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Need ideas for simple, quick dinners for 3 adults and 2-1/2 year old

I am going to Brooklyn in a few weeks to look after my 2-1/2 year old grandson and feed him and his parents when his baby brother arrives. The kitchen is small but fairly well equipped. They are all adventurous eaters but no red meat. Pasta is limited to non-wheat based products. I will be tired and not inspired at the end of the day. I am coming from Mexico so cannot bring prepared meals. There are grocery stores very nearby with most things available. I often make chicken tacos (big surprise there) and they like the salmon patties that I picked up on chowhound a while ago. Soup is good and I have been copying that recent thread. They don't have a slow cooker and I hate to buy one because the kitchen is so small. I would be ever so appreciative for any and all suggestions. Thank you!!!

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  1. 1. A quick sauté with any number of combination of vegetables, well seasoned either with Asian spices or Mexican, or Italian and served with a nice bowl of steamed Jasmine or Basmati rice. Serve with an easy to pan fry or pan grill protein.
    2. The infamous Broccoli Casserole, only make all the add ins from scratch (or not)
    3. Black Bean Soup with Chorizo / salad...(.use canned beans & low-sodium chicken broth in a box)
    4. Grilled or roasted fish / baked potato/ string beans
    5. Lamb or pork chops/ roasted asparagus/ steamed cauliflower (Or other vegetable the family likes)
    6. Hamburgers/rolls/chips/pickles....cold slaw with prepared chopped veggies in a bag.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gio

      Your 2 1/2 y.o. eats black bean soup w/ chorizo?! Wow, gotta have that one! And a saute w/ spices! Most toddlers don't want/need spices except for plain ol' salt, pepper & butter.

      Hey, how about a simple roast chicken dinner with potatoes? That should work with the little one!

    2. A chicken and spinach lasagna is great. You can even get the preboiled noodles if space and time is an issue. Spinach (frozen) is great for this with ground turkey or chicken. I like the traditional cheeses but you can use some shredded fontini which is good. If the two year old can nibble on chicken you save a few bites for him and my son when very young love small bites of pasta, lasagna noodles cut up would work good.

      Spaghetti with meatballs, turkey meatballs you can make a huge batch and freeze. Younger kids can nibble on small bites, it keeps well, can cook stove top. Use some good canned tomatoes and some onions and garlic and make a good sauce.

      Potato and sausage gratin. Potatoes, squash, mushrooms and fresh grilled sausage makes a great casserole.

      Mac and cheese of course. I like to use some great honey ham and layer the ham and the mac to mac a light casserole. Kids and adults love it.

      Fish is great. You can make amazing fish packets in the oven in either parchment or aluminum foil. Layer the fish over some pre cooked pasta, like angel hair and then top with julienne carrots, zuchinni, muchrooms, onions, lemon slice, some butter and wine. Close up and bake Easy all in one dinner. Serve with my stuffed bread.

      Stuffed bread, cut lengthwise and lightly hollow each side and then grill or broil just light brown and stuff. I like to brush with olive oil, then fresh mozz or provolone, then fresh tomatoes, salt and pepper, then arugula, top with cheese and the other half wrap in foil and bake. You can do this with sauteed mushrooms, pesto and cheese, grilled veggies, carmelized and fontina, any combo you want. It is great with a simple grilled chicken breast, pork chop or steak.

      I make a hearty stew with shrimp, kale, fish any white fish or salmon in season, some mussels and onions, cream and wine (non alcoholic) is fine. I know mothers sometimes can not drink alcohol is breast feeding. and broth. Serve with crunchy bread. I also make a hearty mussel stew made similar but add thin vermicelli to the broth with onions and the sauce and serve. Hearty like soup, quick 30 minutes or less 1 pot and inexpensive.

      Shrimp quesadillas with a lime cilantro vinaigrette salad with avacado.

      A fritatta made with shrimp and potato; or one made with butternut squash, carmelized onions and eggs; salmon, potato and dill.
      Same goes for a quiche

      Make a turkey one night. I love this. Turkey one night and then you have endless ideas for stir fry, pasta, sandwiches, pot pies. All different.

      Pork loin in the oven is great, just with a simple marinade or rub, I have one to die for, I can send later if interested, some soy, brown sugar, just grilled or oven baked. Serve with some stuffed potato halves. I make 1 white and one sweet and I mix the two and make a savory butter to add to the mix and then top with fontina and bake. Great side.

