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I'm tired. Need inspiration: kid-friendly food.

What are your favourite recipes for feeding your kids? (mine are 2 and 4 years old) I have been overworked and overtired these days and need to be inspired by some new recipes. Thanks so much!!

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  1. It's been a long time since my girls were that age, but the things I remember is that they loved to get in the kitchen and cook with me (even if it wasn't productive!), they like food that was small so they could pick up easy, and they wanted to tailor or individualize their food.

    Here are some suggestions:
    homemade mac & cheese with a twist like kielbasa or sausages on top
    pureed cauliflower, parsnips, other root veggies - good way to introduce new veggies in non threatening way as they loved mashed potatoes
    chicken soup with rice, noodles, matzo balls, filled with chicken meat and carrots, onions, etc.
    any kind of grilled burgers - beef obviously, but also ground turkey, chicken, lamb, veal - you can also work in ground up veggies for more nutrition
    these days, probably sushi, as they are small (is raw fish a problem for little kids?) just don't tell them what it is
    any kind of Mexican food, although I had to limit spiciness for my kids
    we LOVE breakfast for dinner - waffles, pancakes, French Toast, sausages, bacon, etc
    I made mini quiche originally as appetizers for a dinner party, but my kids LOVED them and I would make pans of them with different fillings and freeze them. Very easy to pop into toaster oven for quick snack too.
    any kind of dumpling, won ton, egg roll, etc because they could pick up on their own and eat
    little pigs in blankets, sometimes mini franks in pastry, sometimes hot dog chunks in silver dollar pancakes
    any kind of wrap - turkey, lunch meat, fried bacon, cream cheese, cheese, relish (roasted peppers, olives, etc.), dressing (mustard, mayo, etc.) cut in 2 in pieces

    Hope this helps! Cherish your little ones, they grow up quickly and leave home!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Diane in Bexley

      Thanks Diane!!! Those are great suggestions. Funnily, my kids LOVE sushi. I love the suggestion about the mini-quiches and the pureed vegetables too.

    2. My 3 yr old likes chicken risotto with peas and parmesan. Home made panko encrusted chicken fingers, dad's pizza, mac & cheese, bacon cheddar meatloaf, sushi ( I roll my own, prep is time consuming), brats simmered in beer and onions with sauerkraut and whole grain mustard ( I simmer a few pounds of these and freeze them for later use). Good luck, sometimes after many months of cooking I get tired and unenthused.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Lenox637

        My daughter loves risotto, too. She even likes to wear it.

      2. English muffin pizzas. Scrambled eggs in fried bologna cups.Noah in the ark - or toad in the hole. Fish sticks and fries. Cruditees (carrots, bell pepper, cuke), carrot salad, Cook some hot dog slices and float them in soup. Dinner waffles (creamed chicken for main, syrup for dessert),
        Pot stickers, stuffed shells, chicken pot pie. stove top mac and cheese, any kind of meatballs.

        1. Pizza, let them roll the dough and add the toppings. English muffins with cheddar cheese melted on top. Veggies and ranch dip. Soup, chicken tortilla with different toppings, Chicken Noodle soup, Chesse Soup, ditto on the breakfast for dinner, let them help, my kids always eat better when they help.

          1. There have been a lot of discussions on this so you might want to do a search. But this thread is very recent (and has other ideas besides meatloaf).


            1. Home made macaroni and cheese - I just stir marscapone, fontina and parmesan cheese into hot pasta until it melts into a delicious cheese sauce. You could also throw in some cubed ham and peas to round out the meal. If I'm feeling not so tired, I sprinkle herbed breadcrumbs on top and broil it until golden brown.

              1. My daughter will be five in September. There are lots of things that I cook for her dinners that might include from meatloaf (yes, that other thread) to sllices from ribs, to spicy green onions and sausage, and so on. But I also maintain a stock of things to combine quickly for other meals in many different ways. My building blocks:

                1. Carrot soup (onions, potatoes, carrots, chicken stock, blended in the end with powdered milk)
                2. Dried pea or lentil soups with dried (African game in my case) meats, also blended
                3. Cooked rice
                4. Couscous
                5. Home made yogurt
                6. Cooked pasta
                7. Fruits and raisins
                8. Freshly baked bread
                9. Cheeses
                10. Canned tuna
                11. Eggs
                12. Poached shredded chicken breast

                Witht these in the ref or pantry (and backups of the soups in the freezer), I can make about a hundred different dishes for her! In minutes using the microwave for the hot dishes; in less when preparing cold combos. The key is management of what is pre-cooked (chicken, rice, pasta, sausage), what is assembled (e.g, yogurt and banana), combos that can be assembled cold (e.g., cold tornillos with soy sauce and toasted sesame oil with shredded chicken) or hot (carrot soup w/ some couscous mixed in)... lots of combos. She last had a beaten egg, pasta, carrot soup, and a bit of sausage done in the microwave.

