Ham & Cheddar Waffles

Original Recipe HERE
Winner winner, waffles for dinner.  I shook things up and stepped away from the standard or dessert-leaning waffles of days past.  These were a successful adventure.
I doubled this to feed four of us.  I got 12 square waffles using three rounds of batter (my iron makes four squares at a time).  It may not sound like enough, but the waffles were filling.

The original recipe says to, ideally, allow the batter to sit for 20-30 minutes before baking because the waffles will be fluffier.  I did have the time, so I waited.  I have nothing to compare the final product to, but the waffles weren't dense or heavy, so maybe they were the proper amount of fluffy?

Being waffles, my kids wanted to use maple syrup with them.  I was fine without it, but they tasted fine either way.  The sweetness paired well with the cheese and ham...kind of like a McGriddle (not that I would have any familiarity with how a McGriddle tastes...).
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard [I used ground mustard]
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese [do not use pre-shredded]
1/2 cup finely chopped deli ham
1 heaping tablespoon chopped chives or thinly sliced green onions [I used dried minced onions]
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
(1) In a large bowl, whisk together flour, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and dry mustard.
(2) Add cheese, ham, and chives (or onions) and lightly toss.
(3) In a separate bowl, whisk buttermilk, oil, and egg.
(4) Add wet ingredients to dry; stir until everything is just incorporated.
(5) Preheat waffle iron.  Spray with non-stick spray.
(6) Ladle batter into iron.  Cook according to iron's instructions to achieve lightly golden waffles.

Kid Participation:
* Whisk dry ingredients
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Stir all ingredients togehter
* Experiment with dipping and drizzling options

Broccoli & Cheese Tots

Original Recipe HERE

Making vegetables dippable and combining them with cheese are my go-to ways of getting the kids to eat them (though I know I'm lucky that the boys are usually willing to at least taste something new, and I can usually count on *N* to eat at least a whole serving).  These tots do both.  The flavor wasn't anything amazing, but they served their purpose.

I used fresh broccoli and didn't measure; I chopped up just under a head-and-a-half.  I also eyeballed the amount of onion and cheese.  They turned out fine, though when I portioned them onto the baking sheet (using a small cookie scoop), I was worried they weren't going to hold together and thought I should've used more egg whites.  The kids dipped them in ketchup or barbecue sauce, and the entire batch of 24 was eaten.  Success.
2 to 2 & 1/2 cups (12 oz) broccoli florets
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion [I used regular onion]
2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
salt & pepper
(1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil, or grease it.
(2) Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add broccoli; cook for 2 minutes.
(3) Add chopped onions to water (if not using green onion); cook another minute.
(4) Drain and rinse under cold water.  Dry with a dish towel.
(5) Finely chop broccoli and onions.  Transfer to a large bowl.
(6) Add all other ingredients to broccoli.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
(7) Spoon heaping tablespoons of the mixture onto the baking sheet.  Flatten slightly.
(8) Bake tots for 16-18 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, or until golden.

Kid Participation:
* Stir together all ingredients
* Spoon broccoli "dough" onto baking sheet


Ritz-Topped Vegetable Casserole

Original Recipe HERE
The amount of mayonnaise in this recipe made me cringe, but I thought it was worth trying because the bulk of the dish was straight-up vegetables.  And I'm not above smothering veggies in sauces, condiments, whathaveyou in order to get my kids to eat them...as I pretend that I'm not negating their health benefits by doing so.
I couldn't find American cheese in a block, so I diced up several of the individually-wrapped slices.  The pieces stuck together, so I was worried that it would mean pockets of cheese in the finished product instead of a uniform distribution.  Whatever ended up happening with the cheese wasn't an issue, but I would take more time to do it properly.
Next time, I will mix the melted butter with the crushed crackers before spreading them over the top.  The coverage was uneven doing it as the original recipe instructed.  Also, I bet this would be even better with the French's fried onions on top (because most things in this world would be).
Each kid asked for multiple rounds of this and told me to make it again.  It was super easy, and the original post said that it can be made up to a day ahead.  I'm sure that this convenient meal will be repeated.  Also, I learned that my kids like lima beans (from the frozen veggie medley)...they've been lucky to be spared the dreaded legume thus far, but it turns out it was for naught.
1/4 cup salted butter, divided
1 cup finely-chopped celery
1/2 to 1 cup finely-chopped yellow onion
2 to 3 cloves finely-chopped garlic
1 bag (32 oz) frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup (or 4 oz) finely diced American cheese
¾ cup mayonnaise [I used 2/3 cup mayo and the rest Ranch dressing]
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
(2) In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt half of the butter over medium heat.
(3) Saute celery and onion until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add garlic toward the end.  Remove from the heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
(4) Add mixed vegetables, corn, American cheese, mayonnaise, and Ranch (if using) to the bowl.  Combine thoroughly.
(5) Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish.
(6) In a small bowl, mix together crushed Ritz and melted butter.
(7) Evenly sprinkle the crushed Ritz over the top of the casserole.
(9) Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
Kid Participation:
* Mix vegetables and sauce
* Measure mayo and Ranch
* Crush Ritz
* Sprinkle Ritz


Garlic & Parmesan Breadsticks

Original Recipe HERE

These have gotten rave reviews every time I've made them.  I dare say they're addicting.
The first time I made this, I followed the original recipe's instructions about melting butter in the pan and rolling the dough in it before cooking.  I was pressed for time the second time I made them, so I just painted the baking sheets with melted butter, put the strips of dough on them, and generously painted with more butter before sprinkling Parmesan with a heavy hand.  They were just as good - maybe even a little better.  The flavor wasn't as prevalent, but they cooked a little faster, and the crispty-outside-to-soft-center ratio was more balanced.

