Original Recipe HERE

*N* has always happily eaten hummus, but for some reason I never made it myself.  Which is odd, because I made all her baby food and some of *J*'s (not as much since he was a pickier eater as a baby...something he has more than made up for).  And hummus is (1) easy, and (2) healthy.  So I guess I'm just lazy and can't resist the lure of the frequent commissary coupons for Sabra brand.  Tonight, not feeling well, I didn't have the energy or stomach to make a real meal.  I had the makings for hummus and a recipe bookmarked, so I went for it.

Both kids loved it.  *N* asked for crackers and all I had were Tomato & Olive Oil Triscuits (thanks, major winter storm, for preventing me from restocking our pantry for days and days).  She scooped the hummus and ate every last cracker, as well as every carrot and celery stick I provided...without a single protest.  Veggies with nary a cross word?  Unbelieveable.  And *J* used the carrots and celery as spoons, but I'll chalk that up to him not realizing he was supposed to eat them.  Much of his hummus was consumed with his hands and he kept asking for more.  So I will be exploring more hummus options - roasted red pepper, roasted garlic, served on bagels, made with dried beans, and so on, since it seems to be a winner in our house.

2 to 3 teaspoons sesame seeds, rinsed & drained
1 15-oz can chickpeas
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons plain fat-free yogurt
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons olive oil

(1) In small pan on medium-high heat, toast sesame seeds until just turning golden brown.
(2) In food processor bowl, combine sesame seeds and all ingredients except oilve oil.  Process until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference.
(3) Add olive oil; process until smooth.

Notes: None.

Kid Participation:
* Add ingredients to food processor bowl
* Operate food processor

Simple Banana Bread

Original Recipe HERE

I must have at least fifteen banana bread and muffin recipes saved, all very similar to each other.  So I'll keep making my way through my inventory, keeping my standards high, until I have it narrowed down to just a few.  Many bread attempts are too dry on the outside yet still gooey on the inside.  That's why I often make them into full-size muffins instead (because while I like the quick-eating convenience and feeding-of-the-masses ability of mini-muffins, I find the texture of regular size muffins is usually better and the taste somehow seems more pronounced).

This recipe was super easy: the batter was made in less than ten minutes and didn't even require a whisk, much less an electric mixer.  Reading through the comments shows many variations, so I took a few tips and ended up with the following recipe that was delicious.  It had a strong banana flavor, was perfectly crusty on top while perfectly moist inside.

3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup shredded dried coconut [optional]
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips [optional]

(1) Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease 4x8" loaf pan or 12-cup muffin tin.
(2) Mash bananas to uniform, smooth consistency.  In separate bowl, whisk egg.
(3) With wooden spoon, mix yogurt and mashed bananas in large mixing bowl.
(4) Mix sugar, egg, and vanilla into banana-yogurt mixture.
(5) Sprinkle baking soda & salt over mixture; stir.  Add flour; mix thoroughly.  Add coconut and chocolate chips (if using); stir until just mixed.
(6) Pour mixture into loaf pan or muffin tin.  Bake 1 hour for bread or 25 minutes for muffins (done when knife inserted in center comes out clean).
(7) If bread, cool on rack before removing from pan.  If muffins, remove immediately from tin and cool on rack.

Notes: For the sake of comparison, I would use apple sauce instead of yogurt (or using a vanilla or strawberry or banana yogurt).  I would also try honey in place of sugar, and a lime glaze would add a nice tartness.

Kid Participation
* Mash bananas
* Stir wet ingredients
* Crack egg
* Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients
* Sneak chocolate chips when they think Mama isn't looking


Herb & Garlic Roasted Potatoes

Original Recipe HERE

I've never made highly successful homemade french fries.  A few attempts have been disasters, some have produced not-very-memorable results, and I've hit upon a small number of recipes that had potential.  This one is the closest I've come to a "save and make that again" standby.  I thought they were really tasty.  Craziness of craziness, *N* didn't like them.  The girl who has never turned down a fry: curly, spicy, sweet potato, or otherwise.  I'll definitely give them another shot and see if she has dinner anmesia and decides to like them (which has been known to happen).

