Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup

Original Recipe HERE
I'm not normally a fan of tomato soup.  I didn't grow up on it, either fresh or Campbell's, so I never developed an appreciation for it.  Most of the ones I've tried are too tomato-y, tasting either like fresh tomatoes were used (and they really need to have been cooked instead) or overly salted/seasoned to make up for a too-weak tomato flavor.  So I gave this one a shot with low expectations, especially since I wasn't sure how disintegrating bread into it could really turn out well.

But it really was tasty.  Everyone except *J* had seconds of it, though *P* grew more and more unsure with each passing bite (and since the kid is a Human Garbage Disposal, I thought that if for once he was rejecting a food, I'd respect it).  I made roasted garlic butter and served it with sourdough on the side.  Next time I'll go with the classic grilled cheese to ensure all members of the family eat a heartier meal.  And though I didn't add any additional salt, this was almost too salty for my taste.  I'm assuming that, by process of elimination, that's due to the type of tomato used.  Everyone raves about San Marzano, but I'll try some lowly Hunt's to compare.
I plan to freeze a small portion of this to see how well it can be saved.
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil [I used grape seed]
1 medium onion, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes packed in juice, undrained [I used San Marzano]
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
3 large slices dense white bread [I used sourdough]
2 cups broth [I used vegetable]
¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
(1) In large pot, heat olive oil medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
(2) Add tomatoes and their juice. Using a potato masher, break them down into smaller pieces.
(3) Stir in sugar and bread; bring soup to a boil.
(4) Reduce heat to medium.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf.
(5) Turn off heat.  Add butter.  Once melted, puree soup with immersion blender or traditional blender.  Soup can be strained through fine-mesh strainer if perfectly smooth consistency is desired(6) Stir broth into soup; return soup to a boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat. Stir in the basil before serving.
Kid Participation: None.


Slow Cooker Honey-Sauced Chicken

Original Recipe HERE
This is a pretty standard teriyaki-like chicken dish, but I'll never pass up a throw-everything-in-the-slow cooker-and-voila! recipe.  Everyone happily ate this.
I served it over brown rice with roasted cauliflower on the side, but next time I'll roast broccoli or asparagus instead and toss everything together for serving.
3 to 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup chopped onion or 1/16 cup onion flakes)  [I used flakes]
1/8 cup ketchup
1 Tablespoons vegetable oil [I used grape seed]
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
(1) Put chicken in slow cooker.
(2) Whisk together all other ingredients.  Pour over chicken, flipping chicken once to coat.
(3) Cook on low for 3 hours or high for 1.5 hours.
(4) Cut, shred, or dice chicken.  Return to slow cooker; toss with sauce.
Kid Participation: None.


Santa Fe Casserole

Original Recipe HERE
This was a tasty casserole that was (1) easy to assemble, and (2) light enough that it didn't leave me feeling like I had a rock in my stomach afterward.

More vegetables could be added to bulk it up and add nutrition.  And I feel like it was missing a little something to make it extra special.  Next time I'll throw some salsa into the mix, a little garlic powder, and something like precooked sausage.
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
2 to 3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon pepper
1 can (15 oz) beans of choice, rinsed & drained [I used pinto]
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped fine
3/4 cup milk
1-1/2 cup brown rice, cooked
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 2-quart casserole dish.
(2) In small skillet, heat olive oil on medium high heat.  Add onion and garlic; saute until tender.
(3) In  large mixing bowl, whisk eggs.  Add salt, chili powder, pepper, beans, bell pepper, milk, rice, and cheese; mix well.
(4) Pour mixture into casserole dish.
(5) Bake 25 minutes or until center is firm.  Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
Kid Participation:
* Stir all ingredients together
* Pick out red bell pepper AGAIN...someday I will get them to eat it!

