OHI Chicken Pasta

This is Meal #7 of the meal plan using chicken breast.

This is another version of my Second Meal pasta, with a twist!

What We’re Repurposing:
Chicken, sauce, veggies from Spinach Artichoke Chicken
*If you have broccoli leftover from our Baked Chicken meal, you can use that here as well.

You’ll also need:
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced (make half-moon shapes)
Half an onion, chopped
Your choice bell pepper, diced (one or multiple colors)
1 can diced tomatoes in juice/sauce
1 jar pasta sauce (whatever flavor you like – the kinds with seasonings are best for flavor)
Whole Wheat Pasta (use the same shape you used in Chicken Noodle Soup)
Olive Oil
*OPTIONAL: Alfredo sauce (you can also substitute a couple splashes of half & half) – use this if you want more creaminess than the Spinach Artichoke Chicken gives you

Here are the pasta sauces I used this time:
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For this dish, I like to get the kinds with more veggies (in this case, mushrooms) and that already have seasonings (the roasted garlic). The point of this meal is that it’s quick, easy to throw together, and flavorful – even though it’s not a long process. So pick flavors that you like. Also, since we’re using the spinach artichoke chicken, you won’t need as much of the Alfredo sauce. Actually, you can replace the Alfredo sauce with whatever sauce is left from the Spinach Artichoke Chicken, and mix the spinach and artichokes in as well. Extra veggies! And one less ingredient, but with the same effect.
*Disclaimer: When I was working my way through this meal plan, I planned to make the Spinach Artichoke Chicken but ran out of time one day (See? Told’ya I’m not perfect! :), so I ended up just baking up another batch of chicken. In the pictures you’ll see plain ol’ baked chicken instead of the Spinach Artichoke chicken. 

First, cook your noodles. (There are tips here if you need them.) Prep your veggies and start your sauce while the noodles are cooking. Drain water from noodles and set aside.

Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Toss your veggies in pan, and let them cook for a few minutes. If you’re concerned about what order to add them, it’s always good to add onions first to pull the aroma out, then add them according to their firmness. Peppers are more firm than zucchini, so you add them first to get them softened up a bit.

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This time I used red and green pepper, zucchini, and onion

Then add the canned tomatoes:

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Next add your cooked noodles.
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Chop your chicken (I would suggest doing this on a non-wooden cutting board so it’s easier to clean up.) Add to your pasta:
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Then add your jarred pasta sauce, about 1/4 cup at a time, until you have your desired amount of sauce:
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I always think there should be enough to completely cover all the noodles, and then a little extra so your pasta dish is not dried out.

Then, if you’re using plain chicken, or want more creaminess, add your Alfredo sauce or half & half:

You only need 1/4 or less to add richness to your sauce

You only need 1/4c or less to add richness to your sauce

Stir, simmer for a few minutes, and enjoy!

A little bit will do ya!

A little bit will do ya!

Pasta is so versatile. I hope these meals have shown you that you can enjoy chicken for a whole week without feeling BORED of chicken 😉

Second Meal Sausage Pasta

This is a very simple way to revive leftovers and use up some OHI. I always save plain noodles if I make too many, because I know my kids will eat them plain, for lunch, or I can reuse them by warming them on the stove with sauce. Pasta is one of those dishes in which you can just kind of toss your OHI together and finish with a delicious meal. You don’t have to use anything specific – just whatever veggies you and your family like, and whatever you have on hand. This is a great meal to make when you need something quick, forgot to plan a meal, or your plans ran late and you’re out of time to make something more elaborate. Here’s what I used: image Here are some other veggies I’ve used: broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, eggplant, garlic. You can also substitute chicken or ground beef for the sausage. Or you can just make a pasta primavera and leave the meat out altogether. You’ll also need butter or olive oil, a jar of red pasta sauce, and some Parmesan cheese. I also like to add a very little bit of alfredo sauce or half & half to make a mock-vodka sauce. First, add the sausage to a large saucepan with a lid, over medium heat. Break it up into smaller pieces with a flat wooden spatula, a spoon, or whatever else you have on hand. You will probably need to break it up little by little as it cooks. While that’s finishing, you can prep your veggies (see below). Cook the sausage until brown – probably 5-10 minutes – and drain into a colander in the sink. Let sit while you prepare veggies.

