Family Friendly Summer Meals with Kraft

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias #RollIntoSavings

During the summer months, many families experience tight times around the 1st and 15th of the month.  We were challenged to use some KRAFT products (featured on rollback at Walmart) to come up with easy summer meals that would serve our entire family for under $20.  We accepted and came up with a menu that our kids not only enjoyed, but that they could help prepare.

Kraft Summer Meals-6

Let’s face it, summertime with kids can be tough!  Not only do you not have that lovely 8-hour break every day when the kids are in school, you now have to find ways to fill that time with activities to keep the kids (and yourself) from going stir crazy.

When we start talking about dinner, it gets even harder.  We want something light enough to treat us well on those hot summer evenings, but filling enough to keep those little bellies from being hungry all night.

I try to combine our summer activities with meal planning, shopping, and preparation.  It’s a great way to keep the kids active, invested in their food, and to help them build skills that they’ll need down the road.  One day, I asked the kids what they wanted to help make for dinner and they answered with a resounding call for pasta salad.  So we decided to make an Italian Chopped Pasta Salad (see recipe below).

Kraft Summer Meals-5

The kids love pasta salad because it tastes good.  I love it because it’s simple and cheap (plus, it really does taste good!).  So the kids and I headed off to Walmart to buy a few things.  To start, I grabbed a box of pasta.  The kids picked shells, but spirals or elbows work great also because they hold onto the dressing and other ingredients.  Next I added some KRAFT Mayo and a bottle of KRAFT Zesty Italian Dressing to my shopping cart so that I could make my base.

Kraft on Rollback Summer Meals

After that, the sky’s the limit.  You can add just about anything to your pasta salad and it’ll taste good (within reason, of course).  We wanted to make an Italian pasta salad, so we got some cherry tomatoes, black olives, green onions, salami, and VELVEETA Swiss Cheese Slices.  When we got home, I cooked the pasta, cut up and measured the other ingredients, and set them out so that Matthew and I could get to work.

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With everything measured out, Matthew could just start pouring it all into the mixing bowl.

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Sometimes, a little guy still needs some help from his dad, though.

Kraft Summer Meals-3

Once that was finished, we set it into the fridge for about an hour to let it all come together.  In order to make the meal something a little more substantial, we had picked up the makings for a BBQ Mushroom Turkey Burger (see recipe below).

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I cooked down some mushrooms and combined them with some KRAFT Barbecue Sauce.  I slathered a bun with some of the KRAFT Mayo, added a cooked turkey burger patty, and topped it with one of the VELVEETA Swiss Cheese Slices, the BBQ mushrooms, and the top of the bun.

Kraft Summer Meals-4

We served the burger with a side of pasta salad and a pickle for a delicious, filling meal that cost a grand total of $14 for 4 servings.  That’s only $3.50 per serving!!  Plus, we had enough pasta salad left over to account for two lunches.  At any casual American restaurant, you could easily pay $14 for just the one serving.  If that’s not Simply Budgeted, I don’t know what is!

How are you stretching your food budget this summer?  Are you getting the kids involved?  Leave us a comment and share your story!

Summer Meals - Italian Chopped Pasta Salad

Italian Chopped Pasta Salad

 

Ingredients

1/2 C KRAFT Zesty Italian Dressing
1/4 C KRAFT Mayo
8 oz. pasta (1/2 box), cooked and drained
2 slices VELVEETA Swiss Cheese Slices
2 oz. salami
1-2.25 oz. can sliced black olives
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1.  Blend dressing and mayo in a large mixing bowl.
2.  Combine remaining ingredients with dressing mixture.
3.  Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.  Enjoy!

 Summer Meals- BBQ Mushroom Turkey Burgers

BBQ Mushroom Turkey Burgers

 

Ingredients

1 Tbls. olive oil
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste
2 oz. KRAFT Barbecue Sauce
4 frozen turkey burger patties
4 sandwich buns
4 tbsp KRAFT Mayo
4 slices VELVEETA Swiss Cheese Slices

Directions

1.  Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper.  Cook until mushrooms release most of their moisture and just begin to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add barbecue sauce.  Mix to combine, remove from heat, and set aside.
2.  Cook turkey patty according to package directions.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
3.  Top the bottom of each bun with 1 tbsp mayo, 1 cooked turkey patty, 1 slice of cheese, 1/4 of the BBQ mushroom mixture, and the top of the bun.
4.  Serve and enjoy!

