4.07.2014

Spinach, Mushroom, & Caramelized Onion Pasta

Original Recipe HERE

This mean was semi-approved by the kids.  They really liked the pasta and cheese sauce, which was not a surprise.  They didn't like the vegetables, which was also not a surprise.  I will save this for a meal when we have enough adults to consume and appreciate it.

Prepared as directed in the original recipe, the sauce never thickened and was very watery.  I would've liked it to cling to the pasta and vegetables more and pool at the bottom of my bowl less.  I changed the instructions, as listed below, to make the sauce separately.

Shredded mozzarella (or cheese of choice) might help everything stick together better.  Also, it might be good with freshly chopped tomatoes mixed in at the end (or canned petite diced tomatoes during cooking).  A bit of tomato paste in the sauce could be good, too.
 
Ingredients
8 to 12 oz pasta
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
6 oz package babys pinach leaves
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup milk
salt & pepper to taste
broth as needed
 
Directions
(1) Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
(2) Add onions.  Cook, stirring frequently, 20-30 minutes or until onions are caramelized.  Add broth, 1 tablespoons at a time, as needed to avoid burning and sticking.
(3) Just before onions are done, add balsamic; stir.  Scrape up all bits from bottom of pan.  Remove onions and set aside.
(4) Begin preparing pasta according to package directions
(5) Meanwhile, heat oil in original pan over medium heat.  Add garlic; saute 1-2 minutes.
(6) Add mushrooms and a sprinkle of salt.  Cook about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until mushrooms have softened.
(7) Turn off heat.  Return onions to pan.  Add spinach; stir until wilted.
(8) In a small saucepan, heat milk until simmering.  Add Parmesan.  Cook, stirring frequently, until well combined and thickened.  Add additional cheese or a tablespoon of flour if necessary.  Season sauce with salt and pepper if desired.
(9) Serve pasta with a scoop of vegetables and desired amount of sauce.

Kid Participation: None.

4.02.2014

Coconut Garlic Chicken

Original Recipe HERE

I was really skeptical about this recipe - how could coconut, garlic, and vinegar come together and yield anything but nastiness?  But the original poster promised it was good, so I was game to try.

The taste was interesting but better than expected.  Everyone in the family liked the sauce; kids asked for several helpings of it over the rice.  I should've cooked and shredded the chicken ahead of time and just added it to the sauce as it thickened up; leaving it in pieces meant the kids could easily pick them out.

I will cut the vinegar amount by half next time (original amounts of everything are listed below).  Also, I'd probably add some sliced green onions for garnish and taste.  My sauce never thickened, so expect it to look watery.  Precooking and shredding the chicken would make throwing this dish together super quick and give the sauce a bit more substance.
 
Ingredients
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, diced small
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 can (14-15oz) light coconut milk
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup fresh cilantro [optional; I did not use]
salt & pepper to taste
rice or other grain for serving
 
Directions
(1) Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a non-stick skillet.
(2) Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper.  Add to skillet; saute about 2 minutes.
(3) Add vinegar and garlic to pan.  Cook until most liquid has cooked off.
(4) Add coconut milk.
(5) Turn heat ot medium.  Cook, stirring occasionally, 8-10 minutes or until liquid thickens and chicken is cooked through.
(6) Season with additional salt and pepper.  Top with cilantro and serve over rice or grains.

Kid Participation: None.

Apple & Oat Breakfast Cookies

Original Recipe HERE

I think this is a very functional recipe: it is easy to make, tasty and filling, and handy to take one on-the-go.  That said, I wasn't completely sold on the texture...it was overly moist, bordering on soggy (yet no doubt fully baked).  Maybe it was because I used a different type of flour?  Maybe it was all the apple sauce?  Maybe that's just the way it's supposed to be?  I baked some with parchment and some with a silpat, and the parchment ones were a little drier (in a good way).  The recipe yielded about 20 cookies that I stored uncovered for three days, and they never got stale.