      Veggies use the oven. Roast in aluminum foil pouches with olive oil, s/p. Makes life in a small kitchen simple. Less clean up and very tasty.

      1. My kids love baked pumpkin sopes - of course they love the more authentic better, but they will happily eat the healthier version. I make it woth Maseca mixed with canned pumpkin, top with black beans, shellfish or meat, cheese, salsa, dairy if desired. Serve with cabbage slaw. Baking the sopes makes it a quick hands off meal.

        Skillet baked ziti works fine with rice based pastas.

        Sushi salad. I don't use this recipe and use either real crab, shrimp, baked tofu or edamame (fake crab has wheat), but it gives you the idea. http://foodisyummy42.blogspot.com/200...

        Baked potato with toppings.

        Grilled polenta, topped with tomatoes or mushrooms and white beans, or served with baked chicken.

        There are a lot of stovetop chicken recipes - my kids like lemon and olive, or tomato sauce and chorizo.

        Huevos rancheros. We make a healthier version (baked tortilla) using canned fire roasted tomatoes to make a quick sauce.

        Frittata or similar but with ricotta or cottage cheese mixed in.

        1. Molly Katzen's zuccanoes or other stuffed vegetables like peppers (or even onions or tomatoes as a side). Use pre-cooked rice, barley, wheat berries, or beans for the starch.

          Savory bread puddings, like Reuben.
          Faux scalloped potatoes made with boiled, sliced potatoes, white sauce, cheese and/or ham chunks if you want. Baked until bubbly and browned on the edges.
          Wheat berry salad with lots of add-in's. Good for breakfast, lunch, or snack for mom.

          Cook some grains while you're in the house dealing with the 2-1/2-year-old. They'll keep for a few days, so you can use a cupful here and there.

          Maybe get some pre-made cookie dough and help the 2-1/2 YO make cookies for his mom and dad.

          Is there a decent canned or jarred mole that you could bring with you?

          1. I cook for two-three/sometimes 4 adults and a 3 year old every single day. I don't envy you, its not easy coming up with different dishes, that appeal to all of those eating. In fact I quit trying, I just make what sounds good to me and what do ya know, they usually love it.
            Here's a dish I came up with that was simple and fast, and I was mainly cooking it for the 3 year old. But to my surprise, everyone wanted to have some. It's just vegetables sauteed, small miniature lasagne noodles, zuchinni, onions, carrots, 2 fresh tomatoes, celery, and chicken broth that reduced, the pasta noodles thickened it just enough.
            Sautee the vegetables in a large saute pan with a little oil.
            I used chicken meat from a whole breast (previously cooked in stock)
            Add the broth, 1 can or a cup of homemade chicken stock to the veggies
            Add the partically cooked pasta to the broth
            I add the chicken breast last ( in a little stock with onion and seasoning/salt and pepper, I'll add it towards the end toss it through so not to overcook it.
            For this dish,becuase I was trying not to overwhelm the little one, I use dried basil, 1 clove garlic smooshed with salt added to the veggies, you can add fresh herbs such as parsley and or basil at the end to individual dishes along with perorino romano. It's actually fast and you can make alot.

            I really think that roasting a couple of chickens if you're able to, is the way to go if not, then maybe you could buy those. Take the meat off the bone, and use it for so many things. Like and Asian salad with mushrooms and plum sauce or chicken fried rice.

            Another quick one is Sloppy Joe's made with ground turkey and homemade sauce.

            2 Replies
            1. re: chef chicklet

              who can go wrong with sloppy joes. I actually make a few versions. chopped shrimp with a light tomato citrus sauce topped with lettuce and chopped onion.

              turkey ground with some spicy jack chees

              And the traditional

              Even a veggie one

              Fun and easy but you can top them all a bit different with a little lettuce or cheese but keep the same concept. Easy to do. Love sloppy Joes

              1. re: kchurchill5

                yep, everyone around here loves sloppy joes. oh my gosh you're by far more adventurerous than I am, just the slightly switched up traditional (ground turkey andand of couse I must make the sauce from scratch), but even so, Sloppy Joe's are good ol' comfort food fast!

