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Easy Mexican Lasagna

Here is a Tex-Mex favorite. This one is always a hit with our kids. Even my 17-month-old loves it! We’ve got one in the freezer ready to go right now!

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion chopped
1 bell pepper chopped (My kids won’t eat this so I scrap it.)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbs. chili powder
1 Tbs. sugar
1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes (Sometimes I use the roltel diced tomatoes with green chilies for extra spice–our kids can handle it!)
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 14 oz. can pinto beans (or black beans), drained
1 14 oz can sweet corn
1 cup sour cream
1 cup cottage cheese
1 egg
10-14 flour tortillas, whole wheat or white (or for gluten free, use corn tortillas)
1 1/2 cups grated monterey jack cheese
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese on top
Toppings:
chopped tomatoes
green onions, sliced
black olives, sliced
avocado, sliced
sour cream

Directions:

Brown meat with onion and next 5 ingredients. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and water. Simmer 5 min. over medium heat. Add beans and corn.

Process (I put in blender) sour cream, cottage cheese, and egg until smooth.

Cut each tortilla into long strips. I make them about as wide as a normal lasagna noodle, about 2 1/2 in., so you are cutting 3 strips out of each tortilla.

For the layering:

  • Place small amount of meat mixture in bottom of greased 9×13 dish.
  • Layer 1/2 tortilla strips over meat. (You will be laying the strips on top of each other so that the covering is about 2 tortillas thick.)
  • Then layer half of remaining meat mixture.
  • Next add all the sour cream mixture.
  • Then sprinkle with half the cheese (I mix both kinds of cheeses together).
  • Layer the rest of the tortillas.
  • Add rest of meat mixture.
  • Top with last of cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 min. (I usually stick my finger in the middle to see if the tortillas are soaked and well cooked. :)

Add toppings. Enjoy!!!

Tip: I make these two at a time and freeze one (before I bake it). Just thaw it in the fridge the night before and then bake for the normal time.

Watercoloring to Music

 My kids love to use watercolors, and I love seeing what they create.  It’s not that messy either–it all wipes up so easily off walls, table tops, chairs, floors, clothes, hands, arms, and even faces too. 

Age: 2 and up


Supplies:
a set of watercolors for each child
small paint brushes
small heavy bowls for water–less likely to tip over…I use 8 oz. pyrex bowls
any type of paper
classical music


What to do:
Tell the kids you are going to let them listen to some beautiful music with lots of different instruments, and that you want them to paint whatever pictures the music helps them see in their minds or feel in their hearts. 
Start the music.  A few ideas are any “Water Music” by Handel, “The Swan” or “Aquarium” by Saint Saens, “Reflections on the Water” by Debussy, even “From the Diary of a Fly” by Bartok.  Really anything classical will work great.
Fill water bowls, pass out the paper and watercolors with brushes.
Have fun!  And keep passing out more paper until the kids are ready for a new activity!

Easy Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry

Here is another great kid-friendly recipe from my mother-in-law.  It’s originally from The Pampered Chef.  Sometime in our first year of marriage, I brought my recipe notebook to her kitchen and asked to copy down all my husband’s favorite meals.  This was one of those favorites.  And the next generation is calling it a favorite too.  I usually double it–the leftovers are great.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbs. cornstarch
3 Tbs. canola or vegetable oil
1 boneless beef sirloin (about 1 1/4 lbs.)
3 cups broccoli florets
1 med. onion, chopped
1 med. red bell pepper (I usually don’t add this, but it would be good!)
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 to 1 cup beef broth, depending on how saucy you like it. (I add 1 cup)
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
Red pepper flakes, to taste (for the adults)


Directions:

  1. Whisk soy sauce, cornstarch, and oil.  
  2. Cut steak lengthwise in half, and then crosswise into 1/4” strips. 
  3. Add beef to soy sauce mixture and toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate 15 min. to marinate (if you have time).  
  4. Meanwhile, cut broccoli into florets and onion into wedges.  Cut bell pepper into thin strips.  Press garlic.  Set vegetables aside
  5. Heat 1 tsp. oil in large skillet over med. high heat.  Add half of beef and 1/4 tsp. ginger and stir-fry 2-3 min.  Repeat with remaining oil and beef and last 1/4 tsp. ginger.  (I usually stir-fry all the beef at once in a very large skillet just to save time.)  Then transfer beef to different bowl.
  6. Heat remaining 1 Tbs. oil in skillet.  Add broccoli, onion, and bell pepper, and stir-fry 3-4 min. until everything is tender enough for the kids to like!
  7. Return beef to skillet and add broth.
  8. Stir gently for 1 min until sauce is thickened.
  9. Serve over brown rice.
  10. Cut beef strips into tiny pieces for the little ones.
  11. Pass the red pepper flakes shaker to the adults for some extra spice!



