Slow Cooker Refried Bean Soup

Original Recipe HERE
I thought this would be a standard, "good enough but nothing special" dish that wouldn't go into regular rotation but be an adequate "emergency" meal on days I wasn't sure what else to make.  However, it smelled really good while cooking, and its flavor exceeded my expectations.  I think the fresh garlic made the difference.  I decreased the amount of cumin from the original recipe (because it offends me) and subbed in smoked paprika.
Everyone in my family ate this.  I served it with shredded white cheddar and sour cream.  I also saw that it wasn't making the monstrous amount of food that crock pot meals normally do, so I made pearl barley as well, scooping it into bowls and ladeling soup over it.  Because I did that, I didn't feel the need to make any cornbread or add another "substantial" element to the meal.
1 can (15 oz) refried beans [I used fat free]
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained & rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1 cup peeled, diced carrots
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin [I used roasted]
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
(1) Add all ingredients to slow cooker.  Stir.
(2) Cook on high 3-4 hours or low 6-8.  Stir on occasion to break up refried bean "mass."  Once carrots are softened to preference, soup is done.
(3) [Optional] Use an immersion blender to puree a small amount of soup to thicken it.
(4) Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions, or other desired toppings.
Kid Participation:
* Add ingredients to slow cooker
* Grate cheese (under close supervision so fingertips and knuckles stay intact)


Honey Beer Bread

Original Recipe HERE
I do not like beer.  Any kind.  Not even those that claim to be fruity, spicy, or pumpkin-y.  Nothing about it appeals to me.  I am a solid wine lady for life (though in my past life, I was a [multiple] vodka-and-cranberry lady...but those are stories for another time).  However, I know it has its place in cooking. I just never think to use it, despite there always being an ample supply on hand thanks to Husband.
But I was making broccoli cheese soup and wanted some sort of bread product to accompany it.  I was going to make my standard pizza dough recipe and let the kids make "snakes" out of it, brush them with melted butter/garlic powder/Parmesan, and hope it turned out well.  That recipe will (also) have to wait for another time.  Because I looked in my bookmarks and came across this one.  A five-minute prep time, then forget it for an hour?  Sign me up, especially since the kids were happy amusing themselves with making Halloween decorations and I didn't want to rock the boat.

This turned out awesomely.  There is a slight beer taste, but it wasn't offensive to me.  The darker the beer, the better...or so says all the recipes I read.  I used a random Red Hook ESB, which I knew nothing about.  I think there was a little too much butter (we all had greasy fingers at the end), so I decreased the amount a little below.  Hopefully the perfectly crusty crust (is it OK to use the same word to describe the same word?) would still result.  I served this with herbed garlic butter, and we all gobbled it up.
Next time I will add some shredded cheddar and dried dill, but since the soup was already cheesy enough, I skipped it this time.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons honey (warmed if necessary)
1 (12 oz) beer (darker is better)
3 Tablespoons butter, melted & slightly cooled
(1) Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease a 9x5" bread pan.
(2) In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
(3) Add honey; stir with rubber spatula until well combined.
(4) Add beer; stir until no dry flour is visible.
(5) Pour batter into loaf pan.  Spread so top is flat.
(6) Pour melted butter evenly over entire surface.
(7) Bake until bread is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 50 to 60 minutes.
(8) Turn bread out onto cooling rack.  Slice when room temperature.
Kid Participation:
* Stir dry ingredients
* Pour and stir beer
* Wonder why they are allowed to consume beer, regardless of the form it takes


