Creamed Spinach

Original Recipe HERE
I had a lot of fresh spinach threatening to turn mushy in about 24 hours, so I pulled this out of my bookmarked links.  I made a few tweaks based on the comments and what I thought might maybe, possibly, somehow get fresh spinach into my kids.
*N* said she liked it...and then she didn't.  Per usual, she was a trooper who finished the serving I gave her.  *J* refused, even after I sprinkled Parmesan on it, and I only got two bites into him.  However, little *P* seemed to really enjoy it - maybe spinach has magical powers for a teething toddler?  I thought it was great.  Husband said he thinks he remembered liking it, but he was too distracted by the kids climbing all over him after he returned from work as he ate his dinner.  So it appears to be split down the middle.  I won't make it again for our typical family dinner, but I'll hopefully remember it for special occasions and holidays.  I'd like to test it out on a few more people and get their verdicts.
I had a 16-ounce container and an 11-ounce bag, and it made just enough to feed all of us if, in theory, we all had good-sized portions.  However, the amount of sauce was about four times what I needed, and so now it's in the fridge awaiting being added to roasted broccoli.  I'm pretty sure the kids will eat that version, since they objected to the overtly spinach flavor the first time.
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2-1/2 cups whole milk
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 pounds spinach (stems removed)
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
Parmesan or grated/shredded cheese [optional]
(1) Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in flour until smooth.  Continue to cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
(2) Whisk in milk and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil, whisking frequently.  Remove from heat; cool slightly.
(3) Heat deep skillet over medium heat.  Add spinach and salt.
(4) Cover; cook 3 minutes.  Toss spinach; continue to wilt, uncovered, an additional 2 minutes.
(5) Drain spinach; cool slightly.  Squeeze or press until mostly dry.  Coarsely chop.
(6) Reheat sauce over medium heat.  Whisk in egg.  Bright to slight boil, stirring, and allow sauce to thicken.
(7) Add spinach to sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.
Kid Participation: None.


Tangy Meatballs

Original Recipe HERE
I had bought some meatballs with the assumption that I'd make a sauce and serve it all over rice. Which is exactly what I did.  This was super easy, and 90% of the dinner was eaten in one sitting, leaving me very little for lunch the next day.  Success comes back to bite me.
I put in the half-cup of vinegar that the original recipe called for, and the sauce had a bit too much "bite" or sourness to it.  I will reduce the amount next time (reflected below) and/or return to the original full cup of brown sugar.  I prefer my barbecue-type sauces to be sweeter.
1 cup (8 oz) ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped [optional]
2 to 3 garlic cloves, pressed
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons mustard [I used dijon]
1/4 to 1/2 cup vinegar [I used cider vinegar]
pre-cooked meatballs, fresh or frozen
(1) Add all ingredients to large sauce pan; stir to combine.
(2) Add meatballs; stir to coat.
(3) Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat for 30 minutes to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Kid Participation: None.

Stovetop Popcorn

Original Recipe HERE
I love popcorn.  I love unhealthy popcorn.  I love movie theater popcorn saturated with the butter-reminiscent sludge they have.  I love microwave popcorn in all its hazardous chemical glory.  I realize that this is a problem.
Lately I've been using a paper lunch bag and plain kernals in the microwave.  Surely better, but I wanted to get away from microwaving entirely.  This method produced awesome crunchy (without being dried out) popcorn that I then drizzled with genuine melted butter and sprinkled with salt.  Old-school but worth the little bit of extra work.
3 tablespoons canola, peanut or grapeseed oil [I used grapeseed]
1/3 to 1/2 cup popcorn kernals
Salt [optional]
Butter [optional]
(1) Heat oil in a 3-quart saucepan on medium-high heat.
(2) Add 3 or 4 popcorn kernels to oil.  Cover pan.
(3) When kernels pop, add remaining kernals.  Cover, remove from heat.
(4) Gently shake pan to ensure all kernals are covered with oil.  Wait 30 seconds.
(5) Return pan to heat. Once popping starts in earnest, gently shake pan on burner.  Keep lid slightly ajar to allow steam to release.
(6) Once popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove pan from heat and immediately transfer popcorn to serving bowl.
Kid Participation: Watch the action without getting too close to the hot pan.


Stovetop Brown Rice

Original Recipe HERE

No fancy description in this updated post.  Just a modification on how to make this on the stovetop.

4 cups broth [beef, chicken, or vegetable]
1 to 2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 to 3 Tablespoons dried minced onions
2 cups brown rice [not instant]

(1) In medium saucepan, heat broth over medium heat.
(2) Add butter, tomato paste, salt, and onions.  Bring to a slight boil.
(3) Add rice.  Cover; simmer over low heat for 45 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.


