Autumn Meatballs

Original Recipe HERE
I changed the name of this recipe (am I allowed to do that?) because I didn't make them in the crockpot, and I associate the dominant flavors of apple and cranberry with fall.  I got 17 meatballs out of this, if I'm remembering correctly.  I thought I'd be able to calculate that after dinner, but all the kids surprised me by eating a second helping, and I lost track.  So these were a success.
I added the breadcrumbs because I was worried there wasn't enough to bind them together.  I knew the egg would help with that, but I wasn't sure about the cheese.  Good thing I didn't put my confidence in the cheddar, since it melted completely, and a lot of it was left on the parchment paper.
I wasn't sure how to serve these...some sort of cranberry sauce would've been nice, but I didn't have fresh cranberries to make a simple stovetop concoction with.  So we defaulted to ketchup.  Don't judge.
1-1/3 lbs ground turkey
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs or panko
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled & shredded
1/2 to 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 to 1 cup dried cranberries
(1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.
(2) In a medium bowl, mix together egg, salt, pepper, onion powder, and breadcrumbs.
(3) Stir in apple, cheddar, and cranberries.
(4) Add turkey.  Mix until well combined.
(5) Using 2 tablespoon portions, roll meat mixture into balls.  Place on parchment paper (spacing can be tight since they shrink slightly).
(6) Bake about 20 minutes or until cooked through.
Kid Participation: None.


Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip, & Coconut "Lactation" Cookies

Original Recipe HERE
This recipe got good reviews from its original baker, and it had plenty of oats involved.  So I figured why not see if it could be converted into a lactation cookie by added the old standbys of flaxseed meal and brewer's yeast.  I'm happy to report that it, indeed, can.  Actually, I can't report on the lactation function yet (you'd think eating six cookies in one sitting would produce immediate results...), but they taste great and are the chewy consistency that I like.  Sometimes the brewer's yeast flavor can be detected in cookies, but not here.
I cut the original brown sugar amount by 1/4 cup because I didn't have enough.  With the chocolate chips and coconut, there's already plenty of sweetness being added, so I would try decreasing the white sugar to 3/4 cup, also - maybe even one sugar to 1/2 cup.
I got about 36 cookies using approximately 2 tablespoons of dough for each.  Next time I will use my smaller 1-tablespoon scoop and get more.  Also, because of a crying baby who didn't want to sleep, half of the dough sat on the counter longer than expected.  The last batch of cookies spread a lot.  I got the best results with the fresher (colder) dough on the silpat, so refrigerating it before scooping is suggested.
3 Tablespoons flaxseed meal
3 Tablespoons water
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons brewer's yeast
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup chocolate chips [I used mini-morsels]
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
(1) In a small bowl, combine flaxseed meal and water.  Set aside to soak.
(2) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.
(3) In a small bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, salt, and brewer's yeast.
(4) In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
(5) Add eggs and vanilla to butter mixture; mix thoroughly.
(6) Add flaxseed meal to butter mixture; mix thoroughly.
(7) Add flour mixture to wet ingredients; mix until just combined.
(8) Add oats, chocolate chips, and coconut; mix until evenly distributed.
(9) Using 1-2 tablespoons each, roll dough into balls.  Space balls at least 2" apart on baking sheets.
(10) Bake 10-12 minutes, or until edges are golden brown but middles are still pale.
(11) Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes.  Remove to cooling racks.
Kid Participation:
* Mix flaxseed and water
* Measure dry ingredients
* Sift dry ingredients
* Measure wet ingredients
* Operate mixer
* Make dough balls (but not if you care about uniformity in size and whether your kid gets dough all over themselves from the elbows down)


Parmesan Orzo with Vegetables

Original Recipe: from my godmother
I made this because my kids like pasta and Parmesan, both separately and together.  I thought the appearance of onions and mushrooms might cause problems but that they'd at least be willing to try it.  Willing they were, and then they all decided it needed barbecue sauce.  Hmm...  None really liked it, but I thought it was great.  I'll make it again when more adults are dining with us, and I'll try the water-and-white-wine method instead of the broth (it's the end of a summer spent with four kids together 24/7, so I really can't spare any wine for cooking until September).
It barely made one meal's worth, so I would double the recipe next time (that is, if I thought other people in the family would eat it).  Also, I think roasted asparagus or broccoli or sauteed spinach would be a good addition.
2 Tablespoons butter
1 small white onion, diced
1 cup chopped mushrooms [I used baby bella]
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1 cup water [I substituted chicken broth]
1/2 cup white wine [I substituted chicken broth]
garlic powder to taste [I used 1/4 teaspoon]
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1) In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
2) Add onions; cook until slightly tender.
3) Add mushrooms and orzo.  Cook, stirring frequently, 5 minutes
4) Add liquid to saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
5) Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
6) Cook 7-10 minutes, or until orzo is al dente.
7) Remove from heat.  Stir in Parmesan.

