When I say easy, I mean EASY.
Everything I do has to be quick, simple and cheap. Especially lately. If you've noticed, my 'meal of the week' thing has been really sad.
When I worked as a nanny one summer during high school, the family I worked for was very "granola" (as I called it). They ate organic food (which at the time, was not the thing 'du jour' as it is now), and they were mountain bikers/hikers/outdoors-y type people. One of the foods they had on hand for me to make for the kids was an all organic, all natural macaroni and cheese product called "Annies". I'd never heard of it before, but I made it and--oh my! I loved it! We had it nearly every day. Poor kids. But I've always remembered it and when I moved to California, I saw it in the grocery store (I never saw it in the store where I lived...and I never asked the family where they bought it. I thought that would have been nosey. lol) Anyways---I always have some on hand but I have been trying to make healthy and nutritious food for my family. I have come up with two AWESOME Annies pasta upgrades!
First, I eliminate the butter it calls for, like, two tablespoons. Or sometimes I will reduce it to one. Depending on my mood. Make the pasta as called for. (there are many different varieties, but I prefer any of the white cheddar kinds.)
Then, for the first variation, I sauteed onions and diced zucchini in a little olive oil until transluscent. Season with garlic powder and pepper. Sometimes I will throw in chili or chipotle chili powder for kick. Just a tad.
Mix the zucchini onion mixture into the pasta and sprinkle with shaved parmesan cheese. Serve immediatly.
The second variation is especially good for kids (or husbands) that refuse to eat vegetables. Or if your kids will only eat the "yellow cheese" instant pastas. This version takes a little more planning ahead, but it's still super easy.
Start by rosting a whole, half or quarter of a butternut or other squash. I put mine cut side down in a baking dish with about two tablespoons of water and bake for at least 30 minutes up to an hour. (You can also peel, cube and boil/steam your squash or steam it halved in the microwave, but I love how it turns out when you use the oven. any way works.) Remove the rind and mash one quarter of the squash. Cook your pasta and drain. Make the sauce according to the package and add the mashed squash. Stir until blended. Pour over pasta. Top with grated parmesan cheese and serve while hot. The squash makes the pasta and sauce extra creamy and richer tasting. I love the slight sweetness it adds, too.
So, give those a shot if you need a last minute or quick and healthy dinner idea. It's a great way to sneak in your vegetables if you have picky eaters. We love it!
Thank you Annies for making such awesome food that my family loves! What a great company, too!