Craisin & Almond Quinoa with Vinaigrette

Original Recipe: My own concoction

This is something I threw together when I realized we didn't have enough Christmas leftovers to feed the six of us.  It took less than 20 minutes from start to finish, and every person at the table gave it the thumbs up.

The portions can all be played with (except the water-to-quinoa ratio).  When I first stirred the vinaigrette into the finished quinoa part, I thought it was too much.  Luckily it absorbed into the quinoa or something, because it wasn't a soupy mess.  But next time I'd make a little more quinoa for better balance.

4 green onions, chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 cups water or broth
2 cups quinoa
1/2 to 1 cup craisins
1/2 to 1 cup slivered or sliced almonds
crumbled goat cheese [optional]
* For vinaigrette:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons real maple syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt

(1) In a large sauce pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat.
(2) Add onions.  Saute 3 to 4 minutes until softened.
(3) Add quinoa & water to saucepan.  Heat until boiling, then simmer about 15 minutes or until quinoa is done (drain excess water if needed).  About 10 minutes into the cooking, add craisins so they have time to soften.
(4) While quinoa is cooking, toast almonds in skillet or toaster oven until very lightly browned.
(5) Whisk all vinaigrette ingredients together.
(6) Add almonds & vinaigrette to finished quinoa.
(7) After mixture has cooled somewhat, add goat cheese if using.

Kid Participation: None...I'd reached my limit on "kid help" while making Christmas cookies earlier in the week.


Pumpkin Pancakes

Original Recipe HERE

Pumpkin pancakes often are gummy in the middle because of the moisture content of the pumpkin.  These weren't as gooey as previous recipes I've tried, and they puffed up nicely instead of stayed flat.  The batter was very thick and didn't spread much in the pan, which I'm not used to, but it meant I could make smaller pancakes (yay for faster cooking) and fit more in each round in the skillet (yay for efficient cooking).  I got about 22 pancakes out of this, and I wish I'd doubled the recipe because the superhuman appetites of my kids weren't satisfied with 4 pancakes each.  Leftovers for the next day would've been nice, especially since the kids asked that I make them again.

1 egg
1 & 3/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tablespoons applesauce
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

(1) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, pumpkin puree, and applesauce.
(2) Into a separate bowl, sift together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
(3) Combine dry ingredients into wet.  Stir until just mixed but still lumpy.
(4) Cook pancakes on a griddle or in a skillet over medium-low heat until a few bubbles appear in the batter.  Flip and cook until done.

Kid Participation:
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Measure dry ingredients
* Sift dry ingredients
* Spoon batter into skillet (because it's thick and there's less chance of it turning into a mess in the skillet)


Southwest Pasta with Beans & Corn

Original Recipe HERE

This is one of those throw-together recipes that surprised me.  I just needed to make something for dinner and grabbed random cans out of the pantry after being inspired by this.  Everyone thought it was great.  I wasn't as sold as the rest of them, but that could be because the evil olives were lurking throughout.

The seasonings are purely to-taste...any amounts or substitutions are possible.  Next time I'll probably go even easier and just do a few shakes of the McCormick Southwestern blend.

12 oz. pasta
1/2 cup mayonnaise [I used light]
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans, drained [I used pinto]
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes, drained
1 can (4 oz) sliced black olives, drained & rinsed
2 cups frozen corn
grated parmesan [optional]

(1) Begin cooking pasta according to directions.
(2) In a large serving bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and spices.
(3) Add beans, tomatoes, and olives to bowl; mix well.
(4) With a few minutes left on pasta's cooking time, add corn to boiling water.
(5) Drain pasta and corn; mix with beans and tomatoes.
(6) Serve warm or refrigerate two hours.  Garnish with parmesan if desired.

Kid Participation: 
* Measure spices
* Whisk mayonnaise
* Stir all ingredients together


Slow Cooker Chicken & Black Bean Soup

Original Recipe HERE

This was a huge hit, which surprised me because I've made many variations on Mexican/chicken/bean soups before.  Before it was even served, *J* told me that it looked delicious.  I served it with everyone's favorite cornbread, and the only complaint I heard was when I cut them off from more helpings.

The seasonings can be adjusted for heat.  I kept it mild so the kids would eat it.  To make it easier, I could've just done some generous shakes of McCormick Southwest seasoning.

I gave the soup a few zaps with the immersion blender to make it thicker.  We ate it straight from our bowls with spoons, but it could be served over rice or scooped with tortilla chips if thickened enough.

