Adult Friendly Kid Food – Or how to liven up your side of the dinner table

By Lance Gardner (Lance) on November 26, 2010

My son, like many children, has a few favorite meals that are rather plain, simple, and not really that full flavored or nutritious. I have found some ways, however, to keep him happy and well fed, both nutritionally and in wanting to have more. I have also discovered some ways to add in flavor and nutrition to my own helpings of his favorite foods, so we can both look forward to having dinner. There is also a bonus morning recipe.

Adult friendly Kid food – Or how to liven up your side of the dinner table.


 The best part of these concoctions is that they are quick and easy to make, an essential part of having more to do than time to do it. 

One of my son’s favorites, and I think just about every kid’s, is mac and cheese.  If you think about it, cheese sauce has been the basis for pasta dishes for a long time, so why not use what is given to us?  Cheese seems to go well with a variety of foods, so go ahead and experiment some.  Here is what I do.

Pasta and Cheese

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Ingredients:

  • Box of mac and cheese (I prefer whole grain, organic mixes)
  • Fresh, dried, or canned tomatoes
  • Fresh or dried basil, or other seasonings
  • Powdered kelp
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh, dried, or frozen vegetables – whatever you prefer
  • Yogurt

Preparation:

Cook the noodles as directed.  While the noodles are cooking, prepare the fresh vegetables, such as cleaning and cutting up the tomatoes, beans, and other vegetables.  When the noodles are done cooking, drain them and put back in the pan.  Mix in the olive oil in place of the butter typically called for, or just add some in anyway; you can also replace the milk with yogurt, or just leave a little of the cooking water in the bottom of the pan and avoid adding in more dairy.  Add in the cheese mix, and mix it up well. 

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At this point, everyone can add into the bottom of their own bowl what they prefer.  If the ingredients are fresh from the garden, I do not cook these, as I think they are very tasty raw and mixed in.  If using dried or frozen vegetables, you might want to cook them slightly first in the microwave, which can be done in your own bowl again.  When I use dried vegetables, I pour a little of the cooking water into my dried vegetables, which seems to work well to rehydrate them.  Put your seasonings on top of what you have so far in your own bowl.  I coarsely rip up the basil in my fingers, and put it in my bowl as I rip it up. 

Now, spoon the noodles and cheese into the top of your bowl, and mix it all together.  For a little added flavor, add in a little balsamic vinegar and kelp powder.  Kelp is also a wonderful source of many minerals and other nutrients.  Mix this all together, let it set for a few minutes to allow the heat to be evenly distributed, and enjoy.  Using raw and uncooked ingredients also helps to cool down the noodles a bit faster, so they can be eaten even sooner by hungry little ones. 

If your children, or others eating, do not like mixed up dishes, simply use a small side bowl or plate, and let them put whatever they want to on the side, as long as they actually eat it. 

Pasta and olive oil

A simple variation on the above recipe is to use just plain cooked noodles without the cheese sauce, and flavor the noodles with olive oil, fresh basil, tomatoes, and similar flavorful ingredients.  This meal can be prepared in the same manner, and when the noodles are done cooking, put some olive oil on them to prevent them from sticking together.  Add in the other ingredients into the bottom of each person’s bowl or plate, put the noodles on top, and mix it all together. 

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Super Easy Individual Pizzas

This is a meal I came up with many years ago, to use up extra bread before it gets too old, or even to use up slightly stale bread.  The variety of salsas and sauces available makes it very easy to satisfy just about anyone.  This is also a good way to easily feed a group of people with varying tastes. 


Ingredients:

  • Loaf of bread, any type or flavor that you prefer
  • Shredded or thinly sliced cheese, a variety of types
  • Jar of salsa, any type or flavor you prefer
  • Tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms or other pizza topping ingredients, thinly sliced and ready to use

Preparation:

First, lightly toast the bread so it does not get too soggy when adding on the other ingredients.  Place the toast on a plate; if you are feeding several people, you may want to set this up buffet style, and have the toast first in line, then the salsa, pizza toppings, and finally the cheese.  Spoon some salsa or other sauce  onto your toast (if the salsa is a bit watery, use a slotted spoon to eliminate some of the liquid), top with your preferred toppings, and finally with cheese.  Place into a toaster oven or larger oven, turn it on broil, and cook until the cheese melts, about 1-2 minutes, depending on how fast your oven heats up. 

