Getting kids to eat spaghetti probably isn’t too hard, but night after night it can be a bit dull. That’s why I like to throw a few surprises at the little guys when I can — especially when it’s this easy to make a big impression. Here’s how:
Cook spaghetti for 3 minutes less than the package suggests and drain. Add marinara sauce (you don’t even have to heat it up), plus one lightly beaten egg. Butter a muffin pan and fill each cup with half a cup or so of pasta and sauce, then use your fingers to push the pasta up along the edges, making a well in the middle. Pop the pan into the hot oven at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. During the last minute, add two small mozzarella balls to the “nest” and you’ll have eggs. Keep an eye on the nests and if they melt down, that’s OK — now you have snowcapped mountain-tops.
While intricately prepared dishes with multiple components may be exciting to cook for special occasions or weekend projects, busy school nights are no time to commit to making a complicated meal. On these hectic evenings when you feel especially pressed for time, stick with all-in-one dishes to guarantee a stress-free dinnertime. These one-dish offerings have multiple meal parts — like proteins, starches and vegetables — which means that you can serve your family a complete dinner by prepping only one recipe.
Kids and kids-at-heart appreciate the creamy comfort of melted cheese and potatoes, which makes Food Network Kitchens’ Cheesy Gnocchi Casserole with Ham and Peas (pictured above) a family-friendly staple. This go-to supper is a cinch to prepare in a hurry, as there’s no need to roll gnocchi from scratch. Just pick up a package of the store-bought variety, combine with deli ham and frozen peas, then top with Swiss cheese to create a simple dinner full of tried-and-true flavors.
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We make breakfast for dinner all the time because it’s easy, inexpensive and the kids love eggs, so I know it will be a peaceful evening. But since most people don’t eat a side of broccoli with breakfast, it can be tricky to figure out where a veggie comes in. (In fact, kids often have a hard time eating a side of broccoli at dinnertime anyway.) So, I say mix it right in.
Get a bag of broccoli slaw — easily available at grocery stores (a fact I happily discovered after moving back to the United States from Rome this year) — and use an oven-safe saute pan to cook the green stuff on the stovetop along with two slices of bacon (cut into small pieces) and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Add 8 eggs that have already been whisked together with 1/2 cup of milk, then put the whole thing in the oven to finish off. I bake it at 375 degrees F oven for about 15 minutes. When it’s puffy and golden, it’s done — and so are you.
School finally started up again here in New York City, and with it came the reality that I’ll have to pack 500+ lunches between now and the end of June 2014. Given the alternative of the poor-quality food offered at my daughters’ elementary school, I’m thankful I can provide them with a healthy lunch on my own. The task is still daunting, though, and it’s hard to stay inspired when I’ve been on this lunchbox merry-go-round for five years now. As luck would have it, Catherine McCord’s new cookbook, Weelicious Lunches, arrived on my doorstep when we came home after the first day of school. It remedied my lunchbox blues and reminded me that every day I get the chance to send my girls off with a little reminder that Mommy loves them.
Here are a few tips and tricks I keep in mind when psyching myself up for the lunch challenge during the week.
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Food Network’s Melissa d’Arabian, Catherine McCord of Weelicious.com and Dan Pashman of CookingChannelTV.com’s Web series, Good to Know, chatted about all things back-to-school, tailgating and autumn cooking. Click the play button on the video above to watch, and follow Food Network on Google+ to join the conversation.
Check out Food Network’s Back-to-School Central for easy lunchbox recipes and snack solutions, and browse the Family & Kids Headquarters for more family-friendly meal ideas.
I don’t make a lot of casseroles, but I do bake many muffins. This idea combines both — and it made an otherwise ho-hum dinner something so special that our 4-year-old is still talking about it. And that was a week ago.
Mix up 3 cups freshly grated zucchini with 1 cup cottage cheese, 2 cups cooked brown rice, 1 cup grated cheese, lots of fresh herbs, salt, pepper and one hard-working egg — then pour the whole thing into oversize muffin tins instead of a casserole dish. Bake them at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes, then invert the “muffins” onto tiny plates. Add one homemade flag (bamboo skewer + painter’s tape) and ta-da! A casserole becomes a castle.
Now that the school year is well under way, chances are your morning and evening schedules are becoming ever more hectic. Between early carpools, afternoon dentist appointments and late soccer practices, it can seem almost impossible to make time for cooking breakfast and dinner — let alone packing school lunches. And on those days, it’s important to have quick-fix meals waiting for you in the freezer. The key to getting the most out of your freezer is making sure it’s always stocked with a range of ingredients and ready-to-go dishes; try to dedicate some time on the weekend to preparing and freezing foods so they’ll be there when you need them. Check out a few of Food Network’s go-to easy-to-freeze recipes for breakfast, snack time and dinner below to find favorites that kids and grownups alike will enjoy.
Sometimes just getting out the door in the morning can seem like a feat, and on days like that, it’s best to not have to worry about your kids’ breakfasts. Food Network Kitchens takes the guesswork out of morning meals with its Freezer to Oven Berry Muffins, studded with juicy blueberries and finished with a cinnamon crumb topping before freezing. While this recipe yields 12 muffins, you only need to bake as many as you need at a time while leaving the others in the freezer.
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Fall ushers in comforting dishes, football Sundays and the inevitable back-to-school whirlwind. This whirlwind includes coming up with ideas for breakfast, lunch, after-school snacks and, on top of that, a quick, easy and satisfying dinner for the entire family. It can become slightly overwhelming. FN Dish is here to help.
Join Food Network’s Melissa d’Arabian, Catherine McCord of Weelicious.com and Dan Pashman of CookingChannelTV.com’s Web series, Good to Know, for a Google+ Hangout about all things fall-related on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 1pm EST.
They’ll be chatting about family-friendly recipes, secret weapons for grocery shopping, game-watching snacks and delicious fall dishes, even sharing some fun ideas for Halloween.
Do you have a question you want answered? Post your questions for the Google+ Hangout here and return to that page on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 1pm EST to see if yours is answered.
Life seems to get busy for everyone in the fall. I’ve been asked by a number of fans for ways to get dinner on the table quickly. One of the best tools in a busy life is your freezer. Making double of any labor-intensive dish (such as lasagna) and freezing half is a great way to cut down time in the kitchen. Another huge timesaver is partially prepping your meat before it goes into the freezer, making cooking day a much easier affair. A few minutes spent strategically upfront can turn ingredients you buy at the grocery store into menus-waiting-to-happen. Stare at a frozen hunk of ground beef and no ideas jump out at you, but imagine some barbecue meatballs that can be on the table in about a half hour (of passive cooking), and suddenly your mind can fill in the blanks: I’ll put them on a whole-wheat bun and add something crunchy like coleslaw.
My challenge today is to take on the monster ground beef package. I’ll share exactly how I partially prep a value pack of ground beef into six menu ideas in less than 30 minutes (not including shopping). These 30 minutes will save you a few hours up the road. Ready?
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First things first, don’t call a dish a “salad.” Most kids don’t like salad or the thought of a salad. Try something more fun like, “We’re having a cherry tomato surprise!” Most kids like surprises.
Next, let them get involved. For this particular easy late-summer dish, even the tiniest hands can help. I slice the tomatoes and my 2-year-old puts them into a bowl. Same goes for the basil. I handle the onions (and more on this in a second), then our 4-year-old adds the olive oil and helps to gently stir.
So the onions. Yes, I left in the long slices of red onion. I know most kids don’t like onions, but there are usually two ways to approach this: Make the onions so small kids won’t see and taste them or make them big enough to easily avoid. We went with the latter. And it worked.