Roasted Parmesan Broccoli

Original Recipe HERE
I can count on my kids eating broccoli 90% of the time if I serve it steamed or roasted (the other 10% accounts for bad moods, stomach aches [real or imagined], and just general unpredictability).  So I figured that this would be eaten by 66% percent of them.  But they all wolfed down their portions and asked for more...and more...and more, until we ran out.  I thought it was great, too, and was disappointed to sacrifice any chance at a second helping for the greater good of my kids' health.  This will be a go-to standard.
1 lb fresh broccoli florets
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, pressed or finely chopped
1/3 cup panko
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
salt & pepper
1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2) In a large bowl, combine olive oil and garlic.  Allow to infuse for 10 minutes.
3) Meanwhile, chop broccoli into bite-size pieces.
4) Toss broccoli with olive oil and garlic; coat well.
5) Season broccoli with salt and pepper.
6) Toss broccoli with Parmesan and panko until evenly coated.
7) Spread broccoli evenly on baking sheet.  Bake 20 minutes or until broccoli is browned.
Kid Participation: Eat it!


Baked Oatmeal with Peaches

Original Recipe HERE
This is another addition to the ever-expanding collection of baked oatmeal dishes.  I can't help it: they are always a hit, are easy to make, are relatively healthy, and usually only require ingredients I already have.
This can be served naked or with milk, cream, yogurt, or ice cream.  We did a few squirts of whipped cream, naturally...what dinner isn't improved by some Redi-Whip?  I used fresh peaches because they are in season, but I wonder if frozen ones would work as well.  Also, the peaches were the star of the show here; the oatmeal was a wallflower.  Next time I'll substitute cinnamon or nutmeg for the ginger.
3 cups quick cooking oats [I used old-fashioned]
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups milk
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil [I substituted applesauce]
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 ripe peaches, diced (peeling optional)
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13" glass baking dish.
2) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients except peaches until well combined.
3) Gently fold in the diced peaches.  Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish.
4) Bake 25-30 minutes, or until set in the middle.
Kid Participation:
* Measure all ingredients
* Whisk oatmeal mixture

Honey Mustard Lentils & Rice

Original Recipe HERE
I took a risk on this one, not sure if it would have enough flavor to appeal to my family nor whether the texture would sit well with them.  The kids all ate some as a side dish - I think the sweetness of the honey was key.  It was a little bland for me...I think fresh onion would've been better.
Next time I will add smoked sausage or something else to turn it into a one-dish meal.  Also, it made a TON of food.  I will definitely cut the ingredient amounts in half.
1 lb green lentils
1 cup brown rice
3 Tablespoons dried minced onion or 1 cup chopped fresh onion [I used dried]
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup mustard [I used Dijon]
1/3 cup honey
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) In a large mixing bowl, combine lentils, rice, onion, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
3) Pour 7 cups hot water into the lentil mixture.  Stir gently.
4) In a small bowl, combine mustard and honey.  Gently fold into lentil mixture.
5) Pour lentil mixture into a 9x13" glass baking dish.  Cover tightly with foil.
6) Bake 60 minutes, or until rice and lentils are soft.
Kid Participation:
* Measure dry ingredients
* Stirring.  Lots of stirring.

Lemon Sugar Sandwich Cookies

Original Recipe HERE
I made these for *N*'s birthday celebration at school.  Because the class had a Flag Day celebration the same day, I colored half the dough red and the other half blue.  Along with the white filing, they had "American Cookies."
I thought they were good and certainly could've eaten the whole batch myself, but I was underwhelmed at the portions.  The cookies were thinner than I expected (though they looked like the picture from the original page) , as well as so chewy and delicate that I had to be very careful about spreading the filling.  So I thought they wouldn't be a big hit with seven-year olds and was hoping *N* wouldn't be disappointed (or embarrassed) by what her mom brought in.  Turns out that many of the kids in the class loved them - a few even telling her that they were the best cookies they'd ever had.  So, into the permanent file this recipe goes.
I would like to make the cookies more substantial but am not sure how to go about that.  An extra half-cup of flour?  Chill the dough for longer (which the original recipe doesn't call for, but I did anyway) so it doesn't flatten out as much?  More baking soda or powder to have them rise?  This calls for more research, but the cookies are still great as-is.

