Corn & Barley Salad

Original Recipe HERE

This is a hearty side dish that could be a main course if you added some kielbasa or chicken.

I tweaked amounts based on what I had in my pantry.  I used one good-sized clove of garlic in the vinaigrette, and it was too sharp.  Next time I'll use a smaller one or leave it out entirely.  A little bit of sugar could balance the red wine vinegar and tomato, too.  And some diced cheese would probably be good.  We had brie on our burgers the same night I made this, and I was intrigued by the idea of adding some to the salad...but I ran out of time.

And "...but I ran out of time" is how I end just about every statement of good intentions these days.

* For vinaigrette:
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 small clove garlic
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon diced red onion
salt & pepper
* For salad:
1 cup barley or brown rice [I used barley]
2 cups fresh or thawed corn [I used frozen]
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1/2 to 1 cup finely diced red onion
4 to 6 slices bacon, chopped
1 avocado, chopped [I didn't use]
salt & pepper

* For vinaigrette:
(1) Combine tomatoes and garlic in a small food processor (I used my magic bullet).  Process until smooth.
(2) Add oil, water, vinegar, lemon juice, and red onion.  Process until well combined.
(3) Add salt and pepper to taste.
* For salad:
(1) Place corn in a colander to thaw, if necessary.  Top with red onion.
(2) Cook barley according to package directions.  Drain into colander with corn and onion.
(3) While barley is cooking, cook bacon until crisp.  Drain.
(4) Combine barley, corn, tomatoes, onion, bacon, and avocado (if using) in a large bowl.
(5) Pour vinaigrette over salad.  Stir until well combined.  Chill.

Kid Participation: Stirring...that's about it.


Greek Layer Dip

Original Recipe HERE

I figured the kids wouldn't be big fans of this, and 50% of them were not.  I think it was the sharpness of the fresh garlic, since they both asked if there was horseradish in the dip.  I bet they would've liked it more if I left out the garlic completely.Also, fresh tomatoes aren't their favorite.  But *H* and I thought it was great: a very flavorful dip that had a good variety of textures.

I'll make it again, either just for us adults or to serve at a party.  It filled an approximately 8x10" baking dish, but the layers weren't deep.  I would double all ingredients (except the garlic, which was strong) when serving several people.  We scooped it with tortilla strip chips because I couldn't find pita ones.

8 oz hummus
1 cup 0% fat Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 Tablespoon dried dill [or to taste]
1&1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
pinches of salt & pepper
2 to 3 Tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
1 cup English cucumber, diced small
1 cup Roma tomato, seeded & diced small
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese [I did not use]
1/4 cup sliced olives [I did not use]

(1) In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, garlic, dill, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
(2) Toss together cucumber and tomato pieces.
(3) Rinse red onion pieces in strainer.  Drain.
(4) In an approximately 8x8" dish, spread hummus. Top with yogurt mixture; spread evenly.
(5) Scatter red onion, cucumber, and tomatoes on top.
(6) Sprinkle feta and olives on top.  Press gently with flat hands to slightly settle vegetables into the yogurt layer.

Kid Participation:
* Whisk together yogurt mixture ingredients
* Spread each layer
* Press down if you trust them to have delicate hands


South Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce

Original Recipe HERE

This is my go-to recipe for serving with ham on holidays.  It might be too strong to use alone on pulled pork or something similar - maybe tone it down with a little BBQ sauce mixed in?  I keep meaning to try it out with shredded chicken in the slow cooker, but I have it in my head that this is a Holiday Recipe and therefore it doesn't cross my mind for approximately 363 days per year.

This makes about 1.5 cups of sauce.

4 Tablespoons butter
½ onion, grated
½ cup yellow mustard
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon dry mustard
½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne [I only use a pinch]
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste [I usually leave it out]

(1) Grate the onion over a cutting board.
(2) In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the butter until frothy.
(3) Add onion.  Salute for 3-4 minutes.  Don't let the onion brown.
(4) Add all other ingredients.  Stir well.  Simmer 30 minutes or until slightly thickened.
(5) Remove bay leaf.  Serve warm or store in refrigerator.

Kid Participation: None.

Gnocchi with Spinach & Pine Nuts

Original Recipe HERE

I love gnocchi.  It's a break from regular pasta, and it fills me up more.  And since the first few times I ever ate it were in restaurants, I (wrongly?) associate it with being a classy meal.

I had a problem with the gnocchi sticking to the pan when browning it.  I didn't want to add more butter, grease, or bacon, so a little bit of broth was added and helped.

