don’t have much time to do so before her usual sweet demeanor disappears and she starts throwing things at the dogs.
And so I always keep a box of macaroni and cheese in the pantry. It’s something I know she’ll always eat. But a few weeks ago I also started keeping a supply of frozen veggies in the freezer. I’ll throw some chopped broccoli in the water in the last few minutes while the pasta’s boiling and stir them in with the cheese. I know that frozen veggies boiled in water probably lose much of their nutrients, but it at least makes me feel a little better.
I recently created another easy dish, with ingredients I always have on hand, that is a wonderful quick lunch replacement for the powdered cheesey noodles, and a bit healthier, too.
Neko loves Asian food in general, so I wasn’t surprised to find how much she likes buckwheat soba noodles. Buckwheat noodles pack a lot more nutrition that standard white pasta. Buckwheat is full of fiber and has been found to help control blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
I break the soba noodles in half before boiling for easier eating, then do the same veggie trick I mentioned above. I toss the noodles with a ponzu sauce, but if you don’t want your kid eating soy sauce, you could always just use lemon juice or vinegar with a splash of sesame oil.
For a little extra boost, I sprinkle gomasio on top. Gomasio is a blend of toasted sesame seeds and sea vegetables, which are loaded with vitamins and minerals, including calcium and iron. It does include salt, so those opting to go salt-free could just sprinkle sesame seeds and/or toasted nori on top.
That’s it. A super quick and simple kid-friendly lunch made with ingredients you have on hand. And perhaps healthier than macaroni and cheese from a cardboard box.
Soba with Ponzu and Peas
4 oz dried buckwheat soba noodles
1/3 cup frozen peas (or other vegetable)
¼ cup soy sauce
½ T rice wine vinegar (or mirin)
½ T lemon juice
gomasio (or sesame seeds and toasted nori)
Bring a medium pot of water to boil (no salt is needed with soba noodles). Break your soba in half and add them to the pot, then return the water to a simmer and cook for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes, toss in the frozen peas and return to a simmer. Simmer for two more minutes, then drain and run under cool water to cool the noodles.
In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and lemon juice. Pour the sauce over your noodles and toss gently.
Serve the noodles and veggies in a small bowl, sprinkled with a touch of gomasio.