Friday, September 6, 2013

Healthy, Quick School Night Dinners

Well, hello there!  I'm back!  Now that my daughter has returned to preschool and my baby boy has begun some wonderful mega naps, I am finding myself with the time to do some writing again!  I simply could not be more excited if I tried!

So on Facebook I keep hearing the exhausted mama refrain, "What the heck do you make for the kiddos to eat on school nights?  I need ideas for healthy, quick menus that my kids will eat!"

It IS hard to come up with good ideas for busy nights.  Mamas, I've got your back.  Here are some ideas that are favorites around here:

--Make-your-own-pizza bar.  Costco carries a great cheap pizza pack from Boboli in their bread aisle.  It has eight mini pizza crusts and sauce packets.  You get to customize your pizza any way you'd like.  I like to lay out a variety of veggies along with the usual meats and cheeses.  I suggest green pepper, onion, garlic, avocado, sliced tomato, spinach, olives, even broccoli.  For meats, you can use pepperoni, salami, pre-cooked chicken breast, even shredded pork (with BBQ sauce, of course!).  You can add extras like sun-dried tomatoes, basil, or cilantro if you want to.  You can do the standard shredded mozzarella for the cheese, but you could also get creative and try something like blue cheese or feta.  Some friends of ours had us over for dinner, did this pizza bar idea and then grilled the pizzas on their BBQ grill.  What a great idea!  Your very own pizza oven!  You have to watch your pizzas carefully so that the bottom does not burn but it really is a fun and easy way to get dinner DONE!  And the great thing about make-your-own pizzas is that kids are so much more likely to actually EAT a creation that they helped make!

--Asian noodles with stir-fried veggies.  Boil your noodles in one pot, stir-fry your veggies in another (I use extra virgin olive oil), and whisk your sauce in a saucepan on the side.  Then toss everything together at the end.  I use whole wheat spaghetti but you could also use regular spaghetti, udon noodles or rice noodles.  You can use either a teriyaki sauce like this one or a peanut sauce.  I even adapt a separate version of a peanut sauce to be unspicy for my daughter (I just use whisk water or chicken broth, soy sauce and peanut butter in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth).  The magical thing about this recipe is that you can use ANY veggies you have in the fridge!  It's a great way to use up extras and leftovers.  I have used broccoli, kale, spinach, sliced carrots, peppers, zucchini.  The sky is the limit!  Top with peanuts, green onions, cilantro and (for the spicy palate) Sriracha.  Yum!

--Homemade mac and cheese with veggies and ham.  You can find my super-duper EASY recipe for homemade stove-top mac and cheese here.  Once you have tossed the pasta with the sauce, add peas, broccoli, carrots or whatever your kids like.  You can also add cubed ham or pre-cooked chicken to add some protein.

And...check out this post on how to avoid the five o'clock dinner panic!

Those are three of my top ideas!  What is your favorite go-to for a quick, healthy meal that the kids will actually eat?

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