Open thread: Recipes for children

What are some of your favorite meals to prepare for lunch with your kids? As a working mom, we normally do brunch (at home or out) for lunch once every weekend. We eat eggs, bacon or sausage, oatmeal with dried fruit or toast, and apples, bananas, or avocado. Nothing fancy, but it’s a meal that I look forward to sharing with the family. Please share some of your routine family lunch favorites.

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47 thoughts on “Open thread: Recipes for children

  1. a couple of times a month we do a "some assembly required" lunch on Sunday afternoons.
    I love it as the prep is easy – though it can get expensive depending on what you purchase – and the kids love it because they prepare exactly what they want to eat.
    It usually consists of lots of different options – various cheeses, cured/smoked meats, starches (bread, crackers, pita, etc,) vegetables and fresh fruit. Then the kids "assemble" the ingredients into their favorite dishes. One daughter loves cucumber slices with goat cheese topped with smoked salmon. My son loves prosciutto wrapped around lightly steamed asparagus. My other son likes to pair smoked oysters with pears and brie. The best part is that it is a meal that lasts for the better part of an hour as everyone continues to experiment with different combinations and discuss whatever pops into their minds.

  2. We often have a Cobb salad, tuna salad or sometimes a pasta salad (similar to winter soup… in that it's my way to clean out the fridge). My toddler LOVES peeling boiled eggs which keeps her busy while I get the rest of our lunch ready.

  3. I absolutely love the "Kid's Fun and Healthy Cookbook" by Nicola Graimes. Quick, simple, healthy dishes that you can make for your kids! Most of the items in the book are easily packed into a lunch box! Enjoy!

  4. Butternut squash macaroni and cheese is a favorite for lunch on the weekends. My kids enjoy the sweetness of the squash and I use less cheese overall.

    Another favorite is design your own grilled sandwich. We set out different veggies, chicken strips, shrimp, cheeses etc and see what they come up with.

  5. I keep a host of dried Asian noodles in my pantry (udon, black rice, mai fun, soba etc) and on the week-ends I like whip up a fast ginger chicken broth and serve it over the cooked noodles of choice. I always let my kids use all kinds of leftover veggies and meats to garnish their noodle bowls. It is a quick, healthy and hearty lunch that cuts down on our household waste and lets the kids be creative in the kitchen!

  6. We love fruit and yogurt. It sounds plain, but the girls use up the fruit in the fridge, the last apple, the last few strawberries, the half a star fruit, the remaining quarter of cantaloupe, etc… I sprinkle the yogurt and fruit mixture with Kashi granola and we have a fun healthy Saturday morning breakfast.

  7. My son's favorites when he was a little guy …

    Toad in the hole — an egg fried in the cut out of a piece of whole-grain bread.

    Open face toasties — whole grain bread broiled with a piece of swiss or meunster cheese. When it's all melty, top it with a slice of tomato and some fresh basil.

    Both served with either a cup of soup (tomato and chicken noodle were favorites) and a piece of fruit, usually an apple.

  8. My older children love making stir fries, with my very close supervision. My son makes the best scrambled eggs and my middle daughter likes to help me make soups.

    My 2 year old likes to help me mix batter, so she is my pancake sous chef.

  9. I have found it doesn't really matter what it is, if my kids are involved they are way more likely to consume the end product.

    My boys, like most children I suspect, love pizza. I can sneak in veggies, beans etc..if it got a sprinkle of cheese on top and a flat piece of bread underneath.

  10. When I was little my favourite thing to make with my mom was little rolls which would be used later for individual sandwiches. Occasionally we would add some sugar and cinnamon to half the dough and make a sweet roll type thing which was used later as a dessert with fruit.

  11. My favorite lunch growing up (and I still like it!) is a banana boat. You spread peanut butter on one slice of bread, place a banana in the middle of it, and roll the bread up the sides, then line the top of the banana with raisins. YUM!

  12. We do brunch fairly often as well. My husbands other favorite lunch to prepare is BBQ sandwiches with whichever deli meat we have left over from the week.

  13. I like to make mini egg fritatas! I use organic eggs, some fresh shredded Parmesan cheese, fresh chopped parsley, minced garlic, and 2 slices lean bacon (already cooked in the pan)

    I just mix it all up and pour a tablespoon of the mixture in the mini muffin tin, bake for 10 minutes and you're done. Serve it with some mixed fruit and its fantastic for brunch!

  14. My boys love pasta, no sauce. So we usually have pasta with a variety of add ins that everyone can pick and choose from. Olives, broccoli, peas, bacon, grape tomatoes, etc.

    We also do a lot of homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese on whole wheat. Yip and Yap have just realized there is more than cheddar cheese in the world and have started experimenting with mozarrella and munster cheese sandwiches 🙂

  15. My daughter's absolute favorite thing to eat is a bowl of black or pinto beans with melted cheese on top. She's been eating this for years and it makes us happy! Couldn't be easier.