3 or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts [I cut each in half]
2 cans (15 oz each) black beans, drained & rinsed
2 cans (15 oz each) corn, drained & rinsed
2 cans (10 oz each) diced tomatoes & chilis [I used mild Rotel]
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1/2 Tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
4 large garlic cloves, minced [I did not use]
4 to 8 ounces cream cheese
garnishes: shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado, green onions, etc.

(1) Place all ingredients except for cream cheese into slow cooker.
(2) Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours, or until chicken is cooked.
(3) Remove chicken; shred.
(4) If desired, blend soup to desired consistency.  Return chicken to slow cooker.
(4) Add cream cheese; stir.  Heat until cream cheese is melted.
(6) Serve with garnishes.

Kid Participation: None.


Pina Colada Baked Oatmeal

Original Recipe HERE

The kids loved this, maybe because they didn't expect the combination of pineapple and oatmeal.  Even *J*, who normally doesn't like coconut, gobbled it up.  Most of it was eaten for dinner, but the leftovers reheated well the next day for breakfast.

It was definitely sweet.  Next time I will decrease the brown sugar amount.  Using unsweetened coconut, like the original recipe asks for, would help - but I can only find the standard stuff in the blue bag at our grocery store.

3 cups quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 & 1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil [I used melted coconut oil]
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 can (15 oz) crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup shredded coconut [I used sweetened]
milk, coconut milk, cream, or yogurt for serving

(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9x13" baking dish.
(2) Sift together flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.
(3) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, oil, vanilla, pineapple, and coconut.
(4) Combine dry ingredients, oats, sugar, and wet ingredients.  Stir until well mixed.
(5) Pour batter into baking dish.  Bake 25-30 minutes, or until oatmeal is set in the middle.

Kid Participation:
* Measure dry ingredients
* Sift dry ingredients
* Combine wet ingredients
* Stir everything together


Sloppy Joe Bites

Original Recipe HERE

This is a rare recipe that got rave reviews from *J*.  He ate two of them and asked for a third, and the following night he was even excited about leftovers.  The others liked them, too, but I barely paid attention to their reactions because I was busy picking my jaw up off the floor.

I made the from-scratch sloppy joe mixture since cracking open a can of the stuff would resurrect childhood memories better left in the past.  I used Pillsbury Grands buttermilk biscuits, and the ratio of biscuit to joe wasn't balanced.  Next time I'll use smaller biscuits or maybe the flaky kind.

3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon minced onion
1 Tablespoon paprika [I did 1/2 smoked and 1/2 regular]
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground beef
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
6 to 8 ounces water
1 Tablespoon mustard
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
2 canisters (8 or 10 count each) canned biscuits
1 to 2 cups shredded cheese [I used cheddar]

(1) Mix together brown sugar, minced onion, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
(2) In a large skillet, brown the beef.
(3) Add tomato sauce, 6-8 ounces of water, mustard, cider vinegar, and spice mixture.  Stir to combine; simmer 5-10 minutes. 
(4) Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease muffin tins.
(5) Flatten or roll out biscuits.  Press each into a muffin well.
(6) Fill biscuits with sloppy joe mixture; sprinkle with cheese.
(7) Bake 10-12 minutes.

Kid Participation: 
* Flatten biscuits
* Put biscuits into muffin wells
* Scoop in sloppy joe mixture
* Sprinkle cheese


Basic Buttermilk Waffles

Original Recipe HERE

These are standard, no-frills waffles.  A good recipe for when you want the waffle to just be an accompaniment to elaborate toppings.  Sadly, this night we only had maple syrup...but that classic combo was still a satisfying meal.

I didn't have pastry flour like the original recipe called for, so I used white all-purpose.  They weren't the light, crispy waffles that the pastry flour would've given me, but they were perfectly fine anyway.

I got 11 approximately 4" waffles from this recipe.  Next time I'll double it to have breakfast pre-made for the next day.

2 large eggs
1 & 3/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted & cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup almond flour [optional; I used]

(1) Preheat waffle iron.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray.
(2) In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla.
(3) In a separate bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and almond flour.
(4) Combine dry ingredients into wet until just mixed.
(5) Ladle batter onto iron; cook according to iron's directions.

Kid Participation:
* Measure wet ingredients
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Measure dry ingredients
* Sift dry ingredients
* Combine all ingredients


Bean & Salsa Soup

Original Recipe HERE

This meal is so simple, my three-year old could do it.  So he did.  I assisted with opening cans and operating the stove, but otherwise he did the entire thing.  Everyone had at least one serving and declared it "good." I always have all these ingredients on hand, and this can be prepared hours in advance or in about 15 minutes.