Get rid of all the pink! That's how you know it's finished 'browning'.

Get rid of all the pink! That’s how you know it’s finished ‘browning’.

Add about a tablespoon of butter (or olive oil, if you prefer) to the pan. If you’re using garlic, mince and add that first. Then roughly chop half the onion and add it to the pan. wpid-20131102_170009.jpg (*TIP: Roughly chop the WHOLE onion, and save the other half in the fridge for an omelette or another meal. Save on prep time next time!) Stir a little and cook for a couple minutes until the onion is translucent. Dice the pepper and add it in with the onion. Add tomatoes or other veggies last.
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Now you can add half the sausage back into the pan. Save the other half for another meal. (Our favorites are biscuits and gravy, Southwest sausage & potato skillet, and savory sausage crepes.) Add a quarter of the jarred pasta sauce to the pan and stir. Let simmer for a minute or two so all the flavors can meld together.wpid-20131102_171818.jpg
Then, if you’re using it, add a little bit of alfredo sauce (no more than a 1/4 cup) or a splash of half & half. wpid-20131102_172203.jpg
You can add cheese directly into the sauce or you can save it to garnish at the end. Add the pasta last, and stir to break up any pieces that may have stuck together in the fridge. Serve with cheese over top.
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If it seems rich on its own, you can serve a salad with it as well. This should come together in 30 minutes or less. I love meals like this, that are quick and easy to prepare, healthy, satisfying, and thrifty. You can modify the ingredients to whatever healthy level you like. Use whole wheat pasta to minimize empty carbs. Leave out the alfredo to reduce the fat content. Add extra veggies to up the nutrition. Make your own pasta sauce if you want to eliminate preservatives. Keep those OHI staples in your kitchen, and you’ll never have to order out because you forgot or ran out of time again!

Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Casserole

Today I’m going to share with you one of my GO TO meals on the rare occasion I don’t have anything planned for dinner, I’m low on groceries, or short on time. Part of the reason for this? It’s basically made only with OHI. Sometimes I’ll work this into my meal plan too, because it’s so easy and the whole family loves it.

This is a great Second Meal, because you can use leftovers from another chicken dinner for this casserole. When the chicken is leftover from another meal, this one should take only about 45 minutes to prepare. It’s homey comfort food at its best!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
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1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup  milk
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables – I use carrots & peas, and corn
2 cups cubed cooked chicken (or shredded chicken is good too)
About 2 cups Egg noodles, cooked and drained
1/4 cup  grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon  ground black pepper
1/2 cup shredded Triple Cheddar cheese (or more if you really like cheese!) for topping
*Sometimes I’ll add a little extra shredded cheese into the mix also
I’ve made this enough times that I usually eyeball the ingredients – except for the milk. Too much milk and it’s tasteless and watery.

Preheat your oven to 400º. Start by putting hot water in a medium pot and salting the water. Bring to a boil and cook your egg noodles according to package directions.
In the meantime…Start with the soup, milk, parmesan, and pepper and stir in a casserole dish (I think I use a 2 Quart one). Then I add the veggies (which I usually leave out a bit so they’re not frozen solid) and mix. Add the cooked, drained noodles next.
While the noodles are cooking I chop the chicken into cubes and add it last.
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Remove from oven, stir if noodles on top look hard or browned, then sprinkle cheese to cover top. Bake for another 5 minutes to melt cheese. I usually let it sit for a few minutes, then dig in!! Hope your family enjoys this as much as we do 🙂

First meal ideas for chicken:
Spinach Artichoke Chicken (if you use this, you have the bonus of additional veggies, AND it will be creamier!)
Fresh Take Italian Parmesan chicken
Stuffed Chicken

Mahi Mahi with Mango Salsa and Coconut Rice

The smell of fish cooking reminds me of vacations in Florida visiting my grandparents. My grandpa out on the screened-in porch grilling, maybe simultaneously smoking a cigar, while Mom and Grandma chatting away while prepping a side dish or two in the kitchen. And us helping set the dining table.

