Cranberry & Horseradish Relish

This recipe was given to me by my brother with the title of "Mrs. Stamberg's Cranberry Relish."  I have no idea who that is, so my apologies for removing her name from the recipe here.  But I have no way of authenticating or verifying who this mystery woman is, so better safe than sorry.  Also, maybe someone will tack my name onto it from now on and pass it along, and I can take credit...  Would that technically be plagarism?

The original recipe said this makes 1.5 pints, but I didn't measure the final product.  Surprisingly, even my kids ate their portion of this.  And all the adults at Christmas dinner really liked it.  I was told that the horseradish "threatens to overpower the other flavors but backs off at the last second."  We served it with a spiral ham.
2 cups whole raw cranberries, washed
1 small onion
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons white horseradish from a jar [I used one]

(1) Grind the raw berries and onion together, preferably with a meat grinder ir food processor, until texture is still slightly crunchy and coarse.
(2) Add everything else and mix.  Put in a plastic container and freeze.
(3) Early on the morning of the day it will be served, move it from freezer to refrigerator compartment to thaw.  The relish will be thick, creamy, pink, and with some icy slivers left.

Kid Participation:
* Push buttons on food processor (or grinding meat grinder like in the Olden Days)
* Mix everything together


Roasted Potatoes, Sausage, & Peppers

Original Recipe HERE

I don't like working with uncooked sausage because so often you're asked to remove it from its casing.  And that procedure is nasty enough to make me lose my appetite.  But this one allows you to leave the sausage in its virginal state, so I was able to prepare the recipe without too much dry heaving.  And cooked sausage is well worth the torture it puts my gag reflect through.  The amounts and varieties of ingredients here are very forgiving: use a green pepper, use different potatoes, or use different seasonings.  The end result, as I made it, was delicious.  Husband claimed the leftovers for lunch the next day before he'd even finished eating.  The kids ate the potatoes and sausage voluntarily and begrudgingly ate the few vegetable pieces I insisted upon.

Apparently it reheated well, so I think this would also be a good meal to bring to a pot luck or to a family that just had a baby or something along those lines.  Hence the label I'm going to create right now: good for sharing.  Not creative at all, but it's enough to jog my memory.  I think it might be redundant with my "potluck" label, but I'll just use both to be safe.

1.5 pounds potatoes [I used red]
1 medium onion
2 red bell peppers
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary (fresh or dry)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
olive oil spray
1 pound uncooked Italian chicken sausage

(1) Preheat oven to 375°. Spray one large non-stick baking sheet (or 2 small ones) with olive oil spray.  Line with foil first if desired.
(2) Scrub potatoes.  Leave skin on if desired.  Cut into 1x1/2" pieces.
(3) De-seed red peppers.  Cut into 1" pieces.
(4) In a large bowl, combine potatoes, peppers, olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and garlic powder.  Mix well to ensure even coating.
(5) Pour onto the prepared baking sheet and place in the center of the oven; bake 15 minutes.
(6) While cooking, peel onion. Cut into quarters; cut outer layers one more time so pieces are uniform size. Separate layers.
(7) Slice each sausage link into 6 or 7 pieces.
(8) Add the sausage and onions to the baking sheet.  Continue to bake, tossing once or twice, for 25-35 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through.  Monitor carefully to ensure vegetables don't char.

Kid Participation: None.  And exposing them to uncooked sausage might turn them into vegetarians.


Pumpkin Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

Original Recipe HERE

I was looking for a frosting recipe that was more interesting than a basic buttercream and thought this was seasonally appropriate.  Poor Husband; his birthday always is the guinea pig one where I try recipes I've never made before.  Luckily this one turned out well.  It's not sweet, so pairing it with the chocolate zucchini cake (which also wasn't very sweet) was a good match since I wasn't looking for a traditional sugar-laden dessert.  And if Husband didn't like it, there's always next year to try something new.  I'm sure he's already anticipating it with dread excitement.

I doubled it for a 9x13" sheet cake and it was more than enough.

Ingredients (for non-doubled recipe)
8 oz Philadelphia 1/3 fat cream cheese (do not use fat free)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
5 Tablespoons packed brown sugar

(1) Allow cream cheese to soften to room temperature.
(2) Add pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar to cream cheese.  Using a hand mixer, beat until smooth.

Cream Biscuits & Sausage Gravy

Original Recipe HERE

This is definitely not a recipe for anyone trying to lose weight (or avoid a heart attack), but it was great "comfort"-style food.  I was a little confused on the sausage to buy, but I found a 12-ounce pack of Bob Evans links (a 12 count).  It was a bit hard to crumble it well enough, and I ended up chopping it further on a cutting board.  Next time I'll try one of those large packages that seems to be ready to burst and makes me wonder if that sudden tingling I'm feeling in my left arm is imaginary or cause for concern.  Or I'll spring for chicken sausage if I can find it.

It wasn't until I had started making this for dinner that I realized in the original post that it's a breakfast food.  Oops.  That has never stopped me before...and it just meant that I didn't have to wait another 24 hours to justify eating the leftovers.  *J* didn't eat much, but he has entered a picky phase.  *N* ate it and asked for a second bowl (which she didn't finish).  However, both kids enjoyed having the biscuits the next morning spread with honey and jelly.

* Cream Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the work surface
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream [I only had 1 cup and used half-and-half for the rest]
* Sausage Gravy
12 oz bulk pork sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion [optional]
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk [I used 1 cup 2%  and 1 cup skim]
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

* Cream Biscuits
(1) Preheat oven to 425ยบ. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
(2) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
(3) Stir in 1 1/4 cups of cream with a wooden spoon until a dough forms (about 30 seconds). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
(4) Use the remaining 1/4 cup of cream to moisten any flour left in the bowl; add to the dough. Gather into a ball and knead for about 30 seconds or until smooth.
(5) Shape the dough into a 3/4" thick circle. Using a 2 1/2" floured cutter (approximately), cut the biscuits into rounds and place on prepared baking sheet. Reshape the dough once to cut additional biscuits.
(6) Bake biscuits until golden brown (about 15 minutes), rotating the pan halfway through baking.
* Sausage Gravy (prepare while biscuits are in the oven)
(1) Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until well-browned (about 7 minutes), breaking it up as much as possible.
(2) Transfer to a plate and set aside, keeping the rendered fat in the pan.
(3) Add onion to skillet; sautee until just tender.
(4) Sprinkle flour into skillet and whisk for about 1 minute.
(5) Continue whisking while slowly adding the milk. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer about 2 minutes. (6) Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Stir in sausage.  Serve over split biscuits.