Charred Romaine Salad with Burst Tomatoes

Grilling is most often associated with applying large amounts of heat to beautiful hunks of meat.  Growing up, I can remember seeing my father outdoors, grilling chicken, steaks, sausages…whatever, and my mother, inside, preparing whatever side dish would accompany our charred, smokey meat.

As much as I love a cold side dish with grilled food, sometimes, I have to wonder why we don’t use the grill more often to make our sides.  Does it make any sense to heat up the house boiling potatoes or noodles when the grill is already on?  That really got me thinking a little differently about the whole concept of sides and using the grill to cook them.  Instead of just moving the pot of water to the grill, why not grill some veggies right alongside the meat?

Well, that took me to the next level.  A steak with a side salad is nice, but how about taking that side salad up a notch or two by charring the lettuce and cooking the tomatoes.

The result?  My Charred Romaine Salad with Burst Tomatoes, Ranch Dressing, and Feta Cheese.

Grilled Romaine Lettuce #grilling #romaine #salad

I take a head (or two) of romaine lettuce and slice it up lengthwise.  I brush it with a little olive oil and place it, cut-side down, onto a medium grill.  I cook the lettuce until I’ve got a nice char and the inner leaves are wilted slightly.

Burst Tomatoes #grilling #tomatoes

At the same time, I heat a pan over the grill and add some olive oil, grape tomatoes, salt, and pepper.  I allow the tomatoes to cook until they have all burst in the pan and the juices just start to thicken.

Charred Romaine Salad with Burst Tomatoes #grilling #salad

I chop up the romaine and transfer to a serving platter.  I sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon that I have also charred on the grill.  Next, I spoon on the burst tomatoes, careful not to drown the lettuce with the juices.  I add some ranch dressing and top with feta cheese for a salty finish.  With each bite you experience crunchy and creamy, sweet and salty, and that incredible smokey flavor that only grilling can provide.

I’m not sure what I’m grilling next, but I’m sure that it’ll be more than just another hunk of meat!

What are you grilling this season?  Leave us a comment and share your story with us.

Charred Romaine Salad with Burst Tomatoes

Ingredients

2 heads romaine lettuce
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 lemon, halved
20 grape tomatoes
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup ranch dressing
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Directions

Preheat a grill to medium heat.  Add a small sautee pan to heat.

Slice romaine lettuce lengthwise.  Brush each half with olive oil.  Place, cut-side down, onto preheated grill.  Cook until heated through, charred, and slightly wilted.

Place lemon halves, cut-side down, onto grill.  Cook until lightly charred.

Add 2 Tbsp oil to sautee pan.  Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper.  Cook until all tomatoes have burst and juices have thickened slightly.

Slice romaine heads into bite-sized pieces and transfer, as intact as possible, to a serving platter.  Season with salt and pepper and squeeze just a little bit of lemon juice onto each head.  Top with burst tomatoes and some (not all) of the thickened juices.  Pour dressing over the salad and sprinkle with crumbled feta.

Enjoy!

Making Springtime Produce Shine with Kraft Fresh Take

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser. #collectivebias

Fresh Take #shop #collectivebias #Freshtake

It has been a hard winter.  I am very excited that things have started to warm up and that spring veggies have started to come in.  If you know where to look, you can already find beautiful spring peas, asparagus, baby spinach, and green onions.  What better than some farm fresh eggs to let this beautiful produce stand out.  With a little help from Kraft Fresh Take Italian Parmesan, I made a lovely Crustless Green Quiche for spring.

Fresh Take #shop #collectivebias #Freshtake

First, I headed to Walmart to get my Fresh Take.  Hanging there with the packaged, shredded cheese is my monster shortcut.  Instead of purchasing a huge package of cheese and making fresh breadcrumbs, I can just grab this.  I’m using Italian Parmesan, but be on the lookout for Cheddar Jack w/ Bacon or Southwest 3 Cheese.  The suggested use is to coat chicken, pork, or fish, but I have other plans!

Fresh Take #shop #collectivebias #Freshtake

I coat my pie plate with butter, drop in the seasoned breadcrumbs, and shake it all around until the plate is completely coated.

Fresh Take #shop #collectivebias #Freshtake

Next, I turn my attention to the beautiful spring veggies.  I chop them up into bite-sized pieces and mix them with the egg, milk, and three-quarters of the cheese from the Fresh Take package.

Fresh Take #shop #collectivebias #Freshtake

I pour the egg and veggie mixture right into the coated pie plate and top with more of the Fresh Take cheese.