Roasted Cauliflower & White Cheddar Gratin

Original Recipe HERE
I'm a sucker for anything with a cheese sauce.  Because said cheese sauce smothers healthy cauliflower, I figured this dish was a wash, each component negating the other.  But I ate a lot of it.  It reheated well the next day, so I continued to eat it.
I was slightly heavy handed with the nutmeg; I was cocky and didn't measure precisely.  A little nutmeg goes a long way, and next time I'll probably just leave it out.
1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg [optional]
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
(1) Preheat oven to 400 F.
(2) Toss cauliflower with oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in single layer on large baking sheet.
(3) Roast until lightly golden brown, 20-30 minutes.
(4) In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
(5) Add flour to butter; cook until it just begins to brown.
(6) Add milk, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and cheese.  Heat until cheese melts and sauce thickens.
(7) Add cauliflower to sauce.  Mix well.
(8) Pour into a baking dish.  Top with panko.
(9) Bake at 350 F about 15-20 minutes or until gratin is bubbling on the sides and golden brown on top.
Kid Participation: None.

Roasted Cauliflower & Cheddar Soup

Original Recipe HERE
I had high hopes for this soup since my kids - usually - love roasted cauliflower.  *J* is its biggest fan, but he was in a mood that night and would barely taste it.  *P* isn't a huge soup eater (one of the very few foods he isn't in love with), so I couldn't get him to eat much, either.  So I looked at this giant pot of soup with dismay, wondering what I would do with what seemed like gallons of food no one would eat.

And then I got a chance to finally taste my own portion (moms' dinners = so often delayed), and I realized that I could eat the entire thing myself.  Luckily *N* loved it, too - and I think Husband would've...that is, if he'd been home to eat dinner instead of spending all day in Boston with friends and spontaneously deciding to stay overnight.  Luckily the lingering taste of resentment and bitterness didn't affect my appreciation of the soup...
Anywho.  Because I used a large head, I should've added more salt and pepper and more cheese - next time, 2 cups?  I could taste the roasted-ness of the cauliflower, but I would've liked the cheese flavor to be more pronounced.
* For cauliflower:
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper
* For soup:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped [I used my garlic press]
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 to 4 cups broth [I used vegetable]
1-1/2 cups aged white cheddar, shredded
1 cup milk [I used 2%] or cream
salt & pepper
(1) Preheat oven to 400 F.
(2) Toss cauliflower with oil, salt, and pepper.  Spread in single layer on large baking sheet.
(3) Roast until lightly golden brown, 20-30 minutes.
(4) Heat oil in large sauce pan over medium heat.  Add onion; saute several minutes until tender.
(5) Add garlic and thyme; saute an additional 1-2 minutes.
(6) Add broth and cauliflower.  Bring to a boil.
(7) Reduce heat.  Simmer, covered, 20 minutes.
(8) Using an immersion blender, puree soup to desired consistency.
(9) Add cheese, letting it melt without boiling.
(10) Add milk.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat.
(11) If soup is too thick, add additional broth (I used the entire 4 cups).
Kid Participation: None.


Haricot Verts [Green Beans] with Shallot Dressing

Original Recipe HERE
(Very similar recipe HERE)
I picked up a package of haricot verts on a whim at Trader Joe's (which is how about 75% of my purchases can be classified there...I go in for two things and come out with several full bags).  Googling was necessary to figure out what to do with them.
The original recipe only called for one slice of bacon, which I scoffed at.  What good is one slice?  You need a minimum of four in a recipe - or, in our family's case, five (one for each member).
The kids all liked these, which is a surprise since *P* isn't a veggie eater and doesn't do much with all the other green beans that cross his plate.
4 slices bacon
12 oz haricot verts (French green beans)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar [or white wine vinegar]
1 shallot, finely chopped
(1) In large skillet, cook bacon until evenly browned.  Set aside; wipe out most of bacon grease from pan.
(2) Sautee shallot in bacon grease until softened.  Remove from pan.
(3) In medium bowl, whisk together oil, mustard, and vinegar.  Add shallot.
(4) Meanwhile, steam haricot verts until just tender (retain some crispness).
(5) Toss haricot verts in dressing.  Serve topped with crumbled bacon.
Kid Participation: None.