                14 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Wow- with some exceptions- that is how I cook for my daughter- who is also 5, she is pretty much on line with us now...but a dinner of soft scrambles, raisins, figs and sausage slices- on a oval plate with a glass of milk.

                  Our standbys-

                  cooked pasta
                  good cheese/apple slice/good cracker (this is a great meal for me!!)
                  cottage cheese
                  good deli meat- salami- turkey breast
                  dried fruits
                  fresh melon- cut into cubes/balls and a toothpick- my daughter has been using a "food only please" toothpick for 3 yrs now- sometimes we use fancy toothpicks
                  meatballs-porcupine balls (so fun!!)
                  broccoli- my daughter has eatten her weight times 2 in broccoli.
                  poached breasts

                  ice cream.

                  1. re: JalamaMama

                    Mama, we are clearly on th same page. We could babysit for each other!

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      You guys are so on my track. Some other moms would chastise me for being a "short order" cook, but I sometimes want something totally different than the kid. The judicious use of the microwave for re-heating or "cooking" (like sliced sausage), and having some frozen stuff (yes you can freeze cooked pasta in individual servings- you just have to learn how your microwave will successfully reheat it (same with rice) can create great meals along with some sliced fruit or a quick salad. When he was really little those cute plastic toothpicks with animal heads as well as the similar forks got the whole neighborhood kid-gang to enjoy bite size things with joy.

                      1. re: torty

                        Exactly! But how could any other mom chastise you? This type of "short order" cooking is designed and meant to be to be healthy!

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          It took me awhile to get comfortable making a seperate plate for my kid, but in reality- it was my pleasure- because I want my child to eat healthy and not have the pressure each nite of getting upset over repeated asking to eat your dinner...If I was microwaving a "kid cuisine" every night, to satisfy her- that would be a crime- but making a meal my child will enjoy and finish up? PRICELESS.

                          Again, my daughter is on line with our meals, for the most part. But I do like spicy and tangy nights- and on those nights- it might be Columbo salami, carrots, mango chunks, gala apple slices and tiny tomaotes for my daughter- whats not to like on that plate?

                          At one point, I thought I was serving her too much poached chicken and scrambles eggs. My MIL would comment about it. I would fret about it. Guess what? She is just fine.

                          Toothpicks- another MIL pet peeve- she was adament I stop giving her toothpicks. I finally explained that I explained to my daughter that toothpicks were to help get food in the mouth, and were to be used for nothing else. We have never had a problem with a toothpick with our child. Plus- it wasn't like I put that plate down and left the house- I was right there for the entire eatting of said meal. Some kids- no toothpick rule is a good one.

                          A well fed child is a healthy and happy child.

                          1. re: JalamaMama

                            We also give our daughter an alternate version of what we eat when we have spicy food. Unfortunately, she always suspects that we're withholding something hyperdelicious. For example:

                            Alice: "You [meaing "I" -- she's confused about pronouns] want Stabasco sauce!"
                            Me: "Honey, it's really hot, I don't think you'd like it!"
                            Alice: "You want Stabasco sauce on your food! You want it!!!"
                            Me: "Okay, let's dip your asparagus in a tiny, tiny drop of Tabasco sauce."
                            Alice munches, and then: "Waaaah!!!" followed by much soothing with sour cream and other cooling agents.

                            The next evening:

                            Alice: "You want Stabasco sauce!!"

                            Maybe we should hide the bottle.

                            1. re: jlafler

                              Kids say the darnest things!! That is so sweet- I like the You instead of Me/I...

                              Emily only had to eat one chili flake to never again ask for the goodies we so enjoy.

                              It is actually the hardest child/food problem I had to overcome- not seasoning for an adults tastebuds. My Husband had to remind and remind me that kids have a very sensitive palate- why that was so hard for me, I'll never know. We now keep a large condiment tray out at meals- that includes red chili flakes, tabasco, chili powder, chili paste and anything else off the door that looks good at the time.

                              I forgot to include in my list- rice- my daughter lights up like a christmas tree when she smells the liquid heating up. And homemade popcorn too- kids freak when I make stove top popcorn- they don't believe me- so I have to open the lid and of course it pops out everywhere- but do they love it- I make honey butter to drizzle- full of fiber! I am well known as the popcorn lady in our circle of kid friends!!

