Kid Approved Family Dinners

Posted 11 September, 2015 by Trish in In the Kitchen, Mommyhood / 17 Comments


Kid Approved Family Dinners

The other day I was begging for brainstorming on twitter food related post ideas that also center around kids. A friend asked me if I had any suggestions for dinners that are kid friendly but that the adults in our family enjoy as well. This actually led me to write the post about tips for eating with young kids since my first thought was I won’t cook anything that I don’t want to eat!

Scott and I have amended our eating since the addition of kids to our table–it’s actually the opposite of what you might expect, too. We eat fewer processed foods and more vegetables. This isn’t to say that we don’t have convenience added to our dinners here and there (I’m not above cooking up one of those boxes of 5 minute Parmesan noodles when I’m desperate for another side). On the other hand, I’ve had to make some of our favorite dinners a little more kid friendly. Scott loves soup and stew but this is tough for littles to eat so I now serve it with rice or noodles. We also eat more pasta than I would prefer, but those other three I live with can’t seem to get enough of it.

My biggest tip for families looking to start feeding littles–feed them what you are eating when you are eating it as often as you can. While I don’t mind adding a “fork in the road” to my dinners, I do not have time (nor the patience) to make an entirely separate meal. Does this mean that our dinners are always magical? Nope. With a 2 year old who is trying to speak her independence, there can often be a bit of cajoling and a lot of “fine, but that’s all you’re getting” and sometimes even some screaming and crying and tantrum throwing. Have I mentioned lately how much I love the terrible twos?? But, persevere we will!

Below are some of my family’s favorites.

Kid Approved Family Dinners

Spaghetti (from my Freezer Friendly Spaghetti Meat Sauce) – Heaven help me I think spaghetti is requested once a week and every week I have to remind everyone that we cannot have it two weeks in a row. Good thing I make a huge batch that usually gives me 5 meals. It’s a sad night when I use up my last frozen container and realize I have to make another huge batch.

meaty spaghetti sauce

Tacos – This is a new addition to our dinner rotation because I was always afraid hard tacos would be too hard for littles to eat. This is why moms shouldn’t always trust their instincts. The girls love dressing their tacos and I love being able to add my more grown-up condiments. Plus tacos takes like 10 minutes to cook up. It’s a Friday favorite. Elle calls it Taco Snoozenight (I think she was trying to say Tuesnight–from Taco Tuesday of Lego Movie fame.).

Meatloaf (also known as “meat love”) – I’ll also lump this Salisbury Steak recipe in with meatlove as the girls like them about the same. Who would have thought this would be a toddler/preschooler pleaser, but the meat is tender and flavorful and easy to eat. I use my mother-in-law’s recipe for Meatloaf and one of these days I’ll share it, but honestly meatloaf just doesn’t photograph very well. Ha!

Rotisserie Chicken – A favorite for a rushed evening. Our grocery store sells the best rotisserie chicken and the girls literally stand at Scott’s or my feet while we are cutting off the meat and beg for scraps. I bought one last night and both of them were begging for “chicken! chicken! chicken!”  When the bones have been picked, I use them to make homemade chicken stock. Win win!

Baked Pasta (or really any short pasta, period) – Elle’s favorite is bowtie pasta. Evie likes to put the penne on her little fingers and eat it that way. I try to add peas or broccoli (I mix mine up, they usually eat theirs in two separate bowls).  While we’re talking about it–I’m on the search for a good tomato sauce/marinara that also freezes nicely. Everytime I make it from scratch it’s too salty (maybe from the tomato sauce I use?). Have a favorite homemade sauce to share with me?


Rice and Beans – The recipe I make is again from my mother-in-law and takes several hours (so it’s one I cook on the weekends or when I’m not at work), but the kids love it. I basically cook a roux using oil, flour, and chopped onion, and then add in around 8 or so cups of water/chicken stock with navy beans. It’s definitely stick to your ribs comfort food. We serve over long grain rice. Scott and I add seasoning to our bowls and I usually serve with andouille sausage (for everyone). But the girls love any kind of beans and rice.

Beef Stew – A few weeks ago when we were living every day in the 100s Elle asked me about that stew that daddy likes that we’ve never had before (meaning we haven’t had it in a long time). You know, the one with all the vegetables. Me: I sure do know which stew you’re talking about! Elle: can we have that for dinner? Me: Yes! when it’s not 100 degrees outside.  Her: Ooooootay. This is another dish that I serve over rice for the girls (though Scott likes it this way as well). We use beef stew recipe from Allrecipe, but add peas and corn and omit the green peppers. The stew freezes nicely.

Pizza – I still remember the first time Elle willingly ate pizza. There was much rejoicing. Often times we go out for pizza and we have made our own a few times, but DiGiorno makes some tasty pizzas that make eating dinner quickly and without too much thought a breeze. We should make some homemade pizza again soon–I bet the girls would get a kick out of adding the toppings.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Fried Rice – With all the rice we cook, I finally learned how to handle the leftovers. Fried Rice!! I make a variation of this Chinese Fried Rice from and add lots of carrots and peas. Instead of adding protein to the rice, I usually cook sweet and sour pork balls or this slow cooker honey sesame chicken.