I tweaked the ingredients to make a more substantial soup.  And to negate my previous statement, for once in my life, I didn't have a can of black beans in the pantry, so I used two cans of white beans.  Next time, I'd like something with a little more texture in it: green or red onions, red pepper, or something else to give a little crunch.  Also, I'll probably do a few zaps with the immersion blender to make it thicker.

1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained & rinsed
1 can (15 oz) navy beans [or other white beans], drained & rinsed
2 cups frozen corn
1 jar (12 to 15 oz) salsa
1 can (small) sliced olives, drained & rinsed
2 cups water or broth [I did 1 cup of each]
1 teaspoon Southwest Seasoning [McCormick brand, or any related spices]
flour tortillas [optional]
garnishes (avocado, chives, shredded cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, etc.)

(1) Combine all ingredients except tortillas and garnishes in a soup pot or slow cooker
(2) Heat on the stove until simmering or in the slow cooker for 2 hours on low.
(3) If desired, cut tortillas into bite-size pieces and layer in individual bowls.  Garnish soup to taste.

Kid Participation: Everything.


Egg McMuffin Casserole

Original Recipe HERE

Is it OK to call this an Egg McMuffin casserole?  No McDonald's products were harmed in the making of it.

We had this for dinner, and three out of three kids said they liked it.  No second helpings were had because we were running supremely late and bedtime was on the horizon, but I think they would've if I let them.

I almost put shredded cheese in this (because if it's basically a giant mess of breakfast sandwich-ness, how was there no cheese??), and I'll add it to the egg/milk mixture next time.  I think it would've added that little extra flavor I was looking for (because I forgot to put in the salt and pepper, and I debated things like oregano or Montreal Steak seasoning or Jane's Krazy but didn't follow through).  I could've put vegetables in if diced small and cooked with the sausage, but *P* reminded me that *J* would pick them all out.  Next time I'll sneak some finely chopped spinach and red pepper, maybe.

Also, this is a very kid-friendly meal, preparation-wise.  *P* helped me make it at lunchtime, and I put it in the oven when we got home from afterschool activities at 6:00pm.

6 English muffins, torn into large bite-sized pieces
1 package (1 lb) ground sausage [I used one 16 oz "tube"]
1/2 cup onion, diced small
1 teaspoon jarred minced garlic
8 eggs [I used 4 whole eggs and the equivalent of 4 egg whites]
1 & 1/2 cups milk
2 Tablespoons spicy mustard
salt & pepper

(1) Grease a 9x13" glass baking dish.
(2) In a large skillet over medium heat, brown sausage until no longer pink, breaking it up as it cooks.  Add onion and garlic during final minutes of cooking.
(3) Toss together muffin pieces and sausage mixture.  Spread evenly in baking dish.
(4) In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, mustard, salt, and pepper.
(5) Pour egg mixture over the muffin mixture.  Bake immediately or cover and refrigerate overnight.
(6) In an oven heated to 350 degrees F, bake casserole 45-50 minutes or until eggs are set in the middle.  Cover with foil during last 15 minutes to avoid browning if needed.

Kid Participation:
* Tear muffins
* Stir together muffins and sausage
* Crack eggs
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Pour egg mixture

Two-Ingredient Cream Cheese Dip

Original Recipe HERE

Possibly the easiest dip ever.  I didn't make this with the brand and flavor that the recipe used...there was no need to make a special trip just for that.  I got a "caramelized onion & balsamic" jelly from the grocery store and figured it was close enough.  The dip was very good, although a little sweet - which would be easily remedied by using a more savory jelly (or just using a relish like the recipe called for).  

Really, you can't go wrong here.  Even a fruit preserve + cream cheese = tasty, especially if scooped with something like graham crackers.  And now this post is going off on a tangent and it'll take longer to read it than make the actual dip, so I will wrap it up.


2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, at room temperature [I used Neufchatel]
1 jar (10 oz) pepper and onion relish

(1) In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy.
(2) Stir in the relish until thoroughly combined.

Kid Participation: Run mixer.


Asparagus, Egg, & Bacon Salad

Original Recipe HERE

I knew this was a guaranteed failure for my kids before I even made it, but I figured I'd like it.  And I did.  Good thing I doubled some of the elements (new amounts reflected below) because it fed me the next day, too.