Ravioli with Mushroom-Wine Sauce

Original Recipe: Better Homes & Gardens Simple Slow Cooker Recipes
This sauce turned out well but didn't have the intensity of flavor I had hoped.  It was also much too liquid-y to serve to my kids...they need the sauce to cling to the pasta or it'll all get left behind on the plate.  I improvised with my immersion blender, but next time I will drain one can of the tomaotes (the original recipe said to leave both undrained) and add some tomato paste.
While it may sound like this isn't a do-over, the kids all ate most of what was on their plate with no complaint.  I had been expecting loud protests about mushrooms, but *N* even said she liked the them in this particular recipe because she couldn't really taste them. 
3 to 4 cups sliced fresh button mushrooms
3 to 4 cups sliced fresh portobello, shiitake, and/or crimini mushrooms [I used shiitake]
2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes, one drained & one undrained
1/2 cup water
1//3 cup red wine or water
1 to 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 dried rosemary
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 package (20 oz) refrigerated cheese ravioli
grated parmesan [optional]
(1) In a 4- or 5-quart slow cooker, combine mushrooms, tomatoes, water, wine, salt, rosemary, and garlic.
(2) Cover; cook on low 4-6 hours or high 2-3 hours.
(3) Toward the end of the sauce's cooking time, cook ravioli in a separate pot acording to package directions.
(4) If desired, use an immersion blender or regular blender to puree about 1 cup of the sauce.
(5) Serve ravioli with sauce and topped with parmesan if desired.
Kid Participation: None (because just the mere act of having them add the mushrooms to the slow cooker might have turned them off from trying the final product).


Meatless Burritos

Original Recipe: Better Homes & Gardens Simple Slow Cooker Recipes
There wasn't anything spectacular about this meal: it was certainly perfectly "fine" and will surely be made again because I always have the ingredients on hand.  Everyone seemed to like it, although rolled tortillas stuffed with filling usually don't mix well with little kids.  Next time I'll probably serve it with Tostitos and let them dig in, scooping style.  Also, I think it needed a little more flavor, which is easily fixable with some garlic, smoked paprika, green chilis, cayenne, cumin (if you like that sort of thing, and I don't, so I avoid using it whenever possible), etc.
3 cans (15 oz each) black beans and/or red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained [I used petite cut]
1-1/2 cups salsa
1 cup corn [I used frozen]
1/2 large jalapeno, seeded & finely chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
16 8- or 10-inch flour tortillas
* Optional Toppings:
shredded lettuce
shredded Mexican cheese blend
sour cream
cooked rice
green onions, sliced
(1) In 3.5-, 4-, or 5.5-quart slow cooker, combine beans, tomatoes, salsa, corn, jalapeno, chili powder, and garlic.
(2) Cover; cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours.
(3) To serve, spoon bean mixture onto tortillas.  Top with desired toppings.  Roll.
Kid Participation:
* dump all ingredients into slow cooker
* activate slow cooker
* make a massacre of the meal and earn yourself a bath

Slow Cooker Saucy Baked Beans with Sausage

Original Recipe: Better Homes & Gardens Simple Slow Cooker Recipes.
This recipe was a hit with every family member, so there was only one serving left over for lunch the next day.  The great thing about it is how easy it would be to increase its volume: another can of beans, some extra sausage, another squirt of ketchup, chopped red or green pepper and onion, and so on.  I'm sure it could be prepared on the stovetop, but I needed a fix-it-and-forget-it meal that day, so the slow cooker was my method of choice.
I served it with barley I cooked on the side.  It was too saucy to eat as-is; I think it needs something like rice or barley to bulk it up.
2 cans (15 oz each) Great Northern beans, drained & rinsed
2 cans (15 oz each) pinto beans or small red beans, drained & rinsed
12 oz cooked smoked sausage, cut into 1/4" slices
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
(1) In a 3.5-, 4-, or 5.5-quart slow cooker, combine all ingredients.
(2) Cover; cook on low 5-6 hours or high 2.5-3 hours.
Kid Participation:
* dump all ingredients into slow cooker
* push slow cooker buttons (yay, allowed to play with appliances for once!)