We have all been there – you plan as well as you can, search for recipes, go grocery shopping, make dinner – and your child refuses to eat. You then have to make the decision whether to stand your ground and make him eat what you’ve made, or avoid the whining and make that box of macaroni and cheese.
Ideally, your child would realize that perfectly balanced recipe you’ve spent time preparing is both nutritious and delicious, but in the real world, this is rarely the case.
The five “Make Your Own Dinner” night recipes below are designed to let everyone make their meal how they like it best, without creating a separate menu for each person in your family. An added bonus to these recipes is that they allow children to take ownership of their nutrition and promote autonomy and independence in eating habits.
1. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
What you need:
Bread, butter, varied types of cheese (American, swiss, provolone, etc.);
Goldfish crackers, shredded cheese, croutons, crumbled bacon, chicken breast, sour cream – the possibilities are endless!
What you do:
Let each person pick out what type (or types) of cheese they want on their sandwich, heat up some tomato soup, and let your cooks get creative dressing up the soup and creating flavor combinations.
What you need:
Hard or soft taco shells;
Meat (ground beef, chicken, steak or pork);
Lettuce, tomato, sour cream, guacamole, hot sauce, salsa, rice, beans, corn, onions, peppers, etc.
What you do:
Use a mild taco seasoning on the meat of your choice and let your family choose the spices, veggies, and sauces they like best. Cook the meat, cut the veggies you need, and put everything in bowls for your family to pick and choose from. If your kids are a little older, let them help dice the tomato or chop the onions.
What you need:
Traditional pizza crust, flatbread, or get creative with biscuits, bagels or even English muffins;
Sauces, which can be red (tomato) or white (usually alfredo sauce);
Any type of shredded cheese;
Toppings, toppings, toppings! Again, the possibilities are endless. Vegetables, meat, fruit, barbeque chicken. Your choices are only limited by your imagination.
What you do:
If necessary, bake the pizza crust according to directions. Set out the sauces and toppings and see who can make the most unique, tasty pizza!
4. Baked Potato Bar
What you need:
Shredded cheese and meats for protein, sour cream, ranch dressing, onions, chives, broccoli, etc.
What you do:
You can do so much with a simple baked potato. Have a Mexican baked potato by adding ground beef, taco sauce, lettuce and tomato. Make it more traditional by adding cheese and broccoli, or go all out with turkey, cheese, onion and bacon.
What you need:
Steak, chicken, cubed pork, or shrimp;
Assorted vegetables (peppers, zucchini, onions, etc.) and even fruit (pineapple and pork is a delicious combination!);
What you do:
Each person can stack their kabobs to their liking. Encourage your cooks to experiment with combinations or something they’ve never tried before. Maybe your son swears he hates shrimp, but may be surprised when he tries it grilled with tasty vegetables and seasoning.
Grill the kabobs (this doesn’t take long) and serve with rice or another side of your choosing.
Spend quality time with your family while making delicious, nutritious meals together. Do you have a favorite, go-to recipe you make often? Think about how you can turn it into a “Make Your Own” night! The five recipes above are just the beginning of inclusive family meals.
Not-Your-Mama’s Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
Here’s another awesome recipe from our resident cooking enthusiast, Emily Steadman. I’ve personally tasted this recipe… SO. GOOD. Enjoy! -KB
Ahh Spring… the flowers are blooming… the birds are singing…. my car is frozen shut—Wait.. What?! Oh that’s right, I live in New England… the arctic tundra that refuses to acknowledge the vernal equinox. It is April. And this week my daughter slipped and fell on a sheet of ice walking to the car… aforementioned car was frozen shut and I had to begrudgingly remove the ice scraper from the trunk (where I had ceremoniously placed it TWO WEEKS AGO, signifying it would no longer be needed and heralding the arrival of Spring) to crack the glistening sheet of suck that encased the entire car. Ok. Rant over.