Cranberry & Bacon Chili

Original Recipe HERE
I love a good chili, but I don't gravitate towards those that require lots of ground beef or lots of kidney beans.  This recipe caught my eye because it involved neither, and the use of cranberries intrigued me.  Sweet, tart chili?  I was willing to take the chance on the unorthodox twist, since I've had chili with cinnamon and chocolate (aka, Cincinnati-style) and enjoyed it.
Luckily, this was a homerun instead of a bomb.  While I should still seek out an awesome traditional chili recipe (it seems like one of those basic dishes I should have in my arsenal), this one will go into rotation in our house.
The recipe is flexible: type of beans, type and amount of spices, additional vegetables (maybe some bell pepper and baby carrots?), etc.
6 slices of thick bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 yellow or white onion, diced
1 cup dried cranberries
1 can (14 oz) tomato puree
2 cups water
1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, rinsed & drained [I substituted Great Northern beans]
1 can (15 oz) pinto beans, rinsed & drained
1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
garnishes [sour cream, green onion, shredded cheese, etc.]
(1) In a large pot, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy.  Set aside to drain on paper towel; leave several tablespoons of grease in pot.
(2) Add onion to pot; cook over medium-high heat until soft, about 4 minutes.
(3) Add cranberries to pot; cook 2-3 minutes.
(4) Add tomato puree, water, beans, spices, and cooked bacon to the pot.  Simmer on medium-low heat for at least 20 minutes.
(5) If desired, use an immersion blender (or regular blender) to lightly puree chili to reach desired thickness.
(6) Serve hot with garnishes.
Kid Participation: Add heaping helpings of cheese and sour cream; enjoy.


Sweet Fried Plantains

Original Recipe HERE
I grew to love plantains while living in South Florida.  There were several amazing Cuban restaurants in our town, and fried plantains were served with almost every meal.  No complaints here.
I've found recipes that talk about serving them with salt, or garlic, or other non-sweet accompaniments.  But I can't give up my sweet versions.  While they can just be fried in a little butter or oil and are wonderful as-is, I wanted more butter! more sugar! more flavor! more fat! 
I served these with dinner because they are fruit - which was a stretch because they really classified as dessert.  They would be awesome with some vanilla ice cream.  The melt-in-your-mouth plantains with the slightly crispy outside and sweet butter sauce were to die for.  I may or may not have literally licked my plate afterward.
3 ripe (almost black) plantains
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
(1) Peel plantains.  Slice in half lengthwise; slice in half widthwise (so you have four equal sized pieces).
(2) Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add plantain slices in an even layer
(3) Allow plantains to saute until dark golden.  Flip.  Repeat saute.
(4) When plantains have become golden and slightly crispy on each side, remove from heat.
(5) Add remaining tablespoon butter to pan along with cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar. Scrape bottom of pan to remove any plantain bits.  Stir sauce; remove from heat when sugar is dissolved.
(7) Serve plantains with sauce drizzled over top. 
Kid Participation: None, besides gobbling them up.

Lighter Alfredo Sauce

Original Recipe HERE
No, please keep reading.  "Lighter" and "alfredo" can go hand-in-hand, it seems.  I was shocked, too.

The nasty sludge in a jar keeps me from eating alfredo often, but I love me some awesome alfredo, pasta, and vegetables.  Bonus points if some bacon is thrown in.  So I was excited to have success with this recipe, and I've made it many times.  It makes more than enough to feed dinner to our family of five, and we have leftovers.  Also, the recipe is easy to cut in half, so...yay for portion control.  Because I would probably eat an entire saucepot of this on my own.
I keep meaning to add some tomato paste or other such product to see if I can achieve a slight cheesy vodka sauce result.  Also, the alfredo will thicken in the fridge, so adding milk and/or reheating it slowly (stovetop or mixed into an oven meal) will give the best next-day results.
2 cups low-fat milk [I use skim]
1/3 cups (3 oz) low-fat cream cheese
2 to 3 Tablespoons white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon butter
2 to 3 garlic cloves
1 cups grated Parmesan cheese
(1) Put milk, cream cheese, flour, and salt in a blender (I used the Magic Bullet); blend until smooth.
(2) In medium saucepan on medium-high heat, melt butter.  Add garlic; saute about one minute or until slightly golden brown (do not allow to burn).
(3) Add blender mixture to pan.  Stir frequently, 3 to 4 minutes, or until it just begins to simmer.
(4) Cook several more minutes, stirring often, until thickened.  Be sure none is sticking to bottom of pan.
(5) Remove pan from heat.  Add Parmesan; stir.  Cover pot immediately; let stand at least 10 minutes to continue to thicken.  Add additional seasoning if desired.
Kid Participation: None.