There are tons of dishes out there that call for your every day cream sauce or cheese sauce. I think it's boring and can be difficult. Considering it's the kind of thing one typically combines with pasta (and consequently feeds to their children), it's a very unhealthy thing. But I have discovered a secret, and I would like to thank my sister-in-law for the idea: Canned butternut squash and canned pumpkin. These are excellent thickening agents.
If I am making my own mac n' cheese or rice dish, I use:
About a half a can (about 2/3c) of the pureed veggie
A can of cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup*
Milk (start with 1/2c)
About a cup of grated or cubed cheese
Curry Powder (optional - I like it in everything)
Stir it all together over medium heat until you get a gloopy-delicious veggie rue/sauce - it should be the consistency of the stuff in the picture below.
If you are making pasta, throw in some broccoli in with the pasta for the last few minutes of boiling. Who doesn't like broccoli covered in cheesy goodness?
*For all my gluten-free friends out there: Just omit the cream of chicken soup and add the whole can of puree.
My mom makes really good Alfredo sauce. I have never been able to; mine would always turn out lumpy and more soupy, less creamy. But then I found the veggie trick.
Start with sauteeing a large clove of minced garlic in about 3T of butter. Then add a cup of 2% or whole milk - bring to a boil and let simmer (stirring occasionally) for a minute or two to reduce a bit. Add your 1/4c grated Parmesan cheese, fresh basil, S&P, then about 1/8c - 1/4c of pumpkin puree to finish the thickening job. If you have my luck with Alfredo sauce, you'd better work quickly or you'll get chunky Alfredo sauce.
Once it's done, you will have fooled everyone into thinking that you make fancy pumpkin pasta sauce. Look at you.