  16. My kids love to cook now that they are 10 and 12 and I let them use the stove. We don't get to do lunch together very often, but when we do, my son usually has a cookbook on hand from the school library and he tries out recipes on us. It's usually some sort of sandwich or salad or pasta dish.

  17. Salad bar is an all time fav around here. The only rule is that they have to eat what is on their plates. So they have learned to start out small and go back if they are still hungry. They always end up going back for their favorites, spinach, garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds and beets to name a few. The best part is that everyone can help get the meal ready too.

  18. Like Prairie Mother, I take advantage of my son's willingness to eat pasta almost every day. On Sunday, I boil plain whole-wheat pasta (bow-ties, penne, or other short "chunky" types) and toss it lightly with olive oil. I also roast a large cookie-sheet size tray of sliced or cubed veggies, like sweet red and yellow peppers, zucchini, eggplant, carrot, garlic, sweet potato, summer squash, onion, etc. I store both in containers in the refrigerator along with cherry tomatoes, sliced grilled chicken, cubed tofu, pignoli nuts, and cheeses included crumbled feta and shredded parmesan.

    Each morning, my son chooses the ingredients for the day's pasta salad, which we mix with balsamic vinegar or low-fat dressing and send to school in a Thermos bowl. Sliced fruit with berries, a container of yogurt, and water or sugar-free juice round out his meal.

  19. What we eat at our house occasionally we call the

    Main course: A simple whole-wheat pasta with pesto (not too much) and sliced roasted tomatoes
    Soup course: Warm and tasty vegetarian minestrone soup!
    Salad: Bowl of romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, shredded cheddar, shredded mozzarella, hard-boiled egg, and a simple balsamic vinegar dressing!
    Dessert: "Parfait": Layer of Vanilla yogurt, raspberries, and granola, then another layer of yogurt, then raspberries, then granola!


  20. My kid attends Head Start and eats his lunch there on the weekdays. (They have an amazing cafeteria and excellent food, by the way — I'll be sad when he heads off to public kindergarten in the fall and I have to start packing lunches!) Before HS and on the weekends, though, I go for quick and non-messy lunches. Some of the things we eat are…

    … quesadillas. LOTS of quesadillas. I make my own tortillas about half of the time; the rest of the time I buy them fresh from a local Mexican restaurant (for thick quesadillas) or use a whole-grain wrap (for thinner, crispier quesadillas). I spray a skilled lightly with olive oil, toss grated cheese (we like to use funky cheeses as well as standard cheddar) onto a tortilla, add a leafy green (spinach, kale, beet greens, etc.) and some black beans or chicken (if we had chicken the night before and need to use leftovers), top it with another tortilla, and cook it until it's crisp and golden. I cut these into slices like a pizza and put out a little low-fat sour cream or homemade salsa, and bam! Lunch. It only takes about 10 minutes, and my kid never argues with me about eating it.

    … veggie rice bowls. Brown rice or aromatic rice in the rice cooker with frozen veggies (broccoli or cauliflower, snap peas, white corn, colorful peppers), homemade vegetable stock, and some kind of bean. It's tasty on its own, but we eat it with a little soy sauce or sweet-and-sour sauce too.

    … sandwiches. I use Sara Lee multigrain "sandwich thins" instead of regular bread to cut the refined carb load, slice some good cheese instead of using processed singles, use homemade poultry (usually from leftovers) or tuna fish, etc. When we do sandwiches I usually also make a salad and serve baby carrots or a piece of fruit, too.

    … black bean "burgers" and chickpea or sweet-potato "fries," if I've got extra time and am feeling fancy. Instead of buns, we serve the "burger" patties with sliced tomatoes, wrapped in Romaine lettuce leaves — or sometimes I serve them plain with yogurt on the side.

    … chef salads. I load them up with dark-green leafy vegetables, fresh tomatoes, cubed leftover chicken or ham, kidney or black beans (are you sensing a bean theme here?), colorful peppers, avocado slices, fresh grated cheese, and whatever else seems appealing. My son's not a big fan of dressing, but for my portions I mix about 1/4 cup of rice vinegar with a few teaspoons of olive oil and some Salad Jazz seasoning. For some reason, I like to serve corn chips and homemade guacamole (if there's no avocado in the salad) or homemade salsa with this — I think I just like having a nice crunchy meal.

    … leftovers. I cook from scratch pretty much every night, and it's very easy to warm up the last of the ravioli or slice the half-porkchop someone didn't finish. I make a salad with this, or give my son some baby carrots, or steam some broccoli/cauliflower/green beans/whatever.