2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon yeast
1 & 1/2 cups water
3 & 1/2 to 4 cups flour [I used almost 4 cups]
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder, or to taste
2 teaspoons oregano, or to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup butter, melted
Parmesan cheese

(1) In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine water, yeast, and sugar.
(2) Once yeast is bubbly, add 2 cups of flour.  Mix with dough hook until all flour is combined.
(3) Sprinkle in remaining flour, salt, garlic powder, and oregano.  Mix until dough is no longer sticky.
(4) Cover bowl with a towel.  Let dough rise at least 20 minutes (I've gone over an hour).
(5) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease baking sheet(s) with about 2 tablespoons of melted butter.
(6) On a floured surface, roll dough into a rectangle approximately 1/2" thick.
(7) Use a pizza cutter to cut strips into sizes that will fit onto your baking sheets.
(8) Melt remaining butter in microwave.
(9) Either dip strips in butter and coat with Parmesan or lay them on baking sheets and brush with melted butter and sprinkle with Parmesan.
(10) Bake 12-15 minutes or until light golden brown on top.

Kid Participation:
* Roll out dough
* Dip or paint strips
* Twist strips if doing so (careful that they don't stretch them too much when doing so)

Buttermilk Cornbread

Original Recipe HERE

Cornbread is supposed to be at its best when cooked in cast iron.  So far, this is the best cornbread I've made.  I think the buttermilk is key to keeping it so moist.
1/2 cup (one stick) butter
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 1-1/2 cups corn kernels, optional [I used frozen]
(1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Put 12" cast iron skillet in the oven during the preheating phase.
(2) Melt butter in the microwave.
(3) In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and buttermilk.
(4) Add sugar to egg mixture; whisk until dissolved.
(5) Add butter to egg mixture; whisk well to avoid butter cooling into solids.
(6) In a small bowl, sift together baking soda, cornmeal, flour, and salt.
(7) Stir dry ingredients into wet until well blended.
(8) Gently fold corn into batter if using.
(9) Remove skillet from oven.  Melt approximately one tablespoon of butter in it, swirling to coat entire bottom and halfway up the sides.
(10) Pour batter into skillet.  Return to oven; bake 20-25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
(11) Allow cornbread to cool for several minutes in the skillet before slicing.

Kid Participation:
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Sift dry ingredients
* Stir it all together (gently, please!)


Buttery Roasted Carrots

Original Recipe HERE
My kids thought these were fantastic.  I thought they tasted fine, but I labeled them "fantastic" because of the sheer ease and relative healthiness involved.  A reliable side dish for the future.
The sweetness of the carrots came out nicely, and the butter flavor was strong but still pleasant.  I would experiment with additional seasonings, like garlic powder or paprika or brown sugar, just to have options.

UPDATE: I made these again, this time tossing them with about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.  The end result was still good, but since the carrots sweeten up on their own during roasting, I don't think the brown sugar made much of a difference.

1 & 1/2 pounds carrots [I used 6]
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
(1) Heat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
(2) Peel carrots.  Slice into 1/4" coins.
(3) Toss carrots with butter, salt, and pepper.
(4) Spread carrots in an even layer on the baking sheet.  Cover entire pan tightly with aluminum foil.
(5) Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove foil.
(6) Roast an additional 30 minutes or until carrots are lightly browned.  Stir several times during cooking.
Kid Participation: Only stirring and spreading the carrot mixture.

Meatball & Spaghetti Soup

Original Recipe HERE
After a three-day weekend spent doing nothing but feeding children (or so it felt like, but really was almost literally since there's an infant in the house), I had no idea what I was serving for dinner that night.  We came home from an activity at 6pm armed only with the inspiration of doing something with the Trader Joe's meatballs I'd bought the day before.  I had bookmarked this recipe and tried it on a whim since I needed it to be fast.

Every kid had more than one helping and asked me to make it again.  I thought it was a great addition to the "I'm so burned out on meal planning and cooking yet these little people keep demanding I provide sustenance for them" collection of easy and satisfying recipes.

I cut the liquid amount because I knew that any leftover pasta would absorb a lot overnight, and I'd add more later if needed.  I also threw in about half a cup of orzo at the last minute to bulk it up because I didn't have enough pasta, but it would be better to just make the entire thing with spaghetti.  I also added spinach to make it a wee bit healthier, and I chopped it small enough that the kids couldn't avoid eating at least a little.

4 cups broth
1 to 2 cups water
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 onion, chopped small
3 to 4 Tablespoons tomato sauce [I used Prego]
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
salt & pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried basil
frozen meatballs [I used one bag of Trader Joe's appetizer size]
8 oz spaghetti, broken into 2" pieces
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
grated Parmesan for serving [optional]

(1) In a large pot, bring broth, water, garlic, onion, tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and basil to a boil.  Simmer 5 minutes or until onions are tender.
(2) Add meatballs.  Cook 3 minutes.
(3) Add spaghetti.  Cook until al dente.
(4) Add spinach.  Cook 2-3 minutes or until wilted.  Serve with Parmesan.

Kid Participation: None except eating, which they did more than their fair share of.