Two of my pregnant friends’ babies decided they wanted to share a birthday, and sent their mothers into early (but full-term!) labor last Tuesday, which also happens to be a third friend’s birthday.
Yay, newborns to snuggle and give off sweet baby smell and fawn over and make my ovaries feel like exploding, until those babies start crying or need a diaper changed and I can hand them right back to mama and daddy.
Can you tell I am so not ready for a baby? My biological clock must think so (aching ovaries and such), but my head knows otherwise. I’ll just stick to stealing other people’s babies for a while, thanks.
To help the new parents out, I did what I do best – feed people! I think about when I’ve had a rough few days’ sleep and how the last thing I want to do is cook up a well-rounded meal, and that’s not including being stressed out about keeping another human being alive. But new moms also want to start getting back into shape, so night after night of pizza delivery isn’t the best option, either.
When I’m planning out what dishes to make, I take the following into consideration:
1) Something easy to reheat, preferably easily freezeable and a one-dish meal
2) Something that walks the line between the comfort food we turn to when stressed and exhausted and the healthy dinners we know we should be eating to make us feel our best.
A lot of times, that means a lightened-up and altered-to-include-veggies version of a classic dish. I have several go-to recipes, including a few variations on lasagna. This time around, I made another go-to meal to take to others: a giant batch of enchilada sauce to make a pan of chicken enchiladas for each family and one for ourselves.
One of the dads doesn’t like vegetables, so their second meal will be a stir-fry with the veggies separated from the meat for customizability (is that even a word?), and the other family got half the batch of this twist on mac + cheese from 101 Cookbooks (we ate the other half, obvs).
I was intrigued by the idea of broccoli “crumbs” as part of the topping, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s definitely not your classic super creamy, cheesy mac, so don’t make this thinking that’s what you’ll get. But the textures and flavor combos are great all the same.
Broccoli-Basil Mac + Cheese
(serves 8, slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks)
8 oz pasta (preferably whole wheat, I used shells but any good
sauce-holding shape will work)
2 slices wheat bread, either somewhat stale or dried slightly in the oven
1 bunch of basil, leaves removed from stems
1 crown of broccoli, chopped into smallish pieces
1/2 pint of grape tomatoes (preferably orange or yellow)
1/4 c sour cream
~10 oz white cheddar, freshly shredded
~10 oz gruyere cheese, freshly shredded
1. Cook your pasta in salted boiling water for a couple minutes less than the package directions indicate. Reserve ~1 c of the starchy cooking water.
2. Meanwhile toss your bread, half the basil, and the broccoli in a food processor with a glug of olive oil. Process until you get a slightly wet mix with very small chunks of everything. Set aside.
3. Rinse out food processor, and toss in tomatoes and remaining basil. Pulse a few times just to break into somewhat smaller pieces.
4. Add tomato mixture, cheeses, sour cream, and pasta to a large mixing bowl (or right to the pasta cooking pot). Stir well to combine and get pasta melting. Add in reserved pasta cooking water a little at a time and stir to get a slightly creamy consistency. (It’s OK if it’s a little watery; the pasta will soak up the excess liquid during baking.)
5. Spread into a casserole dish or 9 x 13 pan. Top with broccoli mixture, and bake uncovered at 400 for 20-25 min, until topping starts to get crispy.