Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Week 2 begins: Creamy Noodle Bake with Spinach Salad

First, here's the list of this week's dinners:
  • Creamy Noodle Bake with Spinach Salad
  • All-Day Roast with Fries and Peas
  • Salmon with Cranberry-Lime Sauce, Rice and Broccoli
  • Pizza and a Tossed Green Salad
  • Japanese Grilled Chicken, Rice and Stir-Fry Veggies
Okay, week 2... here we go.  I'm excited... okay, I'm not in some ways.  The food has been okay but not what I had anticipated.  It donned on my earlier today: This is a cookbook for families, to encourage diverse diets and reduce 'pickiness'.  Some of those eating this food will be young looking for bland food (in general) and some will want fully rich, full-bodied interesting flavors.  These recipes have interesting ingredients but also are on the bland side.  Seems like the goal was to give the adults enough while fully engaging the kids.  I like the idea but for someone with a self-admitted limited palette: its even too bland for me.  These cookbooks will have a hard time keeping my interest at this level.  If I lose Scott's interest in the food, then the kids' interest will drop too.

Back to the meal at hand: Creamy Noodle Bake with Spinach Salad.  This meal brings Ally back to cooking.  This meal was what caught Ally's attention when looking at the cookbook.  Granted, you can't see anything but the baked cheese coating on the casserole... who wouldn't think it looked yummy!

The prep was pretty straight forward. Boil water, brown beef, and add some stuff for flavor to the beef.  I almost put pizza sauce in instead of tomato soup... oops.  When it came to adding the Italian Seasoning to the mix, I added some extra.  The peanut gallery(aka Ryan) hollered: "But mom, you are supposed to be following the directions! How are we supposed to know if we like their recipe if you change it?"  He had a point but I really wanted some flavor tonight.  This is a dish you layer egg noodles, the meat sauce, a mushroom cream sauce and cheeses and bake.  It calls for a lasagna or large cake pan.  Either they make small lasagnas and cakes in Canada or something but each layer only covered about half the 13x9 cake dish.  I almost switched out to my 11x7 but I thought "No, let's see how this works."  I now wish they had measurements for the pans.  After all the chopping of the last several meals, this went together very easily.  Ally kept taking breaks to read.

Tonight Scott happened to have to miss dinner but that was okay with the kids... they loved it.  At one point, Ally said while scooping up seconds, "Sorry Dad, but I don't think there are going to be leftovers tonight!"  They really liked the again bland creamy noodle casserole.  I think it would have been better if made with sausage instead of ground beef, had some chopped onion and bell peppers and maybe some corn.  As much as they were right in sync with their scores for the casserole(Ryan:"Can I rate this a 12?"), they were very different on the salad.  The spinach salad included mandarins, chopped red onion, cashews and feta cheese.  The last one was the kicker for Ryan and me.  Ryan is still convinced it was bleu cheese.  I should have shown him the container.  That was the sort of the taste/smell I was preparing for when I tried it.  Thankfully feta cheese isn't as smelly as bleu cheese but I don't care for cheese of any kind on most of my salads, or by itself for that matter, so I may be a bit biased.  I enjoyed the mandarins, red onion and cashews in there though.  Overall score(without Scott's input): 8.2.  With my estimation for Scott's score: 7.4.  Ryan had to average the 10 for the casserole and the 7 for the salad to come up with his score.  Too funny.

After dinner, Ryan was up for clearing the table, helping clean the kitchen and doing the dishes.  He was great about it!  He cleared the few dishes on the table while I started on the dishes.  He then helped load the dishwasher and then dried the big dishes after I washed them.  We had a great conversation about why I don't play video games, why I like Age of Empires (the horses) and how I should definitely play Age of Empires: War Chiefs(horse-something or other military unit).  We talked about what we'd be doing the next day and how he liked going to my garden class (less school work, more video games, yummy snacks).  No complaints!  It was wonderful!  It was the highlight of the dinner for me and came at the end of a great day with the kiddos.

Next up: All-Day Roast with Fries and Peas...

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