Kid Participation: Add barbecue sauce...?


BBQ Turkey Meatballs

Original Recipe HERE
These meatballs were awesome, especially served with the corn salad that is suggested.  Like, I could've eaten it every night for a week.  *N* ate both, *J* ate the meatballs, and *P* ate the corn.  Hope they get used to it, because I want to make it again ASAP.  It is even worth me using my bare hands to form the meatballs, which is a task I abhor.  Like, it's enough to make me seriously consider going full vegetarian.  Except then I couldn't eat the resulting meatballs, which would be a shame.
I doubted how tasty these could be because they seemed sort of plain and didn't have a sauce pairing, but they exceeded expectations.  I realized too late that I didn't have any panko, so regular Italian breadcrumbs were used this time.  It was somewhat tricky to make sure that the ingredients were combined well, without any clumps of the breadcrumb mixture scattered throughout.  I probably need to find a better order in which to incorporate the ingredients.
1 lb ground turkey [my package was 1.3 lbs]
1/4 cup panko
1 or 2 scallions, minced
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of cayenne
2 teaspoons brown sugar
5 Tablespoons barbecue sauce, divided
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, and spray lightly with cooking spray (I used parchment and didn't spray it).
2) In a large bowl, whisk together panko, paprika, garlic powder, dry mustard, salt, cayenne, and brown sugar.
3) Add scallions and 2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce.  Mix thoroughly.
4) Add turkey; mix with hands until evenly combined.
5) Form 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture into a lightly packed meatball.  Put on baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining mixture (I got about 16 meatballs).
6) Bake meatballs 11-12 minutes.  Brush with reserved barbecue sauce.  Return to oven; bake an additional 3-4 minutes or until cooked through.
Kid Participation: The only thing *N* wanted to do was help form the meatballs - a job I was happy to turn over to her. 


Chocolate Lactation Cookies

Original Recipe HERE

I'm using baby #4 (henceforth referred to as *A*) as an excuse to gorge myself on cookies.  I love lactation cookies because they (1) help my supply a bit, (2) make large batches, (3) are filling, (4) are easy to grab as a snack - or breakfast if I'm desperate, and (5)  they are healthy enough that I don't feel bad engaging in said gorging.

I don't like to throw a bunch of chocolate chips in, like most recipes suggest, because I do gorge myself on them (have I mentioned that already?).  I read somewhere that you're supposed to have two small cookies for each feeding.  But I don't feel like a cookie is truly a cookie unless it has either frosting or chocolate elements.  The cocoa powder in these satisfies that need and, as far as my tiny bit of research says, is better for you than Nestle morsels.  Don't tell me if I'm wrong about that.

The first batch was good, but practice makes perfect and the second batch was better.  I made a few changes that time, but I'm posting the original amounts below.  The updates were: substituting 1/2 cup coconut oil for half of the butter, reducing both sugars to 1/3 cup, and replacing 1 cup of white flour with 1 cup of wheat.  I also tossed in about 1/3 cup mini-morsels that time...

The cookies come out of the oven very soft, cool and firm up quickly, and then are at their best after they've sat overnight.  They re-moisten themselves somewhat, as many cookies with large amounts of oats tend to do.  Using my mini-dough scoop (approximately one tablespoon size), I got four baking sheets worth of cookies, which was over 50 cookies.
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1/2 cup water
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar 
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 Tablespoons molasses
1/3 cup cocoa
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 cups oats
1 cup chocolate chips, raisins, etc. [I did not use]
4 Tablespoons brewers yeast
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2) Mix water and flaxseed meal until thoroughly wet.  Set aside.
3) In a large bowl, butter and sugars until fluffy.
4) Add eggs, vanilla, and molasses to butter.  Mix well.
5) Add flaxseed meal.  Mix well.
6) In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and yeast.
7) Add dry ingredients to wet.  Mix well.
8) Add oats.  Mix well.
9) Fold in chocolate chips.
10) Drop spoonfuls of dough (1 to 2 tablespoons each) onto baking sheets.  If desired, flatten slightly.  Cookies will spread a bit.
11) Bake about 12 minutes.  Remove cookies from baking sheets immediately; cool on racks.

