Realistic Kid-Friendly Menu Plan for the Week

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama at the Chefs Move to Schools Launch in DC

Last year, the Let’s Move campaign launched a new arm of the plan called Let’s Cook, with the intention of helping families across America select healthy recipes to cook for their families.  Chefs would share menu plans, and families could print the recipes and share them with their friends.  But these recipes are too time consuming and expensive for the average family to prepare.

Because I am a busy, working mom, I wanted to share a realistic and affordable week-long menu plan for families that would also be kid friendly.

Here goes.  This is my take on meal planning for families…

It’s nearly impossible to ignore the fact that our nation is growing, in population size, of course, but also in girth.  The obesity epidemic has hit unprecedented highs and weight related diseases are hitting our children at younger ages than ever before.  In an effort to get a grip on their health, many families are returning to the kitchen, where they can more easily control their portion sizes and the ingredients that go into their meals.  Instead of eating out, which may be faster and easier, try some of these affordable kid-friendly recipes.  These meals give a new meaning to fast food, and all of them are excellent to cook with your kids.

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Baked Chicken and Onions

Serving Size: 8

Recommended Side Dishes: Serve with steamed rice and sautéed green beans

Ingredients:

2 onions, very thinly sliced
3.5 lbs. chicken, parted into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Place 2 thinly sliced onions and chicken in a 9×13 baking dish or roasting pan.
  3. Drizzle with 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil.
  4. Season with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper.  Toss to coat.
  5. Arrange chicken, skin sides up, on top of onions.
  6. Sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon paprika.
  7. Bake, tossing onions and basting chicken occasionally, until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 35-40 minutes.  Serve hot.

Save the bones and 1 ½ cups of cooked chicken (for tomorrow’s recipe)

Put the bones in a pot, along with a quartered onion, 3 cut up carrots and 3 stalks of celery.  Cover with water and simmer to make chicken broth, which you can use in the Tortilla Soup, below.

Cooking With Kids:

  • Preheat the oven
  • Put onions in baking dish
  • Toss chicken with olive oil. Wash hands.
  • Sprinkle the chicken with paprika.

Tortilla Soupkids cutting onions

Serving Size: 4

Recommended Side Dishes: Serve with a green salad and heated corn tortillas

Ingredients:

1 small onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups chicken broth
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 ripe medium avocado
1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1 cup)
Chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, cut into wedges

Directions:

  1. Crumble tortilla chips and set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook onion in oil 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Add garlic; cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables are crisp-tender.
  4. Measure and stir in broth, tomatoes and salt. Heat to boiling.
  5. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 15 minutes.
  6. Shred leftover chicken with two forks, pulled in opposite directions.
  7. Add chicken; heat until hot.
  8. To serve, add tortilla chip pieces to individual serving bowls and ladle in soup.
  9. Top with avocado and cheese; garnish with remaining tortilla strips and cilantro.
  10. Serve with lime wedges.

Cooking With Kids:

  • Crumble tortilla chips
  • Peel the paper skin from the garlic
  • Measure broth
  • Empty the tomatoes into the pot
  • Shred chicken with forks or clean fingers
  • Top the soup bowls with crumbled chips

Cheese Enchiladaschild making enchiladas

Serves 4

Recommended Side Dishes: Pinto or refried beans and corn.

Ingredients:

Canola Oil
12 corn tortillas
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup salsa
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup water
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
Olive oil
1 lb. jack or cheddar cheese
A handful of cilantro
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a large fry pan at high heat add 3 Tbsp of canola oil.
  3. Add a tortilla to the pan. Cook for 2-3 seconds, lift up the tortilla with a spatula, add another tortilla underneath.
  4. Cook for 2-3 seconds, lift again, both tortillas, and add another tortilla underneath.
  5. Repeat the process with all the tortillas, adding a little more oil if needed. This way you can brown and soften the tortillas without using a lot of fat. You do this process to develop the flavor of the tortillas. As the tortillas brown a little, remove from the pan one by one to rest on a paper towel, which absorbs any excess fat.
  6. Saute the chopped onion and garlic, then turn off the heat.
  7. Add 1 cup of salsa.
  8. Dissolve 3 Tablespoons of tomato paste into 1 cup of water and add to the pan.
  9. Add 1 cup of crushed canned tomatoes.
  10. Taste the mixture. If the sauce tastes too acidic, add a teaspoon of sugar.
  11. Put some olive oil on the bottom of a large casserole pan.
  12. Take a tortilla, cover 2/3 of it lightly with the shredded cheese, then roll up the tortilla and place it in the casserole pan.
  13. Continue until all tortillas are filled and rolled.
  14. Add sauce to the top of the tortillas in the casserole pan. Make sure all are covered with the sauce. If not, add a little water.
  15. Cover the whole thing with the rest of the grated cheese.
  16. Put the casserole in the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.
  17. Top with sour cream and cilantro before serving.

