Tuesday Timesaver: 8 Easy Mac 'n' Cheese Mix-Ins

Garden-Veggie Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Best for Babies 10+ Months

Mason loves mac ‘n’ cheese. Loves it. He’d eat it every night if he could, especially since he’s on a cheese kick right now. I make a simple homemade mac ‘n’ cheese recipe often, but I mix in healthy veggies and fruits to add nutritional value. I love how quick and easy it is to turn mac ‘n’ cheese into a filling, well-rounded meal. In fact, the Garden Veggie Mac ‘n’ Cheese (above) saved us last night when our 30-minute commute took an hour and a half due to train trouble. After being trapped in his stroller for all that time, Bug was understandably starving and grouchy — and I had to come up with a dinner that would dazzle him fast.

My first Tuesday Timesaver post on mac ‘n’ cheese drew lots of comments, and I discovered that many of you have babes who enjoy mac ‘n’ cheese, too. I also learned that many of you try to mix in extras to spice it up and make it healthier, so I wanted to share some of the combos that Mason  enjoys. To save time, I often use frozen organic veggies that are quick to steam and don’t require prep. I also make a big batch of mac ‘n’ cheese ahead and freeze leftovers to help out in a pinch. I use a variety of noodles, including whole-wheat and brown rice. Try out our ideas — and share your babe’s fave mac ‘n’ cheese mix-ins.

1. Garden Veggie: Steamed broccoli, asparagus, and bell pepper

2. Chicken ‘n’ Noodles: Cooked chicken with tomato and steamed carrot and peas

3. Harvest Mac: Fresh, finely chopped sage and lightly steamed Gala apple

4. Meaty Mac: Cooked ground beef with tomato and steamed peas, carrot, and onion

5. Tuna Delight: Tuna with steamed celery, onion, and sweet red pepper

6. Mediterranean Mac: Tomato and kalamata olives with cooked onion

7. Italian Mac:  Cooked mushrooms, roasted red pepper, tomato, and organic pepperoni

8. Mac ‘n’ Greens: Cooked chicken sausage with steamed spinach and tomato

Photograph courtesy of BHG.com

Tuesday Timesaver: 7 Toddler-Friendly Breakfasts in 15 Minutes or Less

Best for 1-Years-Old & Up

Now that Mason’s been in daycare for two weeks, we’re settling into our new morning routine. We’re still working out the kinks: Should I wake up Mason if he sleeps past 7 or let him sleep and cut breakfast short? What’s the best time to give him breakfast so he poos before he’s strapped into the Ergo — not right after? Which is faster,  the bus or the subway?  I’ve learned that the more I can organize  the night before, from what we’ll each wear to what we need to take with us, the smoother our morning will go.  Breakfast requires the most foresight. I want Bug to get a good start to his day, but I don’t have much time to put the morning meal together. Here are his fave weekday breakfasts right now. They’re so quick I can put him in his high chair with some puffs and he’s entertained until his food is ready. What are your go-to breakfasts?

1. Omelet with cheese and veggies, sliced banana, and whole-wheat toast with fruit jam. (Hint: If your babe is spitting out cut up veggies, puree a few faves and spread a layer of the puree on top of the cheese in the omelet.)

2. Whole-grain strawberry-banana waffles, Greek yogurt, and chicken sausage.

3. Oatmeal mixed with peach puree and Greek yogurt and Canadian bacon.

4. Blueberry yogurt, granola, and fresh cantaloupe.

5. Scrambled eggs with tomato and spinach, applesauce, and whole-grain toast.

6. Toasted cinnamon-raisin bagel with low-fat cream cheese and fresh orange slices.

7. Pancakes topped with cinnamon-spiced fruit and chicken sausage.

“Cheese or Nothing At All, Mommy!”


After rejecting a healthy meal of fruits, veggies, and lentils, Mason savors organic mac ‘n’ cheese made with brown rice pasta.

We spent yesterday with a one-year-old so picky we almost didn’t recognize him. It began at breakfast. I had prepared some of his faves — veggie-cheese omelet, toast with blackberry jam, cantaloupe, and red grapes — but Bug wanted no part of any of it. Fearing that he’d starve, I mixed Greek yogurt with fresh peach puree, another fave, and offered it to Bug. He took a spoonful and then spit it all out. What was going on here? Finally, I sprinkled organic cheddar cheese on brown rice bread and toasted it. Mason snapped out of his funk when I served the cheese toast and dug in. I tried once again to interest him in eggs or fruit or yogurt. No luck.

At lunch, Bug was so disinterested in his cooked organic carrots, steamed edamame and peas, juicy red grapes, and lentils that he didn’t even bother playing with his food. Feeling antsy because he ate so little for breakfast — He’s going to get even skinnier! — I offered him organic macaroni-and-cheese made with brown rice pasta. With a shriek of delight he squished the pasta noodles in his hand, flashed us a beatific smile, and jammed it all into his mouth. Chris cracked up but I was finding it hard to be amused by Bug at this point. If Mason were able to talk in sentences, I imagined him issuing this ultimatum: “Cheese or nothing at all, Mommy!” It’s normal for one-year-olds to be picky, but is it normal for them to be this picky?

