Cornbread Muffins

Original Recipe HERE

I might have found my go-to cornbread recipe. Forget trying to find healthy versions; they never have the fluffiness or sweetness or moistness that I'm searching for. These made awesome regular-sized muffins. And...I chopped up some hotdogs and added it to the second half of the batter, which made "corndog muffins" for the kids. *N* ate her weight in them; *J* picked out the hotdog bits to eat and played helicopter, boat, and plane with the actual muffin.

The only change I would make is less sugar. I liked how sweet they were, but that wouldn't compliment all main dishes I'd serve them with. Hopefully experimenting won't alter the end result too much.

2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 2/3 cups milk
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

(1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9x13x2" baking pan or muffin tin.
(2) Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl.
(3) In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and milk.
(4) In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
(5) Add flour mixture to butter and sugar alternately with egg mixture.
(6) Pour batter into pan or muffin tin. Bake 22-27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Kid Participation:
* Crack eggs
* Whisk eggs and milk
* Combine dry ingredients
* Stir together all ingredients

Pineapple Stuffing

Original Recipe: from a message board

I made this for Christmas dinner because I thought it would be a nice accompaniment to the main dish (spiral ham).  It was SO good - my favorite part of the whole meal.  Too bad everyone else liked it just as much because we had to ration our portions so that everyone got enough.  We each might have consumed the whole thing if left to our own devices.  I'm making it again for Easter and will double the recipe.

Update: I made this two more times.  Adjusted/doubled amounts appear below.  It fills a 9x13" baking dish, but leftovers are still sparse.

1 can (20 oz) crushed pineapple
1 cup white sugar
3/4 to 1 cup butter, softened
6 eggs
10 slices white bread, cubed into 1" pieces and dried overnight [I just used an entire loaf]

(1) Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 9x13" baking dish.
(2) Cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer.
(3) Add eggs, one at a time.  Mix after each addition.
(4) Drain pineapple.  Stir into egg mixture.
(5) Gently fold in bread.
(6) Scoop into dish.  Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour.  Stir stuffing several times during cooking to prevent top from burning.

Kid Participation: Not much to do besides stirring.


Hawaiian Pizza Pockets (aka, Pineapple Ham Calzones)

Original Recipe HERE

I love Hawaiian pizzas but can't get enough votes from other family members to ever order it.  I guess I need to have a few more kids to necessitate a second pizza, and then I will pull the Mom Card and demand a pineapple-and-ham (or bacon)-and-red-onion pie.  Luckily I got a consensus tonight, and everyone thought these pockets were a fabulous dinner...but...what gives?  I don't get it; everyone likes all of the ingredients and toppings on their own...but putting them all together is a no-go. 

I didn't think the filling amount looked like enough, so I doubled it.  It made for some obese calzones that leaked a bit.  Not that it mattered, but the presentation wasn't great.

I used the Weelicious pizza dough recipe found here.  It seemed like a lot of flour, and I thought there'd be leftover dough, but there was just enough.  Anything less would have made pretty small calzones.

1 pound pizza dough, at room temperature
1 cup pizza or tomato sauce
1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup pineapple chunks, chopped
1/2 cup ham, chopped
olive oil

(1) Preheat oven to 450° F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.
(2) In a bowl, combine sauce, cheese, ham and pineapple.  Divide into 8 portions for each pizza pocket.
(3) Divide dough into 8 even pieces. Roll one piece out into a rectangle approximately 6x8".
(4) Place one portion of cheese mixture on one half of a rectangle.  Fold uncovered side of dough over cheese mixture.  Use a fork to press edges to seal.  Place pocket on baking sheet. 
(5) Repeat with 7 other pieces of dough.
(6) Lightly brush tops of pockets with olive oil.  Bake for 18 minutes.
(7) Pockets will be extremely hot.  Use a sharp knife to pierce several holes in the top to allow steam to escape for several minutes before serving.

