Quick and Deluxe Mac & Cheese Bento

Quick and Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese

Quick and Deluxe?  Yes.  Quick because this can be made in 20 minutes in the morning.  Deluxe because it's made from scratch on the stove-top with lots of fresh vegetables and cheddar cheese.  My kids named this mac and cheese "deluxe" because it's loaded with vegetables, and believe it or not, they prefer this one to plain mac and cheese just with cheese.

If you don't have much time to make bento in the morning like me, you can do some prep work the night before.  I washed and chopped up all the vegetables and grated cheese the night before to cut time.  As soon as I got up in the morning, I started boiling water in the pot and made my kids quick breakfast.  You can cut the vegetables while waiting for the water to boil, but I also needed time to make breakfast, so prepping the vegetables the night before worked for me.  It's all about multitasking during the first hour of the day!  And to make it super efficient, I even cooked the vegetable in the same pot with macaroni.  Just add the veggies a couple of minutes before your macaroni is done.  It's probably not the ideal way of cooking, but I can't tell the difference anyway, and I'm all for saving time and one less pot to clean!

The trick to keep the hot lunch hot as long as possible is to start with the hot Thermos jar.  When I boil water to cook macaroni and vegetable, I boil extra to warm up the inside of the jar.  When the water is boiled, pour some to fill up the jar, and start cooking macaroni in the remaining of the boiling water.  When the food is ready, just pour the hot water out of the jar, add the hot food, and immediately close the lid.  You want the hot bento to stay hot until lunch time!

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup elbow macaroni (dry)
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • 1/3 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 10 pieces cherry tomatoes

Instructions:

1. In a large pot, boil plenty of water. Pour some water in the empty Thermos jars and add macaroni to the pot. About 2 minutes before macaroni is cooked to al dente, add broccoli and carrot. Make sure you cook it over high heat and keep the water boil at all times. Drain.

2. While boiling macaroni, melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium low heat. Add flour and cook for 3 minutes whisking constantly. Gradually pour milk and whisk until the sauce gets thick. Add salt, mustard, black pepper, and cheese, and mix well until the cheese melts.

3. Add cooked macaroni with the vegetables to the cheese mixture, add cherry tomatoes, and stir.

4. Divide into preheated Thermos jars (water drained) and immediately close the lids.

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