One of the big downsides to committing early on to raising kids who are HEALTHY EATERS, gosh darn it, and therefore not at all accustomed to “kid food,” is that you can end up with a couple of kids who are, yes, pretty healthy eaters…but also downright reject certain foods that you were so determined not to hook them on that you also neglected to ever offer them.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se, unless that food happens to be, oh, macaroni and cheese, and Mom and Dad would REALLY like to eat a stupid plate of homemade mac and cheese every once in a while without having to put up with the fake throw-up noises other people’s kids usually reserve for sprouted tofu dogs.  (I made that up.  Please don’t send me lecture-y hate mail about how your kids love sprouted tofu dogs.)

Yep, I dug my own hole on this one.  See, I don’t think macaroni and cheese is a bad thing to eat, as long as you don’t eat it daily or even weekly; I just got so hung up on not hooking the boys on the boxed stuff early in their lives that it sort of morphed, unexpectedly, into a situation where they couldn’t figure out what in the world I was doing when I tried to put homemade mac and cheese in front of them.  I’ve tried a bunch of different recipes, some of which J. and I quite liked, and every time they’ve turned up their noses.  After a while, you’d think I would just shrug and move on, but it became a CHALLENGE.  Because, as many other people have said to me: “What kid gags at macaroni and cheese?!?”

It finally occurred to me that if I mixed something into the macaroni and cheese to make it seem more like just another of Mommy’s Weird One-Pot Experiments, they might be more receptive to trying it.  So I hit upon this casserole, which is mainly a classic mac and cheese, but with liberal amounts of broccoli tumbling throughout it, and a crust of both fresh sliced tomatoes and melted cheese.  I was certain they’d hate it, but to my surprise, they didn’t.  L. said he liked the macaroni and cheese element itself (shock!), but wasn’t happy that his broccoli got covered with “that saucy stuff.”  P., on the other hand, told me almost instantly that he wanted me to make it again.  “Really soon, okay, Mom?”  And: “I was wrong!  I love mac and cheese, as long as it has broccoli and tomatoes in it!”

So I’m calling it a success.  Mac and Cheese Casserole with Broccoli is our family’s latest take on the classic — and luckily, the leftovers will work perfectly in a thermos for P.’s lunch, so it’s a double win.  You can make this all at once on a night when you have time, or get it all prepped and then just bake it off another time.Mac and cheese casserole