These are the memories that flooded my head as I grilled up some Mahi Mahi yesterday night – indoors, on my grill pan, while outside the window there was gray 40º weather. Different setting altogether. But I could care less, because the memories and that SMELL transported me and made me so happy!

This is one of those meals, because of those early marriage cooking days, that I look at and think, “Did I do that?!”

I usually pull from a recipe but adjust it a little. In this case I pulled from multiple recipes, so contrary to my normal posts, I will be including the actual recipe for you.

Let’s start with the salsa, because that’s what I prepped ahead of time.
SALSA
1 mango, chopped
1/4 diced red onion
4-5 strips of red pepper, diced
1/4 cup or so cooked sweet corn (I used the microwavable frozen kind –OHI– but I’m sure fresh off the cob would be even better)
Juice from half a lime
Dash salt

Combine all ingredients and stir. Adjust to taste. Easy! I wouldn’t change a thing.
Except…
Well, here’s an opportunity to explain my view of kid-friendly. To me, kid-friendly means the meal is prepared in bite-size, easy to eat portions. It can also mean adjusting to their spice tolerance. Next time, per my daughter’s request, I will add yellow and orange peppers. Maybe even omit the red, or just use less, because as she pointed out, the yellow and orange are sweeter. Another change I might make: substituting yellow or white onion, and maybe even lightly sautéing them with the peppers before adding to the salsa. But for adults, this original recipe was PERFECT.
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‘Blackened’ spices for Mahi Mahi
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground mixed peppercorn
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lite coconut milk

Again, combine all ingredients except coconut milk and make a paste. Just before using, add the coconut milk. It will look like a vinaigrette.
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You can use a pastry brush to spread this on your fish (1.25 lbs Mahi Mahi). I dipped the first piece and then just used my finger to spread it. That’s how we do in my kitchen 😉

Now I have to make a side note. I opened the package from the meat counter and realized I forgot to ask them to take the skin off the Mahi. AHHHHHH! I don’t have a filet knife. I’ve never really even learned how to de-skin a fish. (Is that even the right term? I’m sure there’s a more professional culinary term for this but it escapes me at the moment.) Did I panic with the clock tick tick ticking away the time until dinner? Mm. I chose to keep my head and just do it myself. So out came my raw meats cutting board and my paring knife (the best substitution I had). I tried to remember what I’ve ever seen of someone de-skinning a fish on TV. I put one hand on top of the skin and wiggled the knife underneath, to the point of being afraid I was going to slice my upper hand open. Once I had a good portion of the skin off, I started to pull it up so I had a better view underneath it.  Amazingly, I didn’t cut myself at all, the whole time. And I didn’t even butcher them too badly. (I SWEAR, no pun intended. I literally thought this last night when I stood back and surveyed my work.)
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So! Now for the cooking. Heat your grill pan over medium high heat. Spray with a non-stick cooking spray. **One thing I’ve learned from watching cooking show after cooking show is when you are using a grill pan, MAKE SURE IT’S PIPING HOT before you put anything on it, otherwise your stuff will stick. You’ve been warned.**  Place your fish on the grill and cook for “approximately 4 minutes on each side or until desired doneness.” That’s what the recipe said that I based this on. It worked, the fish was SO DELICIOUS. My 5 year old daughter even said, “MOM! You’re right. I DO like this fish! The inside… it’s so moist … and juicy!”
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COCONUT RICE
2 cups dry brown Minute rice
1 1/4 cup lite coconut milk
1 1/2 cup water

Soak your rice in water to remove some of the starchiness, if desired. (Again, this is what the recipe told me to do – but she was using long grain rice and I was using minute rice. I did do it, and I think it did actually help remove some of the dry starchiness, especially since I was using brown rice.) Put the coconut milk and water in your pot and bring to a boil. Add the rice and cook according to package directions. Actually, the package said to bring back to boil, simmer for 5 minutes, and let stand for 5 minutes. I probably let it cook more like 7-10, let it stand, and then reheated it a teensy bit before I plated it. One thing: KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON THIS! Any time I’m boiling milk I pay extra attention, but last night was one of those times that couldn’t be helped… Some of the kids were arguing, or someone got hurt, and I swear even though I only walked away for 90 seconds, my pot was suddenly boiling over. Anyway just watch it, because I had to keep removing the lid to release some steam so it wouldn’t boil over again. (And that’s even using my awesome “sure simmer” function on my electric oven. Yes I love it.)