Cooking With Kids:

  • Peel the paper skin from the garlic
  • Measure tomato paste and water
  • Pour canned tomatoes into the pot
  • Fill and roll the enchiladas
  • Pull the cilantro leaves from the stem and cut or tear into small pieces
  • Top with sour cream before serving

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Serving Size: 6

Recommended Side Dishes: Roasted Broccoli

Ingredients:

12 ounces wide egg noodles
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup mushrooms
1/2 small onion
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste
1 3/4 cups milk
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
2 cans flaked tuna, drained
1 cup bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Grease an 8-inch (20-cm) square baking dish (or similar-size ovenproof casserole dish).
  3. Cook noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water.
  4. Drain thoroughly and transfer to a large bowl.
  5. Chop the mushrooms and onions finely.
  6. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  7. Add mushrooms and onions and cook, stirring frequently, for 6 to 8 minutes or until mushrooms are lightly browned.
  8. Sprinkle in flour, salt and pepper and stir to mix.
  9. Add milk and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce bubbles and thickens.
  10. Lower heat to low and continue to simmer for another minute or two.
  11. Remove from heat, add cheese and stir until the cheese has melted.
  12. Add cheese sauce and flaked tuna to the noodles in the bowl.
  13. Stir to mix well, then transfer to the prepared casserole or baking dish.
  14. Measure breadcrumbs and mix them with 1 Tablespoon olive oil.
  15. Sprinkle the top of the casserole with the breadcrumbs and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Cooking With Kids:

  • Wipe each mushroom with a damp cloth.
  • Chop mushrooms
  • Measure milk
  • Grate the cheese
  • Drain the cans of tuna
  • Mix tuna, cheese and noodles together
  • Measure bread crumbs
  • Sprinkle the casserole with the breadcrumbs

Oven-Baked Corn Doggies

Serving Size: 4

Recommended Side Dishes: Oven baked sweet potato wedges and coleslaw

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup flour for dusting sausages
2/3 cups of yellow corn meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2/3 cups milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 precooked sausages, hot dogs or veggie dogs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  4. Make a well in center; add milk, eggs, and oil. Mix just until combined.
  5. Insert a popsicle stick into one end of each sausage, leaving a 1 1/2 inch handle.
  6. Dust with flour; dust off excess.
  7. Using handle, rotate each sausage over bowl as you spread the batter. Batter will be thick, so don’t be afraid to use your fingers to spread, if desired.
  8. Bake 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

Cooking With Kids:

  • Line baking sheet with parchment
  • Measure and combine the dry ingredients for the batter
  • Crack the eggs, one at a time, over a small bowl (and fish out any stray shells)
  • Insert popsicle stick into each sausage
  • Coat each sausage with batter

Rice Noodles with Broccoli and Tofuchild with broccoli

Serving Size: 4

This is a fantastic one-pot meal, so there is no need to prepare anything else.  That makes this recipe especially budget friendly, and saves you time in the kitchen.

Ingredients:

1 package extra firm tofu
1 package wide rice noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or peanut oil
3 medium shallots, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
3 cups broccoli florets
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 Tablespoon fish sauce, (optional)
basil or mint leaves, optional for garnish

Directions:

  1. Slice tofu horizontally into pieces, each about 1 inch thick.
  2. Place tofu on cutting board or a rimmed cookie sheet between layers of paper towels; put another cutting board on top to add weight to press moisture out of tofu.
  3. Soak rice noodles in large bowl filled with warm water; let stand 30 minutes or until soft.
  4. Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet or wok.
  5. Cut tofu into bite-sized squares and blot dry.
  6. Stir-fry about 5 minutes or until tofu is speckled and light brown on all sides. Remove and reserve.
  7. Add shallots, garlic and ginger to skillet. Stir-fry over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes; add broccoli and stir-fry. Cover pan; cook 3 minutes or until broccoli is crisp-tender.
  8. Drain noodles well, add to skillet and stir to combine.
  9. Return tofu to skillet; add soy sauce, ketchup, and fish sauce, if desired; stir-fry about 5-8 minutes or until noodles are coated and flavors are blended.
  10. Garnish with basil or mint leaves.

Cooking With Kids:

  • Drain and slice tofu
  • Peel the paper skin from the garlic
  • Cut tofu into bite sized pieces
  • Wash broccoli and break the crowns apart
  • Measure and mix sauce ingredients
  • Rinse and dry basil or mint leaves for garnish

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What are some of your family’s favorite budget and kid-friendly meals to cook at home?

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15 Responses to Realistic Kid-Friendly Menu Plan for the Week

  1. Kristen says:

    As a mom of 4 and busy working woman, I can’t help but agree with you. We need healthy options that are quick to get on the table or our alternative,which is easy but not healthy, will be to run through the drive through.
    Thanks for keeping it real!

  2. Thanks Kristen, I know that I am not the only one that is in need of good, quick, healthy ideas to feed my family. The recipes here show steps that the kids can do – so hopefully they help parents include their kids more 🙂 xox

  3. Say Mmm says:

    These meal ideas for kids look great. It isn’t easy for families to balance healthy and quick with tastes the kids will like. I am retweeting this to share with others.

  4. Shauna says:

    Stopping by to say hi! Love this site!

    Have a beautiful weekend!

  5. Is the only option for obtaining the Let’s Cook recipes to go to the internet and print them out? That would meant this program was really only designed to help the middle class and wealthy families.

    I am the Healthy Food Coordinator at a local family child center and many of the participants do not have internet access. While there is internet access at our library printing is not free and parents would have a hard time looking for recipes online and watching their children.

    -Robin

  6. Our son just turned one, but making cooking and preparing meals quicker and easier for my wife and I is definitely necessary to stay healthy. Great ideas in the post.

  7. Michelle … great line-up of kid-friendly and easy recipes. My objection to the Let’s Cook recipes is that some are excessively high in sodium. I realize it’s tough to keep sodium in check given the current line-up of food products available to consumers (did you know a flour tortilla can have upwards of 500mg sodium?!), but the Let’s Cook numbers are simply too high.
    Is your Rice Noodle recipe slated for your new cookbook? Looks delish!

    • Hi Liz – no, these recipes are ones I had stored in my growing database of yummy food… But I do have a great udon dish in the new book! Thank you for pointing out the sodium levels – some people don’t pay attention to that. There are so many issues to be concerned with: pesticides, local food, fat, carbs – it can overwhelm lots of people. That’s why we love you so much – you have such great advice on your site! xo

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