Kid-Friendly Mac and Cheese, and a Grownup Way to Use the Leftovers

One common dieting pitfall parents fall into is eating food off of kids' plates. Avoid this by making creative use of leftover kid-friendly food.

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macaroni and cheese

People constantly confess to me that their biggest diet pitfall is nibbling on their kid’s leftovers. French fries, macaroni and cheese, burgers, pizza. Things you wouldn’t put on YOUR dinner plate, but eat while doing the dishes. Instead of feeling guilty, why not enjoy kid food with reckless abandon? Even better – get creative with leftovers and make memorable meals for the entire family. Macaroni and cheese is the perfect place to start because kids love it and parents devour all remaining scraps (along with their adult meals). That’s when calories skyrocket. To start, you need a great recipe for macaroni and cheese; one that’s healthy yet rich and bursting with cheese flavor. My renowned macaroni and cheese is below. I bake mine to create a creamy middle and crisp, Parmesan-spiked topping (the part everyone loves). It’s sinful tasting, yet lighter in fat and calories thanks to light sour cream and evaporated skim milk. Since the recipe makes a big batch, you can easily store leftovers and enjoy my mac n cheese cakes with spicy tomato sauce another day – crispy, Parmesan and panko-crusted cakes dipped in warm, smoky tomato sauce. Got creative uses for YOUR leftovers? Let’s hear ‘em!

macaroni and cheese
Macaroni and Cheese
Cooking spray
16 ounces elbow macaroni
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
12 ounces evaporated skim milk
8 ounces light sour cream
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together cheese, evaporated milk, sour cream, egg, seasoned salt, dry mustard and pepper. Whisk until large lumps disappear. Add cooked pasta and stir to combine (mixture may seem thin but it bakes to perfection). Transfer mixture to prepared dish and sprinkle parmesan cheese over top.

Bake 20 minutes, until top is golden brown.

Serves 6
Nutrition Info Per Serving (1 1/3 cups)
Calories: 470
Total Fat: 13 grams
Saturated Fat: 7 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 58 grams
Sugars: 7 grams
Protein: 27 grams
Sodium: 341 milligrams
Cholesterol: 64 milligrams
Fiber: 2 grams
macaroni and cheese
Mac and Cheese Cakes With Spicy Tomato Sauce

The macaroni and cheese is easier to shape into cakes when it’s been chilled. And you can incorporate the crispy Parmesan topping into the cakes when shaping them (unless that part has been eaten!).

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon minced dried onion (from the spice aisle)
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups leftover macaroni and cheese (recipe above)
2 large egg whites

1 cup prepared tomato sauce (your favorite pasta sauce or canned tomato sauce)

1 tablespoon minced chipotle chilies in adobo
2 teaspoons olive oil

In a shallow dish, combine panko, onion and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine macaroni and cheese, egg whites and 2 tablespoons of the panko mixture. Mix well. Shape mixture into four cakes, each about 2-inches thick. Transfer macaroni and cheese cakes to remaining panko mixture and turn to coat both sides. Refrigerate 10 minutes, until cakes hold their shape.

Meanwhile, combine tomato sauce and chipotle chilies in a small saucepan and set pan over medium heat. Simmer 10 minutes.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cakes and cook 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown and cooked through.

Serve macaroni and cheese cakes with sauce underneath or spooned over top.

Serves 4
Nutrition Info Per Serving (1 cake, 1/4 cup sauce)
Calories: 277
Total Fat: 9 grams
Saturated Fat: 4 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 33 grams
Sugars: 6 grams
Protein: 15 grams
Sodium: 599 milligrams
Cholesterol: 30 milligrams
Fiber: 2 grams

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Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of "Robin Takes 5" and “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at

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