I made it ahead of time for dinner and combined everything except the bacon...saved that until the end.  I also had some extra tomatoes hanging around, so those went in.  I'd consider goat cheese or feta just to try it, but it's perfectly fine without it.  I served it room temperature the first time and scarfed it cold from the fridge the second, so temperature didn't matter (or my standards are very low.  See: I eat 90% of my meals standing up right now).

2 hard boiled eggs, peeled & sliced
2.5 to 3 cups chopped asparagus
4 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped & seeded
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

(1) Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Add asparagus; cook 2 to 3 minutes until tender yet firm.
(2) Drain asparagus.  Run under cold water.  Set aside.
(3) In a small bowl, whisk together Dijon, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
(4) Toss the asparagus, egg, and tomato with dressing.  Top with bacon just before serving.

Kid Participation: None.


Quinoa Pilaf with Apples & Cranberries

Original Recipe HERE
I thought this was really good, though reactions from the rest of the family was split.  Since it was easy to make and held up well over several days, this will be a contender for something like Thanksgiving.  The apples, cranberry, and pecans give a autumnal vibe.
It made an insane amount of food: we ate it as a side for two dinners, plus it gave me several lunches.  Next time I'll cut the amount of quinoa in half (original amounts reflected below).
I don't often like nuts in any sort of recipe, but I'm glad I went against type and made the toasted pecans.  They added a nice balance to the other flavors.  I also added some finely-chopped sharp cheddar and gouda in the hopes that the addition of cheese would make the entire thing appeal to the kids.

1 cup white quinoa
1 & 1/2 cups red quinoa
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 one red onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 & 1/2 teaspoons Herbes De Provence [I used Tuscan blend]
1 teaspoon Salt
pepper to taste
2 Granny Smith apples, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup pecans, toasted
1 cup sharp cheddar, diced [optional]
1 cup gouda, diced [optional]

(1) Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh colander; drain.
(2) In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine quinoa and broth.  When it comes to a boil, cover and turn heat to medium low.  Simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes until quinoa is al dente.
(3) Meanwhile, in a saute pan over medium high, add olive oil, onions, celery and garlic; stir.
(4) Add herbs, salt and pepper. Saute until the onions and celery are translucent, about 8 minutes.
(5) Add apples and wine; simmer 5 minutes to cook out alcohol.(6) Pour onion mixture over cooked quinoa; stir until combined.
(7) Fold in cranberries, pecans, and cheese. Check for seasoning.
Kid Participation: None.

Baked Peanut Butter & Apple Oatmeal

Original Recipe HERE
Yet another oatmeal dish to add to the ever-growing list of easy oatmeal dinners.  I wasn't sure how well this would go over, since *J* isn't a peanut butter fan.  But he asked for seconds.
I doubled this recipe because there was no way an 8x8" portion would feed all of us.  The new amounts are shown below.
I could've added some chia seeds, ground flax seeds, or wheat germ...but I forgot.  There was a strong peanut butter taste, which might been due to my spontaneous addition of PB2.  I didn't mind it, since I love me some peanut butter.  But next time I'll leave out the powder or decrease the amount of peanut butter.  And how many more times can I say "peanut butter" in one post?  Peanut butter, peanut butter, peanut butter.
4 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 & 3/4 cups milk
1 & 3/4 cups water
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup creamy peanut butter, warmed
2 to 3 Tablespoons PB2 [optional]
3 large apples, diced [I peeled them]
(1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13" baking dish.
(2) In a large bowl, mix together oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
(3) In a medium bowl, whisk eggs.  Add milk, applesauce, and vanilla extract; whisk thoroughly.
(5) Pour the liquid mixture over the oat mixture; stir to combine.
(6) Add peanut butter; mix.
(7) Add apples; stir. Pour mixture into prepared dish.
(8) Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until oatmeal is set.
Kid Participation:
* Measure & mix dry ingredients
* Measure & whisk wet ingredients
* Chop apple slices with a very dull knife


Ham & Cheddar Waffles

Original Recipe HERE
Winner winner, waffles for dinner.  I shook things up and stepped away from the standard or dessert-leaning waffles of days past.  These were a successful adventure.
I doubled this to feed four of us.  I got 12 square waffles using three rounds of batter (my iron makes four squares at a time).  It may not sound like enough, but the waffles were filling.

The original recipe says to, ideally, allow the batter to sit for 20-30 minutes before baking because the waffles will be fluffier.  I did have the time, so I waited.  I have nothing to compare the final product to, but the waffles weren't dense or heavy, so maybe they were the proper amount of fluffy?