Because the cold just refuses to go away, I think this is the perfect time to share one of my absolute favorite recipes. It is a staple in our house through the winter, and as I can’t seem to get warm right now, it’s all I can think about! Let me preface this with a warning that this recipe is not a quick, 5 ingredient fix. It takes a little time and a little love but the end result is so deliciously worth it – I promise! It’s a great weekend meal, and we usually make it on Saturdays or Sundays when my daughter and I can throw on our aprons and spend the day in the kitchen, listening to music and salivating over the smells coming from the stove.
Since I was a kid, the words “Shepherd’s Pie” would make me immediately lose my appetite. It was a frequent meal in our house and the idea of mixing ground beef with frozen veggies was just unpleasant. I used to make my mother separate all the ingredients because I refused to eat them all mashed up (I now realize that payback for this has come in the form of my own child being the world’s pickiest eater). So as an adult, I didn’t even consider Shepherd’s Pie as an option for meals I’d want to cook. But I found a few recipes on Pinterest that sparked my interest and decided to give it another try. This recipe from iowagirleats.com was the one that started my downward spiral into Shepherd’s Pie obsession. I made some changes to suit my tastes and ended up with what is now my family’s favorite recipe.
I should warn you that anyone you cook this meal for will most likely want to hug you after the first bite. It is that good.
- 2 lbs chuck roast (trim a little excess fat but not too much – it adds flavor!)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large carrot (peeled and chopped)
- 2 celery stalks (peeled and chopped)
- ½ yellow onion (diced)
- 1 cup portabella mushrooms (diced)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 small bunch of fresh Thyme (remove leaves from stems)
- 3 Tbsp cornstarch
- 3 cups red wine
- 1 cup beef broth
- 2 tbsp worstershire sauce
- 2-3 lbs potatoes (peeled and chopped)
- ½ stick of butter
- ¾ c milk or cream
- 1 ½ c shredded white cheddar
- Salt and pepper
Cut the chuck roast into large chunks and season liberally on all sides with coarse salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Sear the top and bottom of the chuck roast pieces for about 3-4 minutes per side. You should see a nice golden crust. Make sure to sear off any fat.
Remove chuck roast pieces from pot and place in separate bowl. Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic to the pot. Saute for no more than 30 seconds before adding onion, carrot, celery and mushrooms. Cook for about 8 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add thyme leaves to pot.
Add the chuck roast pieces back into the pot and mix with the cooked vegetables. Sprinkle with cornstarch, stir and cook for 1 minute.
After 2 hours, remove the meat from the pot and shred. If the mixture is still not thickened after 2 hours, place over medium high heat and simmer until thickened before returning shredded beef to the pot.
30 minutes before the meat is finished braising, boil the diced potatoes until tender. Drain the water from the pot, mash the potatoes and add butter, milk (or cream) and 1 cup of shredded white cheddar. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer the meat and vegetable mixture from the pot to a casserole dish (make sure you put it on a baking sheet in case it bubbles over in the oven!). Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the meat mixture and sprinkle remaining shredded cheddar on top.
Bake in a 350° oven for 10 minutes, and then broil until a golden brown crust forms on top of the potatoes.
Serve and enjoy!
Follow Emily on Social:
Kid’s Culinary World Tour: Maine Clam Chowder and Whoopie Pies
OK, folks, I’m not even going to try to pretend I’m not slightly biased about the awesomeness of this next culinary adventure. Having lived in Maine through high school and college (go Black Bears!), I’ve developed a special fondness for Vacation Land. Anyone who’s lived in Maine at one time or another can attest to the motto being 100% true. It really IS “The Way Life Should Be!” It’s beautiful, the folks are as friendly as can be and holy crap the food is delicious! So I admit to nudging Madison towards “visiting” this state next on our Culinary World Tour because it’s summer and I was craving “Maine food” anyway! For this stamp in our Food Passport, we decided to make some good ol’ Maine clam chowder and whoopie pies! Now, there is some debate as to the origin of both those dishes, but having spent so much time in Maine, I can definitely verify that they are two staples of Maine cuisine. And they are made differently in Maine than in other places, so that’s good enough for me!