Kid Participation:
* Add wet ingredients
* Add dry ingredients
* Scoop dough
* Ask if eating the cookies will help them make milk


Roasted Parmesan Broccoli

Original Recipe HERE
I can count on my kids eating broccoli 90% of the time if I serve it steamed or roasted (the other 10% accounts for bad moods, stomach aches [real or imagined], and just general unpredictability).  So I figured that this would be eaten by 66% percent of them.  But they all wolfed down their portions and asked for more...and more...and more, until we ran out.  I thought it was great, too, and was disappointed to sacrifice any chance at a second helping for the greater good of my kids' health.  This will be a go-to standard.
1 lb fresh broccoli florets
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, pressed or finely chopped
1/3 cup panko
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
salt & pepper
1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2) In a large bowl, combine olive oil and garlic.  Allow to infuse for 10 minutes.
3) Meanwhile, chop broccoli into bite-size pieces.
4) Toss broccoli with olive oil and garlic; coat well.
5) Season broccoli with salt and pepper.
6) Toss broccoli with Parmesan and panko until evenly coated.
7) Spread broccoli evenly on baking sheet.  Bake 20 minutes or until broccoli is browned.
Kid Participation: Eat it!


Baked Oatmeal with Peaches

Original Recipe HERE
This is another addition to the ever-expanding collection of baked oatmeal dishes.  I can't help it: they are always a hit, are easy to make, are relatively healthy, and usually only require ingredients I already have.
This can be served naked or with milk, cream, yogurt, or ice cream.  We did a few squirts of whipped cream, naturally...what dinner isn't improved by some Redi-Whip?  I used fresh peaches because they are in season, but I wonder if frozen ones would work as well.  Also, the peaches were the star of the show here; the oatmeal was a wallflower.  Next time I'll substitute cinnamon or nutmeg for the ginger.
3 cups quick cooking oats [I used old-fashioned]
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups milk
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil [I substituted applesauce]
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 ripe peaches, diced (peeling optional)
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13" glass baking dish.
2) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients except peaches until well combined.
3) Gently fold in the diced peaches.  Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish.
4) Bake 25-30 minutes, or until set in the middle.
Kid Participation:
* Measure all ingredients
* Whisk oatmeal mixture

Honey Mustard Lentils & Rice

Original Recipe HERE
I took a risk on this one, not sure if it would have enough flavor to appeal to my family nor whether the texture would sit well with them.  The kids all ate some as a side dish - I think the sweetness of the honey was key.  It was a little bland for me...I think fresh onion would've been better.
Next time I will add smoked sausage or something else to turn it into a one-dish meal.  Also, it made a TON of food.  I will definitely cut the ingredient amounts in half.
1 lb green lentils
1 cup brown rice
3 Tablespoons dried minced onion or 1 cup chopped fresh onion [I used dried]
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup mustard [I used Dijon]
1/3 cup honey
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) In a large mixing bowl, combine lentils, rice, onion, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
3) Pour 7 cups hot water into the lentil mixture.  Stir gently.
4) In a small bowl, combine mustard and honey.  Gently fold into lentil mixture.
5) Pour lentil mixture into a 9x13" glass baking dish.  Cover tightly with foil.
6) Bake 60 minutes, or until rice and lentils are soft.
Kid Participation:
* Measure dry ingredients
* Stirring.  Lots of stirring.

Lemon Sugar Sandwich Cookies

Original Recipe HERE
I made these for *N*'s birthday celebration at school.  Because the class had a Flag Day celebration the same day, I colored half the dough red and the other half blue.  Along with the white filing, they had "American Cookies."
I thought they were good and certainly could've eaten the whole batch myself, but I was underwhelmed at the portions.  The cookies were thinner than I expected (though they looked like the picture from the original page) , as well as so chewy and delicate that I had to be very careful about spreading the filling.  So I thought they wouldn't be a big hit with seven-year olds and was hoping *N* wouldn't be disappointed (or embarrassed) by what her mom brought in.  Turns out that many of the kids in the class loved them - a few even telling her that they were the best cookies they'd ever had.  So, into the permanent file this recipe goes.
I would like to make the cookies more substantial but am not sure how to go about that.  An extra half-cup of flour?  Chill the dough for longer (which the original recipe doesn't call for, but I did anyway) so it doesn't flatten out as much?  More baking soda or powder to have them rise?  This calls for more research, but the cookies are still great as-is.