One more quick tip–I’ve been able to introduce my girls to foods that they’re resistant to by having them help me in the kitchen while prepping dinner. I cannot imagine why any child would not want to try mashed potatoes (OMG JUST FREAKING TRY IT), but give them a beater to lick and “oooooh, I do like that!” Let them prep with you–they can do simple tasks and they’ll become more familiar with the foods and how they all fit together in the meal. I even let Elle mash together the meat mixture for meatballs, meatloaf, and Salisbury steak. Though there was that one time when I turned my back for a second and she accidentally dumped the entire container of pepper into the meat…a post for another day perhaps.

I’d love to hear what your kid approved family favorite meals are!





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17 Responses to “Kid Approved Family Dinners”

    • I’ve heard of that before Shaina but never tried it. I have done something similar using pureed tomatoes but it seems so salty to my taste. I’m going to make this recipe this weekend and I’ll report back.

      And yes–Taco Snoozenight cracks me up every time. Although now she’s a little older and knows better so corrects us when we say that. “No mommy…it’s Taco Tuesnight!”

      • So adorable! :)

        And hm, do you use just plain ol’ pureed/diced/whole tomatoes? Sometimes the canned comes pre-seasoned and might be why it’s salty. Otherwise, not sure why it would come out that way! Definitely try unsalted butter when you make it—we always do.

  1. I need to try tacos in my house! My 4 year old loves pasta (he likes his with cream cheese on it….nasty sounding I know, I have no idea how he likes that!), but my 2 year old won’t touch it. I still serve it to her for dinner anyway and she just generally skips dinner than night – ha! I figure she’ll come around at some point, right?! What kid doesn’t like noodles with butter or mac & cheese?

    • Two is such a tricky age!! And not only the “how can you not like these staples!!” but I’ll make something one night and she won’t touch it but serve it for leftovers a few nights later and she devours it. Or visa versa. So yup–just keep serving it! I’m shaking and nodding my head as I type this because I know all too well what you’re going through. Last night was the first night Evie would even take a bite of grilled cheese despite being served it so many times. It was momentous. ;)

  2. I love everything you shared here. It’s great you aren’t fixing separate meals for your daughters, let them enjoy the same fate as you and your husband. We did that with Tristan when he was growing up and as a result he’s not a picky eater as an adult. His wife is a different story – she isn’t a fan of so many foods that’s it difficult to have them over for dinner.

  3. I thought my other kids were picky but the Tornado is the pickiest child ever. Pretty much he’ll eat mashed potatoes, tortillas with cheese, pasta (but not spaghetti or linguine or anything like that) with a butter or cream sauce, and pizza. He’s actually getting pickier so we are trying to get tougher which equals quite a bit of discussion and frequently tears at dinner. Great post!

  4. I was lucky. My kids would eat anything. Well, my daughter didn’t like cucumbers. My two youngest grandkids are another story. One is very picky and the other wants chicken all the time.

  5. No littles at our house, but all your meal ideas sound like crowd pleasers regardless of age. I know few parents with the time and energy to cook separate meals for kids and adults. Exposing kids to everything the parents are eating is definitely the way to go — and of course if they’re old enough to help in the kitchen they’ll be more excited to try the food.

  6. I agree with your statement “My biggest tip for families looking to start feeding littles–feed them what you are eating when you are eating it as often as you can.” That’s totally what we did, including restaurants. If they don’t like it, then they can skip whatever it is.

  7. I follow a different strategy (shocker). I make one meal, but if they don’t like it they are welcome to make themselves something easy and healthy after- I just won’t do it for them. So toast or string cheese or an apple. My kids fall on all points of the picky scale and I really believe that it’s nothing I did or didn’t do when feeding them, by which I mean they were going to be as picky as they are regardless of what I did. Most meals there’s something everyone will eat, and I’m completely willing to make two slightly different versions- for example two pans of scrambled eggs, one with and one without veggies, or scooping out a serving of goulash before I add the corn for the picky one. What I hate more is making one meal, plating it up, and then throwing it out. I’d much rather make the changes so that I don’t waste food.

    I need to make some beans and rice. I wouldn’t mind those leftovers for a few days.

  8. My boy loves pizza and pasta … we don’t have either too often, but it’s always nice when we do since I know he’ll eat something. He’s sooooo picky. Some nights he’s gobbling everything in site and other nights it’s nothing. If I’m making him something, it’s because we’re having something I know he won’t eat (though we always try to give him some of it) and it’s usually a peanut butter sandwich or just a tasting place of fruit, cheese, meat, crackers, etc. I both can’t wait and dread the day when he eats everything in the house … lol