    … udon noodles with vegetables. I cook these together in vegetable stock for about 5 minutes; it's one of the easiest meals ever. I tend to serve a stick of cheese or scoop of yogurt with this, although I serve it alone just as often.

    These aren't the only lunches we eat by any means, but they're the ones I made with the most frequency before my kid started preschool. I still make them for myself pretty regularly because they're tasty and easy, and I make them for the kidlet on the weekends. Most of them will probably make their way into the bag-lunch roster when he starts kindergarten in September.

  21. I have a bowl from Fiesta that has a divider in the middle. At every dinner I fill each side with a fruit and a vegetable. My kids perfer all veggies raw with the option of ranch. It's easy and the kids know they must choose one or the other, the leftovers serve as sides in lunchboxes and quick snaks for me and my hubby. There is generally a "mandatory" veggie at dinner as well (steamed broccoli being a favorite).

    BUT thier favorite lunch dinner breakfast is homemade pancakes. Sunday morning is pancake day, and I triple the batch and freeze the excess for breakfasts during the week. Cut up bananas, chocolate chips, berries (in season) are cooked in the pancakes that will be eaten that day and offered on the side every morning. It also gives the kids and I easy one on one time without the formality of the dinner table. They sit at the kitchen bar and I cook pancakes to order until everyone is full.

  22. I love your pasta combinations, mayfieldflowerrn!!! will try doing something similar soon 😉

  23. We usually have leftovers, at school/work and at home. Some days we'll all have the same thing and others I'll put out several different leftovers and let people pick what they want.

    My son really likes quesadillas, either plain or with leftover meat or beans. My daughter likes salads with some kind of protein (leftover taco meat or chopped chicken, egg, etc.). The quesadillas are more of an at home meal but I have a nice container I can chill to send salads to school.

    Another thing we like is an assortment of cheeses, meats, veggies, tuna salad, pickles, etc. to eat with crackers, small rolls, etc.

  24. I homeschool my children, but they thought it would be fun to have a lunch menu posted just like at school, so I plan all meals in advance. I have an autism spectrum son who is a very picky eater, but he loves shrimp so I often make scampi, or homemade mini pizzas with whole wheat crusts (I make the dough and freeze it in portions). There is always a fruit in season, organic from the farmer's market, and salad is often served. I also make fruit smoothies.

  25. We like slices of turkey with low fat cheese cubes, some grapes and apples. Sometimes I give goldfish crackers to them too.

  26. My favorite snack since i was a child are "Pigs in a blanket"
    My mom has always made them a little different than most people,
    But they are quick, tasty, filling, and most importantly, easy for kids to help make. Makes a perfect after school snack or quick dinner!

    Cheesy Pigs in a Blanket

    One (1) roll of eight (8) refridgerated "Grands" biscuits

    Four (4) "Hebrew National" All beef franks (or any hot dogs will do)

    Four (4) slices of American cheese (or cheddar,if you perfer)

    Step 1: Preheat oven according to directions on the back of the biscuit package

    Step 2: Cut Hot Dogs in half, making eight (8) pieces

    Step 3: Cut cheese into halves, again, making eight (8) slices

    Step 4: Take biscuits and flatten them into rounds,big enough to fit hot dog halves

    Step 5: Place one half hot dog and one half of a cheese slice onto the flattened biscuit. Repeat until you have eight biscuit rounds with hot dogs and cheese

    Step 6: Roll sides of biscuits over the hot dog and cheese, and seal the edges so no cheese or hot dog is showing (to prevent cheese from oozing and causing a mess)

    Step 7: Place into preheated oven for 12-18 minutes (times will vary from oven to oven) or until a medium golden brown

    Step 8: ENJOY!! Kids love these with ketchup or ranch dressing. Parents will love them with a side salad!

    Makes 4 kid-friendly servings,(2ea) or 2-3 Adult servings (3 or 4 per adult)

  27. I am not a mother but my family and the family that I nanny for love picnics. We picnic all the time, even in the winter. When the weather is bad we have "carpet picnics". We lay out an old quilt on the living room floor and pick out a favorite movie or we will get dressed up in fancy clothes to spice up our lives sometimes. Then we usually have cheese and crackers,fruit, veggies, finger sandwiches, etc. As a family we get to spend the time talking about our weeks since we are always so busy and never get to eat dinner together anymore. As a nanny it is a fun way to spend an afternoon without worring about finding activities to keep them busy. When it is nice out we will walk to the park or even have it in our back yard and a lot of the time we grill out. There is nothing better than having grilled chicken in the backyard with veggies from the garden. I have two younger sisters and we spend all day and night even on that old quilt of ours. It doesnt happen often, but its a great way to soak up some sun while getting to know each other once again!

  28. YUMMY! Thanks for all the ideas. Quesadillas with tomatoes are a big fav here too. Any kind of fruit. Not big into bread, but rice and pasta are huge hits. Fatty meats are very popular (sausage, bacon, pork in general) and chicken breast is sometimes rejected (I think it might be too lean). Can't wait to try what you all shared.

