Southwest Pasta with Beans & Corn

Original Recipe HERE

This is one of those throw-together recipes that surprised me.  I just needed to make something for dinner and grabbed random cans out of the pantry after being inspired by this.  Everyone thought it was great.  I wasn't as sold as the rest of them, but that could be because the evil olives were lurking throughout.

The seasonings are purely to-taste...any amounts or substitutions are possible.  Next time I'll probably go even easier and just do a few shakes of the McCormick Southwestern blend.

12 oz. pasta
1/2 cup mayonnaise [I used light]
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans, drained [I used pinto]
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes, drained
1 can (4 oz) sliced black olives, drained & rinsed
2 cups frozen corn
grated parmesan [optional]

(1) Begin cooking pasta according to directions.
(2) In a large serving bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and spices.
(3) Add beans, tomatoes, and olives to bowl; mix well.
(4) With a few minutes left on pasta's cooking time, add corn to boiling water.
(5) Drain pasta and corn; mix with beans and tomatoes.
(6) Serve warm or refrigerate two hours.  Garnish with parmesan if desired.

Kid Participation: 
* Measure spices
* Whisk mayonnaise
* Stir all ingredients together


Slow Cooker Chicken & Black Bean Soup

Original Recipe HERE

This was a huge hit, which surprised me because I've made many variations on Mexican/chicken/bean soups before.  Before it was even served, *J* told me that it looked delicious.  I served it with everyone's favorite cornbread, and the only complaint I heard was when I cut them off from more helpings.

The seasonings can be adjusted for heat.  I kept it mild so the kids would eat it.  To make it easier, I could've just done some generous shakes of McCormick Southwest seasoning.

I gave the soup a few zaps with the immersion blender to make it thicker.  We ate it straight from our bowls with spoons, but it could be served over rice or scooped with tortilla chips if thickened enough.

3 or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts [I cut each in half]
2 cans (15 oz each) black beans, drained & rinsed
2 cans (15 oz each) corn, drained & rinsed
2 cans (10 oz each) diced tomatoes & chilis [I used mild Rotel]
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1/2 Tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
4 large garlic cloves, minced [I did not use]
4 to 8 ounces cream cheese
garnishes: shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado, green onions, etc.

(1) Place all ingredients except for cream cheese into slow cooker.
(2) Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours, or until chicken is cooked.
(3) Remove chicken; shred.
(4) If desired, blend soup to desired consistency.  Return chicken to slow cooker.
(4) Add cream cheese; stir.  Heat until cream cheese is melted.
(6) Serve with garnishes.

Kid Participation: None.


Pina Colada Baked Oatmeal

Original Recipe HERE

The kids loved this, maybe because they didn't expect the combination of pineapple and oatmeal.  Even *J*, who normally doesn't like coconut, gobbled it up.  Most of it was eaten for dinner, but the leftovers reheated well the next day for breakfast.

It was definitely sweet.  Next time I will decrease the brown sugar amount.  Using unsweetened coconut, like the original recipe asks for, would help - but I can only find the standard stuff in the blue bag at our grocery store.

3 cups quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 & 1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil [I used melted coconut oil]
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 can (15 oz) crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup shredded coconut [I used sweetened]
milk, coconut milk, cream, or yogurt for serving

(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9x13" baking dish.
(2) Sift together flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.
(3) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, oil, vanilla, pineapple, and coconut.
(4) Combine dry ingredients, oats, sugar, and wet ingredients.  Stir until well mixed.
(5) Pour batter into baking dish.  Bake 25-30 minutes, or until oatmeal is set in the middle.

Kid Participation:
* Measure dry ingredients
* Sift dry ingredients
* Combine wet ingredients
* Stir everything together


Sloppy Joe Bites

Original Recipe HERE

This is a rare recipe that got rave reviews from *J*.  He ate two of them and asked for a third, and the following night he was even excited about leftovers.  The others liked them, too, but I barely paid attention to their reactions because I was busy picking my jaw up off the floor.

I made the from-scratch sloppy joe mixture since cracking open a can of the stuff would resurrect childhood memories better left in the past.  I used Pillsbury Grands buttermilk biscuits, and the ratio of biscuit to joe wasn't balanced.  Next time I'll use smaller biscuits or maybe the flaky kind.

3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon minced onion
1 Tablespoon paprika [I did 1/2 smoked and 1/2 regular]
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground beef
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
6 to 8 ounces water
1 Tablespoon mustard
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
2 canisters (8 or 10 count each) canned biscuits
1 to 2 cups shredded cheese [I used cheddar]

(1) Mix together brown sugar, minced onion, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
(2) In a large skillet, brown the beef.
(3) Add tomato sauce, 6-8 ounces of water, mustard, cider vinegar, and spice mixture.  Stir to combine; simmer 5-10 minutes. 
(4) Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease muffin tins.
(5) Flatten or roll out biscuits.  Press each into a muffin well.
(6) Fill biscuits with sloppy joe mixture; sprinkle with cheese.
(7) Bake 10-12 minutes.