Guess what? I had the coconut milk, corn, and rice in my OHI, so all I paid for this dinner was probably $10-11. Score!

Now! Spoon some rice onto your plate, top it with a piece of Mahi, and spoon some salsa on top. Done! Now go feed your family some surprisingly easy, joyfully affordable, shockingly healthy, tantalizingly delicious and fresh food!
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Weekly Meal Planning – On a Budget!

So. This week my grocery budget is a little less than 1/2 of what it is normally… Ever been in a similar situation? For whatever reason, you’re a little tight that week? What’s a momma to do?! At this stage in our life, we do ONE TRIP PER WEEK. Here’s how to maximize your budget and your OHI.

Step (1): Take stock of your OHI. What do you have that you can make meals of already? This particular week I have plenty of lunch meat, some frozen ground beef, enough quick meals for my 3 working night dinners, some fresh produce, and a few other things that I was already planning on using in dinners.

Step (2): What ESSENTIALS do you need to replace? Mentally go through all the categories: paper products, cleaning products, laundry supplies, baby supplies, then all the grocery items (Dairy, frozen, produce, dry goods, you know the drill). This list should be limited to only what you know you cannot get through the week without. Things you will MOST CERTAINLY run out of if you don’t purchase it in the next day or two. For me this week, the only things I knew I’d need for SURE were eggs, milk, butter, frozen veggies, jelly, bread, bananas, and tomatoes. *Remember to consider every meal and snack time too.

Step (3a): Go through your local grocery ad. What’s on sale? This week what stood out to me was Meijer Steamable frozen veggies, country pork ribs, Peter Pan PB (my fave!), Meijer Naturals Chicken Stock, Sargento Cheese, Spaghetti O’s, Creamette Pasta, my favorite yogurt Fage, and On the Vine Tomatoes.
(3b): Check for coupons for your essentials and the sale items. We shop at Meijer because right now, in our area, they offer the best coupon “double dip” opportunities (a double dip is where you might get something on sale with a coupon, or be able to use multiple coupons on one item, or use coupons in a quantity or sum qualifying sale [i.e. ‘buy 6, save $5’]). I search two different places for coupons: Coupon Tom and mPerks. Coupon Tom is a cross-referencing site where you can type in the product and it will pull up corresponding coupons for that item. This uses Jill Cataldo’s coupon organization method. (You can visit her free blog here for the best deals at grocery stores in the Chicago Suburbs and to learn more about smart couponing.) To check mPerks, you sign in using your phone number (Don’t worry – no spam texts or calls!) on the website and at the register using your PIN. Signing up allows you to choose from hundreds of coupons for their store brand products as well as name brand items. They have great coupons on here and lots of opportunities to save. (Last month I saved about $200 – average $50 a week – by combining sales and multiple coupons.) Bonus, they have lots of produce coupons – hooray!!
I found coupons for these items: butter, Sargento shredded cheese, Spaghetti O’s, bread, organic Portobello mushroom caps.

Step (4): First total. Using prices from the ad and your best estimate from your smart shopping in the past, add up to get the total of all your items on your list. If you’re not sure, always round up. Then make a meal plan for every day that week (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks) and make sure you don’t have any gaps. (If you do, can you fill them with something you already have? Or do you have to add to your list?)

