September is National Family Meals month. When families eat meals together, great things happen. Here are a few tips and a recipe to help simplify family meals and keep everyone healthy and happy at mealtimes!

Goal: Share One More Family Meal At Home per Week!

Pledge to participate as a family in National Family Meals Month! As a nationwide event designed to underscore the benefits of family meals and the role we can play in helping your family share one more meal at home per week. Did you know that 63 percent of Americans decide what to eat less than an hour before eating? SOURCE: HARTMAN GROUP, 2013.

Juggling jobs, kids and the demands of a busy, modern life often come at the expense of family mealtime at home.

Benefit of family meals

Children who participate in regular family meals are more likely to exhibit prosocial behavior as adults, develop better relationships with their parents, do better in school, and are at a lower risk of being overweight, suffering from eating disorders or using drugs, drinking or smoking.

A recent poll found 92 percent of U.S. consumers say they want to eat healthier - family meal month is a great time for the entire family to take steps toward healthier meals.

Customize for kids

Getting kids to try new foods can be difficult. To expand your family’s palate, add a unique twist to a classic dish! Customize this Macaroni & Cheese Bowl recipe by adding vegetables, lean meat or protein and different sauces. This is sure to be a crowd-pleaser!

a. Everyone in the family can personalize their bowl by choosing their protein, veggies and fun sauce.

b. If you keep the sauce and pasta separate, people can even choose to use half whole wheat pasta and half cooked, riced cauliflower.

c. Total Carbohydrates 41 g, Dietary Fiber 5 g, Protein 34.5 g

d. Great for leftovers or quick meals after school and sports

e. Blend vegetables into cheese sauce for a secret nutrient boost!

MAC & CHEESE BOWL RECIPE

Ingredients

3 Tbs O Organics® wheat or white flour

2 cups low-fat milk, divided use

1 1/2 Tbs O Organics® butter, salted

1 Tbs O Organics® extra virgin olive oil

8 oz O Organics® sharp white cheddar, shredded (extra sharp cheddar can be substituted for all or half of the white cheddar)

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp smoked salt (other salt can be substituted)

6 cups cooked and drained O Organics® whole wheat rotini pasta (or 3 cups cooked pasta and 3 cups cooked riced cauliflower)

Bowl Components

Lean Proteins (about 1/2 cup per serving):

rotisserie chicken, shredded without skin

leftover lean steak (no visible fat), sliced

cooked and crumbled Open Nature® or O Organics® lean ground beef

pulled pork

baked tofu or tempeh or cooked shelled edamame

Veggies (at least 1/2 cup per serving):

cauliflower florets, cooked to desired doneness

broccoli florets, cooked to desired doneness

sautéed spinach or kale, sauté spinach or kale with a light drizzle of extra virgin

olive oil

cooked zucchini

cooked Brussels sprouts

Sauce (Optional):

BBQ sauce

Sriracha

salsa

ketchup

How to prepare

1. In a 4-cup measure or similar, blend the flour with 1/4 cup of milk and stir to form a paste. Whisk in the remaining milk. In medium non-stick saucepan over medium heat, start melting the butter, stirring frequently until it foams up and then subsides and the color of the butter is golden or light brown and it smells nutty.

2. Gradually whisk in the olive oil and then the milk mixture. Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove from the heat and stir in shredded cheese, mustard and smoked salt. Stir until cheese melts and the sauce is smooth.

3. Stir in the cooked whole wheat pasta and/or cauliflower rice and continue to cook over medium-low heat just until the mixture is thoroughly heated (about 1 minute).

4. Set up your “make your own bowl” station by setting out the veggies and lean protein options in serving bowls and having sauce options toward the end of the station. People can make their own bowl by spooning some of the mac & cheese into their individual bowl then topping with their choice of lean protein and veggies and finishing it off with a drizzle of sauce!