Family Dinner Recipes
New Media PublishingRecently, I made the decision to have family dinner at least 5 nights out of the week. This has proven to be challenging not only because of time, but also because my children are two wildly different eaters: my younger son (4) will try practically anything, and my older son (7) is incredibly picky. But at the end of a busy day, I'm not making two separate meals, one for the adults and one for the children. Sitting together and sharing a single meal is a giant step toward creating adventurous and (ultimately) less finicky eaters. At least that's the goal.
Instituting family dinner hour sometimes means eating earlier than my husband and I would like -- and yes, often my kids don't want to sit still for very long or try what I've made -- but it's an opportunity to introduce (and reintroduce) different foods made with fresh ingredients. Kid-friendly meals don't have to be unsophisticated; I don't shy away from Asian flavors or a dash of curry powder. My children recognize that chicken isn't shaped like nuggets or dinosaurs, and they're okay with it. They enjoy the taste of freshly made pesto. Sometimes the trick is in the marketing: for example, my youngest son, who's latest obsession is karate, knows bok choy as Kung Fu Panda Greens or Bruce Lee Salad.
The dinner recipes aren't time consuming and you can add or take away parts of a dish to accommodate a younger palate or bump the flavors up to tailor it to the more sophisticated tastes of a grown up. But either way, you avoid being a short-order cook, and nobody at the table will be bored.
Dinner Recipes for Family• Sweet Pea Pesto Pasta: Pesto is a staple in my house and I make vats of it at the end of the summer. But there are some good prepared ones out there and it's so versatile. It goes well with pasta, fish, steamed vegetables, or stirred into a vegetable soup. I'm not a big advocate of hiding veggies in dishes, but the addition of peas adds a touch of sweetness that balances well with the savoriness of pesto.
• Apricot Glazed Chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are inexpensive, and, unlike breast meat, hard to overcook. An Asian-style glaze made with jam, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce is poured over the chicken then roasted so it's slightly sticky, sweet, and finger-licking good.
• Bacon and Egg Pasta: I know a mom who makes this for her daughters' breakfast. It's great for dinner, too -- fast and easy, and few ingredients. Traditionally the egg is added off the heat, but in this version for kids it is cooked through at the end.
• Turkey Scallopini with Three Colored Salad: More politically correct than veal, turkey has an equally mild flavor and is a whole lot cheaper, and thin-sliced cutlets cook in minutes. Topped with a colorful salad, you've got a quick one-dish meal. Set aside some cutlets for your
• Broccoli and Cheesy Cheddar Pie: A good quality, store bought crust makes a great base for this savory tart. And don't turn your nose up at frozen vegetables, they're a healthy alternative to fresh and a real time saver. Here, broccoli is surrounded by a cheesy custard.
• Lamb Chops with Roasted Carrots and Curry Butter: Most kids like carrots and roasting really brings out their earthy sweetness. Tossed with a composed butter made with curry powder and fresh lemon juice, alongside broiled lamb chops, it's a sophisticated weeknight supper-but the butter can be optional for the less adventurous.
• Tacos Bistec (Beef Tacos): Thursday is taco night at my house and eating with your hands is always a hit. Well seasoned flank steak cooks quickly under the broiler-the trick is in the slicing: thinly and across the grain so it isn't tough. This dinner is really a sum of its parts. You can fill your tacos with as many or as few fillings as you'd like.
• Fish in Carrot Ginger Broth: Carrot juice isn't just for drinking, it can also make a flavorful-and colorful (think Crayola)-poaching liquid for fish. Slices of baguette for dunking in the broth and steamed spinach on the side make this dinner complete.
• Chicken Noodle Soup: Wintertime seems to bring every kind of bug and germ into my house and a bowl of chicken soup is a welcoming sight for kids with stuffy noses. Canned chicken soup never crosses my threshold because you can make a homemade version with a few basic pantry ingredients. I simmer the soup with a couple of fresh ginger slices.
• Lion's Head Meatballs: Sort of like a meatballs soup, with greens. My kids adore this dish, as does my husband. It's adventurous, but it's good to test the boundaries sometimes.
More Dinner Recipes and Articles
- Got picky eaters? These dinner recipes for kids are surefire pleasers.
- Check out our Dinner Tonight section for more ideas and inspiration.
- Get more dinner recipes and main dish recipes.
- Browse all "great for kids" recipes.
- Rather make a homemade pesto? Watch Curtis Stone prepare his pesto.