Step (5): Adjust. Are you above your budget? Below? Can you add some more healthy items? Do you need to adjust quantities of something? Is there something you can do without? At this point I went through the ad again to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. ***TIP: Any time a manufacturer puts out a new product, they almost ALWAYS put out corresponding coupons to get you to try it.*** I ALMOST looked past the Marie Callendar’s Easy Sides. ALMOST. But – They were 4 for $5 (not fantastic by any means). But if you bought 4, you got $1 off instantly = 4 for $4. I checked Coupon Tom. Yes! There was a $.75 off 1 coupon. Score. I get 2 papers, so I can use two of those coupons. But wait, mPerks also has a coupon: $1/3. So if I buy 4, it’s actually cheaper to use the $1/3 plus one $.75/1 coupon. ARE YOU WITH  ME?!? Instead of paying $5 for 4, I’ll be paying $2.25. Yes, for that price, I will try this new product. Even on a tight budget week.
And then – Wait – WAIT. Mahi Mahi was featured at $6.99/lb. Hmmm…. I really didn’t need the yogurt as I still had a few left. I really don’t need the pasta either. Spaghetti O’s?? I really only put them on my list for nostalgia’s sake anyway. I nixed a few items to free up the $7 for some Mahi Mahi – which for some reason sparked another idea… mango salsa… I googled ‘Mahi Mahi mango salsa‘ and pulled up a recipe. Well, I may not have all the items on that list, or the budget to buy them, but I CAN make some substitutions and buy a few of the cheaper things – especially since I know I can get multiple uses out of something like a lime or a red onion.

Step (6): Double -Check and prepare. Make sure you have everything you need and you’re a couple bucks under budget to account for miscalculation and tax. Usually when I’m estimating I only count my PRE-coupon total (unless its a big baby sale and I’ll be saving $10 or something). Make sure all your coupons are loaded to your mPerks, or shopping card, or printed, and that all the paper coupons are cut and ready with your list.

Now, you thrifty little shopper you, go out and conquer that grocery store!!!

Here’s an example of a working meal plan for the week. Excuse my scribbles 🙂
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Pantry organization, Meal planning, and OHI pars

Dream pantry?!

Sometimes I wish my pantry looked like the one in this picture. Alas, all I have is an abundance of cabinets! Thankfully I do have a lot of them. But at this point in my life, my ‘pantry’ organization is based on what I allow my kids to get into or not. Yes I put locks on cabinets, but not all of them, because it’s way too much of a hassle. I limited myself to locking the ones that have glass or harmful things like cleaning products in them. Part of the reason is, I didn’t want to have to bother opening it myself. However, the biggest reason is this: I do believe, although it’s more work, to use all opportunities possible to TEACH my kids. Also I purposely put their snacks and dishes in low cabinets where they can reach, so they are able to help themselves. (Think cereal, crackers, fruit snacks, granola bars, fruit cups, etc.) Even if they can’t open the packaging themselves, they will bring it to me and ask if they can have it and if they can open it. Our youngest, at 14 months or maybe earlier, would go in the kids’ dishes cabinet and bring a cup over to the fridge if she was thirsty. I learned accidentally that kids are actually a lot more capable and at a lot earlier age than we give them credit for. Another example: when Aubrey (our eldest) was 2 and 3, she wanted to help me with everything: dishes, baking, laundry, cleaning, you name it. At first I kept saying no (which led to big-time disappointment on her end, and extravagant distraction methods on mine). Finally one day I figured, what the heck? I would wash the dishes and she would dry them. When she was 3 I learned she was actually quite good at folding her and her brother’s laundry – they were small enough for her to handle. Ah HA! I thought. A learning opportunity. I can teach her how to do these chores now, while she WANTS to, and I was getting help too. Why be a domestic martyr if it wasn’t necessary? I didn’t have to do everything myself, and she was learning valuable life skills she’d use the rest of her life. Win-Win.
Anyway, I am sure that once my kids learn to suppress their desire to dump my sugar all over the floor and play with it like sand, I will be again re-organizing categorically instead of according to what I can afford them get into or not 😉