I will definitely make them again because everyone in the family liked them - maybe try pears?  However, I might slightly decrease the amount of applesauce and will try substitutes for the oil.  Also, I made them gigantic like the original recipe says, and smaller cookies would be more practical.
 
Ingredients
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour or white wheat flour [I used half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour]
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped [I did not use]
2-1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup canola oil
3 apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
3 eggs, lightly beaten
 
Directions
(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
(2) In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and walnuts.
(3) In a separate bowl, whisk together applesauce, oil, and eggs.
(4) Add wet ingredients to dry; stir until thoroughly combined.
(5) Scoop 1/4 to 1/2 cups of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Slightly flatten each cookie and shape into a roughly uniform circle shape.
(6) Bake 20-25 minutes (mine took 25), or until tops are firm.  Let cookies set on baking sheet for several minutes; transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Kid Participation:
* Whisk dry ingredients
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Stir batter
* Scoop batter onto baking sheets (if you don't care about precision)

Double Chocolate Banana Bread

Original Recipe HERE

Not a healthy banana bread.  There is no justifying that this is "good" for you - at least, for your waistline.  So good for your spirit, though.  I'd mess around with substitutes for the copious amounts of butter and sugar, trying to make this less guilt-inducing...but I fear then it would lose its essence.  So I will relegate it to the "occasional treat" list and enjoy every morsel when I do have it.

I assume these could be made into muffins and will probably try that next time.  Helps with portion control.  As with almost every baked good, this tasted better the next day: the flavors were stronger and the bread had "settled" and was a bit denser.
 
Ingredients
3 medium or large bananas, very ripe
1/2 cup butter (one stick), melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon [optional]
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips [I used semi-sweet mini chips]
 
Directions
(1) Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9x5" loaf pan.
(2) Mash bananas thoroughly in a large bowl.
(3) Whisk melted butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla into the bananas.
(4) In a separate bowl, sift together baking soda, salt, cinnamon, flour, and cocoa powder.
(5) Add dry ingredients to wet; stir until just combined.
(6) Stir in chocolate chips.
(7) Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake 55-65 minutes (minute took almost 65) or until a knife inserted into the center comes out batter-free.
(8) Cool bread in pan for 10-15 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack.  Once fully cooled, store wrapped in foil.

Kid Participation:
* Mash bananas
* Crack egg
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Add dry ingredients to wet
* Pour batter into pan

White Chicken Chili

Original Recipe HERE
 
I simplified the original recipe a lot, both for convenience (I didn't feel like hunting down a variety of peppers) and the sake of hoping my kids would eat it (because they don't like super spicy things).  So it's really just a basic white chicken chili recipe now.  But that's OK, because everyone loved it.  Even my picky *J* said he, "LOVED it!"
 
My kids aren't big meat eaters, and they turn their noses up to chicken most of the time.  I knew I'd have better luck getting them to eat it if I incorporated it into the dish better than cubing it would.  So I cooked the chicken that afternoon and shredded it with the KitchenAid paddle.  No one complained at mealtime.
 
I ran out of cumin and couldn't find my chili powder, so I added a few shakes of Cuban seasoning to make up for it.  It was still pretty mild, but I could taste a hint of the jalapenos so it wasn't too bland.  Spices and seasonings and heat factor can be easily tweaked.  As expected, the kids added plenty of sour cream and cheese on top. 
 
Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
1 jalapeƱo pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 Tablespoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoons chili powder
¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups broth
3 cans (15 oz) cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups chopped cooked chicken [I used shredded]
1 tablespoon lime juice
½ cup heavy cream [optional; I forgot it]
garnishes: lime wedges, shredded cheese, cilantro, sour cream
rice [optional]
 
Ingredients
(1) Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
(2) Add onions, jalapeno, cumin, chili powder, paprika, cayenne, and salt.  Cook until vegetables have softened, about 7 minutes.
(3) Meanwhile, drain and rinse one can of beans.  Mash thoroughly.
(3) Add garlic.  Cook an additional minute (do not allow garlic to brown).
(4) Add flour; stir in thoroughly.  Cook for about 1 minute.
(5) Add mashed beans.
(6) Stir in remaining 2 cans of beans, chicken, and lime juice.  Bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to low; cook about 20 minutes.
(7) Add heavy cream.  Serve with garnishes and by itself or over rice.
 