Baked Oatmeal with Craisins

Original Recipe HERE
This meal does not need to include craisins, but since I have several baked oatmeal recipes in rotation, so shall it be dubbed.
The only thing I would change for next time, besides the slight adjustments I already made, is to cut down the brown sugar.  It was too sweet to be served for breakfast or brinner; it actually would've been good along with some yogurt, whipped cream, or even vanilla ice cream.  The amount listed below is the (assumed) proper amount.  Cinnamon, nutmeg, etc., would surely work in the dish, too.
Also, I realized after the fact that I used baking soda instead of baking powder.  It turned out fine.
2 cups uncooked oats [I used old-fashioned]
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 to 1 cup craisins [or dried fruit of choice]
1 Tablespoon chopped nuts [optional]
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-½ cups milk [I used skim]
½ cup applesauce
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten
(1) Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit.  Grease a 2-quart casserole dish or 8x8" baking dish.
(2) In large mixing bowl, combine oats, sugar, fruit, nuts, and baking powder.
(3) In separate bowl, whisk egg.  Add milk, applesauce, and butter.
(4) Add milk mixture to oat mixture; stir well.
(5) Pour batter into dish.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until center is set and edges are slightly browned. Serve warm.
Kid Participation:
* Mix dry ingredients
* Mix wet ingredients
* Spread batter in dish


Mexican-Style Brown Rice Casserole

Original Recipe: Weight Watchers (but tweaked)

This is an easy throw-together dish since I always have all the ingredients on hand. And if I don't, it's still forgiving and substitutions are easy.

The family all ate their servings of this dish (except *J*'s share of spinach). We just dug in with normal utensils, but this could also be served dip-style (scooped with chips) or perhaps even as filling for burritos or tacos.

4 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup salsa
1 teaspoon cumin [optional]
1 teaspoon garlic powder [optional]
2 oz reduced-fat cream cheese, softened [optional]
1 (15 oz) can refried beans [I used vegetarian, fat-free]
1 (10 oz) package frozen corn [I used 16 oz Trader Joe's roasted corn], thawed
1 (4 oz) can diced green chili peppers
1 Tablespoon chili powder [or to taste]
1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed & well drained
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

(1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart or 9x13" baking dish.
(2) In medium bowl, combine rice, salsa, cumin, garlic powder, and cream cheese. Evenly spread half of mixture on bottom of baking dish.
(3) In another bowl, combine beans, corn, peppers, and chili powder. Evenly spread over rice in dish.
(4) Layer spinach over bean mixture.
(5) Sprinkle cheese over spinach.
(6) Evenly spread remaining rice mixture on top.
(7) Cover; bake 20-30 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.

Kid Participation:
* Combine various mixtures
* Spread mixtures (perhaps not so evenly)
* Sprinkle cheese

Coconut Zucchini Banana Bread

Original Recipe HERE

I had two bananas that Husband wanted to throw out because he can't stand the smell of bananas that are even slightly past ripe...it's some sort of sixth sense he has.  I also had grabbed several zucchinis last time I was at the grocery store, but I wasn't feeling inspired.  I decided to combine them into muffins that were healthier than what I'd normally gravitate toward.  The Weight Watchers Points Tracker says they are 5 points each, though.  Eh, still healthier.  Especially since I patted myself on the back for leaving out the chocolate.

I made 12 muffins and one small (aka, flat-ish) loaf of bread, so I estimate this would make 20 muffins.  The kids really liked them.  Next time I'll cut down on the coconut (I used one cup).  They were a little too sweet to be the breakfast-y muffins I was aiming for, but eliminating the coconut entirely might make them too bland.  Oh dear, Husband is going to have to suffer through another round of stinky browning bananas for the sake of tweaking this recipe...

3 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil [I used coconut oil]
2 medium bananas, well mashed
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 to 4 cups grated zucchini [I used 3 medium]
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 to 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 to 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/2 to 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin tin or bread pan.
(2) If using coconut oil, melt to liquid form using a double boiler.
(3) In large mixing bowl, whisk eggs. Add oil, banana, vanilla, zucchini, and sugars. Let set several minutes until sugar is partially dissolved.
(4) In separate mixing bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and coconut.
(5) Add dry ingredients to wet mixture. Stir until just combined.
(6) Transfer batter to baking tins. Bake 20-25 minutes for 12 muffins and approximately an hour for a full loaf. Test for doneness by inserting a knife in center; bread is done when it comes out clean.
(7) Remove from oven. Run knife along edges to loosen. Leave in tins 10 minutes; remove to rack to cool completely.