Fresh Take #shop #collectivebias #Freshtake

After baking for 35-40 minutes in a 350-degree oven, here’s what you get.  Beautiful, right?  It releases easily from the  plate, has a nice, light crunch from the bread crumbs, and the egg with the green veggies just tastes like spring.  A slight bitterness from the spinach and asparagus, sweetness from the peas, and that great hit of onion.  Just fabulous!

Fresh Take #shop #collectivebias #Freshtake

With a light salad, this makes a great dinner meal, but, personally, I love a leftover slice warmed up for breakfast.  YUM!!

Crustless Green Quiche

Ingredients

1 tbsp butter
1 package Kraft Fresh Take Italian Parmesan, divided
8 eggs
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup packed baby spinach, chopped
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
10-15 asparagus spears, prepared and chopped
3 green onion tops, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350.

Smear pie plate with butter.  Empty seasoned bread crumbs from Fresh Take package into pie plate.  Shake and turn pie plate until completely coated with bread crumbs.

Whisk eggs, milk, salt, and pepper until thoroughly combined.  Mix veggies and 3/4 of the cheese from the Fresh Take package into the eggs.

Pour egg mixture into prepared pie plate.  Top with remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow to rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing.  Enjoy!

 

Wouldn’t this be a great way to start off your Easter Sunday?  How would you use Kraft #FreshTake in a new and creative way?

Ad: Fast Weeknight Meals with Tyson Gluten-Free Chicken

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser. #CollectiveBias

Since Beth works full-time out of the home and I work from home while attempting to maintain the chaos that comes with three mostly elementary-aged kids, I am regularly looking for ways to put a decent meal on the table in a hurry.  One of my problems is that I get bored with the same food all of the time.  I constantly have to change it up a bit, including trying ethnic foods and healthier options like low-fat or even gluten-free recipes.  My kids (and Beth) are not always on board with me, so I have to make sure to consider them when I’m coming up with meal plans.

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So I was shopping at our local Sam’s Club, thinking about how to plan out meals that would make everyone happy when I ran across one of the demonstration tables.

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They had out some samples of Tyson’s Gluten-Free Grilled & Ready chicken.  They had chopped it up, put it on a chip, and sprinkled it with a little cumin and shredded cheese before baking it in the oven just to melt the cheese.  With a side of salsa or guacamole, it was a nice little nacho.  Most importantly, they used frozen chicken that cooks incredibly fast!

Tyson's Gluten-Free-4

I headed straight for the meats aisle in the freezer section to pick up a bag.  At the time, I wasn’t sure what my plan would be, but I have to admit that the “Gluten Free” label kind of confused me.  I mean, isn’t all chicken gluten free?  As it turns out, yes, chicken is gluten-free, BUT it is possible that prepared, frozen chicken is marinated or flavored in liquids or seasonings that contain gluten.  Interesting, right?  Well, that put me on a bent to use this chicken in an entirely gluten-free recipe.

Tyson's Gluten-Free-1

I decided to lean a bit towards Indian cuisine.  I started 1 cup of lentils in the slow cooker with 4 cups of water, 1 bay leaf, and some pepper.  Cook on low for about 4 hours, add some salt and you are all set.  About 30 minutes before dinner, I got going.  I cooked up a pot of rice.  Just bring 1 cup of rice and 2 cups of water to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes.  I warmed up the chicken in the microwave according to package directions, chopped it up, and added it to a yogurt-basil raita.  To make the raita, I simply combined 1-5 oz container of Greek yogurt, 4-5 shredded basil leaves, 1 mashed garlic clove , the zest from 1 lemon, the juice from 1/2 lemon, and salt and pepper to taste.  To serve, I put some rice in a bowl, topped it with the lentils, and served the chicken, skewered, on the side.  Who doesn’t like eating off of a stick?  Take a look!

Tyson's Gluten-Free-2

Unfortunately, not everyone was as excited about my meal as I was.  Have you ever heard of an elementary-aged kid who is not a finicky eater?  They are rare, that’s for sure.  That’s why the Tyson Gluten Free Grilled & Ready Chicken Breasts are pretty nice.  I can enjoy my “fancy” meal and just warm up another chicken breast or two to chop up for grilled chicken nuggets with french fries and ketchup.  That smile says it all, doesn’t it?

Tyson's Gluten-Free-3

Are you looking for some more inspiration for quick weeknight meals that will satisfy your whole family?  Head over to Sam’s Club on March 14 and 15 to check out the in-store demo.  Who knows?  Maybe the demonstrator has some additional tips for you.  Just call ahead to verify the start times.  Make sure you pick up a bag of Tyson Gluten Free Grilled & Ready Chicken while you are there.  You can also follow the conversation and find more gluten-free recipes at #CookItGF.

