Here’s the thing: My family needs to eat. Every. Single. Day. I am no cooking expert and, unsurprisingly, I do not have loads of free time and energy to create master mealplans. I am a working mom with a busy family, trying to keep all the balls up in the air. I am always interested in learning about how other families make things work, so I thought I would share some of the things that help keep my family fed.
I am not a Pinterest mom. The site overwhelms me. Truth? Cooking blogs are my internet porn.
I am quick to print out recipes that sound good but sadly, rarely try something new. Here are some tried and true favorites that work for our family.
Mac and Cheese
We get a lot of mileage out of the recipe for macaroni and cheese muffins Actually, it is a recipe for Mac, Chicken and Cheese Bites.
(While my husband is of the follow-the-recipe-exactly-as-it-is-written camp, I am a bit more lackadaisical in my cooking style. I (almost) always start with a recipe, which I tweak based on my own preferences. I apologize if this drives some Type-A readers crazy, but the results are often top notch.)
Originally, we made mac and cheese and chicken muffins, in the regular sized muffin tin. But now, we omit the chicken. I double the recipe and place half the recipe in a pan to bake as a regular macaroni and cheese. I use regular muffin tins for the remainder of the recipe and freeze the mac and cheese muffins for thermos lunches and quick kid dinners. It is always a relief when we have a bunch of these in the freezer.
I was surprised to learn that my kids LOVE tacos. I never would have thought of it as a big hit but, since tasting them at daycare years ago, my kids have been hooked. They make for a super easy, make ahead dinner that my kids devour.
We swear by the Penzey’s taco seasoning. I LOVE Penzeys. So much. Sigh.
My husband browns the meat in the taco seasoning, drains excess fat, and then the meat lasts a few days in the fridge. Soft taco shells (their preference), sour cream, cheese, pinto beans, corn and the pre-cooked meat allows us one or two quick and easy taco nights, to the kids’ delight. We tend to eat with them the first night and then give the leftovers, often allowing the grown ups to eat something a bit less kid friendly another night.
I have always been a fan of pesto. Years ago, I found a simple Cooking Light pesto recipe. One night, when the kids were little, I made the pesto but figured it was for the grown ups while the kids ate pasta with butter. One of them asked to try the “green pasta” and then both kids were hooked. Now, I tend to double the recipe. Often I freeze half, and make another quick dinner a few weeks later. Sometimes, I make a pound and a half of pasta, allowing for leftovers. The kids always will choose to take green pasta in their thermoses for school lunches for as long as it lasts.
Crock Pot Chicken
My husband makes this rotisserie-style chicken from time to time, usually when whole chickens are on sale. It makes a LOT of chicken. Apparently, really good chicken. I am no help (useless vegetarian!!!) and our kids are only good for one dinner from this. As a result, my husband has his share of leftover chicken sandwiches and many lunch salads with chicken.
Make Your Own Pizza
The kids’ favorite pizzas are the pizzas they make themselves. When I have spare time and feel super motivated, I will use my Kitchenaid to make a pizza dough recipe. Somehow it makes three doughs at once, allowing us to use two and freeze one for later. If I cannot make the dough, we will happily use grocery store dough.
My daughter is old school, using sauce and cheese, in the shape of a heart (sort of) if she can convince one of us to spread it that way. My son prefers a white pizza. He brushes on some olive oil, Penzey’s Roasted Garlic, mozzarella, parmesan, basil and now pepperoni on half, and enjoys his masterpiece about 10 minutes later.
Pasta Fagioli Soup
We are big fans of the Pasta Fagioli soup from Skinnytaste. This is another one that I double, freezing half for another dinner in the near future. Some crusty bread and parmesan and the kids are happy as anything. It seems to work best if we cook and keep the ditalini pasta separate, to add in at the end. Otherwise, we found that it soaked up too much of the liquid. I like to use my immersion blender to blend the soup, to include half the cannellini beans, as my kids balk when they see a carrot or celery piece, or, heaven forbid, an onion. After it is blended, I add the rest of the beans and then finally, the pasta.
“Orange Chicken” also known as “Favorite Chicken”
No, this is not the Chinese dish. My kids’ all-time favorite chicken is orange – and making it could not be simpler: Lightly coat chicken breasts in mayonnaise and dip in Parmesan-Paprika Panko Bread Crumbs from Stew Leonards. Then, bake in the oven. Easy peasy and always a hit.
Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
My kids cannot love these more.
This is one we can make together – or, I can make them with my daughter to distract her from being upset when only her brother has a playdate.
There was a bit of a learning curve for me with this recipe. I have been using 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips, coconut oil and agave nectar, instead of honey. I found that I need to mix this really well to make sure all of the dry ingredients combine with the liquids. I now use a masher on the mixture once it is on the cookie sheet to press it down.
I also only cook the bars for about 26 minutes. Finally, the bars must be completely cooled before you attempt to cut it up. Otherwise, you end up very good granola instead of bars.
What are your family favorites?