Kid Participation:
* Mash bananas by hand
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Whisk dry ingredients
* Stir all ingredients together


Cheesy Spaghetti Squash and Chicken Bake

Inspired By THIS
My kids don't like spaghetti squash (which isn't stopping me from serving it, repeatedly and in a variety of forms, in the hopes I can convert them).  I even found out, as Husband and I were cleaning up after dinner, that he's "not a huge fan" of spaghetti squash.  Gee, everyone...sorry I served this.  But wait!  They all ate some!  And upon further pressing Husband, he said it was actually good because he didn't notice the squash much.  So...hmm.  Make again?  I think I will, because I liked it, it was easy, and it was filling.  Next time I'll serve more side dishes with it so that family members can enjoy a smaller portion of the main dish without reaching their spaghetti squash saturation point.  I'd think this would be a good make-ahead dish and also work well for sharing.
This filled a 9x13" baking dish with two servings left over for the next day's lunch.  Next time I'll add some chopped onion and green pepper to provide another layer of taste and texture.  Which will just ensure that my kids pick out the vegetable-y additions, negating their usage to everyone but me.
2 medium ripe spaghetti squash, cooked and cooled
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
olive oil
1 to 2 oz cream cheese, softened [I used reduced-fat]
salt and fresh pepper, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 cups tomato sauce, divided [I used Classico]
1 to 2 cups shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese, divided
(1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
(2) Remove all spaghetti squash strands from skin; place in large mixing bowl.  Break it up with forks.
(3) In medium skillet, saute onion and green pepper in a small amount of olive oil until softened.  Toss with squash.
(4) Add cream cheese to squash; mix until well combined.
(5) Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano to squash mixture; stir thoroughly.
(6) Spread squash mixture evenly in a 9x13" baking dish.  Sprinkle with half of shredded cheese.
(7) Spread one cup of tomato sauce over mixture.
(8) Evenly distribute chicken over sauce.  Top with remaining sauce and cheese.
(9) Cover dish with foil.  Bake approximately 15 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.  Remove foil and bake an additional several minutes.
Kid Participation: None, though *J* did have fun helping me scoop out the seeds from the raw squashes earlier in the day.  He said it reminded him of carving pumpkins at Halloween.

Banana Waffles

Original Recipe HERE
One of my many breakfast-for-dinner staples.  I especially like it because it doesn't require buttermilk.  Yes, I know I can make buttermilk on my own.  But it seems like I'm always running low on regular milk, and I don't like to sacrifice it for a recipe.  Also, the bananas give a subtle sweetness (especially if the ones used are at the just-past-ripe stage) and banana flavor without being overpowering.  I can eat these with a little butter spread on top and sans maple syrup because they have a distinctive enough taste on their own.  Kids love them, and I double the recipe to make enough for them to have breakfast the next day.  I get twelve regular waffles (three large waffles divided into four sub-waffles) out of a doubled recipe, so using the original amounts wouldn't give us nearly enough food.  The amounts listed below are the doubled ones.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-1/2 cups milk
large eggs
2 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 ripe bananas, thoroughly mashed [but not smooth]
(1) Preheat waffle iron.
(2) In medium mixing bowl, sift or whisk together flours, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon.
(3) In large mixing bowl, whisk eggs.  Add milk, honey, vanilla, and bananas.  Combine thoroughly.
(4) Add dry ingredients to wet in several increments; stir until just combined.  Batter can be lumpy and should not be smooth.
(5) Ladle batter onto waffle iron and cook according to iron's directions.
Kid Participation:
* Mash bananas
* Whisk dry ingredients