Kid Participation:
* Whisk dry biscuit ingredients
* Knead dough
* Roll dough
* Cut out biscuit shapes (or free-form their own)


Slow Cooker Pizza Chicken

Original Recipe HERE

As always, I used my 6-quart cooker.  I modified the original recipe a bit because I've learned that adding chopped veggies at the beginning of a slow cooking process usually results in mush.  I prefer mine to maintain a little crunch and their individual flavors so you can actually taste the pepper or onion or whatever if you get some of it in any particular forkful.  Also, cheese can get kind of burn-y and dried out, so I usually put it in with only a little cooking time left (or even wait until the cooker automatically switches to the "warm" setting).

This was a pretty basic recipe and therefore nothing mind-blowing, but it was hearty and easy and good enough to make again.  Thinking I didn't want to just serve bowls of saucy, cheesy chicken gooey-ness (not that there's anything wrong with that), I spontaneously baked a pizza crust.  I served it in wedges for dipping and scooping the main dish.  It worked fine, but next time I'll plan ahead and make breadsticks or tomato muffins or something more interesting.

3 to 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
14 oz pasta or pizza sauce
seasonings like basil, oregano, and garlic powder [optional]
20 pepperoni pieces [optional; I did not use]
1 4-oz can sliced black olives [optional]
3 to 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

(1) Put chicken into cooker.  Top with sauce and seasonings (if using). Put the pepperoni pieces evenly over the top if using.
(2) Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or about 3 on high.
(3) Add vegetables; stir to combine.  Sprinkle cheese on top.  Cook for an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Kid Participation:
* Dump sauce over chicken
* Place pepperoni slices
* Sprinkle cheese on top


Zucchini Fritters

Original Recipe HERE

My kids are OK with zucchini (sometimes), like to dip things, and are fans of foods perfectly sized for little hands.  I had hopes for these fritters, and *N* loved them.  *J* didn't gag but didn't finish the serving I gave him.  Husband and I also liked them, so the majority rules and I'll make them again.  We used the dipping sauce, which I recommend.  The fritters were flavorful enough on their own, but the sauce was an easy extra enhancer.

Apparently this yields about ten 2.5" fritters, but I suggest making them smaller and being sure they're pretty thin.  I didn't leave them in the oven long enough to see if they crisped up enough to make a difference, but they were definitely soft in the middle when I served them.  Not gooey - I wasn't worried they weren't cooked through.  But next time I'll probably reduce the diameter and thickness of the fritters and therefore end up with more than ten.  I was looking forward to leftovers for the next day, but I watched with sadness as the entire batch was scarfed up at dinner.

* Fritters
1 pound zucchini (about 2 medium)
1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt plus extra to taste
2 scallions, split lengthwise and sliced thin
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Black pepper
Grated parmesan cheese [optional]
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive oil
* Dipping Sauce
1 cup sour cream or plain, full-fat yogurt
1 to 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest [I did not use this]
Salt, to taste
1 small garlic clove, minced or crushed

(1) Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Have a baking sheet ready.
(2) Trim ends off zucchini and grate them.
(3) In a large bowl, toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt.  Set aside for 10 minutes, then "dry" out the zucchini as much as possible (by pressing it against the holes of a colander with a wooden spoon, squeezing small handfuls at a time, or wrapping it in a clean dishtowel or piece of cheese cloth and wringing it).
(4) Return zucchini shreds to bowl. Taste; add more salt to taste if desired.
(5) Stir in scallions, egg, pepper, and parmesan.
(6) In a separate dish, stir together flour and baking powder; add mixture to zucchini batter.
(7) In a large heavy skillet heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Drop small bunches of the zucchini mixture onto the skillet, a few at a time.  Gently flatten with spatula.
(8) Cook fritters until the edges underneath are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip fritters; fry on the other side until browned underneath again, about 2 to 3 minutes.
(9) Drain briefly on paper towels; transfer to baking sheet and then into the warm oven until needed.
(10) Repeat process with remaining batter, keeping the pan well-oiled.
(11) Leave fritters in oven for about 10 minutes to finish cooking through.
(12) Combine all ingredients for dipping sauce, if using.

Kid Participation:
* Squeezing out zucchini (if you don't mind the mess it'll make)
* Stir together ingredients to make zucchini batter
* Create dipping sauce


Original Recipe HERE

As long as you plan ahead and allow for enough time for rising, these are easy, filling, and worth the effort.  I don't have a cool stand mixer (yet), so I did everything by hand and it was manageable.  The final product made me think of Olive Garden - which is a positive, since I love that place.  I'm under no illusions that it's "fine, authentic Italian dining" (despite their attempts to convince us every single employee gets months of training in the mother country), but I don't care.  I like to fill up on the breadsticks and salad (free unlimited refills!) and then eat a portion of my entree...and bring the rest home for tomorrow's lunch.  I'm cheap frugal and practical like that.

Next time I'll add more seasoning to the dough itself (garlic salt, oregano, basil, etc.).  The portion sizes of the sticks is generous, and sometimes I didn't get enough of the garlic butter in each bite.  Also, these could be made smaller or in other shapes to maximize the flavor-to-bite ratio.  I like the suggestion of cinnamon and sugar and will attempt to remember to try them that way.

Update: I didn't have time to make the fancy twists next time, so I rolled out the dough in as even a rectangle as possible and then sliced it into 12 approximately symmetrical pieces (so I had flat-ish, skinny rectangles).  I baked them for 12 minutes, then brushed them with melted butter and sprinkled with Parmesan and put them back in for an additional 2 minutes.

1 1/2 cups warm (105-115 degrees F) water
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 1/2 cups flour
melted butter
Parmesan cheese or garlic salt

(1) In a large bowl (the bowl of your mixer, if you have one), combine water, sugar, and yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes or until yeast is bubbly.
(2) Add salt and stir. Add 1 & 1/2 cups flour and mix well. Gradually add more flour (between 3-4 cups) until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and it barely sticks to your finger.
(3) Spray a glass or metal bowl with cooking spray and place dough in the bowl. Cover and allow to rise for 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
(4) Remove from bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll into a rectangle and cut into 12 strips with a pizza cutter.
(5) Grease or spray a baking sheet.
(6) Roll each piece of dough into a "snake" and then drape over your forefinger at the halfway point.  Twist the dough several times; pinch the ends together.
(7) Place "dough rope" on baking sheet and repeat with remaining 11 pieces.
(8) Cover pan and allow dough to rise for another 30 minutes. With there's about 15 minutes left, preheat oven to 425.
(9) When done rising, bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
(10) Rub or brush melted butter on top of the breadsticks.  Sprinkle with garlic, Parmesan, or seasoning of choice.

