Tag Archives: kid-friendly

Broccoli Bacon Mac and Cheese

Anyone who has a preschooler can tell you that mac and cheese is one of the main food groups. I am lucky that Olivia is a really good eater, but if she’s ever given the choice of what to eat for dinner (or lunch, or breakfast for that matter), the answer will always be mac and cheese.

So I am always looking for ways to sneak in the healthy stuff. For this Cooking Light recipe, I used veggie pasta and mixed in steamed broccoli. The smoky bacon and creamy cheese make this dish seem decadent while satisfying both a picky palate and a nutrition-minded mama.

Mac and Cheese

Broccoli Bacon Mac and Cheese

8 oz uncooked vegetable elbow macaroni
1 bag frozen chopped broccoli florets (I prefer the steam-in-the-bag variety for convenience)
1 ½ cups 1% low-fat milk
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp salt
3 pieces precooked bacon, chopped (like Hormel’s Fully Cooked Bacon)
1 ½ tsp unsalted butter
4.5 oz reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)

 

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Meanwhile, steam broccoli according to the directions on the bag.

2. Combine milk and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook 1-2 minutes or until crisp. Add butter to pan; swirl until butter melts. Add milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in cheese. Add pasta and broccoli to pan, stirring to coat.

Mac and Cheese

 


Homemade Bran Muffins

My mom used to make these bran muffins all the time when I was little. I can still remember running downstairs to the smell of these in the oven and staring through the glass until they were done. Even though this recipe makes a ton (around 5 ½ dozen), the batter lasts in the refrigerator for up to six weeks, so you don’t have to make them all at once.

Homemade Bran Muffins

1 15 oz pkg wheat bran flakes cereal with raisins (I used FiberOne Raisin Bran Clusters)
5 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sugar
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
4 eggs, beaten
1 qt buttermilk
1 cup vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Line muffin pans with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In a very large bowl, combine first 5 ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.

3. Add eggs, buttermilk, and oil; stir just enough to moisten the dry ingredients. At this point, you can either choose to bake some or all of the muffins, or you can cover the batter and store it in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.

4. To bake, spoon the batter into muffin cups, filling about 2/3 of the way. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

 


Pear and Prosciutto Pizza

One of my go-to weeknight meals is homemade pizza. And when I say “homemade,” I mean refrigerated pizza dough because really, who has an hour to let their dough rise when bedtime is at 7:30 p.m.? I like to use the Pillsbury Artisan Whole Grain Pizza Crust but any type of refrigerated dough works.

Because we have pizza so often, I’m always looking for unique toppings to shake things up. I saw this combination in Cooking Light and thought it sounded delightfully different. I made a few changes to the original recipe (refrigerated dough rather than from scratch, slight variation on the toppings, etc.), but we all agreed this would go into our regular rotation.

Pear and Prosciutto Pizza

Adapted from Cooking Light 

1 refrigerated pizza crust
6 oz crumbled goat cheese
3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
1 ripe Bartlett pear, cored and thinly sliced
4 cups baby spinach
Balsamic glaze (I used Supremo Italiano Fig Glaze with Balsamic Vinegar)
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Roll out the crust in your pizza pan. Brush the crust with olive oil and prebake for 7 minutes.

2. Top the crust with the pears, prosciutto, and goat cheese and continue baking for 8-10 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

3. Allow the pizza to cool just slightly before topping with the spinach. Drizzle the pizza with the balsamic glaze, and then cut and serve.


Southwestern Mac and Cheese

It’s no secret that kids love mac and cheese, but it’s not exactly a well-balanced, healthy meal on its own. So I’m always looking for ways to sneak in the good stuff under cover of cheesy goodness. I recently used the sun-dried tomato mozzarella Laughing Cow Light cheese in pasta and added spinach and chicken to make it a meal.

Below, I use the Queso Chipotle variety to make a yummy southwestern mac and cheese. You can use whatever veggies and/or meat you want to really make this a meal your family will love!