Green Beans with Caramelized Onions & Bacon

Original Recipe HERE
Runner-Up Recipe I Considered Using HERE
I needed a green vegetable side dish for Thanksgiving that wouldn't be complicated and could be thrown together just before the rest of the meal was ready to be served.  Found this, made this, liked this.
I don't know how much the mushrooms really added to the dish.  Next time I'll probably leave them out and increase the amount of onion to compensate.  Also, I'll probably skip the olive oil and saute the onion in a smidge of leftover bacon grease.
1 pound green beans
1 medium red onion, sliced
1 cup sliced white mushroom, optional [I used baby bella]
olive oil
6 slices bacon
1 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
(1) Snap or cut ends off beans; cut in half.
(2) Cook bacon.  After draining , break into 1/2" pieces.
(3) Add olive oil to medium skillet.  Saute onions and mushrooms (if using) until tender and slightly browned or caramelized, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
(4) In a large saucepan, boil green beans in enough water to cover them for 6-8 minutes or until crisp tender.  Drain.
(5) In large serving bowl, add butter, garlic salt, pepper, onions, mushrooms, and bacon. Stir just until combined.  Add beans; toss until well-coated.
Kid Participation: None.

Oven-Baked Turkey Breast

Original Recipe HERE
I didn't feel like having a full-fledged turkey for Thanksgiving: there's a lot of waste, and I don't like looking at a carcass.  Makes me feel guilty (and hypocritical).  When I broached this to Husband, who had designated himself as Man in Charge of Turkey, he was not pleased.  Before I knew how it happened, turkey duty had been passed to me.  So...while I embraced my added responsibility slightly begrudgingly, I was overall happy to have gotten my wish.
I thought about using my mom's traditional Martha-inspired cheesecloth method, but...I didn't.  Maybe next year, since I love the end result.  However, this one made for a fine main dish, and I don't feel our Thanksgiving celebration was diminished at all because we didn't have a pile of bones at the end of the night.  It wasn't overly flavorful; next time I'll add greater amounts of spices just because of personal preference.
I made the gravy that the original recipe included.  It was OK, but again, it needed more flavor.  And again, I'll add more seasonings afterward.  Also, upon standing for a few minutes, it began to thicken too much.  I halved the amount of cornstarch and included that updated info in the recipe below.
Another reason for not wanting to do a giant turkey is because it takes up our entire oven and makes it more tricky and limiting for preparing and/or reheating side dishes. If I could free up the oven for several more hours than expected, that would be lovely. Since a breast takes less than half the time of a regular turkey to cook, I thought it would make my life a lot easier. And it did.
1 bone-in whole turkey breast (4 1/2 to 5 pounds), thawed if frozen [mine was about 7 pounds]
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup dry white wine or margarine [I used sweet white wine]
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon paprika [I used smoked paprika]
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons cold water
(1) Heat oven to 325ºF. Place turkey, skin side up, on rack in large shallow roasting pan.  Roast uncovered 1 hour.
(2) Mix butter, wine, thyme, salt, paprika and garlic. Brush turkey with half of the butter mixture.
(3) Roast 30 minutes; brush with remaining butter mixture.
(4) Roast about 1 hour longer or until thermometer reads 165ºF.
(5) Remove turkey from oven.  Let stand 15 minutes for easier carving.
(6) While turkey rests, pour pan drippings into measuring cup.  Skim fat from drippings. Add enough water to drippings to measure 2 cups.
(7) Heat drippings to boiling in 1-quart saucepan. Mix cornstarch and 2 tablespoons cold water; stir into drippings. Boil and stir 1 minute. Serve with turkey.
Kid Participation: None.