Kid Participation:
* Combine filling ingredients
* Roll out dough rectangles
* Spoon filling onto rectangles
* Seal edges with fork

Sausage & Pea Risotto

Original Recipe HERE

I'm a risotto amateur, and this recipe was not the one to elevate me to "competent."  However, that was due to lack of time and patience.  We were attempting a picnic in the backyard, but kids were getting hungry and the sun was setting.  So I had to rush through the cooking of the arborio rice, and it wasn't quite as tender as it should be.  That didn't matter, since the recipe was great and everyone ate some.

I used chicken bratwurst, which I'd never seen at our deli before.  Loved it; will use it again in other sausage-requiring dishes..  I am not a fan of peas in general, and I think this would be really good with asparagus instead.

1 package pre-cooked sweet italian sausage [I used a 4-pack of chicken bratwurst]
olive oil
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup risotto rice (arborio)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 large onion
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

(1) Slice sausages in half lengthwise.  Slice again, crosswise, into 1/4" thick pieces.
(2) Chop onion into small pieces.
(3) In large pot on medium-high heat, brown sausage with a tablespoon of olive oil.  When done, set aside on paper towel-lined plate.
(4) In same pot, add more olive oil and onion.  Saute until translucent.
(5) Add rice to onion; cook while stirring to lightly toast rice.
(6) Add wine to pot.  Turn down heat to medium; stir frequently & cook until wine is absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes.
(7) Add broth to pot.  Repeat steps used with wine.  When broth has cooked down, add remaining cup.  Entire process should take 15 to 20 minutes.
(8) When rice is tender, add peas (and more liquid if necessary).  Cook for 2 minutes.
(9) Return sausage to pot.  Add parmesan, salt, and pepper to taste.

Kid Participation: None.


Dijon Green Beans & Onions

Original Recipe: Taste of Home August/September 2007 issue

When I'm at the commissary and gazing around the produce section, looking for inspiration for side dishes, my old stand-bys are broccoli and cauliflower.  However, I occasionally go rogue and stuff some handfuls of green beans into a bag.  Then I get home and wonder what to do with them.  I think my challenge is that they are a difficult shape to work with, since I like my veggies smothered in sauces and cheeses (because I don't like most of them and only eat them as an example to my kids).  Green beans have no nooks or crannies in which to trap the necessary toppings.

This tasty sauce had enough "cling factor" (a phrase probably not to be used when discussing things you're going to eat) so that each bite had plenty of flavor.  I bet this would taste even better cold, but since *N* asked to have the rest of it packed in her school lunch the next day, I'll have to make it again to find out.  She also requested three helpings at dinner.  What kid eats like that??  She may have inherited my sweet tooth, but luckily she has a green tooth, too.  Wait, that doesn't sound right...

1-1/2 pounds fresh green beans
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes[optional]
1/2 small red onion
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese [optional]

(1) Trim green bean ends.  Cut in half if desired.
(2) Place beans in large saucepan of boiling water or steamer basket.  Cook 8 to 10 minutes or until crisp-tender.
(3) Meanwhile, whisk vinegar, oil, mustard, salt, and pepper in medium bowl to make dressing.
(4) Slice onion thinly into half-moons or quarter-rounds.  Add to dressing.
(5) Cut tomatoes in half.  Add to dressing.
(6) Drain beans.  Add to dressing.
(7) Toss salad thoroughly.  Sprinkle each serving with parmesan if desired.

Kid Participation: None.


Creamy Pasta with Corn & Arugula [or Spinach]

Original Recipe HERE

A simple and easy pasta dish that lends itself to tweaking based on whatever fresh or frozen vegetables you have on hand.  And that's all I have to say about that.

12 oz pasta
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks
4 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup half-n-half [or cream]
2 cups baby arugula or spinach
1/4 cup grated pecorino or parmesan

(1) Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain.
(2) Chop leeks in half, discarding dark green leaves.  Slice white and light green section in half lengthwise.  Slice into thin halfmoons.
(3) Peel garlic.  Slice into thin slivers.
(4) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add leeks, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender (3 to 4 minutes).
(5) Add corn and wine. Simmer until corn is tender (2 to 3 minutes).
(6) Stir in half-n-half and arugula.  Simmer until arugula is wilted.
(7) Add pasta to sauce; toss to combine OR serve pasta and sauce separately.  Sprinkle with cheese before serving.