Kid Participation:
* Measure ingredients
* Knead dough (and then follow up by doing it yourself)
* Roll out dough
* Cut dough with pizza cutter
* Make "snakes"
* Twist dough (do not expect uniformity)

Baked Eggplant Sticks

Original Recipe HERE

Not surprisingly, I couldn't fool the kids into thinking that these were "real" fries and they detected the eggplant element and only ate a few.  However, Husband and I liked them.  Which is good, since it made two full pans of sticks.  I made the recommended marinara dipping sauce, and the kids enjoyed that part, at least.

1 10-oz eggplant
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper
1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese
1 large egg white
olive oil spray
(1) Preheat oven to 450°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly spray with oil.
(2) Cut ends off the eggplant. Slice eggplant in half, then into 1/4" thick slices. Cut each slice into 1/4" strips.
(3) Place eggplant strips in a bowl and season with olive oil, salt and pepper.
(4) Combine breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese in a bowl.  Put egg whites in another.
(5) Dip a few strips of eggplant at a time into the egg whites, then into the breadcrumbs. Using a fork, remove eggplant from crumbs and place on the baking sheets.
(6) Spray with more oil and bake 10 minutes in the middle rack.
(7) Turn over and bake an additional 5 minutes or until golden. Serve hot.

Kid Participation: None, including consuming them.


Tortellini Sausage Soup

Original Recipe HERE

Husband and I thought this soup was really good.  The kids liked the pasta aspect but could pretty much take or leave the rest of it.

There's really no need to use tortellini other than personal preference and wanting the soup to be a bit heartier.  Next time I'll just cook up something small, like orzo or ditalini, on the side and ladle the soup over it in individual bowls.  Also, I think pre-cooked smoked sausage or kielbasa would streamline the recipe as well and not detract from the flavor.

3 links Italian sausage [uncooked]
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 onion
½ cup water
2 15-oz cans chicken broth
½ cup apple cider
1 16-oz can diced tomatoes
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 cup sliced carrots [I used baby carrots]
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 medium zucchini
2 tablespoons dried parsley [optional]
8-10 oz. package refrigerated or frozen cheese tortellini
grated parmesan cheese, to taste [optional]

(1) If using link sausage, remove casings and crumble into a large soup pot.  Turn heat to medium.
(2) Dice onion; add to pot. Continue cooking until onions are translucent and sausage is cooked through.
(3) Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, juice, water, chicken broth, carrots, oregano, and basil. Cover; simmer for 30 minutes.
(4) While soup is cooking, grate zucchini and put in collander to drain.  After 20 minutes, squeeze as much liquid out as possible.
(5) Add parsley and zucchini to soup; simmer for 15 minutes. Add tortellini and cook 6 minutes or until tender.  Garnish with parmesan if desired.

Kid Participation: None.  I'd say maybe squeezing the zucchini, but that would probably lead to a large clean-up effort that would fall to the parents.


Creamy Tomato Sauce

Original Recipe HERE

This is an easy way to improve my standard "I haven't planned anything for dinner and now it's 6pm and the vultures are starting to wander into my kitchen" meal of pasta.  I left the sauce relatively thick; next time I will thin it out a bit more and probably not combine the pasta and sauce before serving.  We turn to the ruffles pasta shape most of the time because (1) it's easy for little hands to grab or stab with a fork, and (2) it traps sauce well.

1/2 pound pasta
1/4 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 ounces. tomato paste
4 Tablespoons cream [I used half-n-half]
1/2 Tablespoon dried basil

(1) Cook pasta according to its directions.
(2) Meanwhile, heat a large pot or pan (able to hold cooked pasta) on medium heat.  Add olive oil and onion.
(3) After two minutes, add garlic.
(4) Turn down heat; add tomato paste.  Combine thoroughly with onions and garlic.
(5) Turn heat to low; add cream and basil.
(6) Drain pasta, reserving water.  Add pasta to sauce pan.  Toss together; add spoonfuls of pasta water to thin sauce to desired consistency.

Kid Participation: None.


Yeasted Waffles

Original Recipe HERE

I love waffles for breakfast on weekends, but sometimes the tasks of measuring, mixing, preheating, cooking, and cleaning up the always-surprisingly-large mess at the end dissuades me.   However, this is perfect: do all the hard stuff the night before, and then in the morning whip up waffles in minutes.  Which frees me up to add a complimentary side dish, like bacon or a fancy homemade sauce.  Bacon wins 90% of the time.

This recipe makes a good basic waffle, but next time I'll play around with flour substitutes (adding wheat or cake flours into the mix) and some cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.  Also, using applesauce instead of oil works in baking - maybe it would work here (though perhaps the waffles would lose some crispness).

2 1/4 cups white flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 package active dry yeast [or roughly 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast]
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 3/4 cups milk [I used half 2% and half skim]
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil

(1) Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl.
(2) Combine wet ingredients in a smaller bowl. Add to dry ingredients; whisk until thoroughly mixed.
(3) Cover loosely.  Refrigerate overnight or all day.
(4) When ready to make waffles, stir batter. Pour appropriate amount into waffle iron and cook per manufacturer's directions.

Kid Participation:
* Combine dry ingredients
* Combine wet ingredients
* Combine all ingredients

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars

Original Recipe HERE

These were really easy and really tasty.

I will give this recipe an extra shout-out for durability.  It was brought to a BBQ held on a day when the heat index was well over 100 degrees.  I was in a pool up to my neck and my head was still pouring sweat.  These were put out on a picnic table in direct sunlight, and my heart sank, knowing they'd be a melty mess within minutes.  Surprisingly, they held up really well.  Some condensation-type beads appeared on the top, but they stayed firm until I was able to move them into the air-conditioned kitchen.  I had ice-filled ziploc bags underneat the pan, so I'm sure that helped them stay cool...but the lesson is to not let the idea of cream cheese scare you from making these for a summer event.

2 cups finely crushed Oreo-type cookies
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
3 8-oz packages of cream cheese, softened [I used low fat]
1 14-oz can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 oz of chocolate, melted [I used semi-sweet chocolate chips]

(1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a 13x9" baking pan with foil or wax paper.
(2) In bowl, combine crumbs and butter and press firmly into bottom of pan.
(3) In another bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy.  Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla; mix. Pour half of the batter evenly over cookie crumbs.
(4) Stir melted chocolate into remaining batter; mix well. Spoon over plain batter.  Use a knife to swirl batter to make a marble-like design.
(5) Bake 45 to 50 minutes. Cool, then chill for a couple hours or overnight.  Yield: 24 bars.