Do you cook gluten-free or know someone who does?  Have we inspired you to try something new?  Do you have any fresh ideas for us to try?  Leave us a comment and share you story.

Valentine’s Thin Mint Crackers

A friend mentioned making Thin Mints on Facebook back in December. Having two little Girl Scouts in the house (and as of today 30 cases of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies), I was intrigued. We made these in December with Christmas colors. My dad even loved them (minus the sprinkles!) We decided to remake them with Valentine’s Day sprinkles. Try them … then go buy some Girl Scout Thin Mints too! Cookie Moms like me need them out of their houses! lol

alentine's Thin Mint Crackers

Valentine’s Thin Mint Crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 box of Ritz Crackers
  • 1 package of Vanilla Almond Bark
  • 1 package of Chocolate Almond Bark
  • McCormick’s peppermint extract
  • Valentine’s Day Sprinkles

Directions

1. Melt the Almond Bark (one variety at a time) in the microwave as directed on the package.

2. Add a few drops of peppermint extract and stir it into the almond bark.

3. Dip the Ritz cracker in the mint almond bark until coated and lay on a Silpat mat or wax paper.

4. Sprinkle each cracker with Sprinkles.

Enjoy!

This is a simple treat to give to a teacher, a friend, or to make with the kids. Our kids are enjoying them in their lunches already!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Let us know if you try this. We would love to know how it turned out for you!

Kale Stuffed Pork Shoulder for New Year’s

Normally, we don’t do very much for dinner on New Year’s.  I usually make my Hoppin’ John (you can find that recipe over on This Cookin’ Dad) and we might go out to Beth’s parents so that Beth can have the pork and sauerkraut that her mom makes every year.  I’ve long since given up even trying that stuff.  We don’t ordinarily do much here because the kids just haven’t been big enough eaters to warrant cooking up a big meal like that.  This year, I decided to go for it with a Kale Stuffed Pork Shoulder!

Kale Stuffed Pork Shoulder

It was so easy to put together that I’ll probably try to do other versions of this throughout the year.  On top of that, the kids loved it.  They ate up the meat, but they also ate up all of the greens that were stuffed inside.  As you can see, I didn’t exactly hide them.  I guess being flavored with so much pork fat made those greens pretty tasty.  Pork fat will do that!  I’ve seen recipes stuffing pork loin or pork tenderloin but, personally, I much prefer the pork shoulder.  I call for a 3 lb. boneless should here, but those can be pretty hard to find.  One great tip is to use your supermarket butcher.  Grab a 6-7 lb. bone-in pork shoulder (aka Boston butt) and ask him to de-bone it.  Sometimes, they can even butterfly it for you, opening it all up so that you can stuff it.  I take that home and cut it in half for two roasts that’ll feed my family pretty well.

Honestly, that’s the hard part!  If you can get the butcher to do that work for you, you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason not to make this recipe.  I cross-cut the kale so that it almost shredded, small enough to cook up nice in the pork but still have a nice texture.  Next I add in some parsley and minced shallot to help temper some of that bitter green taste.  Mix those with salt, pepper, bread crumbs, and olive oil and you are ready to stuff your roast.  Easy, right?  Feel free to switch up the greens based on what you have or even use frozen spinach that’s been thawed and squeezed out.  Here’s the full recipe.

Kale Stuffed Pork Shoulder

Ingredients

4 cups chopped kale
1 cup chopped parsley
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and pepper to taste
1 3 lb boneless pork shoulder, butterflied

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine kale, parsley, shallot, bread crumbs, and 1/4 cup oil in a large bowl.  Season with plenty of salt and pepper.

Lay plenty of the kale mixture onto the opened pork shoulder.  Use more than you think you need (if it falls out when you roll it up, it wasn’t needed :))  Leave about 1-2 inches on one end of the shoulder kale-free.  Starting with the covered end, roll the shoulder pretty tightly.  Use kitchen twine to tie up the roast or skewers to hold it together.  Season the roast with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add remaining oil.  Sear the roast about 3-5 minutes per side.  Place into the oven for 1 hour or until a thermometer reads about 160.  Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.  Slice and serve.  Enjoy!

What do you usually have for New Year’s dinner?  Leave us a comment and share your story.

Recipe Planning with eMeals

Thanks to Markerly.com for making this post about eMeals possible.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

For a 35% discount on your eMeals subscription, enter the coupon code “cyber35″.