Kid Participation: None.


Fanned Baked Potatoes

Original Recipe HERE

I had come across this recipe somewhere in my weekly planning, but I didn't save it.  Googling for it after the fact was tricky since my attempts with "potato fans" only brought up information on people who really, really like potatoes.  But eventually I found what I was looking for, which was something more interesting than a traditional baked potato.

I used a silicone tool to brush the melted butter on the potato, and trying to fan the slices out so the butter could seep in between didn't work well at all.  Big mess.  So the seasonings and butter didn't infuse the entire potato like I'd hoped.  However, I think I (1) cut the slices too thick, so they didn't fan as easily, and (2) didn't cut far enough down to the underbelly of the potato.

This recipe is plenty flexible; any favorites seasonings or cheese would work.  I wasn't sure how to serve them, so we just used our own knives to cut all the way through the slices to the bottom, separating each one and spooning our toppings over the lot of them.  All in all, similar to a regular baked potato but with enough of a twist to make it more fun.  That is, if potatoes could ever be called "fun."  Though based on the search results of "potato fans," it seems there are plenty of people out there who do, in fact, find potatoes fun.

2 medium baking potatoes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning [or seasoning of your choice]
1/2 teaspoon salt [or garlic salt]
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
2 Tablespoons finely shredded Cheddar cheese [optional]
1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese [optional]
Toppings (sour cream, salsa, bacon, sauteed onions, etc.) [optional]

(1) Preheat oven to 425.
(2) With a sharp knife, slice potatoes thinly but not all the way through, leaving slices attached at the bottom. Fan potatoes slightly.
(3) Place potatoes in an ungreased 8-in. square baking dish [or baking pan].  Drizzle or brush with melted butter.  Sprinkle with seasoning and salt.
(4) Bake, uncovered, for 50 minutes. Sprinkle with cheeses if using; bake 10-15 minutes longer or until lightly browned.

Kid Participation: None.


Gingerbread Pancakes

Original Recipe HERE

I got excited at the idea of gingerbread pancakes but wasn't sure if the reality of them would meet my expectations.  Would the texture be too dense or too gummy?  Would the gingerbread flavor be too pronounced or too weak?  Would I burn one side of half the pancakes as I usually do?  I'm happy to report that these were awesome pancakes.  I didn't even put syrup on them at first; they are great served au naturale.  They really just as I thought they would.

I doubled the original recipe and listed it as such below.  It will make a lot, but these are the types of pancakes you eat six of and then realize too late that you've eaten six of them.  They kept well in the fridge for breakfast the next day, and I assume they can be frozen, too.  Just in case they aren't potentially dessert-y enough as-is, next time I might sneak in some mini chocolate chips.

3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
4 Tablespoons molasses
4 large eggs
4 Tablespoons butter, melted & cooled [plus more for the pan]

(1) In a medium bowl, whisk or sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.
(2) In a separate large bowl, whisk the eggs.  Add milk, molasses, and butter.  Whisk to combine.
(3) Add flour mixture to liquid mixture.  Whisk until just combined.
(4) Let batter stand for 10 to 15 minutes to thicken.
(5) Heat a large skillet on medium heat.  Add butter to grease it.
(6) Pour 2 tablespoons [or more if you want larger pancakes] of batter in the skillet.  Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until cooked through.

Kid Participation:
* Whisk dry ingredients
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Eat a lot of pancakes

Pumpkin Nut Lactation Cookies

Original Recipe HERE (note: the original recipe has lots of information)

These lactation cookies seem to do what they promise.  Whether it's the "active" ingredients like brewer's yeast or just the calories they provide, I don't know...and don't really care.  And they're healthy enough that I don't feel too bad giving them to the kids as treats.  They're excited to have a "cookie" and I earn Mom Points.

The original recipe turned out slightly dense, dry-ish cookies...which was good for the reason that they forced me to drink plenty of water with them, and water helps with lactation.  However, I experimented a bit and realized that adding in a can (15 oz?) of pure pumpkin makes them much moister (so much so, that you should store them uncovered because otherwise they turn what I've decided to call "humid").  And pumpkin is good for you, so I guess I just made them healthier, huh?  I can therefore eat one extra cookie per serving, I think.

