I love when friends and family send me baking or cooking questions – it always gets me excited! And just last week a friend on Facebook reached out to me seeking ideas for recipes that would satisfy both her daughter and her and her husband. I mean, isn’t that always the question for busy parents? What can I cook up quickly that my kid will eat and I can enjoy as well?
So to answer her question, here are a few of my favorite cookbooks, blogs and recipes that have proven crowd-pleasers for my family.
When my daughter was first born my friend Sara sent me a copy of Parents Need to Eat Too, from writer Debbie Koenig, Not only does this book contain a host of great recipes, it really got me thinking on how to cook things that could be adapted for both kids and parents. I loved reading through this book and highly recommend it as a great starting point for the busy parent who likes to cook.
Some of the ways this book got me thinking was around how to use one ingredient or dish several ways. For example, a simple roast chicken (bought or made) is one of the most versatile items you can cook weekly in order to satisfy all your family members. Chicken breasts can be sliced and put on top of a hearty salad, mixed in with veggies and pasta or made into chicken salad. And now that my daughter is almost 2, she loves getting her little hands on a drumstick. When she was younger we might mix up some finely diced chicken with rice for a yummy dinner.
Steamed broccoli and diced, roasted sweet potato pieces are another favorite to keep in the fridge. Broccoli gets eaten plain by our daughter, and we can use the broccoli to put on top of pizza or served alongside a weeknight entrée.
Weelicious is one of my favorite kid-focused blogs where I get inspired. And while I originally started making these Broccoli Cheese Patties for my daughter, my husband now covets the bite-sized morsels.
Speaking of family-friendly macaroni and cheese, my Mac ‘n Sweet Potato Cheesy Sauce is another recipe I created specifically for my daughter, but it turned out so delicious that my husband, me and even my brother can’t help but dishing out a bowl of it for ourselves too.
Another blog I love that has family-friendly recipes is Two Peas and their Pod. Sure, they feature lots of cookies (who says that isn’t family friendly) but I also love their simple, healthful ideas for meals like Smashed Chickpea and Avocado Sandwich. Yum!
Looking to get interactive with your kids in the kitchen? Then you may want to try Susie Fishbein’s Kosher by Design Kids in the Kitchen cookbook. I love involving my daughter in the kitchen with me, whether it’s “mixing” or rolling out dough, Ella loves standing next to me no matter what I am whipping up. So don’t be nervous – just pull up a kid-safe stool and let your kids help, even if they do make a mess.
When I used to live in Washington, DC there was a little bar I loved frequenting which served, among other delicious items, tater tots, grilled cheese and even homemade tomato soup – all the best childhood comfort foods, just a bit upgraded. At some point in the restaurant’s history it changed over the menu to tapas (small Spanish-style plates), and the tater tots and grilled cheeses were a thing of the past. Sigh.
I love updating comfort foods, like my Sweet Potato Mac n Cheese and Shakshuka Pizza among other dishes. There is something so exciting about taking a bite that is both new and also brings back fond memories.
So on a cold November day a few weeks ago when my friend’s son requested soup for lunch, I knew right away I wanted to make something a 3 year old would enjoy as much as I would: creamy, healthy tomato soup with just a spoonful of playful alphabet letters, a throwback to childhood classics. Everyone enjoyed the tomato soup that day, including my 1 year old daughter, the 3 year old Jonah and me and the husband.
Make sure not to add the alphabet pasta until you serve otherwise the pasta will absorb too much of the soup and it will have a mushy, non-soup-like consistency.
2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 14 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 ½-2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Salt and pepper
½ cup alphabet or other small pasta
½ cup heavy cream (optional)
Add butter or oil to a medium pot over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic until translucent.
Add crushed tomatoes and stock. Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat after 10 minutes to low.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta around 6 minutes or according to directions. Drain pasta and drizzle with a tiny amount of olive oil to prevent pasta from sticking. Set aside until ready to serve.
If you want the soup to be a smoother consistency, you can puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor. If not, you can leave soup as is.
If making the soup dairy, add heavy cream before serving.
Add a heaping tablespoon of pasta to each bowl. Sprinkle chopped chives on top and serve.