Quick Lunch Box Recipe: Taco Mac and Cheese (Gluten Free!)

by Wendy Copley on March 16, 2015

Taco Mac & Cheese: a quick lunch box recipe. Gluten-free too!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Horizon Organics. The opinions and text are all mine. In other words, I created the recipe and my kids ate it.

My kids have been loving taking hot lunches to school lately. They love twisting the tops off their thermoses and digging into a warm meal at lunch time. They love it so much that they almost always eat all of their meal! But other than reheated leftovers, I’m often at a loss for what to pack into their thermoses. I want something they’ll like, but it also has to be easy to put together in the morning when I’m running around fixing breakfasts, getting myself ready and hollering at everyone to put their dang shoes on.

Enter Horizon macaroni and cheese.  I’ve been making mac and cheese since I was seven year old — it was the first thing I learned to cook on my own — so I barely have to think when I’m cooking it. I can put on the pasta while I’m doing something else, then come back and finish the dish in less than 5 minutes.  Horizon also makes organic and gluten-free mac and cheese varieties, so I can pick the right one to support our family’s dietary choices.

Plain macaroni and cheese is a hit with my boys, of course, but sometimes I like to take an extra 3 minutes to add some mix-ins to their mac and cheese. This Taco Mac and Cheese recipe is something we’ve been enjoying lately and it couldn’t be simpler. Add some corn, beans and spices to the finished pasta, pack it into a thermos, add some sides and you’ve got a fast packed lunch that you know they’ll eat!

This short video will show you how to make Taco Mac and Cheese:

And here is the recipe:

Ingredients for Taco Mac and Cheese lunch

Here’s what you’ll need to make a Taco Mac & Cheese lunch:

  • Horizon Gluten-Free Mac (plus milk and butter to prepare it) — you can use any other kind of Horizon mac and cheese too.
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin (not pictured)
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder (not pictured)
  • Horizon Super Squeeze — any flavor
  • veggie sticks — I used a mix of carrots, cucumbers and red pepper
  • cookies

And here’s how you make it:

The key to keeping food you send off in a thermos hot all day is to fill it with boiling water for a few minutes before you add the hot food.

Step one when you’re sending a lunch in a thermos should always be to pre-heat it with hot water. I usually use boiling water from our tea kettle because I always have that going in the morning while I’m packing the lunches but you can also use really hot tap water in a pinch. Put the lid on your thermos and let the water sit in it while you prepare whatever you’re filling it with — at least 5 or 10 minutes. This keeps the cool thermos from pulling the warmth out of your hot food once you add it in, thereby keeping your lunch toasty warm all morning long.

And I’m sure you already know this, but just in case — dump the water out before you put your food in.

Add corn, beans, cumin and chili powder to your mac and cheese to make it taco-licious!

Make the Horizon mac and cheese according to the package directions with one minor variation — about a minute before the noodles are done cooking add a half cup of frozen corn to the boiling water. Drain the corn and pasta, add the milk, butter and cheese packet and stir to combine. Then stir in the black beans, cumin and chili powder.

Don't forget the side dishes!

Dump the hot water out of the thermos and place the taco mac and cheese in the thermos. This recipe makes enough for a generous serving for both of my kids, plus a little extra for me to tuck away and eat at lunch time.

Fill another box with some fun sides to round out the lunch: crunchy veggie sticks, a few cookies (use gluten-free cookies if you’re gluten-free) and and a Horizon Super Squeeze pouch. I like these Super Squeeze pouches because they give the kids 5 extra grams of protein and a good shot of calcium. The kids like them because they’re yummy.

What do you add to mac and cheese to jazz it up? Or are you a macaroni and cheese purist?

Find more quick and easy mealtime solutions by following Horizon Organics on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Horizon Organics. The opinions and text are all mine.

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