Wheat Berry Salad

Original Recipe HERE
The only time I've ever seen - and thereafter consumed - wheat berries was at the Whole Foods fill-your-container bar thing.  There was a salad that looked good, so I got some.  I liked it, and then I forgot about wheat berries.  Until the next time I was at Whole Foods fill-your-container bar thing.  Repeat, repeat (probably literally...I go to Whole Foods maybe twice a year).  When I came across this recipe in my bookmarks, I thought it might be a good accompaniment to our Christmas dinner since all the other dishes were hot.
The kids ate it but didn't ask for more.  Upon pressing him to rate the holiday menu items, Husband hesitated on this one, which is the indicator that he wasn't a big fan.  However, my mom and I thought it was great.  I really like the texture of wheat berries: you actually feel like you're chewing something instead of the mush of similar grain-based dishes like quinoa and bulgur (and couscous, which has flour, which is made from a grain, so I'll include it here).
I didn't have all the ingredients, so I substituted with what was in my kitchen.
2 cups wheat berries
6 cups water
2 Tablespoons honey
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 Tablespoon lemon or lime juice [I used lemon]
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons peanut or sesame oil [I used sesame]
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins or dried currants or craisins [I used currants]
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen peaches or mangoes, defrosted & chopped small [I used frozen mangoes]
1 small red bell pepper, chopped small
1 cup fresh spinach, roughly chopped [I did not include]
(1) Put wheat berries in medium saucepan.  Cover with water.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer, uncovered, for 60 to 90 minutes or until desired tenderness is reached.  Add more water if needed.
(2) Pour wheat berries into a strainer.  Rinse, drain, and cool.
(3) Whisk honey, garlic, lemon/lime juice, rice vinegar, oil, and salt in a large bowl.
(4) Add wheat berries, raisins/currants/craisins, peanuts, peaches/mangoes, bell pepper, and spinach to the bowl with the dressing.  Stir to coat thoroughly.  Serve chilled or room temperature.
Kid Participation: None.

Slow Cooker Honey-Glazed Ham

Original Recipe HERE
Ham is a ham is a ham.  Unless it's horribly dried out, it's pretty hard to ruin a pre-cooked, spiral-cut ham.  Still, this turned out really well and might just be my standard holiday ham recipe from now on.  Using the crockpot is key because that leaves the oven available for all the side dishes.
The smallest ham I could find was 8.5 pounds.  I did my best to jam it into the crockpot, but it was ever so slightly too big.  I hacked away at it to make it fit.
5-7 pound bone-in, pre-cooked/smoked, spiral-cut ham
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground thyme

(1) Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Unwrap ham and discard flavor packet. Put ham into slow cooker.  Slice if necessary to fit.
(2) In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, honey, butter, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and thyme. Pour mixture evenly over ham.
(3) Cover.  Cook on low for 6 hours, or until heated through.  Quickly baste 2 or 3 times during second half of cooking time.
Kid Participation: Eat lots of it.  And feed bits of it to the cats.


Baked Pasta, Gouda, & Caramelized Onions

Original Recipe HERE
This is, hands down, the greatest macaroni and cheese dish I've ever had.  I'd even venture to say it might be the greatest food item I've ever had.  It's that good.  It's the caramelized onions that took it into the stratosphere.  Everyone in my family loved it, and only *J* picked out the onions (and gave them to me...for once his pickiness worked in my favor!)
I didn't want to deal with cooking sausages, so I substituted precooked smoked sausage.  I imagine bacon would work just as well, though you'd need a lot of it in order to guarantee some in every bite.  Which is totally fine by me; I'm not afraid to use an entire package of bacon in one meal.
I also added all of the cheese and onions right into the pasta mixture and didn't leave any for garnishing the top.
The original author of the recipe said that she's used skim milk in place of the whole.  I used an unorthodox hybrid of whole milk, water, and half-n-half (because I hadn't gone grocery shopping in a week), and it was fine.  I imagine skim would make it the sauce a little thinner, but if you care at all about trying to make this dish healthier, apparently it's an option.
* For pasta & sauce:
1 lb (16 oz) pasta [I used ruffles]
1-1/2 lbs precooked sausage
1-1/2 cups caramelized onions
4 cups milk
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
6 Tablespoons flour
3/4 lb smoked Gouda, grated
Salt and pepper

* For caramelized onions:
3 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds onions, thinly sliced [I used three medium-size onions]
2 teaspoons sugar

* For pasta & sauce:
(1) Preheat the oven to 350°.
(2) Prepare caramelized onions (directions below).
(3) Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente, according to directions.
(4) While pasta is cooking, slice sausage lengthwise twice, then slice into thin quarters.
(5) Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sausage; cook until slightly browned.  Transfer sausage to a large bowl.
(6) Add pasta to sausage.  Stir to combine.
(7) In  medium saucepan or microwave, heat milk until steaming.
(8) Return large saucepan to stove.  Add butter; melt over medium heat.
(9) Add flour.  Cook, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes.
(10) Whisk in hot milk, 1/4 cup at a time.  Continue whisking until sauce is smooth and thick and comes to a simmer.
(11) Add cheese.  Remove saucepan from heat.  Whisk until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.
(12) Add caramelized onions to pasta mixture.  Stir to combine.
(13) Add cheese sauce to pasta mixture.  Stir to combine.
(14) Grease 9x13" baking dish.  Add pasta mixture in an even layer.
(15) Bake until golden and bubbling, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven; let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

* For caramelized onions:
(1) In  large skillet, melt butter into olive oil over medium-high heat.
(2) Add onions and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring constantly, until onions begin to soften (about 5 minutes).
(3) Stir in sugar.  Cook, scraping browned bits off bottom of pan frequently, until the onions are golden brown (about 20 minutes).
(4) If desired, dice onions into bite-size pieces.
Kid Participation: None.  I was too busy with all the steps to let them help out...heaven forbid they hose up the caramelized onions!

Apple Cider Milkshakes

Original Recipe HERE
Why didn't I think of this on my own?  It's brilliantly simple.  The dairy helps tone down the tartness of the cider, but the cider kicks the boring old vanilla ice cream into "yes, this is worth blowing a good portion of my daily caloric allotment on."  My kids love these, and I'm going to have to freeze some cider so we don't have to wait until next September to have these.
If you want your milkshake rather thin but don't want such a strong cider taste, I'm sure some milk could be added for consistency purposes.
vanilla ice cream
apple cider
ground cinnamon [optional]
(1) Add ice cream and cider to blender in whatever ration you prefer.
(2) Blend.  Adjust consistency by adding more ice cream or more cider.  Repeat until desired thickness is reached.
(3) Add cinnamon to taste.  Blend.
Kid Participation: Ask for one every day after getting home from school.