I was dreading dinner but hoping  cheesy veggies and grilled organic beef burger would be impossible for him to resist. He ate a few bites of burger and then picked up a piece of carrot. Yes! Then he licked the cheese from it, removed it from his mouth, dangled his arm over the side of the high chair, and dropped it on the floor with a gleeful squeal. Not part of my plan. He took a swig of milk and then buried his face in his arm and whimpered. Apparently only cheese-covered bread or pasta would do. I appeased Bug with a few macaroni noodles and then coaxed him into eating a few more bites of burger as well as Greek yogurt mixed with fresh strawberry-banana puree. Not the ideal dinner but at least we got beyond cheese and carbs. Here’s to hoping my adventurous little eater returns soon!

Is your babe obsessed with cheese or something else? If so, what do you do to get him/her to eat a healthy, well-rounded meal?

Tuesday Timesaver: 20-Minute, Toddler-Friendly Broccoli Cheese Soup with Potatoes & Spinach

Best for 1-Years-Old & Up

On Sunday night I made my first homemade soup of the season, a Mason-friendly variation of this simple broccoli soup recipe. I wasn’t sure whether Mason would eat the soup but I wanted him to try it along with the assortment of
finger foods
I was planning on giving him for dinner (bits of grilled cheese, carrot, apple, cantaloupe, edamame, and peas). I used frozen broccoli and spinach to save time on prep, but you can also use fresh. I steamed the spinach and then stirred it into the broth before serving, rather than using it as a garnish, so it would be nice and soft for Mason. I stayed true to the original recipe and used gouda cheese, which adds smokiness to the soup, but you can also use sharp cheddar cheese. The soup was a cinch to put together and the whole family — yes, even Mason — enjoyed it. (In fact, Mason abandoned his finger foods when we gave him a taste, and he ate almost an entire bowl!) Try it out — and let us know what your family thinks!


Broccoli Cheese Soup with Spinach & Potatoes



3 medium red potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 14-oz. can reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 cups small broccoli florets
2 cups whole milk
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 cups smoked Gouda or cheddar cheese, shredded (8 oz.)
2 cups spinach


1. In large saucepan combine potatoes and broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 8 minutes. Mash slightly. Add broccoli and and milk; bring just to simmering. (No need to cook broccoli before adding it to the soup, if using frozen.)

2. In medium bowl toss flour with cheese; gradually add to soup, stirring cheese until melted. If using frozen spinach, steam, and then stir it into the broth. Season to taste with black pepper. Serves 4.

Note: This soup does not freeze well but will keep in your refrigerator for up to three days.


Photo courtesy of BHG.com

On the Night He Was Born 1 Year Later: Gazpacho & Crepes

crepe1 Egg-Cheese-Ham Crepe

Mason turned 1 last night. It was an incredible milestone for us all. Our boy made it through his first year of life healthy and happy. He hit all of his important developmental markers on time, including sitting, eating solid foods, crawling, and standing — and we think he had a lot of fun along the way. We enjoyed every minute of watching him grow up, and it’s been the best year of our lives. To our surprise we turned out to be pretty good at this parenting thing. Just look at the incredible person we made.

I took the day off from work. I couldn’t bear to miss a minute of my boy’s first birthday. We were up bright and early, 5:45, and we ate breakfast together, as usual — strawberry oatmeal for him, cheese toast and coffee for me. We played guitar on our rooftop patio, we did a few yoga moves (Bug and I attended mommy-baby yoga for the first 10 months of his life), we read some books. We ate lunch together–orzo with chicken sausage and applesauce for him, a Portobello burger on a gluten-free bun for me. Bug napped and Chris and I got ready for our own little private family birthday celebration.

We decided to take Mason to an early dinner at Cafe Henri, a local bistro in our neighborhood and the first restaurant we ever visited as a family.  Mason was 6 weeks old and Chris and I were absolutely desperate to get out. We had gone to this quiet little bistro to escape for a bit, Mason in tow. Chris and I each drank a glass of wine, shared frites, and enjoyed burgers. We admired our new baby boy, marveling at what a miracle he was, as a live jazz trio played next to us. Bug slept through it all. It was at that moment that we first suspected he was as at home in restaurants as we were. As it turns out, we were right.

At Cafe Henri last night, Mason indulged in gazpacho, baguette, and crepes filled with egg, ham, and Swiss cheese. He started eating before us and was still eating long after we were finished with our meals. I couldn’t blame the kid — last year he was limited to breast milk, which he loved, but this year a melange of flavors and textures were at his fingertips. He could have pretty much whatever he wanted. Who could blame him for eating and eating and eating…

We left the restaurant just as a massive storm hit. I cradled Bug in my arms and ran to the car, my flip flops slapping against the wet pavement. We all scrambled into the front seat. We thought Mason would be scared of the thunder and lightening but he loved every minute of it. I suppose loud noises and flashing lights are nothing new to a New York City kid. We held him close waiting for the storm to pass before we would slip him into his car seat and head home. As I watched the rain and kissed the top of my boy’s head, I thought about all that happened a year before and all that’s happened since. How lucky I am. What about you? What did you do on the one-year anniversary of the night your babe was born?

gazpacho1 Sharing gazpacho with daddy

Hanging with mommy after dinner

Coming Monday: Mason’s big birthday bash! Be sure to check back for details on his cake + more cookout sides that make great finger foods.