I couldn't find "dosing" instructions, so I typically finish an entire batch in less than 72 hours.  But I'm pretty sure that's called "binging," especially because a batch makes about 50 cookies.  To absolve myself of being appalled at such piggy-ness, I substituted honey or agave for the sugars, as well as apple sauce for some of the butter.  Since I gave up chocolate for lent, eliminating the chips didn't affect the final product at all (though being able to add them back in will make me happy).

I've made these several times with the Kitchenaid stand mixer I got for Christmas, and it really makes a difference in how easy the preparation is.  The batter gets pretty thick once the flour is added...and stirring the oats in by hand is tedious and arm-numbing.

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup almond butter or peanut butter
1/4 cup butter (half a stick), softened
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup agave syrup [or honey]
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 Tablespoons brewer's yeast
1 cup flaxseed meal
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz) pure pumpkin
1 cup chopped nuts of your choice [I used sliced almonds]
2 cups (12oz) chocolate chips or cinnamon chips [optional]
2 to 3 cups old-fashioned oats

(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
(2) In bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
(3) In separate, large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until well combined.
(4) Add almond/peanut butter, apple sauce, agave, vanilla, brewer's yeast, and flax meal until creamy.
(4) Beat eggs into moist mixture.  Add pumpkin; beat.
(5) Gradually beat flour mixture into moist mixture in several stages.
(6) Mix nuts and chips into batter.
(7) Add 2 cups oats, mixing thoroughly.  If dough is very soft, add more oats up to one additional cup.
(8) Place balls of dough (about 2 Tablespoons of dough eatch) onto baking sheets.  Press each down lightly with fork.
(9) Bake 12 minutes.

Kid Participation:
* Sift dry ingredients
* Add wet ingredients to bowl
* Operate switch on stand mixer
* Flatten unbaked cookies


Carrots & Pineapples

Original Recipe HERE

I was positive my kids would wolf this down.  They like carrots, and they really like pineapple.  Shockingly, it was a no-go.  They did eat the pineapple, but the carrots were left untouched.  It may have been because I served it during a "Dinner & a Show" night, so they were distracted due to being planted in front of the TV, sitting at their miniature picnic table.  I'll try it again, since they likely have no memory of this dish thanks to being mesmerized by something Disney-ish.

4 large carrots, peeled & chopped [I used a half-bag of baby carrots]
1 can (20 oz) pineapple chunks
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon butter

(1) Chop carrots into bite-size pieces.  Steam until tender-crisp.
(2) Drain pineapple, saving juice.
(3) Combine juice, cornstarch, cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter in small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, about 2-3 minutes until thick.
(4) Combine carrots, pineapple chunks, and sauce in bowl.  Stir until combined.  Serve warm.

Kid Participation: None.

Roasted Parmesan Garlic Cauliflower

Original Recipe HERE

I was rarely exposed to cauliflower as a child, which is a shame because it's a tasty vegetable when prepared properly (hint: do not steam it unless you want your entire house to smell like rotten eggs).  So I'm pushing it on my kids every now and then in the hopes I'll hit upon a reliable cauliflower recipe.  Sometimes they eat it, sometimes they don't.  Surprisingly, the addition of cheese isn't the magical ingredient able to sway them one way or the other.  Oh well.  Husband and I like the albino broccoli enough that *N* and *J* are going to be exposed to it many times throughout their childhood.  Maybe one day they'll finally join Team Cauliflower for good.

3 to 4 Tablespoons olive oil
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 head cauliflower
Kosher salt and pepper
2 to 3 Tablespoons grated Parmsean cheese

(1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
(2) Put olive oil and garlic in small bowl.  Heat in microwave for about 20 seconds; set aside.
(3) Trim cauliflower head into large florets, discarding stem and leaves. Slice each floret into 1/4 inch slices; put in large bowl. 
(4) Drizzle cauliflower with oil/garlic mixture; sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper.  Gently toss to coat. Add more olive oil if needed.
(5) Put cauliflower on foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes; toss with spatula.
(6) Bake 10 minutes; toss with Parmesan cheese.
(7) Continue baking 5-10 minutes until slightly golden brown on edges.