The holidays are a busy time and trying to plan out and cook meals can often take away from the joy of the season.  You want to shop for presents, bake cookies, and share in the spirit of the season with the kids.  Add in the various holiday parties, school activities, Christmas programs, etc. and who has time to plan out a week’s worth of meals, put together a shopping list, buy groceries, and cook the meals.

In order to help with meal planning through the holidays and into 2014, we are excited to be reviewing eMeals, a subscription meal planning service that sends your meal plan, recipes, and shopping list to your inbox each week.  As a bonus, the shopping list is coordinated with the weekly sales at selected stores nationwide.  Not only does it take the thinking out of the picture for you, it can help save you money in the process!  In fact, financial planning celebrity and TV host, Dave Ramsey is a big supporter of eMeals, because it saves families so much money!

Still, I love to cook and plan out meals.  If I’m not doing that, at least sometimes, I’m just not a happy camper.  So, for me, I typically use meal planning services to get some great ideas and to supplement holes in my meal plan.  For those nights that I’m not cooking, I definitely look for convenience.  That’s why we picked the Slow Cooker Clean Eating Family Plan.

eMeals slow cooker dinners

The first recipe we tried out was the slow cooker tomato sauce.  To be honest, I found it to be a little bland and loose for my taste, but when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right?  I took that sauce, added some frozen meatballs, tossed that with some cooked penne, topped it all with cheese, and popped it into the oven for a lovely baked pasta.  It turned out pretty tasty!

eMeals slow cooker dinners-2

One of the hardest things for me to do is turning the previous night’s meal into something completely different.  Part of what I really like about eMeals is that it helps you out with that.  There’s no way that our family could use up a full pot of pasta sauce.  eMeals knows this and had me pull some of it out to make a tomato soup the next night.  Considering my thoughts about the sauce itself, the soup was actually pretty good.  I paired it with a yummy grilled cheese sandwich for a comforting weeknight meal.

eMeals slow cooker dinners-3

By far, my favorite meal was the White Bean and Chicken Chili.  The cook in me had to amp it up a little.  Instead of just tossing everything into the slow cooker, I started by cooking the vegetables and chicken in a sautee pan, browning it all to develop some flavors before starting the long, slow cook.  I felt like it was a little more soup than chili, but after putting it over some rice, adding in some cheese, sour cream, chopped green onions, and fresh diced tomatoes, and topping it with some corn chips, I really appreciated that it wasn’t as thick.  In fact, it’s one of the better chilies that I’ve had in a while and one of the best slow cooker chilies that I’ve ever had.  Like so many other chilies, this one is even better a day or two later.  Great for lunches or leftover nights!

eMeals has already been a help to us and I hope it will continue to be throughout the next year.  Make sure you sign up for your subscription and use the code “cyber35″ to save 35%.

How do you keep up with your menu plan during the busy holiday season?  Leave us a comment and let us know.

Cooking Simply with STAR Olive Oil

Thanks to the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community for making this post about STAR Olive Oil possible.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias and its client.

Ever get surprised by the stuff that you can find when you get looking around?  I went shopping at Walmart and would never have guessed that I could find olive oils that are paired for different products.  Did you know that STAR Olive Oil puts out three different oils that are designed for use with vegetables (Arbequina), poultry/fish (Hojiblanca), or beef/lamb (Picual)?  I thought I was an olive oil snob of sorts!  I’ve even done an olive oil tasting at an olive oil plant in Chile!  How little I knew!

Star Olive Oil-2

At home, we use a lot of olive oil.  We’ll often use it in place of or in combination with butter.  It is so much healthier than butter and you can pretty easily find conversion charts that show you how to substitute olive oil in in place of butter in just about any dish.  Have you ever had an olive oil cake?  Sensational!

Since my experience in Chile, I am much more interested in the sourcing of the oil.  I was excited to see that the Arbequina was a blend that included Chilean oil.  The other two olive oils were both Spanish in origin, but were different varieties.  I was so excited at the prospect of these oils that I had to purchase all three.

Right away, I went to work.  I used the Arbequina to sautee veggies for a broccoli rice casserole and the Hojiblanca to sear and roast some chicken breast.  It was an easy dinner, but shows the versatility of olive oil and the simplicity of it’s use in everyday cooking.

Star Olive Oil

Easy weeknight meal, right?  Make sure you follow along on Twitter and Pinterest to get more information about these products and to see what others are cooking up.

How are you using olive oil in your everyday cooking?  Did you know that different types of olive oils work best with different types of products?  Leave us a comment and let us know.

