- Burgers: These are touch and go at our house, but my oldest eats them often enough that they're in the rotation. And ground meat is always good for the under-one set. Serve Salmon Burgers (from Trader Joe's) with dijon mustard and cranberry sauce. Kids can dip in barbecue sauce. Turkey burgers go well with guacamole, feta, and thinly sliced cucumbers. The kids can have the burger plain and the guacamole as a dip for the cucumbers. Chicken burgers are good with pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella. I always serve burgers with sweet potato fries - homemade or frozen.
- Creamy Pastas: Is always a go-to. When I'm feeling particularly bad about pasta overload, I serve Barilla Plus, as it has some extra fiber, protein, etc. Creamy sauces are easy and a good way to mix it up. I blend a jar of roasted red peppers, artichokes, or frozen (but thawed) butternut squash with some cream, and a clove of two of garlic. The peppers make a fun pink sauce to which I'll mix in actual sauteed pepper strips. I roast some butternut squash to add to the "squash" sauce. You get the picture - some of the veggie in the blended cream sauce and some sliced in the pasta. Sliced chicken sausage is a good addition to any combo. Toss with parmesan, feta, or blue cheese depending your taste. Add sliced fresh basil too (or sage for the butternut squash rendition). And on days when all you can do is open a jar of red sauce, toss some pesto in to give it an extra kick (for better or worse, my baby was exposed to nuts several months too early this way...sorry, second-child syndrome strikes again).
- Polenta: It's basically corn-meal mush, so it's good for wee ones. Of course, I make mine with broth, a bit of cream, and lots of cheese so it's palatable for grown-ups too. My oldest eats it up - I call it macaroni and cheese mush, as that's what it tastes like! Slice chicken sausage (referred to only as "hot dogs" for the under 5 set) over the top or cook white beans, spinach and tomatoes with garlic and ladle over. You can always blend (blended spinach always goes over well in our house even when they won't eat it whole) a bit of spinach and add it in to make it "green" - this way you can forgo the obligatory salad.
- Crescent Rolls: Yes, I know these probably shouldn't be on any healthy cooking list, but it's a good way to get rid of random leftovers and involve the kids in the actual preparation. Bits of leftover meat, cheese, chopped veggies, etc. can all go into the pre-packaged dough. Roll or smush it up and then ten or fifteen minutes in the oven and they're done. Herbed cream cheese and chicken; ham, cheddar, and dijon; chicken sausage and some leftover red sauce are all easy ideas that will help you clean out the fridge at week's end. You can do the same with premade pie crust and call it a "hand-pie." Sounds fancier than popping a can of crescent rolls, but it does tend to be a drier crust.
- Cold Pastas: Hopefully in a few months, we won't want to turn on the stove. Make a big pasta salad on the weekend and have some for lunches too. Kids seem to like cold salads and they typically make a well-rounded meal by themselves (so you and your hubs can enjoy the grilled ribeye by yourself). I'll either make a simple vinaigrette or purchase something that doesn't seem too MSG-laden. Try shells with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls. It's great with grilled chicken. Corn, black beans, and red peppers with a little cumin and chili-powder spiked dressing doesn't even need pasta, but you can stretch it with brown rice. Add peas to pesto-coated pasta. This taco pasta salad is a bit more complicated, but is always a winner with wagon-wheels.
Next up, some favorite family recipes.