Are family dinners a struggle in your home — you all but begging your little ones to eat something other than packaged pizza, chicken nuggets, and macaroni and cheese while your kids stare back at you, adamantly refusing even a taste of something more wholesome? If so, know that you could be in for more manageable suppers simply by letting them eat the meals they want but opting for homemade versions of them, instead of relying on store-bought varieties. While it’s indeed best to attempt to patiently introduce children to diverse groups of food, that approach may prove unrealistic in many homes. In those cases, embracing kid-friendly foods in from-scratch recipes for pizza, chicken nuggets, and mac and cheese may make for happier times at the dinner table. Your kids will be pleased because they’ll think they’re enjoying their favorite meals, and you’ll feel better knowing they’re eating wholesome, home-cooked food. Check out Food Network’s top takes on classic kid-approved picks like pizza, chicken nuggets, and macaroni and cheese below to find must-try meals that will satisfy even the pickiest eaters in your home.
Just like traditional pizza, Jeff Mauro’s Pepperoni Pizza Pockets (pictured above) boast creamy mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and a crunchy crust, but they’re formed into easy-to-eat pouches instead of an open-faced pie. The secret to Jeff’s recipe is starting with prepared pizza dough; having one on hand makes meal prep a cinch and ensures that these golden-brown beauties can be ready to eat in less than an hour. Serve each pocket with a side of Jeff’s sweet tomato-basil sauce, and let your kids indulge in this eat-with-your-hands meal with deliciously simple dunking.
Instead of deep-frying chicken to achieve a crispy coating, Rachael opts to bread lean white-meat tenders in a textured coating in her 25-minute recipe for Crunchy, Oven Baked Chicken Toes. She cuts the chicken into bite-size pieces — the toes — then dredges them in a mixture of crushed corn flakes with brown sugar and a pinch of allspice before baking them until crispy on the outside and moist inside. Round out Rachael’s top-rated dinner by offering dip-ready honey mustard and tangy barbecue sauce on the side.
While kids — and many grownups — crave boxed macaroni and cheese because of its distinct cheesy taste and smooth, creamy sauce, that flavor and texture isn’t unique to the store-bought stuff, thanks to Alton’s Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese (pictured right). He combines eggs, evaporated milk, a dash of hot sauce, a bit of dry mustard and just-cooked noodles with a shower of sharp cheddar cheese to create the ultimate look-alike macaroni that’s simple to prepare and richly satisfying. Perhaps best of all, because this recipe isn’t baked, it’s ready to eat in only 35 quick minutes, making it a can-do dinner on busy weeknights.
Browse Food Network’s Family and Kids Headquarters for more easy recipes and tips on impressing picky eaters.