Kid Participation:
* Crush cookies
* Stir chocolate into batter
* Marbelize batter

Steak & Cheese Sandwiches with Onions & Mushrooms

Original Recipe HERE

So good.  Husband and I are big fans of hearty sandwiches...I always seem to eat double the volume of food than I normally would at dinner.  These were no exception.  I assume this recipe would work with chicken, pork, or large portobello mushrooms (though that might be mushroom overload; perhaps best to eliminate the secondary use of mushrooms in that case).

The original recipes uses the oven or broiler.  I prefer to use our toaster oven when I'm in a hurry to get food on the table.

1/2 pound beef round steak, cut thinly
1/2 large onion, sliced into rings
8 oz sliced mushrooms
olive oil or cooking spray
garlic powder, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
12 oz French baguette [or other bread]
sliced cheese [I used smoked provolone]

(1) Slice beef into thin strips. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
(2) Heat a large skillet over high heat. When the skillet is very hot, spray with cooking spray or add olive oil.
(3) Add half of beef. Cook one minute; turn steak over and cook an additional 30 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside.
(4) Spray the skillet again.  Add the remaining steak; repeat cooking steps and remove from heat.
(5) Spray the skillet again.  Add onions; season with salt and pepper. Cook one minute; turn and cook onions an additional 30 seconds or until golden.  Remove from heat.
(6) Lower heat to medium; add olive oil to skillet or spray again.  Add mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cook 1 1/2 minutes; turn mushrooms and cook another 1 1/2 minutes.
(7) Remove mushrooms from heat.  Comnbine well with beef and onions.
(8) Cut bread into four equal pieces or separate rolls into tops and bottoms.  Lightly toast in toaster oven.
(9) Remove bread.  Add steak mixture to bottom halves and top with cheese.  Broil until cheese melts.  Remove sandwich and cover with top half of bread [Or add steak mixture to bottom halves, top with cheese and top half of bread, and wrap with foil.  Toast in toaster oven for several minutes.]

Kid Participation: None.

Cheesy Zucchini Rice

Original Recipe HERE

Kids didn't like this much, but it was an easy dish and a good way to get a smidge of veggies into their stomachs.  Maybe if I'd added more cheese, they would have been distracted by the presence of their favorite dairy product and gobbled it up.

To healthify it next time, I'll use quick-cooking brown rice (which will also make for a much quicker prep).  Also, I'll add more seasoning (garlic powder?) for a more pronounced flavor.

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 Tablespoons butter
1 medium zucchini
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
salt and pepper, to taste

(1) Bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in rice.  Cover; reduce heat to low.
(2) Cook 20 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
(3) While rice cooks, grate zucchini on larger holes of cheese grater.
(4) Remove rice from heat.  Add butter and zucchini; cover. Allow to stand 5 minutes.
(5) Stir rice and zucchini mixture. Stir in cheese; season with salt and pepper.

Kid Participation: None.

Oven Roasted Garlic Green Beans

Original Recipe HERE

Doesn't get much easier than this.  Both kids thought it was good, especially with liberal amounts of finely shredded Asiago cheese dumped on the beans.  I thought they were tasty as well but too salty.  Next time I'll just omit the salt entirely and rely on the garlic to provide enough flavor.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound green beans, washed and trimmed
1 to 2 Tablespoons minced or pressed garlic [I used 5 cloves]
Pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp grated or shredded parmesan, optional [or other cheese of choice]

(1) Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil.
(2) In a mixing bowl, add the olive oil, green beans, minced garlic, and pepper. Toss well.
(3) Spread the beans onto the foiled lined baking sheet.
(4) Roast in the oven for 5 minutes.  Toss quickly; roast an additional 3 to 4 minutes.
(5) Let cool slightly.  Sprinkle each serving with cheese if using.

Kid Participation: None.


Roasted Eggplant Spread

Original Recipe HERE

I wasn't sure what direction I was going to go in with this recipe, but it looked healthy and easy and versatile.  So I just made it and figured my gourmands would do whatever they wanted with it.  Turns out everyone liked it on pasta, and they dipped toasted Italian bread slices in the leftovers on their plates.  It really tasted like regular pasta sauce and not too vegetable-y.  It made plenty for four people plus leftovers for the next day plus still some sitting in my refrigerator waiting to be frozen.

1 medium eggplant
2 red bell peppers
1 medium red onion
3-4 cloves garlic
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon tomato paste

(1) Preheat oven to 400 and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
(2) Chop eggplant, peppers, and onion into 1″ cubes. Smash the garlic and chop if necessary.
(3) Toss vegetables with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Spread vegetables evenly in prepared baking sheet.
(4) Roast vegetables for 20 minutes. Gently stir vegetables; roast for another 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and browning. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
(5) Place vegetables and tomato paste into blender or food processor [I used a blender] and pulse until the desired consistency is reached.
(6) Serve warm with slices of sourdough bread, pita chips, flatbread, or focaccia or toss with hot pasta.  Yield: 3 cups [if I'm remembering correctly]

Notes: Next time I'll plan ahead to serve it with pasta and add either some jarred sauce (or just water) to the blending step to thin it out.  Also, additional seasonings like garlic powder, basil, oregano, etc. are options to explore.

Kid Participation: Pushing buttons on the blender or food processor

Parmesan Potato Balls

Original recipe cut from a magazine years ago.  Taste of Home, maybe?

I thought my kids would like these because of the novelty involved.  It's something they're actually supposed to eat with their hands, the taste and texture aren't offensive in any way, and they can dip them if desired.  Both gobbled them up and kept asking for more - so much so, that I was worried the entire pan would disappear and had to cut them off lest Husband have no dinner waiting for him.

3 large potatoes
2 ounces cream cheese, softened [I used low fat]
2 Tablespoons milk [I used 2%]
1 Tablespoon butter, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon finely chopped green onion [I used 2 onions]
2 1/2 teaspoons onion soup mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder [optional]
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce [I used several dashes of Tobasco]
dash of pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups crushed cornflakes *OR* panko [I needed more]

(1)  Peel and cube potatoes.  Place in large saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and cook 15-20 minutes or until tender.  Drain.
(2) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
(3) In large mixing bowl, mash potatoes until no lumps appear.  Beat in cream cheese, milk, and butter until smooth.
(4) Stir in Parmesan cheese, soup mix, salt, garlic powder, hot pepper sauce, and pepper.
(5) Place egg and cornflakes (or panko) in separate bowls.
(6) Shape potato mixture into 1 1/2" balls.  Dip each ball into egg, then roll in crumbs.  Place on ungreased baking sheets.
(7) Bake 15-18 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.  Yield: approximately 36.

Notes: These took longer to make than I expected, so next time I can make the entire potato mixture ahead of time.  Also, I can experiment with making smaller balls...if able to be kept warm, they could be a good party food and/or appetizer.