Being waffles, my kids wanted to use maple syrup with them.  I was fine without it, but they tasted fine either way.  The sweetness paired well with the cheese and ham...kind of like a McGriddle (not that I would have any familiarity with how a McGriddle tastes...).
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard [I used ground mustard]
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese [do not use pre-shredded]
1/2 cup finely chopped deli ham
1 heaping tablespoon chopped chives or thinly sliced green onions [I used dried minced onions]
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
(1) In a large bowl, whisk together flour, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and dry mustard.
(2) Add cheese, ham, and chives (or onions) and lightly toss.
(3) In a separate bowl, whisk buttermilk, oil, and egg.
(4) Add wet ingredients to dry; stir until everything is just incorporated.
(5) Preheat waffle iron.  Spray with non-stick spray.
(6) Ladle batter into iron.  Cook according to iron's instructions to achieve lightly golden waffles.

Kid Participation:
* Whisk dry ingredients
* Whisk wet ingredients
* Stir all ingredients togehter
* Experiment with dipping and drizzling options

Broccoli & Cheese Tots

Original Recipe HERE

Making vegetables dippable and combining them with cheese are my go-to ways of getting the kids to eat them (though I know I'm lucky that the boys are usually willing to at least taste something new, and I can usually count on *N* to eat at least a whole serving).  These tots do both.  The flavor wasn't anything amazing, but they served their purpose.

I used fresh broccoli and didn't measure; I chopped up just under a head-and-a-half.  I also eyeballed the amount of onion and cheese.  They turned out fine, though when I portioned them onto the baking sheet (using a small cookie scoop), I was worried they weren't going to hold together and thought I should've used more egg whites.  The kids dipped them in ketchup or barbecue sauce, and the entire batch of 24 was eaten.  Success.
2 to 2 & 1/2 cups (12 oz) broccoli florets
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion [I used regular onion]
2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
salt & pepper
(1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil, or grease it.
(2) Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add broccoli; cook for 2 minutes.
(3) Add chopped onions to water (if not using green onion); cook another minute.
(4) Drain and rinse under cold water.  Dry with a dish towel.
(5) Finely chop broccoli and onions.  Transfer to a large bowl.
(6) Add all other ingredients to broccoli.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
(7) Spoon heaping tablespoons of the mixture onto the baking sheet.  Flatten slightly.
(8) Bake tots for 16-18 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, or until golden.

Kid Participation:
* Stir together all ingredients
* Spoon broccoli "dough" onto baking sheet


Ritz-Topped Vegetable Casserole

Original Recipe HERE
The amount of mayonnaise in this recipe made me cringe, but I thought it was worth trying because the bulk of the dish was straight-up vegetables.  And I'm not above smothering veggies in sauces, condiments, whathaveyou in order to get my kids to eat them...as I pretend that I'm not negating their health benefits by doing so.
I couldn't find American cheese in a block, so I diced up several of the individually-wrapped slices.  The pieces stuck together, so I was worried that it would mean pockets of cheese in the finished product instead of a uniform distribution.  Whatever ended up happening with the cheese wasn't an issue, but I would take more time to do it properly.
Next time, I will mix the melted butter with the crushed crackers before spreading them over the top.  The coverage was uneven doing it as the original recipe instructed.  Also, I bet this would be even better with the French's fried onions on top (because most things in this world would be).
Each kid asked for multiple rounds of this and told me to make it again.  It was super easy, and the original post said that it can be made up to a day ahead.  I'm sure that this convenient meal will be repeated.  Also, I learned that my kids like lima beans (from the frozen veggie medley)...they've been lucky to be spared the dreaded legume thus far, but it turns out it was for naught.
1/4 cup salted butter, divided
1 cup finely-chopped celery
1/2 to 1 cup finely-chopped yellow onion
2 to 3 cloves finely-chopped garlic
1 bag (32 oz) frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup (or 4 oz) finely diced American cheese
¾ cup mayonnaise [I used 2/3 cup mayo and the rest Ranch dressing]
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
(2) In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt half of the butter over medium heat.
(3) Saute celery and onion until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add garlic toward the end.  Remove from the heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
(4) Add mixed vegetables, corn, American cheese, mayonnaise, and Ranch (if using) to the bowl.  Combine thoroughly.
(5) Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish.
(6) In a small bowl, mix together crushed Ritz and melted butter.
(7) Evenly sprinkle the crushed Ritz over the top of the casserole.
(9) Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
Kid Participation:
* Mix vegetables and sauce
* Measure mayo and Ranch
* Crush Ritz
* Sprinkle Ritz