I couldn't find fingerling potatoes, so I used Yukon Gold.  I chose the smallest potatoes (about 2 pounds worth) I could find in the bag and sliced each into six wedges.  This produced an entire cookie sheet filled with slices, so it was more than enough for two adults and two wee ones.  I also modified the seasonings a bit.  Maybe next time I'll take the time to cut them into the traditional "fry shape," and *N* will accept them as true fries (because I think tonight she considered them faux fries) and gobble them up.

1-2 lbs potatoes
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian herbs
1 Tablespoon dried onion
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 Tablespoons grated parmesan

(1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
(2) Cut potatoes into 6-8 wedges per potato.
(3) Toss potatoes in a sealed Tupperware container with olive oil, salt, garlic powder, herbs, dried onion, and parmesan.  Lay on parchment-covered cookie sheet, skin side down.
(4) Bake 35-50 minutes or until potatoes are golden on the exterior and tender inside.

Notes: The possibilities for different seasoning combinations are endless.  Next time I might splurge on smaller, more gourmet potatoes for the sake of comparison.

Kid Participation:
* Add seasonings to container
* Shake container


Mushroom Barley

Original Recipe HERE

I had never had pearl barley before and had to hunt it down at the pretentious food co-op around the corner from us.  I'm sure that something could be substituted, which I'll experiment with in the future: Israeli couscous, quinoa, Trader Joe's Harvest Blend, etc.  The kids didn't like it much, but Husband and I thought it was great.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 cup mushrooms, chopped [I used baby bella]
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
3 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock, low sodium

(1) In large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
(2) Add onion.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
(3) Add sugar.  Cook an additional 5 minutes or until onions start to caramelize.
(4) Remove onions to plate.  Add mushrooms, garlic and 1/2 tsp salt to pot.
(5) Cook for 3 minutes or until water from mushrooms starts to evaporate.  Remove to plate; set aside.
(6) Add broth or stock to same pot; bring to a boil.  Add barley and 1/2 tsp salt.  Reduce to simmer.  Cook for 45 minutes or until tender.*
(7) Add onions and mushrooms to pot; stir to combine.  Cook until heated through.

Notes: None.

Kid Participation: None.

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup

Original Recipe HERE

This soup was a hit with everyone in the house, and it couldn't be easier.  The original recommends working with dried black beans, but I couldn't find them at the commissary (there's always one thing that I can't get and sends me to the regular grocery store).  I used 2.5 15-oz cans of beans, and it wasn't enough - the soup was much too thin.  After immersion blending the soup, I added a can of chickpeas (since I was out of black beans) and blended again, which helped a bit.

This made an entire 6-quart slow cooker full of soup.  So we aren't eating it for lunch and dinner for three days straight, next time I'll cut the recipe in half.

We sprinkled some mexican cheese blend into the kids' bowls, because adding shredded cheese makes them more willing to try anything.  *N* also liked sour cream, though the creme fraiche we tried (per the original's suggestion) didn't do anything for anybody.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups dried black beans, soaked overnight, rinsed & drained [or 3 to 4 15-oz cans of black beans, rinsed & drained]
1 32-oz container chicken broth or vegetable stock
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped [optional; I did not use]
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup water
shredded cheese [optional]
sour cream, plain yogurt, or creme fraiche [optional]

(1) Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat.  Sauté onions for 4 minutes.
(2) Add chopped garlic.  Sauté one additional minute.
(3) Place onion-garlic mixture into slow cooker along with all other ingredients.  Stir to combine.
(4) Cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours.
(5) Remove bay leaves.  Using either hand blender or traditional blender, puree ingredients to desired texture.
(6) Top each serving with shredded cheese and dollop of yogurt, sour cream or crème fraiche.

Notes: None, other than using more beans.

Kid Participation:
* Add ingredients to slow cooker