Kid Participation: 
* Flatten biscuits
* Put biscuits into muffin wells
* Scoop in sloppy joe mixture
* Sprinkle cheese


Basic Buttermilk Waffles

Original Recipe HERE

These are standard, no-frills waffles.  A good recipe for when you want the waffle to just be an accompaniment to elaborate toppings.  Sadly, this night we only had maple syrup...but that classic combo was still a satisfying meal.

I didn't have pastry flour like the original recipe called for, so I used white all-purpose.  They weren't the light, crispy waffles that the pastry flour would've given me, but they were perfectly fine anyway.

I got 11 approximately 4" waffles from this recipe.  Next time I'll double it to have breakfast pre-made for the next day.

2 large eggs
1 & 3/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted & cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup almond flour [optional; I used]

(1) Preheat waffle iron.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray.
(2) In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla.
(3) In a separate bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and almond flour.
(4) Combine dry ingredients into wet until just mixed.
(5) Ladle batter onto iron; cook according to iron's directions.

Kid Participation:
* Measure wet ingredients
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Measure dry ingredients
* Sift dry ingredients
* Combine all ingredients


Bean & Salsa Soup

Original Recipe HERE

This meal is so simple, my three-year old could do it.  So he did.  I assisted with opening cans and operating the stove, but otherwise he did the entire thing.  Everyone had at least one serving and declared it "good." I always have all these ingredients on hand, and this can be prepared hours in advance or in about 15 minutes.

I tweaked the ingredients to make a more substantial soup.  And to negate my previous statement, for once in my life, I didn't have a can of black beans in the pantry, so I used two cans of white beans.  Next time, I'd like something with a little more texture in it: green or red onions, red pepper, or something else to give a little crunch.  Also, I'll probably do a few zaps with the immersion blender to make it thicker.

1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained & rinsed
1 can (15 oz) navy beans [or other white beans], drained & rinsed
2 cups frozen corn
1 jar (12 to 15 oz) salsa
1 can (small) sliced olives, drained & rinsed
2 cups water or broth [I did 1 cup of each]
1 teaspoon Southwest Seasoning [McCormick brand, or any related spices]
flour tortillas [optional]
garnishes (avocado, chives, shredded cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, etc.)

(1) Combine all ingredients except tortillas and garnishes in a soup pot or slow cooker
(2) Heat on the stove until simmering or in the slow cooker for 2 hours on low.
(3) If desired, cut tortillas into bite-size pieces and layer in individual bowls.  Garnish soup to taste.

Kid Participation: Everything.


Egg McMuffin Casserole

Original Recipe HERE

Is it OK to call this an Egg McMuffin casserole?  No McDonald's products were harmed in the making of it.

We had this for dinner, and three out of three kids said they liked it.  No second helpings were had because we were running supremely late and bedtime was on the horizon, but I think they would've if I let them.

I almost put shredded cheese in this (because if it's basically a giant mess of breakfast sandwich-ness, how was there no cheese??), and I'll add it to the egg/milk mixture next time.  I think it would've added that little extra flavor I was looking for (because I forgot to put in the salt and pepper, and I debated things like oregano or Montreal Steak seasoning or Jane's Krazy but didn't follow through).  I could've put vegetables in if diced small and cooked with the sausage, but *P* reminded me that *J* would pick them all out.  Next time I'll sneak some finely chopped spinach and red pepper, maybe.

Also, this is a very kid-friendly meal, preparation-wise.  *P* helped me make it at lunchtime, and I put it in the oven when we got home from afterschool activities at 6:00pm.

6 English muffins, torn into large bite-sized pieces
1 package (1 lb) ground sausage [I used one 16 oz "tube"]
1/2 cup onion, diced small
1 teaspoon jarred minced garlic
8 eggs [I used 4 whole eggs and the equivalent of 4 egg whites]
1 & 1/2 cups milk
2 Tablespoons spicy mustard
salt & pepper

(1) Grease a 9x13" glass baking dish.
(2) In a large skillet over medium heat, brown sausage until no longer pink, breaking it up as it cooks.  Add onion and garlic during final minutes of cooking.
(3) Toss together muffin pieces and sausage mixture.  Spread evenly in baking dish.
(4) In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, mustard, salt, and pepper.
(5) Pour egg mixture over the muffin mixture.  Bake immediately or cover and refrigerate overnight.
(6) In an oven heated to 350 degrees F, bake casserole 45-50 minutes or until eggs are set in the middle.  Cover with foil during last 15 minutes to avoid browning if needed.

Kid Participation:
* Tear muffins
* Stir together muffins and sausage
* Crack eggs
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Pour egg mixture