2 packages (16 oz each) vacuum-packed gnocchi
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons bacon grease [can substitute butter]
1/2 to 1 cup pine nuts
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 package (10 oz) fresh spinach, torn
1/4 cup broth [more or less, if needed]
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan [or to taste]

(1) Cook gnocchi according to package directions.  Drain.
(2) In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and bacon grease.
(3) Add pine nuts to pan.  Cook 3 minutes or until butter and nuts are lightly browned, stirring constantly.
(4) Add garlic to pan.  Cook 1 minute.
(5) Add gnocchi and spinach to pan.  Cook 1 minute or until spinach wilts, stirring constantly.  Add splashes of broth to prevent sticking, if needed.
(6) Turn off heat.  Stir in salt and pepper.
(7) Sprinkle with Parmesan before serving.

Kid Participation: None.

Spicy, Smoky, & Sweet Chili

Original Recipe HERE
This chili was a success all around, with even picky *J* asking me to make it again sometime.  His vote counts twice because I get it less frequently than anyone else's. 
This recipe is easy to tinker with.  I added a can of navy beans that weren't called for in the original recipe because the chili was looking too saucy during cooking.  I'm sure the meat could be eliminated and more beans could take its place.  Also, I made it stovetop because I ran out of time to put it in the crockpot.  I didn't have enough tomato sauce, so I used one 15-ounce and one 8-ounce can.  This actually made it too tomato-y for my taste.  Next time I'll just use the 15 ounces and add a cup or so of water or broth.  Also, I put in the full three tablespoons of chili powder, and future makings will see that decreased.  The overall taste was definitely good, but it bordered on too intense.  I prefer my chili a little milder.
1lb ground beef or turkey
1 large shallot or 1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
15 to 28 ounces tomato sauce
15oz can Bush’s Vegetarian Baked Beans
15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz) navy beans
2 to 3 Tablespoons chili powder
1 to 2 heaping Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more or less)
Toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions, tortilla chips, sour cream
(1) In a large pot over medium heat, brown beef, shallot/onion, and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.
(2) Add remaining ingredients.  Simmer 30 minutes; stir several times.

* To make in slow cooker: transfer beef mixture to 6-qt pot, add other ingredients, & stir.  Cook on low 4-6 hours.

Kid Participation: None.

White Bean & Spinach Salad

Original Recipe HERE

A side dish that's flavorful and guaranteed to be do-able any night of the week.  I always have these ingredients on hand.

I used red wine vinegar instead of cider.  The mustard was a little strong...the flavor was fine for me, but possibly a little too bold for kids.  I'd reduce it slightly next time.

I upped the bean amount to three cans, and it meant enough leftovers for a good-sized lunch portion the next day.  But otherwise, it was gobbled up by the five of us (*A* was too busy singing "Moana" songs to focus on eating).

3 cans (15 oz each) navy beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced & chopped
4 cups fresh spinach leaves
2 & 1/2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 & 1/2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt


(1) Take handfuls of spinach and slice the leaves into thin strips.
(2) Rinse onion pieces; drain.
(3) In large bowl, whisk together mustard, vinegar, spices, and salt.
(4) Toss beans, spinach, and onion with dressing.

Kid Participation:
* Whisk dressing
* Stir salad ingredients together


Craisin & Almond Quinoa with Vinaigrette

Original Recipe: My own concoction

This is something I threw together when I realized we didn't have enough Christmas leftovers to feed the six of us.  It took less than 20 minutes from start to finish, and every person at the table gave it the thumbs up.

The portions can all be played with (except the water-to-quinoa ratio).  When I first stirred the vinaigrette into the finished quinoa part, I thought it was too much.  Luckily it absorbed into the quinoa or something, because it wasn't a soupy mess.  But next time I'd make a little more quinoa for better balance.

4 green onions, chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 cups water or broth
2 cups quinoa
1/2 to 1 cup craisins
1/2 to 1 cup slivered or sliced almonds
crumbled goat cheese [optional]
* For vinaigrette:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons real maple syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt

(1) In a large sauce pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat.
(2) Add onions.  Saute 3 to 4 minutes until softened.
(3) Add quinoa & water to saucepan.  Heat until boiling, then simmer about 15 minutes or until quinoa is done (drain excess water if needed).  About 10 minutes into the cooking, add craisins so they have time to soften.
(4) While quinoa is cooking, toast almonds in skillet or toaster oven until very lightly browned.
(5) Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients together.
(6) Add almonds & vinaigrette to finished quinoa.
(7) After mixture has cooled somewhat, add goat cheese if using.

Kid Participation: None...I'd reached my limit on "kid help" while making Christmas cookies earlier in the week.