Summer Chicken Pasta Salad

When I first moved to Minnesota I mocked how everyone up here makes certain dishes only in certain seasons.  It sounded so complicated. In South Texas, we ate chili and burritos in summer, fall, winter, and spring.  We had no change of seasons, no reason to vary our cooking repertoire.  I’m starting to get this whole seasonal cuisine thing now after living through my seventh brutal Minnesota winter.  You don’t make dishes like this one in winter.  You make this one when the sun is beating down warmth on your children’s faces as they run barefoot in the backyard, and when the world is green again.  I first discovered a variation of this yummy salad on the side of a store-brand pasta box a number of years ago.  Now it has become a celebration dish of surviving another winter. I’ve also made it meatless, and it’s good!  My kids love treasure digging for the craisins and the mozzerella chunks.  Eh…they survived a mean winter, they deserve a few treasures. 🙂


Ingredients:
1 lb. whole wheat penne or rotini pasta
1 lb. chicken, stir-fried or grilled and sliced
1 cup sweet viniagrette (I make mine with 1/4 c. red wine vinegar, 3 Tbs. water, 1/2 c. olive oil, and one Good Seasons Italian seasoning packet, plus 2 tsp. sugar)
1 apple, diced
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 c. craisins
1/2 c. walnut pieces, toasted
2-3 avocados
4 oz. crumbled feta…OR 4 oz. cubed mozzerella (my kids usually prefer the mozzerella)
salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste (I leave pepper as a garnish for the adults)

Directions:
  1. Cook chicken according to preference.  I usually chop it into bite-sized pieces and then stir-fry it in oil on high heat for 3-4 minutes.  Allow chicken to cool.
  2. Cook pasta and drain.  While still in colander, rinse with cold water.  After fully draining, transfer pasta to separate bowl.
  3. Combine cooked chicken and viniagrette with pasta.
  4. Next stir in apple, green onions, craisins, and toasted walnuts. Add salt. 
  5. Refrigerate for 2 hours.  Then mix in either the crumbled feta or mozzerella cubes.
  6. Before serving, garnish with avocado wedges and black pepper.


Colorful Goo Bags

This is great activity to teach Primary and Secondary colors. Even adults have fun squishing the goo in the bag…I found myself playing with it during nap time!

Age: 2 and up, but most interesting for 4 and up

Supplies:
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 cups cold water
  • medium saucepan
  • spatula that can withstand heat
  • 3 mixing bowls
  • food coloring (red, blue, yellow)
  • Freezer Ziploc bags (6-8)
  • Duct tape
  • marker
Instructions:
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the cornstarch, sugar and cold water. Stir and heat over medium heat. In about 5 minutes, it should begin to thicken, continue to stir constantly. Once it starts to thicken, remove from the heat and stir for 1 more minute, until it has the consistency of pudding. Separate the mixture into three bowls. Cool for 30 minutes.
  2. Add red food coloring to one bowl, blue to another and yellow to the last. Explain or review that these three colors are the Primary Colors and that they can be combined to make Secondary Colors.
  3. Spoon some of the red goo into a bag with some of the blue goo and zip it up, then reinforce with duct tape. Write the two colors names on the bag and ask children what color they think it will make. Have them squish the goo to find out! Repeat with all of the colors. Have fun!

Kale and White Bean Stew

Kale and beans are something I wish my kids liked more. However, for some reason, they do like this stew! Sarah makes it with chicken as pictured.  It calls for fresh herbs, which I am sure are wonderful…but being the queen of improvising, I used dry herbs and thought it was still great. Sometimes that extra trip to the grocery store with all of the kids just isn’t worth it 🙂

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds kale leaves (or 1 very large bundle), center ribs and stems removed
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup shallots (about 4), chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 (15 ounce) cans white beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups vegetable broth
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon sherry wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons assorted chopped fresh herbs (such as tarragon, parsley and chives)

Directions:

  1. Cook kale in large pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Drain. Transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain. Squeeze out the excess water and then coarsely chop.
  2. Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat.
  3. Add chopped carrots, celery, shallots, and garlic; cook until soft (do not let them get brown), stirring, about 15 minutes. 
  4. Add white wine and simmer until liquid is slightly reduced, about 7 minutes. 
  5. Add white beans, broth, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. 
  6. Add kale and simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Mix in sherry wine vinegar and chopped fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a good loaf of crusty bread.
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