* For cookies:
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 Tablespoon vanilla
sugar for rolling cookie dough, optional [I did not use]
* For filling:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice [I did not use; I substituted half-n-half or heavy cream]
* For cookies:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2) In a medium bowl, sift or whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3) Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4) Add egg, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla to butter mixture. Mix until combined.
5) Add flour mixture to wet ingredients. Mix slowly until completely combined.
6) Chill dough for at least half an hour.
7) Spoon out dough with a 1-tablespoon scoop.  Roll dough in sugar to coat (I did not do).
8) Place dough balls on baking sheet about 2" apart. Bake 8-10 minutes (do not allow to brown).
9) Let cookies firm up on baking sheet for about 2 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.
10) Spread a layer of filling on one cookie and sandwich with another.
* For filling:
1) In a medium bowl using an electric mixer, cream butter.
2) Mix in sugar and lemon juice or cream.
3) Add a few drops of yellow food coloring (optional).
Kid Participation:
* Measure dry ingredients
* Measure wet ingredients
* Run mixer (make sure they don't accidentally crank it up to full speed right away and create a flour explosion)
* Scoop dough
* Roll dough balls in sugar

Creamy Spicy Pasta with Peppers and Sausage

Original Recipe HERE
I love alfredo sauces, but I'm the only one in the family.  I don't get it, since the ones I make involve Parmesan and cream cheese and butter and milk...all things the other members eat in spades.  So I thought this was a great pasta dish, but I couldn't tell what others felt.  They all ate their portions, because they contained pasta, and no one here can resist pasta...but the fresh vegetables were pushed to the sides of their plates until I reminded them that they had to finish what they were first served if they wanted any more pasta (which they were then allowed to pick the veggies out of).  I will definitely make it again, maybe subbing in peas or something else they're more likely to eat for one of the peppers.
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound smoked sausage
1 small red onion, halved and sliced thin [I chopped]
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced and separated
2 colored bell peppers, halved and sliced thin [I chopped]
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1-1/2 cups water
8 ounces pasta
2 cups 1% milk
3 ounces low-fat cream cheese
1 teaspoon Cajun or Creole seasoning [I improvised with individual spices]
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1) Slice sausage in half lengthwise, then into 1/4" slices.
2) Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage; cook 2-3 minutes or until it begins to brown.
3) Add onions; cook until slightly softened.
4) Add 4 cloves of garlic and bell peppers.  Cook until the peppers are tender-crisp. Transfer the sausage and peppers to a large plate.
5) Add the tomatoes and water to the skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat.
6) Add the pasta.  Cover; reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook until the pasta is al dente and the liquid is absorbed.
7) While the pasta is cooking, blend the milk, cream cheese, Cajun seasoning, smoked paprika, and flour until smooth (I used a Magic Bullet).
8) In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic; cook 1-2 minutes or until tender and fragrant.
9) Add the blended mixture; cook until smooth and thickened into a sauce.
10) Remove the sauce from heat. Add the Parmesan cheese; stir until melted and smooth.
11) Add the peppers and sausage to the pasta/tomato mixture; stir to combine.
12) Add the garlic sauce to pasta or serve on the side.
Kid Participation: None.

Blueberry Mug Muffins

Original Recipe: provided by my mom
This is a fun, quick project for kids to do (unless they dump over flour; then it becomes a laborious chore for me).  The muffins are surprisingly tasty, considering how they're made.  It's one of those things that's easy for me to say "yes" to when they ask, and it makes their day.
1/4 cup white flour
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of cinnamon [or nutmeg]
1/2 Tablespoon butter, melted
2 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons fresh blueberries
1) In a standard-size mug, stir flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon together until fully combined.
2) Add butter; stir until uniform.
3) Add milk; stir until uniform.
4) Mix in berries.
5) Microwave on high for 90 seconds.  Muffin will rise during cooking and sink back down afterward. 

Kid Participation: Everything!