Cranberry & Apple Crisp

Original Recipe HERE
While I would happily have every dessert I ever make be chocolate-based, I know not everyone shares the same obsession.  So if it's not going to be full of my VIP ingredient of choice, I like to go in the opposite direction and include fruit: if it's not going to be obviously bad for you, why not pretend it's masquerading as something good for you?
Per the recipe, I used granny smith apples and found the final product to be too tart for my liking.  Next time I'll substitute some sweeter ones.  Also, because the apples were in the back of our fridge and went through an unfortunate freeze/thaw cycle, I had to throw out a few and use pears in their place.  I don't know how much of a difference they made; everything got mixed in together so I never identified a definite bite of apple or pear either way.
* For topping:
1 cup flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cold butter
* For fruit layer:
8 to 9 apples
2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen) [I used fresh]
1-1/4 cups sugar
7 Tablespoons flour
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg (optional)
7 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9x13" baking pan (I used glass).
(2) Mix dry topping ingredients together until well combined.  Add cold butter; mix with fingers or pastry cutter until it resembles coarse meal.  Put in refrigerator while preparing fruit layer.
(3) Peel, core, and cut apples into 1/4" slices.
(4) In large bowl, mix apples, cranberries, sugar, flour, and cinnamon.  Add butter; toss to combine.  Transfer mixture to baking dish.
(5) Crumble topping over fruit.  Bake for about 1 hour, or until apples are desired tenderness.  Cover with foil after 30 minutes to prevent browning.
(6) Cool slightly and serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
Kid Participation:
* Mix dry ingredients
* Make apple mixture
* Crumble topping
* Expect to have whipped cream squirted into your mouths during the entire process

Compound Butters

Original Recipe HERE
Why didn't this ever cross my mind? Only the simplest thing ever. I love butter on everything (including things it has no business coming in contact with), so I'll be doing some experimenting. To serve with my mom's incomparable dinner rolls at Thanksgiving, I made the honey and herbed versions.  The honey was fabulous, but the herbed didn't have as much flavor as I'd have liked.  Next time I'll experiment with amounts and different spices.  The vanilla-cinnamon looked intriguing and will be made for breakfast purposes - probably under the guise of "needing to try a new muffin recipe."  However, vanilla extract will be used instead of the bean.
I didn't care about presentation, so I didn't make them into the rolled logs.  I think in the end it made serving easier since we could just pass the bowl around and scoop out what we wanted instead of having to find a serving dish that would fit an oddly-shaped, unsteady roll of butter.
* For honey butter:
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon honey [or to taste]
* For herbed butter:
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried ground thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
(1) Put butter in small mixing bowl.  Allow to soften to room temperature.
(2) When butter is spreadable, add salt and mix-ins.  Use rubber spatula to repeatedly fold mixture together until thoroughly combined.
(3) Transfer butter to dish to be used for serving.  Cover with plastic wrap or lid; refrigerate until 10 minutes before serving.
Kid Participation: None.  This recipe was done so quickly, they didn't have a chance to help


Mim's Classic Buttermilk Pancakes

Original Recipe: from my mom!
This is the pancake recipe I grew up on.  It provided many a breakfast - and many a dinner - for my brother and me.  It's not healthy (though someday I should try subbing in some whole wheat flour to compare), but it makes some lovely-tasting, fluffy-yet-substantial stacks.  Husband likes to make pancakes on weekend mornings, and while I appreciate and applaud his efforts, his favorite recipes just can't hold a candle to my mom's.
I usually serve this with bacon or sliced-and-sauteed smoked sausage.  And the authentic New Hampshire maple syrup she brings every time she visits.  And I also have been known to top my cakes with additional butter...  The kids love it with mini-chocolate chips in the batter, and it also works with sliced banana and fresh berries (though I'm usually a pancake minimalist and just go with the standard syrup).
The recipes makes enough for our family of five, though I often double it to have quick-to-prepare breakfasts for the school week.
2 cups all-purpose flour                                         
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt                                             
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 slightly beaten eggs                                      
2 cups buttermilk
2 Tablespoons melted shortening or butter [I use butter]
(1) In medium mixing bowl, sift or whisk together all dry ingredients.
(2) In large mixing bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, and butter until thoroughly combined.
(3) Add dry ingredients to egg mixture; stir only until flour is barely moistened (small lumps are OK).
(4) Cook in 1/3 cup servings (or to personal preference) immediately on hot griddle at 375 degrees or large skillet on medium heat.  Flip when bubbles appear and burst in center of each pancake.  Pancakes are done when golden brown on each side.
Kid Participation:
* Whisk dry ingredients
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Ask for pancakes to be made into shapes that Mom has no ability to create