Kid Participation:
* Be hypocritical about eating cauliflower, making it impossible for me to predict whether they'll eat it


Pumpkin Muffins, the Cheater's Way

I'd heard about the "1 boxed cake mix + 1 can of pumpkin = deliciousness" legend, so I tried it with a chocolate mix.  It turned out perfectly fine, but there was no detection of pumpkin.  Further research led to the knowledge that a spice cake is the best way to achieve that.  Whether I tasted the actual pumpkin or just the spices in the mix, who knows.  But it was criminally easy and pretty darn yummy.
I read that the batter - and resulting baked good - can be slightly dense if just the mix and pumpkin are used.  The jury seemed to be out on that.  Per many suggestions, I added some eggs and a little bit of water.  I made the box mix into muffins, but the recipe is flexible enough to make a sheet cake, a loaf, or even cookies (so I read).  I got 19 muffins instead of the promised 24, but that's probably better anyway because I ate three-quarters of them.

1 box (18.25 oz) spice cake mix [I used Duncan Hines]
1 can (15 oz) pure pumpkin
2 eggs
1/4 cup water

(1) Preheat oven to 350.  Grease muffin tin
(2) In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin, and water until well combined.
(3) Mix in cake mix until well combined.
(4) Pour batter into muffin tin.  Bake 18-20 minutes [mine were done at 18] or until a knife inserted in a muffin comes out clean.

Kid Participation:
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Whisk cake mix into wet ingredients
* Wonder where all the muffins disappeared to overnight...ahem, Mama...


Banana Sour Cream Pancakes

Original Recipe HERE

It was National Pancake Day, which it seems is a holiday created by IHOP.  While the offer of free shortstacks for every patron all day long was tempting, I wasn't about to call and make the recommended reservations, load three kids in the car, drive in rushhour traffic, and battle the pancake-loving masses for a booth.  I'd already been planning on pancakes for dinner at some point this week, so this night was as good a night as any.  I doubled the recipe and had plenty for dinner and enough for breakfast for the kids and me the next day.

I followed the advice of some reviews and added the bananas as a puree to the batter.  This ensured a uniform banana flavor throughout each pancake, though next time I might use an extra banana and add it as the original recipe says..  The lemon flavor added a nice extra dimension but was a wee bit too strong for my preference. Next time I'll do 1/2 or 3/4 teaspoon of zest.  I imagine that plain yogurt (especially Greek) could be substituted for the sour cream.

1-1/2 cups flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
2 extra-large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 ripe bananas

(1) Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
(2) In separate bowl, whisk together sour cream, milk, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest.
(3) Mash bananas until smooth or puree in a food processor.  Add to wet ingredients.
(4) Add wet ingredients to dry ones, mixing only until just combined.
(5) In large skillet, melt 1 Tablespoon butter over medium-low heat until it bubbles.
(6) Ladle batter into pan to make 3 or 4 pancakes. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until bubbles appear on top and the underside is nicely browned.
(7) Flip pancakes; cook for another 1 to 2  minutes, until browned. Remove from heat.
(8) Wipe out pan with paper towel [optional].  Add more butter to pan; continue cooking pancakes until all batter is used.

Kid Participation:
* Sift dry ingredients
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Mash bananas or push food processor buttons

Baked String Cheese Dippers

Original Recipe HERE

I knew the kids would eat this.  "Melted cheese" makes anything edible (except, apparently, asparagus and Brussels sprouts).  Making melted cheese the main ingredient could result in a feeding frenzy.  They had fun helping me make this side dish and, of course, consuming it.  I served it with regular jarred pasta sauce for dipping.

I didn't feel like dirtying another pan, so I put a piece of parchment paper in the baking sheet instead of greasing it.  The cheeses started spreading into each other before the panko and breadcrumbs had time to brown and really crisp up.  Maybe increasing the oven temperature, so they'd get "shocked" with more heat would work?  Or maybe that would just turn everything on the baking sheet into a cheesy, crumb-y puddle.