* For cookies:
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 Tablespoon vanilla
sugar for rolling cookie dough, optional [I did not use]
* For filling:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice [I did not use; I substituted half-n-half or heavy cream]
* For cookies:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2) In a medium bowl, sift or whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3) Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4) Add egg, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla to butter mixture. Mix until combined.
5) Add flour mixture to wet ingredients. Mix slowly until completely combined.
6) Chill dough for at least half an hour.
7) Spoon out dough with a 1-tablespoon scoop.  Roll dough in sugar to coat (I did not do).
8) Place dough balls on baking sheet about 2" apart. Bake 8-10 minutes (do not allow to brown).
9) Let cookies firm up on baking sheet for about 2 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.
10) Spread a layer of filling on one cookie and sandwich with another.
* For filling:
1) In a medium bowl using an electric mixer, cream butter.
2) Mix in sugar and lemon juice or cream.
3) Add a few drops of yellow food coloring (optional).
Kid Participation:
* Measure dry ingredients
* Measure wet ingredients
* Run mixer (make sure they don't accidentally crank it up to full speed right away and create a flour explosion)
* Scoop dough
* Roll dough balls in sugar

Creamy Spicy Pasta with Peppers and Sausage

Original Recipe HERE
I love alfredo sauces, but I'm the only one in the family.  I don't get it, since the ones I make involve Parmesan and cream cheese and butter and milk...all things the other members eat in spades.  So I thought this was a great pasta dish, but I couldn't tell what others felt.  They all ate their portions, because they contained pasta, and no one here can resist pasta...but the fresh vegetables were pushed to the sides of their plates until I reminded them that they had to finish what they were first served if they wanted any more pasta (which they were then allowed to pick the veggies out of).  I will definitely make it again, maybe subbing in peas or something else they're more likely to eat for one of the peppers.
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound smoked sausage
1 small red onion, halved and sliced thin [I chopped]
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced and separated
2 colored bell peppers, halved and sliced thin [I chopped]
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1-1/2 cups water
8 ounces pasta
2 cups 1% milk
3 ounces low-fat cream cheese
1 teaspoon Cajun or Creole seasoning [I improvised with individual spices]
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1) Slice sausage in half lengthwise, then into 1/4" slices.
2) Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage; cook 2-3 minutes or until it begins to brown.
3) Add onions; cook until slightly softened.
4) Add 4 cloves of garlic and bell peppers.  Cook until the peppers are tender-crisp. Transfer the sausage and peppers to a large plate.
5) Add the tomatoes and water to the skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat.
6) Add the pasta.  Cover; reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook until the pasta is al dente and the liquid is absorbed.
7) While the pasta is cooking, blend the milk, cream cheese, Cajun seasoning, smoked paprika, and flour until smooth (I used a Magic Bullet).
8) In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic; cook 1-2 minutes or until tender and fragrant.
9) Add the blended mixture; cook until smooth and thickened into a sauce.
10) Remove the sauce from heat. Add the Parmesan cheese; stir until melted and smooth.
11) Add the peppers and sausage to the pasta/tomato mixture; stir to combine.
12) Add the garlic sauce to pasta or serve on the side.
Kid Participation: None.

Blueberry Mug Muffins

Original Recipe: provided by my mom
This is a fun, quick project for kids to do (unless they dump over flour; then it becomes a laborious chore for me).  The muffins are surprisingly tasty, considering how they're made.  It's one of those things that's easy for me to say "yes" to when they ask, and it makes their day.
1/4 cup white flour
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of cinnamon [or nutmeg]
1/2 Tablespoon butter, melted
2 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons fresh blueberries
1) In a standard-size mug, stir flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon together until fully combined.
2) Add butter; stir until uniform.
3) Add milk; stir until uniform.
4) Mix in berries.
5) Microwave on high for 90 seconds.  Muffin will rise during cooking and sink back down afterward. 

Kid Participation: Everything!


Stovetop Black Beans

Original Recipe HERE
I was looking for a side dish that I could whip together and was in the mood for something salty and slightly spicy.  This recipe came up in my Googling.  Super easy to make, can be abandoned until dinner is ready (I made it ahead of time and just let it sit on the stove), and easy to tweak the spices to suit your taste.
I thought it was fantastic, and everyone at the table had at least one helping.  There were six of us eating, and only about half a cup was remaining at the conclusion of dinner.  I would double the recipe next time to get decent leftovers.
2 cans (14 oz each) black beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup diced onion
2 or 3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2/3 cup broth or water
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 lime [or bottled lime juice]
(1) In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.
(2) Add onions; saute several minutes until becoming translucent.
(3) Add garlic; saute 30 seconds more.
(4) Add beans, broth, and seasonings.
(5) Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low simmer; cook about 7 minutes.
(6) Remove from heat.  Add several squirts of lime juice.
(7) Use the back of a spoon, potato masher, or spatula to smush beans to desired consistency.  Beans will thicken more upon standing.
Kid Participation: None.