Kid Participation:
* Using the electric mixer to combine all ingredients
* Shaping a few of the potato balls (because Mama works much more efficiently)
* Dipping the balls in eggs and cornflakes / panko (if you don't care about uniformity and coverage)

Risotto Primavera

Original recipe is from a box of College Inn chicken broth cans.

This wasn't as time-consuming or labor-intensive as I thought it would be, since the words "risotto" and "arborio" scare me off, especially on weeknights when I can't commit to standing over a stove and watching my masterpiece intently and constantly.  It turned out fine with just the occasional stirring from me, and I figured that if it wasn't absorbing the broth as it should, I could drain some off or add more, and the other tastes and textures in the dish would cover up any mistakes I made.  We ate it as our main dish (because I was lazy), but it's probably intended as a side.  I'm sure other vegetables could be substituted, such as asparagus or zucchini (but be careful not to let it get mushy).  The kids each ate a bowl and asked for a second, which neither finished.  I ate the rest for lunch the next day with no complaints.

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup arborio or long grain rice [I used arborio]
2 cans (14.5 oz each) chicken broth, divided
1 cup chopped fresh broccoli
3/4 cup chopped red or yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

(1) In large skillet over medium heat, cook mushrooms and onion in butter 3 to 4 minutes or until tender.
(2) Stir in rice; turn down heat if necessary.  Add 1 cup broth; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed.  Repeat twice, using 1 cup broth each time.
(3) Add remaining broth, broccoli, and bell pepper.  Cook 5 to 6 minutes or until broth is absorbed and vegetables are tender.  Stir in cheese.  Yield: 6 servings (about 4 1/2 cups total)

Notes: None.

Kid Participation: None.  I'm not trusting my four-year old to stand vigilant over (or even casually check in on) risotto.  And there's that little thing about not letting her use a stovetop yet, too.


Potato Salad with Montreal Steak Seasoning

Original Recipe HERE

My mom's recipe is still my all-time favorite potato salad.  However, hers requires Miracle Whip, which I never use except to make that one recipe.  I don't like buying the jar just to use one third of it before it goes bad, nor have I been motivated enough to look for what I'm sure are thousands of other recipes I could use the rest for.  So I rarely make it and have tried a myriad of other potato salad recipes instead.  I've learned I don't like the hot (German?) styles, nor the vinegar-based.  I guess in my head, potato salad must have mayonnaise (or a close equivalent) to be authentic.

So I was excited to try this recipe, and it didn't disappoint.  I had all the ingredients already, so it was easy to throw together.  Everyone in my family happily ate it (although the kids dipped their potato pieces in ketchup, but that was expected...they dip grapes in it, as well, and swirl it into their yogurt...gag).  I had leftovers the next day and realized it tastes even better the next day - I guess so the seasoning has had time to really incorporate (if that's the word) into the mayonnaise.

2 to 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
3 to 4 eggs
3 stalks green onions
1 to 2 stalks celery [optional]
1/2 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 Tablespoon Montreal Steak Seasoning [or to taste]

(1) Peel and halve potatoes.  Place in cold, salted water with eggs.
(2) Bring to a boil and cook for 12 minutes.
(3) Remove eggs and add to ice bath. Boil potatoes a few minutes more or until a knife can be inserted into the potato without resistance. [I found they didn't need any further cooking than the 12 minutes]
(4) Remove potatoes from heat. Drain and chill.
(5) When cooled, slice potatoes and eggs into bite-sized pieces [I only used half the yolks].
(6) Slice green onions and celery.  Add to potatoes and eggs.
(7) Thoroughly combine mayonnaise and steak seasoning.  Pour over potato mixture.  Gently stir together all ingredients and refrigerate until use.

Notes: My eggs turned out perfectly cooked, though two had some splits in the shells.  I may try poking holes in the larger end next time before cooking (would this require instead adding them once the water is already boiling?).

Kid Participation: None, really.

Basic Cornbread

Original Recipe HERE

It's always helpful to have an easy, tasty cornbread recipe in your repertoire for those nights when your main dish isn't quite enough but the refrigerator and pantry are pretty empty and you're scratching your head for a side dish.  I always have the ingredients for this on hand.

The original post didn't have a temperature listed, so I googled around to find that most cornbreads are baked between 400 and 450 degrees and for 15-20 minutes.  So monitor it closely the first time and make note of what worked for you.

If you have little ones eating this, be prepared to spend a good amount of your post-dinner clean-up wielding a dustpan while on your hands and knees under your table.  Like any cornbread, it's crumbly.  And my kids still haven't mastered the concept of "if you're eating that food item with your hands, keep it over your plate to avoid sacrificing half of it to your placement/lap/floor."

1 egg
1 cup milk [I used 2%]
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder

(1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 9" round pan.
(2) Whisk together dry ingredients.
(3) In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients.  Add to dry ingredients.
(4) Whisk gently until combined.  Pour batter into pan and ensure it is evenly distributed.
(5) Bake 15 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and edges are light golden brown.
(6) Cool on a drying rack.  Slice into wedges to serve.

Notes: This bread was good, but I'll research about additions like shredded cheese, chopped green chilis, garlic powder, taco seasoning, etc. to make the taste a bit more interesting.

Kid Participation:
* Whisk dry ingredients
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Combine all ingredients
* Pour batter into pan


Glazed Lemon Bars

Original Recipe HERE

I love the refreshing taste of a good lemon bar, but often they're too sour or too sweet and don't strike the right balance between the two.  This recipe is being saved to make again, so it's the closest I've found.  I'd have liked the lemon flavor to be a little more pronounced, but that can be remedied by adding more grated lemon zest or a little lemon extract.

* Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
* Filling
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice, strained of pulp and seeds [2-3 lemons]
1 teaspoon lemon zest [optional]
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
* Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons strained freshly squeezed lemon juice

(1) Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray 9×13″ pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
(2) Whisk together flour and powdered sugar.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture is crumbly.
(3) Lightly press mixture into pan and bake 15-20 minutes or until light golden around the edges. Remove from oven.
(4) Mix eggs, lemon juice, flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed for 3 minutes. The mixture should be frothy and very pale yellow.
(5) Pour mixture over warm crust.  Return pan to oven for another 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top (begin checking at 15 mintues).
(6) Remove pan from oven and allow to cool completely on drying rack.
(7) When bars are cool, whisk together glaze ingredients until smooth.  Gently spread over bars. Refrigerate at least 2 hours (preferably more).  Cut into squares before serving. Makes about 36 bars.