That said, as I sit down to plan my weekly grocery trip, I wanted to share with you a list of my essential OHIs. Produce rotates seasonally, so they’re not listed specifically. These things are on the list because I know I can make meals spur of the moment from them if necessary. Here it is:
* 2 dozen eggs
* White and Whole Wheat bread
* Parmesan
* Shredded cheese of some variety
* Some lunch meat & cheese
* Milk, Half & Half, Sour cream
* Butter – sticks and spreadable
* Refrigerated rolls (Grands)
* Various Oils and vinegars
* Salad dressings and/or salad dressing mixes
* Condiments: Ketchup, mustard, low-fat mayo, peanut butter, grape jam, sriracha, BBQ sauce
* Cream of mushroom soup
* Spaghetti sauce (usually Hunts in the can or jarred Prego)
* Canned tomatoes  – various varieties
* Bananas – this is my yearly consistent fruit. We ALWAYS have bananas. Quick for snacks, and great for baking.
* Onion and garlic
* Dry snacks: crackers (wheat or Ritz usually), granola bars, fruit snacks
* Dry pasta (whole wheat when possible): angel hair and various shapes of boxed dry pasta
* Mac n Cheese
* “Cheater” sides: Instant mashed potatoes, Knorr rice and pasta sides
* Rice
* Cereal
* Waffles
* Frozen pizza, frozen chicken nuggets
* Frozen mixed veg, Frozen steamed microwavable veg (Green giant or Steamfresh)
* Hot dogs
* Baking supplies: whole wheat flour, white sugar, cocoa powder, semi-sweet chips, baking soda and powder, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, allspice
* Seasonings: kosher salt, sea salt, table salt, pepper, pepper grinder, garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, taco seasoning packet, country gravy packet
* Seasonal fruit for snacking: berries, grapes, etc.
* Seasonal fresh veg that I can build a meal around, or build into a meal
* Protein – generally chicken breasts or thighs, some kind of pork, ground sausage or beef, occasionally fish, red meat, or ham

Now I’m going to be straight up with you. I work 3 nights a week at a restaurant. On those nights I allow myself to make ‘cheater’ meals. I have to be there at 5, which means dinner should be finished by about 4:30.  This means a combination of the following items, usually following the ‘meat, veg, starch’ guideline: pizza, fries or tater tots, mashed potatoes, Knorr sides (rice or pasta), frozen steamed veg, raw veg, fruit, chicken nuggets, mac n cheese, hot dogs. I felt really bad about this for awhile, like I’m feeding my family crap. But you know what? Until I don’t have to work at dinner time any more, or we don’t need my income anymore, it’s a necessary part of our life, so I just learned to be okay with it. I don’t have to extend too much mental energy making these things, and they’re pretty much no-brainers. Sometimes if I do have extra time, I’ll make a casserole or maybe a chicken pot pie, something that can be in the oven while I’m getting ready for work. Every once in awhile I’ll do a crock pot meal, but generally I don’t have time to eat dinner before work, and I like to enjoy my crock pot meals, so that doesn’t happen often.

So before I make my grocery list, I take stock of my OHI. I figure out what I need to replenish and then do my meal planning based on what’s on sale that week. That plus coupons determines my list for the week. And that’s another post entirely 😉

What is OHI? Plus Banana Oat Cookies -only 3 ingredients!!