            2. Forgot I wanted to add another suggestion.It's a casserole dish and very much like a little switched up goulash. I found a recipe in a Napa cook book called Val's Slumgolian. Over the years this dish has been changed around enough that it is now my slumgolian. Either way, it is hearty and warm, just enough spice not to blow out kids, and it's a pretty uncomplicated dish. I have a recipe if you'd like it.

              25 Replies
              1. re: chef chicklet

                I am so very grateful for all these suggestions and have copied them all to take with me,. Yes, chicklet, I would love the slumgolian recipe. BTW I have a puppy whose name is Chiclet.

                I have not made sloppy joes for 20+ years. Please give me some guidelines or pointers. I am a little afraid it all starts with a bun and both my grandson and daughter in law have a sensitivity to wheat. I don't think they are hugely allergic because I see them eat wheat-based things but every now and then I hear talk of avoiding wheat. Of course I am sure in Brooklyn I can find non-wheat buns of some sort.

                1. re: madwrk

                  My sloppy joes, adjust to your flavor

                  2 pounds ground beef, browned; 1 small to medium onion I like more onion some like less diced fine; 1 tablespoon dijon, 1/2 cup bbq sauce or ketchup and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Add more or less sugar for taste 1/2 is plenty for me. I like to add hot sauce but you do not have to. Salt and pepper and I like a little garlic powder and parsley. Cook simmer and then put on buns. Yes, Non wheat buns are available at whole food I know. Not sure where else. If nothing else serve over premade polenta. Slice and pan saute and serve the meat over it. Very good as well for those who can't take the wheat. I like a slice of cheese but just me.

                  Also turkey or chicken and dumplings. Simple turkey, with a very thin bechemel and broth sauce, some diced carrots and celery and then served with hearty fresh dumplings. You can use some bisquick and fresh herbs and make a great dish. Kids love it. Just use a store bought rotisserie, dice up and add to broth with onions, celery and carrots, simmer till veggies are done, add some flour and cream to thicken and then add the dumplings. cover and cook till done. Put under the broiler the last 3 minutes just to slightly brown and serve. Easy feeds a ton, great flavor and kids love the dumplings and chicken. Flavor with some parlsey, salt and pepper and thyme. It is a favorite dish

                  1. re: kchurchill5

                    Oh no kidding, I think Bisquick makes the best dumplings!

                    1. re: chef chicklet

                      Awesome dumplings ... I use some light cream or just milk, but light cream is even better. but either or and some fresh herbs, rosemary, thyme and a dash of grated onion, just 1 teaspoon and pepper. Awesome. So easy, I just drop them in by spoon fulls. sort of roll them a little and let them cook in the broth, they are sooo good.

                      1. re: chef chicklet

                        Awesome dumplings, just a little fresh herbs maybe a little grated onion and milk or cream. To me, the simplest easiest. I have had real good dumplings but in a hurry these are just perfect for me. They puff up brown and are chewy and moist. I could live off of those and sausage and gravy ...

                    2. re: madwrk

                      great I'll get the recipe out tomorrow, if I type it here, I need to type it for my electronic file too. So no problem.
                      The Sloppy Joe's that i make are pretty standard, except I do use ground turkey. I make them from tomato sauce and a few other things. I'll focus on that tomorrow as well.Yes I do use a Kaiser roll with sesamee, toasted on the grill with butter. So seems like ms kchurchill knows about the wheat free products as I'm so sorry, I do not....but I'll post everything tomorrow for you no problem. You're going to have so much fun with your family! How sweet!

                      1. re: chef chicklet

                        Sloppy's are the best of the best. What a great suggestion, they are classic for kids and adults!! Just bring extra napkins :)

                      2. re: madwrk

                        You could still make the Sloppy Joes and just serve over rice. That also goes for all the other recipes which call for dumplings and/or noodles. Have a great stay in NY and try to enjoy yourself too!

                        1. re: Gio

                          On rice or even on polenta wedges Yum! (did I mention we had Sloppy Joes for the first time in years just last night?) Now I'm looking for new ways to enjoy the leftovers :)

                          1. re: maplesugar

                            Use a canned crescent roll for something quick. spread some on with just a bit of graded cheese some chopped green chilis and roll and then baked, Serve with sour cream. Not very gourmet ish, but tasty. Quesadilla would be my other choice or wraps with onions, lettuce, etc, the normal stuff. Not very mexican but add some peppers and pretty close.