Adding Veggies to Lasagna

One of the hardest things for us to do for dinner in our house is to add green to any food.  We regularly have to hear complaints about not liking “green stuff”.  It’s actually kind of funny since they will gladly eat raw broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc. dipped in ranch dressing.  We know they like veggies.  Put them into the dishes, though, and, apparently, it’s just not acceptable.

Still, I’m not one to run from challenges or to “sneak” veggies into a dish without the kids knowing about it.  Thankfully, I know that the kids love everything about lasagna.  It’s an easy way to introduce some of that stuff that they complain about into something that I know they’ll eat.  I took a jarred sauce and added some cooked beef and mushrooms to it.  Nothing to jump out of your socks about there.  I took the typical ricotta cheese mixture and added about 8 oz. of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of all of the extra water.  Again, not really any extra work here.

Adding Veggies to Lasagna

Did the kids fuss about the green?  Of course they did!!  I had them try one bite, though.  When they couldn’t even taste that there was spinach in there, they proceeded to gobble up the rest of it.  I’m trying hard to get them to understand that liking the taste of each individual ingredient is far less important than liking the taste of the final product.  I’m not a big fan of cooked carrots, but to give a stew, tomato sauce, or any number of other dishes great flavor, I might have to cook down some carrots as part of it.  What matters most is how it tastes in the end.

As a bonus tip:  if you want that beautifully perfect, clean cut serving of lasagna, all you have to do is have a little patience.  Wait about 15-20 minutes after the lasagna comes out of the oven.  It’ll still be plenty warm to eat, but the sauce will have cooled down just enough to let it set and not run all over.  Take the time to finish your bread, make a quick side salad, set the table, or even finish up the dishes from prepping the lasagna.  If all else fails, have a glass of wine and admire your handiwork!  Enjoy!

What are your favorite tips for adding more veggies into your kids diets?  Do you sneak them in or hide them in plain sight?

5 Tips for Holiday Baking With Kids

It’s fall. Fall means wearing Halloween costumes and trick or treating. It means Thanksgiving and Christmas meal prep, present buying, pumpkin spice everything and weekly baking projects.

In other words, it’s the best time of the year. Giving baked goods as holiday gifts is a great way to show you care and save money at the same time. You can even get the kids in on the action—baking cookies, fudge and chocolate bars for your children’s friends.

Some of our favorite recipes include:

Peach Upside Down Mini Cakes

Frosted Zucchini Brownies

Football Snickers Brownies

Frosted Cookie BitesFrosted Cookie Bites

You will undoubtedly have some family favorites of your own (feel free to share them in the comments!) that get made every year. Gather together everything that stands a remote chance of being baked. Now is the best time to start putting together your winter/holiday baking plans because, as you know there is no such thing as too much prep when it comes to baking with kids.

Here are some of the other things that you can do to make your holiday baking sessions go smoother.

1. Stain-proof your kitchen

Make sure you have the materials on hand to cover any surface that doesn’t lend itself to being coated in baking materials. Somehow, no matter how careful everybody is, ingredients get everywhere when you’re baking with children.

PRO TIP: Make sure your kitchen blinds are made from laminate or similar material so they’re easy to clean. You’ll protect your windows and be stylish at the same time!

2. Give Everybody Their Own Apron

Get cheap aprons from Michael’s or JoAnn’s and have your kids go decoration-nuts with fabric paints and markers. This way everybody will have their own very special apron that can be reused every baking session and you won’t waste valuable time refereeing arguments over who gets to wear what.

3. Hands in the Pockets Rule

Your kids will get a thrill out of your allowing them to use your mixers and beaters. Teaching them how to use these machines at an early age is definitely a good idea (and makes them far less tempting than if you were to tell them they were completely off limits). To keep little fingers out of the way, have a rule stating while the mixer is running, your kids can watch the dough being mixed but they need to keep their hands in their pockets and their hair pulled back. This way you won’t have to worry about fingers or hair getting caught into the beaters or blades.

4. Decorate First

The lovely ladies at The Kitchn encourage the use of egg wash tempera paint for the decorating of cookies before they get baked in the oven. This way you only have to run the cookies through the oven once and they are ready to eat (or give) as soon as they are taken out and cooled! And, of course, let your kids do their own decorating!

5. Read the Recipe Together

Reading through the recipe together is a great way to keep the youngest kids involved (and helps improve reading skills). You might even appoint someone the “Official Recipe Keeper” so that nobody feels left out of the preparations.

Have fun!