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Oct 20, 2010 07:47 AM

Quick and easy kid friendly ideas

My kids are great eaters, and while they like the "kid standards" like chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, etc., they are definitely also interested in real food. They like fish, chicken, beef, veggies, etc. The challenge is that we're always pressed for time...someone always needs to be somewhere! So by default, I end up going with really quick and basic (pasta, the above-mentioned nuggets), which I know is a cop-out, and they end up not being the most fortifying of meals.

Looking for ideas for healthy, fast (or make-ahead) meals for my well-rounded little eaters. TIA!!

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  1. I found that prepping vegetables ahead of time is a great convenience, such as, trimming and cutting to size the broccoli, same with carrots, celery... etc. Frozen veggies are quick and convenient.

    Grating squash into pasta is a quick method of getting veggies into pasta.

    Also, I find that it's easier to make ground beef dishes ahead of time - pasta sauce, taco filling, sloppy joe - for those busy days. Ground beef/meat seems move forgiving to reheating.

    2 Replies
    1. re: dave_c

      Great suggestions...thank you. Do you find ground turkey to be just as forgiving?

      1. re: mom22tots

        I make a ground turkey chili with lots of veggies and beans. When I was in school at night, my husband would heat up individual conatiners in the microwave. I usually heat it up in a pot on the stove, and it comes out very good.

        Baked or stuffed pasta dishes also reheat well in the oven- I've made baked ziti with mushrooms and eggplant rollups and frozen them. Vegetable lasagna (with frozen spinach, artichokes, and broccoli) freezes well too.

        Soups also freeze well and reheat easily. I keep Trader Joe's bake-at-home rolls in the freezer for a quick addition to a hearty soup. I make lentil, split pea, vegetable, butternut squash and tomato as a double batch and freeze half.

        I don't eat fish- but friends of mine swear by frozen fish fillets.

    2. I agree with the ground beef (or turkey) make-aheads. One of the current hits around here is chili. I make a big batch and divide up leftovers. I don't make it too spicy (dh adds hot sauce to his bowl) but it is well seasoned with cumin and just less chile pepper.

      I do think ground turkey is as forgiving in a sauce or "wet" dish. I have not found that dry ground meat reheats as easily, or at least I should say, needs more care in reheating gently. With taco filling, I do make extra to reheat once, but I warm it more gently in a pan or microwave than I do in chili or pasta sauce.

      Any stew works well made in big batches and reheated, or soups. Or do a big roast and slice leftovers for hot or cold sandwiches on rushed nights. Raw veggies can go on the side.

      Don't leave out breakfast for dinner. Homemade pancakes or french toast can be done quickly (or done ahead on a weekend and reheated) and served with fruit or a yogurt-fruit smoothie can be a full meal too. Of course there's also eggs too.

      1. While I don't have kids, I'm a single guy who likes a quick meal too. I like to buy the scallopine thin chicken cutlets because they cook so quickly and because I'm lazy too, I get the bags of caeser salad. Season the cutlets, throw in a pan for about a minute a side, slice and throw on top of the salad. If I'm in a rush, make a wrap or sandwich. If the kids don't want all the lettuce, tomato, avacado and a little mayo, ranch or bleu cheese dressing.

        I also love pesto. I made pesto grilled cheeses with mozzarella and tomatoes. Sometimes in a rush, I skip the grilled aspect (which also make sit healthier.

        This isn't heathy, but I love the cubed steaks. They cook in literally a minute or two and I top them with cheese for a quick Philly Cheesesteak. Of course when I'm home with time on my hands, I saute onions.

        One of my favorite quickie pastas (well used to be, I stopped eating pasta) is orecchiette with bread crumbs and cherry tomatoes. Simple, easy and surprisingly delicious.

        At least once a week I have breakfast for dinner. I can eat eggs for almost any meal.

        As for make ahead meals. Obviously the pasta sauces are a given and someone else mentioned chili. Any soups are easy. And don't underestimate the french onion mix. Add some stale baguette chunks and some melted gruyere or swiss on top. Quick and Easy. I also like to make a big shepherd's pie (and like I said I am a single guy, so my version is a little bastardized, but I've made it for others and they loved it. Brown the meat, add canned corn, thawed frozen peas & carrots and I use the Betty Crocker fake potato stuff on top. Bake for about 15-20 minutes. It's pretty quick and something you can make huge batches of.

        1. I have a 5 yo who eats what we eat. Weeknight meals need to be quick in our house.

          Do you have a slow cooker?

          We buy our beef by the half so I have lots of roasts in my freezer. I put a roast in the slow cooker and do a roast beef meal that night and shred the beef for tacos or enchillada the next night. You could also mix the shredded beef with BBQ sauce for sandwiches. I treat pork the same way. I am not a freeze for later person (just doesn't work in our house) but I would think the cooked meat would reheat well.

          A whole roasted chicken in another weeknight staple in our house. It goes right into the oven as soon as I walk in the door. Can also be eaten cold or repurposed for chicken salad.

          1. Soup is a great thing to make in advance. Fish chowder, french onion, gingered carrot, potato leek, and chicken noodle are all popular around here. My kids love stuffed peppers, made with red peppers not green, lots of veg, leftover rice, ground turkey and some grated cheese. We make dough or keep frozen pizza dough and fixins on hand for make your own pizza night, usually Fridays when we are too tired to deal. Any meat cooked in salsa or broth in the slow cooker can become tacos one night and either topped baked potatoes or nachos another night. Salad bar night is surprisingly popular too, even with the salad hater in the family. And don't forget whole grain pancakes or oatmeal, the old fashioned kind, with a fixins bar of dried fruit, nuts even some chocolate chips and a pour of milk.