                            You could also add it to a chili mix.

                            1. re: maplesugar

                              Yes that would be a good idea, in fact I was just looking for recipes for grilled polenta, and I found a nice little recipe for corn cakes topped with creamed ham. The corn cakes looked like an arepa.

                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                I love polenta with a spicy leftover chicken in a spicy tomato sauce with roasted onions and peppers and some good creamy mexican cheese, Caso blanco ... I can't remember the name, sorry. If I could get on google I would look it up, not working right now.

                                Pork tenderloins marinated in a jerk sauce, then grilled. I like to pan fry the polenta and then top with goat cheese mixed with some orange and lime juice and zest, then top with arugula and then the pork tenderloin and topped with a smoky BBQ sauce with caribbean flavors.

                                I also have done one with grilled onions, then added to a pan with black beans and some green chilies. Add the chicken and some diced tomatoes, then heated till warm. Pan fried the polenta and topped with the black bean mix. Topped with grated cheese. Served with a great side salad.

                                Someone made a simple bacon and onion cream sauce and topped it on the polenta and then topped that with fresh tomatoes and sauteed chard.

                                1. re: kchurchill5

                                  Sounds really nice, I want to make the little cornbread cakes that look like arepas recipe, your chicken with, black beans and green chilies sound wonderful. Is there a sauce or is it just those ingredients? Do you have a recipe for that?

                                  1. re: chef chicklet

                                    Let me look it up for you and get back in a bit, have to run a errand for my boss.

                                    1. re: chef chicklet

                                      I do two versions but basically the same. One uses shredded or diced chicken the other marinated chicken and grilled and then sliced.
                                      Marinade: lime juice, olive oil, paprika, cumin, garlic and pepper. Marinade at least 1 hour up to 8.

                                      The bean mix also has two versions. 2 cans black beans, 1 small onion diced, 1 small can of green chilis (or version 2) 2 diced chipoltes. But the base is 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons minced garlic diced, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 can of diced tomatoes (once I used salsa but I like the canned diced better) You can also use fresh if you want. I added a bit of chicken stock just 1/4 cup or so to give a little liquid. The starch from the beans thickened it up. FYI: I didn't drain or rinse the beans, you can if you want and I didn't drain the tomatoes either. Personal preference there. I sauted the garlic onion in olive oil, added the beans tomatoes, seasoning peppers and chicken and just let hang out. Added some broth for a little liquid. If you don't add the chicken, Serve sliced over the beans and polenta and top with grated cheese and sour cream or salsa guacamole if you want. The juice from the tomatoes and beans make a natural sauce. Grill or saute the polenta and perfect. It takes just 30 minutes to put it all together. I like the green chilis, my best friend likes the chipoltes. Either or 2 different flavors, but still good.

                                      1. re: kchurchill5

                                        This is great, I was needing to know how you hold it all together or if its individually just piled on. Sometimes I drain the beans sometimes not, like you. This sounds really nice, actually can be quite healthy. Thanks Kim!

                            2. re: madwrk

                              Sloppy Joe’s

                              1 lb of ground beef or turkey
                              1 small onion diced very small
                              ½ green bell pepper small chop
                              2 8 oz cans tomato sauce
                              ½ cup water
                              ¼ cup ketchup
                              2 T apple cider vinegar
                              1/3 cup brown sugar
                              2 T English mustard
                              2 T California chili powder – or whatever chili powder you prefer
                              1 T Worcestershire sauce
                              Salt and pepper to taste

                              Brown the ground meat with the onion and bell pepper –drain

                              In a large sauté pan, add tomato sauce, water and the rest of the ingredients
                              Bring the sauce to a boil add the salt and pepper again adjust seasoning
                              Add the ground beef, and reduce the heat to a low simmer 25-30 mins..
                              To serve,
                              Top the bottom of Kaiser rolls, or buns of your choice with the meat mixture, add cheese or chopped olives if you want, top with the other side. I like to grill the buns, butter them and place on cast iron grill pan. This is also good with coleslaw, or potato chips.

                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                Thank you so much. That looks like something I could play with as needed or wanted. I am collecting all these suggestions in one place and I promise if time permits to share any thoughts or ideas or suggestions that come up during my time in .NY.