Kid Participation: None, other than require me to grate several rounds of cheese for toppings.  Kids like them some cheese.

3.23.2014

Pepper Pasta Sauce

Original Recipe HERE
 
I thought this was a sneaky way to get a bit of vegetables into my kids.  Except *J*'s picky streak continues and he barely ate any.  *N* had seconds but declared, "It tastes...vegetable-y."  And so I came clean, and the thought of a pepper (normally something they avoid like the plague) diminished her enjoyment of further bites.
 
Husband and I really liked this.  I thought the pepper gave the sauce a nice twist and a slight sweetness.  I made several variations on the original recipe: amount of onion and garlic, addition of tomato paste, different type of sausage and tomatoes.
 
Ingredients
1 lb (16 oz box) dry pasta [I used small shells]
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb sausage [I used pre-cooked chicken]
1 can (14.5 oz) diced or crushed tomatoes
1 to 2 Tablespoons tomato paste [I used 2]
1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream [I used 1/2 cup]
1/2 to 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese [I used 2/3 cup]
 
Directions
(1) Cook pasta according to package directions.
(2) Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
(3) Add onion and pepper to skillet.  Saute until just tender, about 3-5 minutes.
(4) While vegetables are cooking, cut sausages in half length-wise and then into small slices.
(5) Add garlic to skillet.  Saute until softened but not browned.
(6) Stir in tomatoes and heavy cream.  Reduce heat to medium-low; cook about 5 minutes.
(7) Use an immersion blender to puree sauce to desired consistency.
(8) Add sausage to sauce; heat through.
(9) Stir in Parmesan cheese until mixed well.
(10) Serve sauce over pasta.
 
Kid Participation: None.

3.18.2014

Sausage & Stuffing Bake

Original recipe HERE
 
This is marketed as a brunch dish, but I made it for dinner.  It's a simple one to tweak according to your own tastes: type of sausage, variety of vegetables, or type of cheese.
 
My kids liked it and asked for seconds.  They even ate most of the vegetables.  I wish the egg element had been a little firmer, so next time I might cut the amount of egg whites and add in a few full eggs.  Also, the cheese congealed on top as the casserole cooled, so perhaps stirring the cheese into the stuffing mixture would prevent that and distribute the cheese flavor into every bite.

I used the cubed stuffing, but it still pretty much just turned into one mass of mush (which I say in a good way) along with the egg.  I thought there would be more of a bread-like substance throughout, but it was just egg-y.  The taste was fine, but the consistency wasn't what I was expecting...just an FYI.
 
Ingredients
1 lb sausage, precooked [I used Italian chicken]
1 small onion, diced small
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 to 3 carrots, peeled & diced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 cups herb seasoned stuffing mix [I used Pepperidge Farm cubed style]
1/2 cup broth
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
5 oz sharp cheddar, grated
2 cups milk
16 oz carton fat-free egg substitute [I used a container of egg whites]
salt & pepper, to taste
 
Directions
(1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9x13" baking dish.
(2) Cut sausages in half lengthwise, then into slices.
(3) In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.
(4) Add sausage, onion, mushrooms, celery, carrot, and garlic to skillet.  Saute until sausage is browned and vegetables are softened.
(5) In a large mixing bowl, combine stuffing and sausage mixture.  Stir thoroughly.
(6) Transfer stuffing mixture to the baking dish.  Drizzle with broth and melted butter.
(7) Sprinkle shredded cheese evenly over the stuffing mixture.
(8) In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, egg substitute, salt, and pepper. 
(9) Pour milk mixture evenly over the stuffing mixture. 
(10) Bake about 40 minutes, uncovered, or until egg is set and casserole is cooked through.  Allow to cool several minutes before serving.
 
Kid Participation: None.