Apple Bundt Cake with Brown-Butter Vanilla Glaze

Original Recipe HERE
Don't let the length of the ingredient list or number of directions deter you.  This was actually really easy to make and turned out fabulously.  I liked how it was hearty (does it make a cake sound less appetizing if you call it "hearty"?) but not so dense that it sat like a rock in my stomach.  The apple flavor came through but wasn't overpowering.  And, in theory, this could be made in a regular baking pan - especially if the glaze was made thicker. I made it when hosting a family for dinner, and ever member (from age 2 to 33) ate their piece.  I liked it so much, I posted it on Facebook to show it'd earned my stamp of approval.  A friend subsequently made it and concurred with my opinion.
However, we both thought a few tweaks would've improved it a bit.  The "mistakes" I made:
(1) Used apples that were too juicy.  Next time I'll use "drier" ones or drain shredded apples thoroughly (actually, probably wring them out in a dishtowel or cheesecloth as I do with zucchini).
(2) Didn't make my glaze runny enough.  It was more like a goopy frosting.  Which was fine, but aesthetically it didn't look as nice.
(3) Paid a crazy amout for a jar of two vanilla beans.  I can't see how they made that big a difference in the taste.  Next time I'll just use the extract.
I think this would be a great contribution to a potluck or brunch or just to bring to a friend's house.  It's hard to find a reason it wouldn't be nearly-universally liked.
* For the bundt cake:
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
flour [for preparing the pan]
4 medium apples
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1-1/3 cups white sugar, divided
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mace [I did not use]
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
4 large eggs
1/2 cup apple cider
2 teaspoon vanilla
* For the vanilla glaze:
2 to 3 Tablespoons half-and-half
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
vanilla bean seeds scraped from 1/2 a vanilla bean (split bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds)
4 oz unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* For the Bundt cake:
(1) Peel and core apples.  Shred using large holes on grater to make about 3-1/2 cups shredded apples.
(2) In a small mixing bowl, stir apple with lemon juice and 1/3 cup white sugar.  Set aside.
(3) Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan [I used silicone] with butter.  Dust with several tablespoons of flour; tilt and tap pan to coat.
(4) In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
(5) In a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), thoroughly combine remaining 1 cup white sugar, brown sugar, oil, applesauce, eggs, apple cider, and vanilla.
(6) Add flour mixture; mix well.
(7) Add apples; mix until the apples are evenly distributed.
(8) Pour into prepared Bundt pan.  Bake 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out of the cake clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto drying rack or serving platter.  If glaze is going to be used, begin making it immediately while cake is still warm.
*For the vanilla glaze:
(1) Pour half-and-half into small bowl; set aside to take the chill off.
(2) In medium mixing bowl, combine sifted powdered sugar and vanilla bean seeds (if using).  Set aside.
(3) In large saucepan over medium-low heat, warm butter until golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. It should smell toasty but not burnt.
(4) Pour browned butter into powdered sugar and vanilla bean seeds, leaving darkened butter sediment behind.
(5) Add 2 tablespoons half-and-half.  Add vanilla. Stir vigorously until smooth. Glaze should be pourable; if it's too thick, add remaining half-n-half.
(6) Pour glaze over cake while both are still warm. Serve immediately or allow to cool; store covered on counter or in refrigerator for several days.
Kid Participation:
* Whisk dry ingredients
* Mix wet ingredients
* Pour glaze if appearance doesn't count

Peanut Butter & Yogurt Dip

Original Recipe HERE
I served this as part of a "Dip Dinner," which was my inspired meal born out of desperation.  I made two homemade dips to be served with vegetables as well as this one to be served with banana slices, apple wedges, and red grapes.  The kids loved both the concept and its execution.
1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 Tablespoon sweetener, such as brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey [optional]
(1) Soften peanut butter slightly by microwaving in short intervals.
(2) Mix sweetener into peanut butter.
(3) Thoroughly combine yogurt with peanut butter.  Refrigerate until serving. 
Kid Participation: Whisk dip and then dig in.