Something you should know about my cooking skills: When I first started making meals for my family, I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I followed every recipe to a T because I knew NOTHING. I’m not kidding. Before we had our eldest daughter, it was just me and my husband in a tiny 500 sq ft rental house. I had to call my mom to ask how to boil water.
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(I’m mentally pausing for you to have time to laugh at my ignorance. It’s okay, I’m laughing too – don’t feel bad.)
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Now that we’ve all had a good laugh, I can tell you that with practice, I was able to take certain factors into account in order to change recipes to my family’s liking. These are:
1. Budget – like most families, we don’t have unlimited money pouring out of our closet or randomly falling off our tree in the front yard. I plan our meals before I strategically plan my weekly shopping list, which is most times based in part off of the grocery ad / what’s on sale.
2. Pantry/Fridge/on-hand ingredients (I think from here on out I’m going to just abbreviate and say, OHI. Because I can foresee myself blogging about this a lot from here on out!) – I keep a pretty good mental inventory of what we have at home and what possible ingredients are substitutable (is that a word?!? …it is now!) for ones I find in a new recipe. So, I will define OHI as fulfilling these things: 1. you already have it in your kitchen; 2. something that is expiring soon that you don’t want to waste by throwing away; 3. a similar ingredient to what’s in a recipe but that you know you or your family would prefer.
3. My family’s taste – I learned quickly that my husband Alex is a pretty simple guy. I’m talking frozen pizza – hot dog – salami/bologna sandwich kinda guy. And if I tried to do something fancy he wasn’t having it. I’m pretty sure he’s actually said to me before, “Why are you trying to make it all fancy? Stop trying to complicate things.” I was probably adding shredded cheddar to leftover mac n cheese, since that’s one of the few things I understood how to make at that point. And everyone knows reheated mac n cheese is not the greatest. I was so proud of myself for figuring out a way to freshen it up the next day (a splash of milk and a little shredded cheese actually DOES do wonders.) Once we had kids I had to learn how to adjust meals to be kid-friendly. I’m going to have to work in a post about what constitutes ‘kid-friendly’ in my house.
READ THIS NEXT: I do NOT feed my kids different dinners than what I make for Alex and I. And I do NOT make different meals for each child. I am blessed enough not to have to worry about allergies or special diets, so I take full advantage of that!
4. My cooking style – this includes anything from my time constraints, equipment limitations, availability of ingredients, and my own personal preferences.

So why am I talking about this??? To tell you this: I am about to share with you what might possibly be THE best recipe I have ever come across (and I made a small substitution that would have prevented me from making it at all when I first started cooking). Here’s why:
– It can be eaten in place of any meal: breakfast, snack, with lunch, dessert… ok maybe not fulfilling enough for dinner, so ALMOST any meal.
– The recipe includes 3 ingredients. YES I said 3. And they’re probably things you already have at your house!!! (remember OHI?!?! This is a slam DUNK in the OHI department)
– It is indulgent. It is sweet. It has chocolate. It has texture. It is served best warm. It pairs well with a hot cup of tea or coffee. It checks all my boxes in terms of a good dessert.
– My kids love them. They can help make them. Heck, Aubrey can practically make them on her own (as long as an adult does the oven part of course)
– The clean-up is super fast and easy. No worrying about cross contamination from raw eggs or having to soak really messy mixing bowls.
– IT IS HEALTHY! (And the crowd goes wild!!!!)

Here’s what you’ll need:

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2 large bananas, 1 cup oats, about 1/3 cup baking chips

The first time I made these, my bananas were not that large, so if you only have what can be categorized as medium or small, you’ll probably be fine. Just use a little less oats. HERE COMES THE SUBSTITUTION: The recipe called for “quick oats”. In my OHI all I had was “Old fashioned Oats”. I have no idea what the difference is. But I figured I’d try it and see how it came out. (If you’re wondering, they were amazing) And as for the baking chips, I’ve seen versions where people use white chocolate or peanut butter chips. In my house we use straight up semi-sweet chips for most things. (I’m kind of a former chocoholic.)

All you do is mash up the bananas and oats together:

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The first time I did these we mashed the bananas and then added the oats. This time I just put both ingredients in at once and mashed the bananas together. I found this way, the oats are incorporated with much less effort. Next add the chips:

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Lastly put them on a greased cookie sheet to bake for 15-18 minutes at 350º.

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DON’T SKIP THE GREASING PART! I’m not saying load your sheet up with butter, but use some non-stick spray or maybe a parchment sheet. I don’t have a sil-pat, but I’m sure that would work too. There is so much moisture in the bananas that they will surely stick otherwise.
The ‘cookies’ don’t look much different after 15 minutes. Just test them to be sure they’re springy and not mushy.  After picture:

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Enjoy! They are most definitely best warm. Eat quickly (I’m telling you, that won’t be a problem).

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I’m thinking the peanut butter chips will be worth a try, but I’d have to need them for another recipe to justify buying a bag. And I’m also debating if they’d be good with some chopped nuts, or maybe some dried pineapple?! I bet if you used the pineapple, then the white chocolate would be good. Otherwise the sweetness of banana + white chocolate = too sweet for me (I found this out when making banana muffins and tried white chocolate chunks). Yes, I can see many variations in my future 😉