Notes: (1) I couldn't get the crust dough to stop sticking to my fingers, so it was tough to make it an even thickness.  Maybe letting the dough sit in the refrigerator, then rolling it out into large pieces and "patching" them together in the pan would work.  (2) While I let the glaze sit on the bars for the two hours it recommends, it was still pretty runny when I cut the bars.  I assume this would be fixed by letting them sit in the refrigerator longer (probably overnight).  However, the glaze would crack and the appearance might not be as nice.  An option is to cut the bars before applying the glaze, then drizzle the glaze over each individual bar and letting it run down the sides. (3) Directions say to bake the lemon topping for 20-25 minutes, but I checked at 17 and it was already pretty browned.  Next time I'll check earlier.

Kid Participation:
* Whisk dry ingredients
* Add wet ingredients to bowl
* Operate mixer
* Pour glaze over bars


Buffy's Chicken Marinade

This recipe was given to me at my bridal shower by one of my mom's best friends...hence its name.  I get compliments every time I serve this, though the flavor is hard to describe since it's sort of a mish-mash of flavorsa little asian, a little citrus, and a little herb-y.  I was skeptical when I first read the recipe, but I was a convert after my first bite.  It's extremely easy, and even when Husband manages to blacken the outside of the chicken on the grill, it makes the juiciest grilled chicken I've ever had.  So that's a testament to how well it infuses the meat with flavor and a barrier against temperatures hotter than any food product should probably be exposed to.  It also holds up well on the Foreman or broiled (or baked) in the oven, and it's good when turned into chicken salad the next day or shredded over a green salad.

1/4 cup mayonnaise [I usually use lite]
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons water

(1) Thoroughly whisk all ingredients together.
(2) Marinate chicken at least two hours and up to all day.
(3) Grill 5-7 minutes on each side or until juices run clear and a meat thermometer indicates meat is done.

Notes: None.

Kid Participation: None.


Mango Quinoa Salad

Original Recipe HERE

Not much to say about this other than it was easy and refreshing, and it tasted even better the next day.  A good meal for a hot day, and it can be served as a side dish or as the only thing you're eating for dinner.  I didn't have the quinoa, so I used Trader Joe's Harvest Blend.  I imagine Israeli couscous would work as well.  This made enough for all of us to eat some at dinner, as well as enough leftovers for me to have a hearty lunch

2 cups cooked quinoa (or any similar blend), room temperature or chilled
1 14-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium mango, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
3 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 Tablespoons lime juice
kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper

(1) Place cooked quinoa in a large bowl. Add mango, red pepper, green onion, and black beans.
(2) In a small bowl combine vinegar, olive oil, and lime juice. Whisk until smooth and pour on top of salad. (3) Toss to combine and add salt and pepper to taste. Chill at least one hour before serving.

Notes: A greater variety of diced vegetables could be added, as could some frozen corn or maybe canned pineapple tidbits.

Kid Participation: Nothing besides mixing everything together, since that's about all you do with this recipe anyway.


Cinnamon Bubble Buns

Original Recipe HERE: I can't find a direct link to the article (which included helpful step-by-step photos), but it's from Flo Baker and was featured in the April 2011 "Family Fun" magazine.  I googled and found plenty of blog posts by people who were inspired by the same one, and some of them took photos as they made the recipe.

"Buttery cinnamon and sugar make these pull-apart treats irresistible."  With an introduction like that, how could one resist trying this recipe?  But the three magazine pages it took up made me put this off until I had a weekend afternoon to devote to the multi-step process. It's not difficult or really all that time-consuming, even though the total "hands on time" is (generously) given as 1 hour and the total time needed is 2 hours 20 minutes.  You can do other stuff during the two rising intervals and the baking period.  And anyway, they were worth the extra time and effort over the store-bougth "pop the container and disassemble the log of pre-cut cinnamon rolls" kind.  They were delicious, and I could see them becoming a traditional "______ [insert holiday or celebration or event of choice] breakfast."  Likely with making them the day before, because if I served them as breakfast, I'd have to start making them at 5am.  Not my idea of how to start off a holiday.  This makes 12 large buns.

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup sour cream [I used light]
3 Tbsp sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for kneading
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
Cinnamon-sugar coating:
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
Vanilla glaze:
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp milk, preferably whole
1 tsp vanilla extract

(1) In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast over water; let it stand until bubbly (5-10 minutes).
(2) Stir in butter, sour cream, sugar, egg, and vanilla.
(3) Beat in 2 cups of flour, salt, and baking soda until incorporated.  Add remaining flour; continue mixing until a smooth, soft dough forms.
(4) Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and reserve the mixing bowl.  Knead until smooth (about 3 minutes).  Add more flour if dough is sticky but do not exceed 2 tablespoons.
(5) Place dough back in mixing bowl; cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
(6) When dough is ready, lightly coat 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray or butter.  Flour the cups; tap out excess.
(7) In a small bowl, blend sugar and cinnamon for coating.
(8) Melt butter for coating in microwave in a small, shallow dish.
(9) Gently punch down dough to deflate it.  Form it into a long cylinder & divide into 12 equal portions.
(10) Using kitchen shears or a dough scraper, divide each portion into 6 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball.
(11) Coat 6 balls with melted butter.  Roll each in cinnamon-sugar mixture.
(12) Arrange 5 balls in the bottom of a muffin cup.  With fingertips, make a small "well" and press sixth ball into center.  Repeat with remaining dough until 12 buns are ready.
(13) Loosely cover buns with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place until puffy and doubled in size (about 40 minutes).  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
(14) Bake buns on center rack until golden, 20-22 minutes [mine were done by 20].  Transfer pan to a wire rack; cool 5 to 8 minutes.
(15) Tilt pan and gently tap on countertop to release buns [use a knife to carefully remove them from pan if needed].  Place buns on wire rack.  Slide a sheet of waxed paper or aluminum foil underneath the rack.
(16) In a small bowl, combine glaze ingredients; stir until it's smooth.  If needed, thin glaze by adding water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
(17) Brush or drizzle each bun with glaze.  Serve immediately or at room temperature [we ate some the next day and they were just as good].

Notes: I need to watch the baking time more closely because a few buns had slightly crispy edges - set the timer for 18 minutes and then be vigilant.  A note included with the recipe said "To make the dough in advance, follow directions through kneading.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Chilled dough should sit at room temperature for 1 hour before handling."  I don't know how long it can be in the refrigerator, but it may not save much time anyway because it still has to sit out for a long time before proceeding to the next step.