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Enjoy your custom made little pizzas!


Morning Hot Cereal

As we head into winter, a bowl of hot cereal can be a wonderful way to warm yourself up in the morning and start your day.  Not everyone has the chance to make this in the morning, however, so here is a way to still have your hot cereal without as much time when you are trying to beat the clock.  It does some advanced planning, however.

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Ingredients:

  • Whole grain oats, brown rice, wheat berries, , kamut, millet, quinoa and similar whole grains
  • Raisins or other dried fruit, in small pieces
  • Frozen fruit, slightly or completely thawed
  • Cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger or similar spices
  • Vanilla
  • Honey, maple syrup, or molasses
  • Granola or other crunchy dried cereal
  • Cocoa nibs

Preparation:

Most whole grains cook in about 45 minutes to one hour, except for the smaller ones like millet or quinoa, and take about 2-3 cups of water for each of grain.  To prepare a single grain, you can follow specific procedures for that grain.   Brown rice, for example, requires 2 cups of water for every cup of grain, and needs to simmer for approximately 50 minutes to be fully cooked.  For a mixture of larger grains, like oats, rice, and kamut, use about 2 ½ cups of water for every cup of grain, and simmer for about 50 minutes to one hour.  You can tell the grain is cooked when it splits open.  If you want to mix in some smaller grains like millet, put those in when there is about 20 minutes of cooking time left. 

Here is my procedure, so I can get the most out of my cooking.  Cook the grains in a large bowl or pot the night before, depending on how much you want to make and whether you use the stove or microwave.  I use a microwave, and cook about 2 cups of grain at a time.  I put the microwave on high for 10 minutes, to get the water boiling, and then on 30-40 % power for 40 minutes to keep it simmering without boiling over.  While this is cooking, prepare some dinner items that will go well with the rice/grain mixture, such as black beans and fried plantains, or maybe a stir fry.  Make sure you cook enough grains for both dinner and breakfast. 

Place your leftover grain mix into the refrigerator for the next morning.  When you get up, pull out the leftover cooked grains and a microwave safe bowl.  First, place the raisins or other dried fruit into the bowl, then some of your cooked grains, and pour some milk, water, or even diluted juice on top, just enough to get it a little wet.  Add in the sweetener, vanilla, and other seasonings that you prefer and mix it all together a little.  Put this in the microwave just long enough to warm it up and let some of the liquid soak into the grains, about 2 minutes typically.  If you have frozen or cold fruit, cook it a little longer to heat it up, then  add in your fruit and to cool it off again. 

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After the hot cereal is warmed up, I sometimes add in some fresh goat milk yogurt that I make.  I also like some crunch to my cereal, so now I add some granola or other cereal on top of this mix, as well as cocoa nibs (very healthy with all of the anti-oxidants) and nuts.  Sit down and enjoy your breakfast!

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The mixed cooked grains will last for about a week in the refrigerator, so you can cook up enough to last you the whole week if you want to, and just spoon out the amount you want each morning.  While the cereal is warming up, work on your other morning chores, as it does not need watching.  You can also prepare this just for breakfast, making sure it is cooked the night before.  If you are really feeling pressed for time at night, or the next morning, prepare just a small bowl of grains for one meal like this:  put the grains and water into a large single serving bowl, like a soup bowl, and put it in the microwave long enough to start it boiling, but not any longer, maybe 5 minutes, or else it will boil over.  Then leave it in the microwave until the morning.  The grains should have absorbed the water and cooked reasonably well just from the initial heat.  Add in your other flavors, and enjoy

Related articles:
children, cooking, food, meals, recipes

About Lance Gardner
I have an interest in just about anything that gets me outside, as well as anything that is alive or grows, and in making things (which of course includes cooking!). So my hobbies include gardening, outdoors, photography, dogs, woodworking, and most importantly raising my son. I also own the following cubits: Dogs, Everything you ever wanted to know; Perennials, Annuals and Veggies: Tips, Tricks, and Pix; and Family Fun, Wireless and Unplugged.

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