                              1. re: JalamaMama

                                I was just thinking about this today. We call them "kids choice nights" but the kids choice is limited, they have to agree on something, and they have to have a vegetable. I do it when I want salad, spicy food that I cannot prepare non-spicy and just add spice later, or when I don't want to share something I know they will waste : ). So, my son also really wants to try things. He will do some hot sauce (tapatio), but he insists on the habenero sauce, sricha, or garlic chili sauce. That makes him run to the milk.

                                My kids likes are so unpredictable though. Somedays they love risotto other times, no. Sometimes homemade mac and cheese is great - other times they won't touch it. Same with tomato sauce, chicken, Indian food, rice, hamburgers, all veggies, etc. etc. Pizza, cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, PB sandwiches are about the only no-fail meals - that is what they have for lunch...

                                1. re: JalamaMama

                                  I'm looking forward to when she starts saying "Yours! Yours!"

                                  I'm actually surprised at some of the strongly-flavored foods that our girl likes. I feel lucky that she'll eat just about anything that we eat. On the other hand, we do have to keep the bottle of wine far from her grasp.

                                2. re: jlafler

                                  Yep, same thing here. Can't even make my kid an alternate meal, because she won't eat it because she's convinced that what we're eating is better (and it usually is). So basically it means that I can't make meals that are super spicy or otherwise inaccessible to her, because then she just won't eat. Although I will say, she'll hang with us on the spicy stuff for a while, before she finally starts chugging her milk. ;-)

                                  1. re: MrsCheese

                                    And then there are the times when what's on my plate and what's on her plate are identical, but she still wants mine!

                                  2. re: jlafler

                                    Oh my god! My 2 yr old always wants tabasco! We usually have it out when we have pizza, and he'll ask for it. We'll give him a drop on his plate, he'll soak up the entire drop with some small piece of crust. Pop it in his mouth. Watch facial expression slowly change as burn hits the tongue. Watch as expression right before crying unfolds. Watch the clouds disappear and the sun come out again. Then he says more. More.

                                    I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Husband once had a plate of chilies and beef would you like some beef with your chilies in Thailand. He cried his way through it, and said it was the best thing he ever tasted :)

                                    1. re: sasha1

                                      Haha! I had to read this to my husband.

                                      I've heard that eating spicy food causes the brain to release endorphins. Don't know if it's actually true, mind you.

                                    2. re: jlafler

                                      jl: are you sure this isn't a trick to get the sour cream (or maybe even ice cream?) :-)

                        2. Meatballs and pasta. They love to make meatballs and you can actually cook them without browning them first if you keep them small and set them in a pot of hot tomato sauce undisturbed for the first fifteen minutes. The hot sauce will sear them and eliminate one messy step. They also freeze well for later nuking.

                          1. When my then 50ish mother (who is a very good cook) gained custody of her 5 & 6 yr old niece and nephew it had been 20+yrs since she cooked for children. She adapted very quickly, some of my cousin's favorite foods were: Meatloaf burgers, hot rice with butter and sugar, over-the-stove mac and cheese. Small Chef salads, Breakfast Pizza's. Chile Mac and goulash made with mild polish sausages, sauteed sweet potatos, and lots of fresh vegetables, how she got them both love spinach still amazes me. Home made fish nuggets with panko, and that god-awful sweet corn-muffin mix, my cousins are 29 and 30 now and they still show up around dinnertime.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: kpaumer

                              I remember thinking chef's salad was cool too when I was little ... I think it's everything chopped up small. (My mother made it with Spam ...)

                            2. We make quesadillas a lot. I usually have some carnitas in the freezer to throw in, or just use chicken and cheese, or just cheese. Sometimes beans, sometimes cilantro, sometimes chilis, whatever I have on hand. I cook them on my grill pan and serve with chips, salsa, sour cream and TJ's guac. Fruits, veggies, dairy, carbs, meat - everything's covered.

                              Grilled cheese/tomato soup. I make that meal when I'm tired.

                              Sometimes I throw something in the crockpot to cook during the day and serve it over egg noodles. Anything with noodles is a hit in my house.

                              And then sometimes they'll surprise you - we grilled salmon steaks the other night and the little one totally chowed down.

                              If you need something quick...my daughter usually doesn't like chicken nuggets much, but the other night we had the Bell and Evans nuggets from the freezer section and they were very good. Real chicken.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: MrsCheese

                                I made quesadillas tonight and wondered why I don't make them more often: they're easy, quick, versatile. Everyone loves them, and they're a good way to use up leftovers.