Let's be honest, kids menus as restaurants are awful. Chicken nuggets, hot dogs, boxed mac and cheese, a slider if you're lucky. How boring. This week, the challenge was to come up with a kid-friendly dish that puts today's boring choices to shame. And if there was something healthy about the dish, bonus points!
So I made boxed mac 'n cheese, but then I stuffed it inside a pork loin cutlet coated with riced cauliflower. For a dipping sauce, a simple tomato sauce that I cooked along with carrot and zucchini and blended so the kids would never know. And to make sure the kids ate every last bite, some dessert incentive with some bananas, strawberries and a marshmallow to dip in melted dark chocolate. Oh so good, with some health benefits to boot!
Mac 'n Cheese Stuffed Pork Fingers
Ingredients (feeds 4 kids)
1 box mac n' cheese
1 pork loin, unseasoned
2 cups califlower, riced (you can buy it in a bag in most grocery stores)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and black pepper
3 tbsp canola oil
1 can (~15 ounces) tomato sauce
1/4 cup zucchini, peeled and diced
1/4 cup carrots, peeled and diced
3 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1) Cook the mac 'n cheese. The night before you plan on serving this dish, cook the mac 'n cheese according to the box directions. Grease a small baking dish with canola oil spray, then pour mac 'n cheese into the dish and refrigerate overnight to solidify.
2) Make the sauce. In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and add zucchini and carrots. Cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, garlic powder, Italian seasoning and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and taste. Add salt and pepper if needed. Pour sauce in a blender and careful blend until completely smooth. Set aside.
3) Prepare the pork. Cut the pork loin into eight 1/4 inch slices. Any remaining pork loin can be used for another dish. One slice at a time, place the pork under saran wrap or a large plastic bag, and use a meat pounder (the flat side) to pound out the pork so it's very thin, but not so much that it tears or has holes. Season both sides with a pinch of salt and pepper.
4) Assemble the pork fingers. Cut eight pieces of mac n' cheese to about 2/3 the length of the pork slices and about a 1/4 inch wide. Place a piece in the middle of the pork and wrap the pork around it. If it doesn't stay closed, use a toothpick through the middle to secure it. Using three small bowls, place the flour in one, the beaten eggs in another, and mix the cauliflower and parmesan cheese in the last bowl. Dip the pork in the flour, then the egg, and lastly in the cauliflower/cheese mix, patting to make sure it sticks.
5) Cook the pork fingers. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large frying pan, heat the 3 tbsp of canola oil, then add the pork fingers. Cook about 2-3 minutes until the crust begins to brown, then flip the fingers and repeat. Once brown on both sides, place the fingers on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the pork is fully cooked. Remove from the oven and serve with the tomato sauce.
Ingredients (feeds 4 kids)
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1) Prepare the dessert. Cut up the bananas into thick slices. On each skewer, place a marshmallow, then alternate strawberries and bananas to fill the skewers. Place the chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds on high. Stir and continue heating in 10 second increments until the chocolate is melted and easily pourable. Pour into bowls and serve alongside the skewers.