Southwestern Mac and Cheese

12 oz veggie pasta
4 wedges of Laughing Cow Light Queso Chipotle cheese
¼ cup skim milk
1 cup corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup canned or fresh chopped tomatoes
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
Olive oil

1. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Drain and set aside.

2.  In a large sauté pan, heat about a ½ tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until nearly done. Stir in the mushrooms and continue cooking until the chicken is done all the way through.

3. Turn the heat to medium-low and add in the pasta, corn, black beans, tomatoes, cheese, and milk. Combine all the ingredients and continue stirring until the cheese has melted and everything is heated through.

Note: You can save a bit of time by using frozen, cooked grilled chicken strips, such as Tyson Grilled and Ready Chicken. You will still need to sauté it until it’s heated through, but it should only take 2-3 minutes.


Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi

This dish originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of Cooking Light but was resurrected for the Best Recipes issue in November 2012, and after making it for dinner recently, I can see why! The flavors are so simple and delicious, and it was ready in under 20 minutes, which made it perfect {and kid-friendly!} for a hectic Wednesday night.

Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi
From Cooking Light

1 cup uncooked orzo
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
½ tsp salt, divided
7 tsp unsalted butter, divided
1 ½ lbs peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Place orzo in a medium bowl. Stir in parsley and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cover and keep warm.

2. While orzo cooks, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add half of shrimp to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until almost done. Transfer shrimp to a plate. Melt 1 teaspoon butter in pan. Add remaining shrimp to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until almost done. Transfer to plate.

3. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in pan. Add garlic to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in shrimp, juice, and pepper; cook 1 minute or until shrimp are done.


Mac and Cheese Bites

I made these for the Super Bowl yesterday and they were both delicious and a huge hit with my two year old! I adapted this recipe from Annie’s Eats (LOVE her blog, by the way—you must visit). I made several changes to make these babies a little healthier, so go ahead—pop a few more. Hope you enjoy!

Mac and Cheese Bites
Yield: 48 mini bites

12 oz vegetable macaroni (like Safeway’s Eating Right Veggie Pasta)
1 ½ cups Reduced Fat Ritz Cracker crumbs
2 ½ cups shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
6 tbsp butter, melted
7 wedges Laughing Cow Light Garlic and Herb cheese
2 tbsp butter
2 large eggs
¾ cup skim milk
¼ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray mini muffin pans lightly with cooking spray. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to the directions on the box.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, ½ cup of the cheddar cheese, and the 6 tbsp of melted butter. Spoon a bit of the crumb mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup, and press down with your fingers to form the bottom crust.

3. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, add it to a large mixing bowl along with the rest of the cheddar cheese, butter, and Laughing Cow wedges.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and yogurt, and then stir it into the pasta.

5. Add salt and pepper to the pasta mixture and stir well to combine all of the ingredients.

6. Spoon the pasta mixture evenly into the muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Allow the mac and cheese bites to cool for 10 minutes before removing them from the pan.


Throw a Kid-Friendly Super Bowl Party

Sure, they might pass out by halftime, but your kids can still get in on the fun during the Super Bowl. Having plenty of kid-friendly snacks, fun football-themed activities for the little ones, and festive desserts will ensure a house full of happy fans (unless your team loses—in which case, good luck!).

Kid-Friendly Snacks

Keep it simple (and healthy) with lightened up versions of your favorite game day foods.

Healthy Seven-Layer Dip from FitSugar
Buffalo Cauliflower from yours truly
Pigs in a Blanket from Food Network
Cajun Crab Dip  from yours truly
Pizza Pretzel Bites from Two Peas and Their Pod
Roasted Garlic Hummus from Annie’s Eats
Turkey Sliders from Martha Stewart
Chili from Cooking Light

Game Time Activities

Chances are, little ones aren’t going to sit through an entire football game. Be prepared with these fun ideas!

Make Your Own Jersey: Buy a bunch of cheap tees, puffy paint, glitter, etc. and set up a table for the kids to decorate their own “jerseys.”

