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.