8 string cheese sticks
1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup Panko
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 egg
1 Tablespoon water
1/4 cup flour
cooking spray
dipping sauce

(1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
(2) In small bowl, thoroughly whisk egg and water together.
(3) In another bowl, mix panko, breadcrumbs, and garlic powder.
(4) Roll one string cheese in flour to coat.
(5) Dip in egg mixture, then in bread crumb mixture, making sure cheese is well-coated.
(6) Place on a sprayed baking sheet; spray top of cheeses with cooking spray.
(7) Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until golden and cheese begins to melt.

Kid Participation:
* Peel string cheese wrappers
* Roll in flour
* Dip in egg
* Press into panko mixture
* Make deal with siblings about who gets which remaining cheeses for tomorrow's snack

Apricot Chicken

Original Recipe HERE (and, similarly, HERE)

I first made this recipe several years ago when we were having a party and I needed something that was (1) easy to make, and (2) would "hold" well while I made any other last-minute dishes that had to be served immediately.  It turned out so well that I made it again, in a much larger quantity, for Husband's end-of-tour ceremony and celebration.  Party of 50, catered by a party of one...I still pat myself on the back for that one.  Anyway, there isn't anything "special" about this, but in my experience, it's a solid, crowd-pleasing dish.

Other crunchy-type vegetables can be substituted.  I serve this over brown rice, since there's plenty of sauce to go around.  And speaking of the sauce, I most recently made it with French dressing because that was what I had.  I read that it can also be made with Catalina.

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2/3 cup apricot preserves
1 packet Lipton onion soup mix
3/4 cup Russian salad dressing
1/2 onion, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
olive oil

(1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
(2) Slice chicken into large strips (tenders).  In large pan, heat about 2 Tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.  Add chicken and brown on all sides.  Put chicken in casserole dish.
(3) Add more olive oil to pan if necessary.  Add onion and pepper in pan; heat over medium to medium-high heat and sear for several minutes, tossing often.  Vegetables should be slightly browned but still crispy.  Layer vegetables over chicken.
(4) In small bowl, whisk soup mix, dressing, and preserves.  Pour over chicken and vegetables.
(5) Cover casserole dish.  Cook 25-30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Kid Participation: None.


Curried Lentils & Rice with Carmelized Onions

Original Recipe HERE

I wasn't sure how this dish would go over with the kids since they hate onions.  And I'm not a fan of a strong curry flavor, so I'd understand if they didn't like that particular spice, either.  My fears proved unfounded since they gobbled it up and asked for more.  As expected, they didn't eat the onions, but since I had added some other stuff to the onions at the end of the carmelizing process, they got some vegetables into their tummies after all.

I didn't cook the onions properly, so they were soft and sweet but not technically carmelized.  They were in the pan plenty long enough, but they didn't turn the telltale color they should have.  I think the heat needed to be a little higher.  And using a larger pan, so they weren't as crowded, would've made more sense.

* For carmelized onions
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 white onions, sliced into half moons
2 teaspoons sugar
Assorted chopped veggies (carrots, celery, asparagus, etc.) [optional]
* For lentils
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz) can chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
salt & pepper, to taste
1-1/4 cup green lentils

(1) In medium skillet, add olive oil, sliced onions, and sugar. Bring to a sizzling saute over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and cook for 30 minutes, stirring often.
(2) During last few minutes of cooking, add optional chopped vegetables.  Cook until no longer crunchy but not too soft.
(3) Once browned and sweet, remove from heat and set aside.
(4) In the meantime, whisk together tomato sauce and chicken broth in a medium skillet.
(5) Stir in curry powder, garlic powder, ginger, salt, and pepper.
(6) Bring to bubbling; add lentils. Cover; cook over medium high heat 15 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
(7) While lentils and onions are cooking, prepare enough brown rice to make 3 cups.
(8) Serve lentils over rice with onions on top.

Kid Participation: None...just being willing to try something they are skeptical about because they just might like it.