These kid friendly dinner ideas can change the way you look at your family meals. Dinner can be daunting, especially when there is a house full of people with different tastes and preferences. But sometimes cooking a basic item that everyone builds upon can be a fun and easy way to enjoy your meals.
Build Your Own…
You don’t have to custom make everything yourself. Pick out toppings and place them on the table and let everyone add their favorites to their own dish. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Baked potatoes are super easy to make. Just scrub them clean, wrap them in foil, and throw them in the oven at 425 for about an hour. While they’re cooking you can prep the toppings. Go taco style with ground beef or ground turkey, black or pinto beans, salsa, olives, fresh chopped cilantro, and cheese. Go traditional with bacon, cheese, chives, and sour cream. Add fresh veggies like quick steamed broccoli, corn, zucchini diced into small pieces, or fresh diced tomatoes. Serve them with chili and cheese. And you can add avocado to almost any combination. Other toppings to try include ham, pesto, pepperoni, and cottage cheese. You never know what kids might try if they can choose what they put on their plate so give them choices. Just make sure they pick some healthy options to round out their meal.
Burrito Bowls or Taco Bar
Burrito bowls are fun and easy for weeknight meals. While a fresh batch of rice steams in the rice cooker, you can prep all the other ingredients. Put out all the standards like salsa, avocado, sour cream, shredded cheese, olives, and fresh chopped cilantro. Cook your choice of meat and chop it into bite size pieces for kids to easily add to their bowl, and warm a pot of black beans or pinto beans. A great veggie combo for burrito bowls is a mix of corn and diced zucchini. You can use all these toppings for tacos to create a build your own taco bar, too. Just put out crunchy taco shells or your choice of corn or flour tortillas.
Build your own pasta bowls have almost endless options (like most other build your own meals). Choose a pasta, choose a sauce (or two), and pick a few toppings to put out.
- Mac and Cheese – Some kids think macaroni and cheese is the be all end all of meals, so go with it – and add peas or broccoli bits, bacon or rotisserie chicken, diced fresh tomatoes or corn. Stir in chili or to make it a hearty meal, or just add a scoop of black beans and salsa for a Tex-Mex twist.
- Tortellini – Tortellini is a fun cheese filled pasta that kids enjoy. Tortellini is often delicious without a heavy sauce, all it needs is a drizzle of olive oil or Italian dressing. For the veggies, try offering fresh diced tomatoes, steamed broccoli or zucchini, and peas. If you wish to add meat, good choices to pair with tortellini are chicken, shrimp, and fish.
- Spaghetti or Penne – For regular pasta dishes, pick your favorite sauce – marinara, alfredo, vodka sauce, or pesto. Like the other pasta dishes, you can choose to offer ground meat or shredded rotisserie chicken to stir in, and your choice of veggies.
- Sauce combos – We like to mix alfredo with pesto or a bit of marinara.
- Kid Favorite Pasta – Our new favorite pasta is super easy and the whole family loves it.
- Chop a pound of bacon into small pieces and cook until crispy in a large pan.
- Bring water to a boil and cook one pound of pasta according to the directions on the package. Add frozen peas to the boiling water about two minutes before draining.
- Remove bacon from the pan and discard bacon grease. Return pan to the stove. Mix alfredo and pesto in the ratio of your liking in the pan and warm. You can also use Knorr Creamy Pesto pasta sauce mix.
- Drain the pasta and peas and add to the sauce mixture in the large pan. Combine well to coat the pasta. Stir in the bacon.
Make the dough ahead of time and roll it into individual pizza sized balls that kids can flatten into their own pizza pie. Put out pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese and a variety of toppings. Kid favorites include Canadian bacon, pepperoni, pineapple, and olives. Put out other options too, like mushrooms, colorful bell peppers and fresh tomatoes diced into small pieces, pesto, and any other adult favorites. An easy way to make mini pizzas when you’re short on time is to use Pillsbury biscuit dough or premade pizza dough. Trader Joe’s also has a premade pizza dough in a can. You can also opt for precooked crusts like Boboli and Mama Mary’s to cut down on cooking time or to make “decorating” the pizzas a little less messy.
Omelettes are an easy make-to-order weeknight meal. Put out a selection of fillings and let the kids put it all in a bowl, add their ingredients to a pan to saute while you make the eggs in another pan. Add the filling to the omelettes and the kids can add cheese on top. The best choices for omelettes are bacon, sausage, ham, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, green onions, colorful bell peppers diced small, tomatoes, and zucchini. Chili and cheese omelettes are also a good combination.
Dinner doesn’t always have to be meat and potatoes or pasta and sauce. Sometimes it’s fun to make a snack spread and let everyone choose what they want. Lay out a platter with a selection of finger foods like baby tomatoes, cucumber slices, cheese, crackers, flatbread or dinner rolls, olives, salami, pepperoni, sliced turkey or ham, rotisserie chicken, carrots, apple slices, grapes, and melon cubes. The options are almost endless with this and everyone gets to fill up on fun snack-style foods or make mini sandwiches around the dinner table.
Soup is hearty, comforting, and delicious. Chicken tortilla, potato soup, and chili are all easy to make from scratch and kids can choose what they put on top to make it their way. Vegetable soup is an easy one pot dish. Consider using alphabet noodles and small pieces of veggies to appeal best to kids, then let them choose goldfish or oyster crackers to add to their bowl to make it fun.