Kid Participation:
* Adding ingredients to mixing bowl
* Combining cinnamon and sugar
* Punching dough
* Rolling dough into balls (if possible)
* Rolling balls in butter and coating (if you don't mind a giant mess)
* Applying glaze (because it doesn't really matter what it looks like; it all "melts" together on the buns' surface anyway)


Lentil Soup

Original Recipe HERE

1 cup dry lentils
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 cups beef broth [can substitute chicken or vegetable]
15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 pound fully-cooked smoked sausage links, sliced [can substitute chopped ham]
1 to 2 cups ditalini or other small pasta [optional]

(1) Rinse lentils; set aside.
(2) Add olive oil to medium pot.  Cook onion and garlic over medium heat until tender but not brown.
(3) Add lentils, broth, undrained tomatoes, worcestershire sauce, thyme/oregano, pepper, cumin, and bay leaf to pot. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
(4) Add carrot and celery. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer for 15-20 mins or until lentils and veggies are tender.
(6) Prepare pasta if using.
(7) Stir meat into soup; heat through. Discard bay leaf before serving.

Notes: I didn't like the particular sausage I used and would use ham - or no meat - next time.

Kid Participation: None.

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Original Recipe HERE

I'm saving this recipe solely for the dressing that comes with it.  While I made the accompanying coconut chicken, it wasn't anything special and won't be repeated.  However, the vinaigrette was good and can be either a typical salad dressing, tossed with vegetables, or used as a dipping sauce for meat.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon white or balsamic vinegar [I used balsamic] 
2 teaspoons dijon mustard

Thoroughly whisk all ingredients together (preferably several hours before).  Heat in the microwave to serve warm.

Notes: Perhaps a finely chopped shallot added next time.

Kid Participation: None...I don't like mixing children and olive oil.

Couscous & Feta-stuffed Peppers

Original Recipe HERE

I was nervous about this dish because I don't always like cooked peppers.  Roasted, yes.  But so often they're served as part of something else and are mushy, limp, and almost bitter.  I'm pleased to announce that this dish has assuaged my fear and will be made again.  I assume the trick is to use sweeter peppers instead of green.

*J* ate the filling but didn't like the pepper shell, which was not a surprise.  What did shock me was how much *N* loved the entire thing, even asking for seconds.  I was so excited that she was eating peppers for once, instead of fastidiously picking them out of her meal, that I even let her use a "grown up knife" (under eagle-eyed supervision) to cut the pepper into bite-size pieces.

Vegetable-oil cooking spray
1 1/4 cups fat-free chicken or vegetable broth
2/3 cup couscous
4 extra-large or 5 large bell peppers [red, yellow, or orange]
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 zucchini or yellow squash [or a combination of both] peeled, quartered lengthwise, and sliced across thinly
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half [or one large tomato, diced with seeds removed]
15 ounces canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons tomato paste

(1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a small baking dish with cooking spray.
(2) Bring the broth to a boil in a small pot.  Add the couscous; cover and remove from the heat.
(3) Cut stems and top half inch off peppers.  Scoop out seeds and membranes.
(4) Place peppers upright in the baking dish.  Roast for 15 minutes or until they soften.  Remove from the oven.
(5) Heat oil in a nonstick skillet. Add onion, zucchini, squash, oregano, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened.
(6) Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes, chickpeas and tomato paste. Scrape the couscous into the skillet and toss with the vegetables. Stir in crumbled feta.
(7) Fill peppers with the couscous mixture. Bake 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
Notes: Only change I would make is to make the tomato flavor more pronounced (via pasta sauce or more tomato paste) to fit my personal preference.
Kid Participation: None.

Bulgur Pilaf

Original Recipe HERE

Not much to say about this besides it being a quick and easy side dish that can be easily transformed into a full meal with the addition of various spices, grated cheese, spinach, tomato paste, shredded chicken, sauteed vegetables, and so on.  Let your imagination run wild.

Neighbors stopped by unexpectedly, so I wasn't able to be as attentive to the preparation as I'd have liked.  The end result was a bit clumpy because I let it sit, covered, too long.  The serving size seemed pretty accurate - I had a bowl of it for dinner, and the two kids ate three small bowls between them.  There was plenty left for Husband to eat for lunch.

1 Tablespoon butter
1 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups chicken broth [can substitute vegetable broth]
1 large onion, diced
salt, pepper, or garlic salt to taste [optional]
1/4 cup pine nuts

(1) Melt the butter in a medium pot. Add the onions and cook over medium heat until caramelized, about 15 minutes.
(2) Add the bulgur and toast for 1 minute. Pour in the broth and seasonings.  Stir and cover.  Simmer for 15 minutes (do not remove the lid).
(3) Remove the pot from heat and set aside, covered, for 10 minutes.
(4) Toast the pine nuts in a skillet (add butter if desired) for a minute or two until fragrant, stirring frequently.
(5) Fluff the bulgur with a fork.  Divide into serving dishes; top with toasted pine nuts.
Notes: Just to experiment with add-ins.
Kid Participation: None.


Eggplant Parmesan

Original Recipe HERE

I hadn't made a successful eggplant parmesan meal until this one.  The eggplant is either too tough or too mushy, the sauce lacks flavor, the cheese gets crusty, and so on.  However, this will now be my go-to eggplant parmesan recipe after I enjoyed it and Husband gave it rave reviews.  Neither kid liked it, but I've never had luck getting them to eat eggplant, so it wasn't a surprise.

I'm sure this could be made much healthier by baking the eggplant instead of frying it, but ehh...I was in the mood for some oil-drenched comfort food.

1 eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
olive oil
2 cans (14.5 oz each) tomato sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 to 2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup to 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
pasta [optional]

(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a large baking dish.
(2) Heat 1/4 cup oil in large pan on medium-high heat.
(3) In a small bowl, combine eggs and pepper well.
(4) In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs and one teaspoon garlic powder.
(5) Dip eggplant slices into egg and then breadcrumbs.
(6) Add eggplant slices to pan in several batches; brown on each side (adjust heat level as needed).
(7) Remove to plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.  Wipe most of oil out of pan with paper towels when done.
(8) Add tomato sauce, onion, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, basil, and oregano to pain.  Heat to boiling, then simmer 10 minutes until slightly thickened.  Stir in butter until melted.
(9) Lay eggplant slices in baking dish (preferably in one layer).  Pour sauce over eggplant.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and Mozzarella.
(10) Cover with foil.  Bake 20-30 minutes.  Remove foil; bake 5-10 minutes longer.  Serve with pasta if desired.

Notes: Husband remarked that the sauce had just the right amount of saltiness, but the recipe could be short-cutted by just using jarred sauce.

Kid Participation: None...including consuming it, apparently.


Homemade Latte

I love Starbucks lattes but can't justify the price - especially since it was just raised again.  I've reached my breaking point.  I've also given up on them - and mochas - because an unacceptable amount of room is now being left at the top of the cup (I even heard another customer talk to a barista about that, and he confirmed it, so it's a bona fide conspiracy).  And I'm tired of being handed a cup of regular coffee and immediately popping the top off and asking them to fill it some more.  Yes, I have a lot of rage towards Starbucks (which has been channeled into several complaint emails), but I keep going back...it's an abusive relationship.  "I just can't quit you."