Football Word Search (Free download!)

Decorate the House: Put the kids to work decorating the house for the big game by letting them make footballs out of construction paper. They can even string them together using a hole punch and yarn to make a garland.

Commercial Bingo: Get the kids in on a game of Super Bowl Commercial Bingo! You can download the cards here, and have fun prizes for the winners.

Winning Desserts

Football Rice Krispie Treats from Rice Krispies
Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry Footballs from Domestic Fits
S’mores Cupcakes from yours truly
Healthy Whoopie Pies from Parenting (you can even roll these in sprinkles to match your team’s colors)
Mini Peanut Butter Brownies from Babble

 


Last Minute Ideas for a Kid-Friendly NYE

They say that New Year’s Eve is the most difficult night of the year to find a babysitter, and they ain’t lyin’. Not sure about you, but we’ll be ringing in 2013 from the comfort of our own home. Luckily, we have wonderful friends who will be coming over to party it up with us.

Olivia definitely won’t make it until midnight, but she’ll probably stay up a little later than normal, so I’ve been looking for some fun kid-friendly ideas for NYE. Here are some of my favorites:

Via Parenting.com

Mix up some tasty mocktails. Alcoholic or not, these look amazing!

Make a time capsule. Click here for instructions. I think Olivia might be a little young for this this year, but I’m totally keeping this in mind for the future!

Serve kid favorites in miniature—think pigs in a blanket, little taco cups, bite-sized pizzas, sliders, meatballs, mac and cheese poppers—who doesn’t love this stuff?!

Via Family.com

Pick up some party hats, poppers, balloons, noisemakers, etc. to get everyone in on the fun and excitement. You can even use a hole punch to make confetti out of leftover Christmas wrapping paper.

Break out the Xbox or the Karaoke machine to get the party going. Group video games like Just Dance get all ages involved—there’s even a Nickelodeon Dance game that features Dora and the Backyardigans!

Ring in the New Year with milk and cookies (or at least let the kids do it!).

Celebrate “New Year’s in Rio” if you’re on the East Coast and don’t want your kids staying up until midnight. Since Rio is three hours behind U.S. Eastern Time, you can count down with your kiddos at 9 p.m.

No matter how you plan on welcoming 2013, stay safe and happy, and I’ll see you next year!


Chicken, Apple, and Havarti Roll-ups

Not feeling the usual stuff I had in the frig for lunch the other day, I got a whiff of inspiration and threw these little roll-ups together. Because I used frozen grilled chicken strips that I microwaved for 90 seconds, it was super fast. Just warm your tortilla and spread on some honey mustard (or you can improvise like I did and mix together Dijon mustard and strawberry preserves—don’t knock it, it was delicious). Add some harvarti cheese, chicken and some thin apple slices, roll it up and you’re in business! To make this snack kid-friendly, just cut each roll-up into quarters and serve.


Orange Ginger Chicken

I debated on whether or not to even post this “recipe” because it would mean I’d have to admit to you all that I sometimes feed my family entirely out of the microwave. But then I realized there’s no way I’m the only mom who has done this (and will continue to do it when we’re short on time). This meal goes from freezer to table in less than 10 minutes (seriously!) and makes enough for two adults and a toddler.

Orange Ginger Chicken and Rice

1 bag frozen stir fry veggies (I prefer the steam-in-the-bag kind because they’re so easy- for this, I used a mix of carrots, sugar snap peas, and baby corn)

1 bag microwavable brown rice, such as Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice® Whole Grain Brown Rice

1-2 cups diced grilled chicken strips, such as Tyson® Grilled and Ready Chicken Breast Strips

Bottled orange sauce (I use the Iron Chef Orange Sauce Glaze with Ginger, which I scored at TJ Maxx for $3)

 

Microwave the first three ingredients separately, according to their directions. Throw everything in a large bowl, add orange sauce to taste and stir to mix well. Done and Done.