Now. I need to take a moment to talk about whoopie pies. Because, if you’ve never tried one before – and I’m really not familiar with places outside of Maine that make/sell them, so there may be many of you who haven’t tried them- you need to prepare yourself for the mouthful of awesome that you are about to experience. Seriously. I’m talking like… put on your stretchiest pants and sit your butt down in your favorite chair. Whoopie pies are a comfort food punch in the mouth in the best possible way. I honestly forgot how amazing they were since moving back to Connecticut but back in the day, they were sold in our cafeteria… at every Mom ‘n’ Pop store… gas station… bake sale… you name it. There is an entire bakery devoted to whoopie pies in Gardiner, ME (Wicked Whoopies. Go there. You will possibly die from pure sugary bliss but it will be worth it…. Or if you don’t like to travel for your sugar comas, THEY DELIVER. Did you read that correctly? Yes. Someone will put a real Maine whoopie pie in a box and ship it to your door.), and I’m fairly certain it is the official state treat.
So… is this a lot of hype? Yes. Will you ever regret making… buying… eating… a real whoopie pie? Absolutely not. Now there are a few debates on whoopie pie filling…some people use regular frosting… some use just marshmallow fluff… some use a cream cheese type concoction. While these are all delicious, I’m a whoopie pie purest and like to stick with the magical concoction included in this recipe. And this is a recipe from a couple of Maine grannies… so I’m pretty sure that makes it the best ever (visit the link to the original recipe to see pics of the adorable grannies making whoopie pies).
After we did our little bit of trivia searching – Madison learned that there is a county in Maine (Aroostock) that is larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined (this of course blew her mind) – we set up our Pandora station to accompany our baking. This time around we went for a bluegrass station, as I have so many fond memories of summers in Maine with blueberry and bluegrass festivals, and it just seemed right. To my surprise, Madison loved the bluegrass (I swear, this kid is a “Mainah” at heart!). And onto the cooking!
MAINE WHOOPIE PIES
Ingredients for Cakes:
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 5 tablespoons of cocoa (rita uses 4)
- 2 cups sifted flour
- 1 teaspoon each: baking powder, baking soda, salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Cream sugar and shortening together.
- Add beaten egg yolks.
- Sift dry ingredients together.
- Add milk and vanilla alternatively with the dry ingredients into the wet mix.
- Drop the batter in equal spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet, leaving room to spread.
- Bake in a pre-heated 375 degrees oven for 7-10 minutes.
- Remove to wire racks to cool.
Ingredients for Filling:
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 2 cups confectioners sugar
- 2 egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons Fluff
- Combine all ingredients and blend with an electric mixer.
- Spoon filling onto completely cooled cakes and top off like a sandwich.
(As you can see… we didn’t wait long enough to put the filling in the whoopies – it smelled too good to wait! They were still a little too warm so it got a little messy but it was still delish!)
This recipe was found on katyelliott.com
MAINE CLAM CHOWDER
The recipe is from the historic Cliff House in Ogunquit, Maine and it pairs the briny clam broth with hickory smoked bacon. Maine clam chowder is not as thick as other New England chowders, but in my opinion it’s the best there is! Give it a try!
- 1 slice hickory-smoked bacon, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon butter
- 1 cup onion, minced
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon The Cliff House Spice Blend (see below)
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 can clams (6.5 ounces)
- 1 cup bottled clam juice
- 1-1/2 cups half and half
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 2 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and diced
To create The Cliff House Spice Blend:
- 4 teaspoons oregano
- 4 teaspoons dried parsley
- 2 teaspoons marjoram
- 2 teaspoons dill
- 4 teaspoons thyme
- 4 teaspoons basil
- 1 teaspoon sage
- 4 teaspoons rosemary
- 2 teaspoons tarragon
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Blend all ingredients (crushing in a mortar if possible). Store in a resealable plastic bag to refrigerate.
- In a heavy-bottomed, 4-pint soup kettle, sauté bacon, butter, onion, garlic and The Cliff House Spice Blend over low heat. Do not allow to brown.
- Drain clams and set aside, reserving the juice.
- Slowly stir the flour and clam juices into the sauté mixture.
- Bring to a boil; reduce heat.