Tangent over.  Anywho, I experimented at home with what I had on hand.  The result is just as good as what I get in the store.  I've only made them cold, but I'd think that it'd work well if heated.  The only challenge I have is that the drink "settles" pretty quickly, and I have to keep stirring (not a problem since I'm usually drinking it with a straw).  I have to play around with preparation time, like whether making it the night before gives more time for the ingredients to fully dissolve in the milk.

Unfortunately, I haven't escaped Starbucks' hold completely, since I use the VIA packets.  However, you get 12 for under $7.00, so it's still a good deal and gives you something very close to that particular Starbucks-y taste.  Also, I was pleasantly surprised to see a recipe guide included in the VIA package with how to make ?eight? different drinks.  So if I can scale back my addiction to just VIA packets and two minutes of effort at home, I'm OK with that.  No need for any 12-step programs.

1 to 1 1/2 cups milk [I use a combination of skim and 2%]
1 Starbucks VIA packet
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder [optional; use if making a mocha]
1/2 to 1 Tablespoon sugar
cinnamon [optional]

(1) Add all ingredients to a small food processor or blender (I use a Magic Bullet).  Blend until combined.
(2) Taste and add ingredients as needed.

Notes: I don't like how much sugar goes into this, but it's too bitter otherwise.  I will experiment with other sweeteners (like the unopened agave in my pantry).  Also, adding a drop or two of an extract (mint, almond, coconut) could be just as good as paying $0.40 for a flavor shot.

Kid Participation: None...no caffeine for them!

Mango & Cucumber Salad

I had another fruit-and-vegetable salad in mind, but our walk to the market around the corner yielded no papayas and unripe avocados.  Knowing I really needed a side dish for dinner, I improvised and bought a mango.  Upon getting home, I decided to use up a lonely cucumber, and the end result was great...the flavors complimented well instead of competed, and it would be a refreshing summer treat.  I didn't have time to let it sit, but it was definitely better the next day.  *N* had one helping, and *J* didn't eat his - but that's no surprise, since he's fickle about mangoes and doesn't like cucumbers.

1 ripe mango
1 large cucumber
2 Tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons lime juice [lemon could be used]
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
pinch of salt

(1) Peel mango.  Dice into small, bite-size pieces.
(2) Peel cucumber.  Cut into quaters, length-wise, and then thinly slice.
(3) Whisk lime juice, vinegar, and salt together in metal bowl.  Add mango, cucumber, onion, and garlic; combine thoroughly.
(4) Refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Notes: There are plenty of possibilities for additions: black beans, pineapple, red pepper, etc.  It could also be served over spinach to make a traditional salad.

Kid Participation:
* Squeeze mangos at store to determine which one is ripest
* Whisk ingredients


Potato & Leek Soup

Original Recipe HERE

This is a very simple recipe that makes a great basic soup.  Despite being potato-based, it wasn't heavy or "dense."  I served it warm with toasted slices of a whole wheat baguette topped with a roasted garlic/butter/grated parmesan spread.  Both kids had four bowls.  Yes, four.

I had been cautiously optimistic that I'd outgrown my lactose intolerance (or at least a lactose sensitivity).  This soup made me a little worried I had a full-blown attack on the way, but I was able to fight it off and enjoy my meal.

1 pound leeks (approximately 3-5 medium), white and light green parts only
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Heavy pinch kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
5 small Yukon gold potatoes
1 quart vegetable broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
4 Tablespoon snipped chives [optional]

(1) Melt butter in large soup pot over medium heat.
(2) Meanwhile, thinly slice leeks into rings.  Rinse in colander to remove all dirt.
(3) Add leeks and salt to pot; sweat for 5 minutes.  Decrease heat to medium-low; cook until leeks are tender (10-15 minutes), stirring occasionally.
(4) Meanwhile, peel potatoes and cut into small chunks.
(5) Add potatoes and broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover.  Simmer until potatoes are soft (30-40 minutes).
(6) Turn off heat.  Puree soup with immersion blender until smooth.
(7) Add cream, buttermilk, and pepper.  Stir until well combined.  Adjust seasonings to taste.
(8) Serve hot or cold.  Garnish with chives after spooning into bowls.

Notes: I will try half-and-half, or even whole milk, to see how well I tolerate the soup.  Also, the soup was a nice consistency but thinner than expected.  Adding a few more potatoes would thicken it up if desired.

Kid Participation: None.

Egg & Cheese Quesadilla

Original Recipe HERE

I wasn't sure if this should be served as breakfast or dinner.  But it doesn't really matter, since I'm a big fan of breakfast-for-dinner (especially when I haven't got anything else planned and it's 5:30pm..."Who wants pancakes?!").  A handy dish to have in your repertoire with ingredients that can be adjusted for anyone's taste.  Always nice to have a meal when everyone gets exactly what they want (that is, unless they don't like Egg & Cheese Quesadillas in the first place).

4 large eggs
splash of milk
salt & pepper
2 teaspoons oil
1/2 cup pinto or black beans
finely chopped vegetables (green pepper, onion, mushroom, etc.) [optional]
1 cup Mexican cheese blend
4 tortillas
salsa [optional]
guacamole [optional]
sour cream [optional]

(1) Whisk eggs in bowl with splash of milk, salt, and pepper.
(2) Place 1 tsp of oil in a 9" pan (whatever is slightly larger than tortilla) over medium heat, coating the bottom of pan.
(3) Pour the whisked eggs, tilting pan to spread them across evenly.  Let omelette cook for 20 seconds.
(4) Sprinkle beans and vegetables on top; let it cook for another 20 seconds. Using spatula, gently go along the edges of the omelette, lifting away from pan to loosen.
(5) Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of cheese on top of eggs.
(6) Place one tortilla on top of eggs.  Flip it onto plate, tortilla side down.  Slide eggs, tortilla side-down, back into pan.
(7) Sprinkle another 2 Tablespoons of cheese on top of eggs.  Place another tortilla on top to cover.
(8) Cook quesadilla for 1 minute, pressing down lightly with spatula to help melt the cheese.  Flip quesadilla to cook other side for additional 30 seconds (or until cheese melts and tortilla is golden).
(9) Cut into wedges and serve with optional accompaniments.

Notes: My tortillas got a little dry; I think I had the burner heat too high.  Next time I'll be more watchful.

Kid Participation:
* Whisk eggs & milk
* Smear accompaniments all over top of quesdilla