                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  Glad I can help.
                                  By the way, I made this the other night, and I didn't have the small cans of tomato sauce, so I used a large can, and I allso added some water. I didn't want to open one of my bags of chili powder because I had an open chile cayenne molido.
                                  Yes there was some heat, not as bad you'd think and the 3 yr old loved it.

                                  I'd say with this particular recipe, it's better to let the sauce thicken by reducing, so no need to thicken with anything else.

                                  Enjoy your family, that's the most important thing.

                                2. re: madwrk

                                  Recipe for the Slumgolian
                                  1 lb of ground turkey or beef
                                  1 large onion
                                  2 garlic cloves smooshed with salt and oil
                                  1/2 bell pepper, diced
                                  4 lg cans if tomato sauce
                                  tomato paste
                                  1 cup frozen white corn
                                  1 small can sliced black olives
                                  1/2 cup romano cheese
                                  fresh parsley
                                  fresh basil
                                  dried oregano
                                  1 pk of wide egg noodles
                                  In a large saute/deep pan, brown the meat with the 2 T dried oregano or dried basil, onion, garlic and the green pepper, drain the fat.
                                  add mushrooms and corn, dried herbs and salt and pepper
                                  Seperately cook the noodles al dente, drain the water off and reserve

                                  Toss the tomato and meat mixture, add a little sauce to the noodles, and then pour it into a large casserole. Add cheese and olives to the top
                                  bake at 350 for 30 minutes with a lid or foil add the fresh basil and romano cheese prior to serving, or you can take the lid off, add mozerrella put it back in the over until the cheese melts.

                                  Hope you enjoy this dish, this has been one of my dishes in rotation for many years. I think it's very similar to Goulash but perhaps gussied up a bit.

                                  1. re: chef chicklet

                                    I love this thread!! I'm going to try both the sloppy joe's and the slumgolian. Thanks for posting these recipes chef chicklet.

                                    1. re: manga

                                      My pleasure!

                                      I made sloppy Joes night before last, that's the only problem I have with chowhound. I'll share my recipes and then I get hungry for them!

                                3. re: chef chicklet

                                  That would be Slumgullion, unless Val is descended from Genghis Khan! ;-)
                                  The definition is a thin stew with meat or fish.

                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    Slumgolian, I just looked up the original and that's how it's spelled, I never really thought about the name and what it meant. That's too funny! oooo I should probably be more careful!

                                4. some simple but quick ideas:

                                  1. Chicken pot pie (buy puff pastry)
                                  2. Chicken and mushroom pie
                                  3. Rice with shrimp or chicken and veggies mixed in (cook rice with broth)
                                  4. Fruit salad with bread (banana bread?)
                                  5. Veggie soup with rolls

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                    Looks like most people are forgetting the "no wheat" factor. How about something simple, filling and tasty, like congee? Make a savory porridge of rice or a mix of rice and other grains or legumes, like millet, buckwheat, whole or split mung beans, adzuki beans or even red lentils, using a broth for a base. Flavor it with ginger and onion and cook some fish pieces in it or chicken, then serve with a variety of condiments on the side for adding. Vegetables, such as carrots and mushrooms, can be cooked right in too. The child can eat it plain, but the adults can add crispy fried shallots or garlic (buy at a Southeast Asian store) fresh cilantro and green onion, roasted chopped peanuts, or even some poached or steamed vegetables served on the side. This suggestion may sound odd, but it's a winner, since the person with the wheat sensitivity can season with fish sauce or salt, while the others can use soy sauce if they wish. Someone with a craving for spicy foods can add heat as a condiment, while a child can keep it bland.

                                    The porridge is a cinch to make and it can be made earlier in the day and reheated at dinner time. The condiments are easy to assemble. Only a bit of chopping and possibly steaming or poaching some greens or other veggies is needed to finish the prep. Try it sometime. You'll be pleasantly surprised how well it's received by all.

                                    1. re: 1sweetpea

                                      Chances are they have wheat free soy sauce around...

                                      Peanut noodles with rice noodles is also a quick crowd pleaser. We leave it less spicy for the kids and serve with chili-garlic sauce for the grownups (we like food very spicy) Can be served with baked tofu, beef or chicken - simply grilled or leftovers.

                                  2. tortilla Soup

                                    Mac n Cheese with chicken.

                                    Sneak the kid out for a real hot dog.