- Add half and half. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add white pepper, potatoes and clams.
- Heat to serving temperature. (Avoid boiling, as this can make the clams tough.)
- Serve immediately with crackers (and cornbread!)
This recipe was found on gonewengland.about.com
NEXT STOP: FLORIDA!
Follow Emily Around the World and at Home:
Kid’s Culinary World Tour: Louisiana Beignets & Jambalaya
After our recent “trip” to New York to make New York style bagels, we decided to switch it up a bit and head on down to the bayou! One of Madison’s favorite Disney movies is “The Princess and the Frog,” which takes place in New Orleans. So it was the perfect accompaniment to our culinary trip to Louisiana! We decided to make that one classic New Orleans dish: Beignets! I’ve never had a beignet, so I really had no idea what they were supposed to taste like, and I’m certain that nothing compares to the fresh beignets served at Café Du Monde – but I have to say, I was pretty pleased with the results!
So, with the soundtrack of Princess and the Frog playing in the background (Check out Dr. John’s “Down in New Orleans” for the perfect accompaniment to your Louisiana culinary adventure!), we sat down to learn a few interesting tidbits about Louisiana. Madison learned that New Orleans was the largest city in the southern states during the Civil War. So, of course, it held great importance to both the confederate and union armies.
Beignets are French pastries that were introduced to Louisiana by French settlers from a Canadian region called Acadia. Traditional beignets are made from choux pastry which does not require yeast as a rising agent. The recipe we chose did include yeast, so they’re not quite the same as beignets at the Café du Monde – but they were quite delicious ad fairly easy to make!
I will also add a recipe for Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya that we made for dinner that night, though I didn’t photograph the process (Madison was a little too distracted by the tasty beignets to dig into the jambalaya recipe!).
- 1 cup milk
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- 3 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 package yeast
- powdered sugar
- In a small bowl, mix together the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt.
- Heat milk to scalding. (Steaming but not boiling.)
- Place the butter and sugarsin a large mixing bowl. Pour the scalding milk over the top of the butter and sugar.
- Stir the milk so that the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. ALLOW THE MIXTURE TO COOL TO LUKEWARM. (You don’t want to kill the yeast!)
- Add the yeast and stir it in.
- Add the egg and HALF of the dry ingredients to the bowl and beat well.
- Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix well.
- Place the dough on a floured counter and knead about 2-3 minutes, or until it is soft and pliable.
- Place your kneaded dough into a large greased bowl. Cover and let rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
- Place the dough onto a floured counter and flour a rolling pin. Roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick.
- Cut the dough into triangles or squares.
- Heat canola oil to 385 degrees.
- Scoop the dough into the oil using a slotted spoon or fry basket.
- Fry for 1-2 minutes and then flip the dough using your slotted spoon or fry basket.
- Fry the second side for 1-2 more minutes. Your beignets should now be goldenbrown on both sides.
- Remove the beignets and place them on a paper towel to cool a bit.
- Once cooled enough to prevent burning your mouth, dump powdered sugar over the top of the beignets and ENJOY!
We found this recipe on bombshellbling.com
Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
- 2 3/4 lb chicken meat (white and dark), chopped (You could also use shrimp!)
- 1 pound smoked kielbasa, sliced (We used Andouille Sausage)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium sweet yellow onion, chopped
- 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 large celery stalk, chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 (14- to 16-oz) can diced tomatoes in juice, drained
- 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 2 cups long-grain white rice
- 1/2 cup green onions (white and green parts), chopped
- Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces, then slice kielbasa into 1/4-inch thick disks.
- Heat oil in a heavy stock pot over moderately high heat until hot (but not smoking).
- Add onion, bell pepper, and celery, stirring frequently, until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.
- Add chicken, sausage, tomatoes, broth, water, salt, and cayenne and bring to a boil, covered, over high heat. Stir in rice and bring to a full rolling boil. Cover pot, then cook over low heat until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Let stand off heat, covered, 5 minutes.
- Stir in green onions and serve.
This recipe was found on foodista.com
Next Stop: Maine!