I enjoy cooking, and I enjoy cooking with my kids, but it is definitely a lot of work. I have been thinking about ways that I can reduce my hours in the kitchen each week, and have devised a plan that I am really excited about. Eventually, I plan to have at least two nights during the week that are "Kids' night" in the kitchen, where they are fully responsible for dinner.
To achieve this goal, which I must admit seems a bit daunting at this point, we are starting with Saturday nights. On Saturday, the kids help me plan the menu. We either choose from a list of dishes that they have already learned to cook or we choose one that they want to put on that list. Right now, their "cook-alone" recipes are home-made pizza (on store-bought dough) and broccoli mac-and-cheese. I do help with taking hot pans out of the oven and draining pasta, but otherwise they are good to go on those two dishes. I think we'll be ready to try a weeknight "kids' night" by May. Fingers crossed!
Here is the recipe for Broccoli Mac-and-Cheese, adapted from Amanda Grant's Cook School, which I highly recommend. She does a great job of grading recipes by age and pointing out skill development.
1 leek, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup flour
3 cup milk
1/2tsp dry mustard
1-1/2 cups broccoli, chopped to approximately the size of the pasta when cooked
12 oz grated cheese (mild cheddar is our favorite)
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (optional)
grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Set a large pot of water to boil on high and add a tablespoon or so of salt to the water. This is the water for blanching your broccoli and cooking your pasta.
In a large saucepan or dutch oven, sautee the chopped leek in the butter until translucent. Add the flour and cook for approximately 2 minutes to remove the "raw" taste. Slowly add the milk, whisking to avoid lumps of flour. Bring almost to a simmer on medium-low heat until the bechamel is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Whisk in the mustard and salt. You can leave the bechamel on low heat until the pasta is ready.
Once the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to package directions. When there are 2-3 minutes left, add the broccoli.
Drain the pasta broccoli mixture and stir into the bechamel along with the grated cheese. You can serve the mac and cheese as is, or top with parmesan and breadcrumbs and bake in the oven at 350 F for another 30 minutes for an extra treat.