  29. Sonja…first, please know that this comment is not intended to be insulting or sarcastic…but as an RN, I couldn't help being a bit concerned after reading your recipe for "pigs in a blanket." Here's why:

    One Pillsbury "Grands" biscuit has 193 calories, 8.4 grams of fat, 3.2 grams of trans-fat, 631 mg of sodium, and 25.2 grams of carbs, with only .7 g of fiber and 4.2 g of protein.

    One hot dog has approximately 147 calories, 14 g of fat, 25 mg of cholesterol and 461 mg of sodium.

    One slice of processed cheese has approximately 4.5 g of fat, 15 mg of cholesterol and 250 mg of sodium.

    If a child eats two of these in one sitting, he's consuming almost 2,000 mg of sodium (that's 2 grams!), around 27 g of fat and 50 or so mg of cholesterol, all with virtually no fiber or nutrients except trace amounts of iron and vitamin A.

    Food for thought.

  30. Thank you for saying something, mayfieldflowerrn.
    I thought the same thing—that's a lot of salt!—but I wasn't sure how to say it as nice as you did.
    I'm an adult and my doctor only wants me to have two grams of salt in a WHOLE DAY.
    We're all here to learn.

  31. our "spaghettios"

    2 jar of marinara sauce
    2 cans of chicken broth
    1 can of cannelini beans
    1 cup of small pasta (our fav is ditalini)

    my daughter cant get enough of this stuff and i like that i can choose to make all this from scratch or go the convenient way but i still control what types and brands go in it and i can control the sodium for me!

  32. one of my great failures is my kids' bland diet. They do, however, like breakfast, so even on school mornings I frequently make pancakes: Trader JOe's multi-grain pancake mix, a big dose of wheat germ, two farmer's market eggs, sometimes a dollop of greek yogurt, and organic milk. Mix it all up, add a splash of vanilla and cook (maybe adding a few chocolate chips if you're so inclined). Okay, it's not vegan and filled with spinach, but it's a pretty good way to start the day.

  33. I am a huge fan of Saturday brunches too! One of my girls favorites is Cinnamon Roll French Toast.
    We also do fun lunches for the work week. Today I packed a pizza sandwhich for my oldest.
    Whole wheat pita bread with spinach, sauce, chunks of fresh mozz. and veggie pepperoni. Toast until cheese melts and add to sandwich box with cooler pack. You have your veggie, whole grain, protein and dairy.

  34. Wow. It seems like each post is trying to one up the prior one. Vegan. ORganic. Fair trade. Get over yourselves, it's starting to become embarrassing and this is coming from a cook book author.

  35. Hello Brave Teacher,
    I am with Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED) and we are working with an amazing community of people here in VT to build healthier and more delicious school food systems through comprehensive Farm to School programs.
    I thought you might like to read all the student-created recipes from our 3rd Annual Jr Iron Chef VT Competition that took place on March 27, 2010. (
    57 teams of middle and high school students created original recipes that can be replicated by school food service, use at least 5 locally-sourced ingredients and are kid-friendly.
    We believe that participation is one of the first steps to making lasting change in school food systems, so KUDOS to you for stepping up to the lunch line.

  36. I don't have kids yet, but I remember some favorites my mom would produce when I was growing up. I doubt I'll serve much of these to my own kids, but man was I crazy for them when I was little!

    1. "Pac Man Hot Dogs" (hot dog split halfway through lengthwise, stuffed with American cheese – half-melted – then sliced into coins and served.)

    2. PB&J on wheat bread, cut into circles (use an empty mayo jar). Fancy … and NO crusts!

    3. Peanut butter and grape jelly on Saltine crackers. (Different = novelty!) Best eaten on the floor of your bedroom while listening to Sesame Street records.

    4. On weekends, my dad would occasionally serve us kids peanut butter and cheddar cheese sandwiches on wheat bread. Rich, but delicious. Especially when washed down with one of his famous root beer floats. I couldn't eat this today.

    5. "Rolled up bologna with mayonnaise." That's right. This was all I would eat for lunch as a preschooler. My mother, bless her heart, didn't fight me on it.

    6. English Muffin Pizzas. Take English Muffin. Add Pizza Quik sauce. Top with whatever cheese you can find in the fridge and MAYBE some veggies. Warm up in your oven's warming tray. Ta da!

    7. Franco American Macaroni & Cheese. Long fat noodles in white cheese sauce. They don't make this anymore. Loved it!! Used to eat it while watching 'Reading Rainbow' in the 80s.

    8. Lunchables. My mom would buy me one a month when the first came out. I thought they were kind of disgusting but begged for them at the store anyway!

    9. Wagon wheel pasta with spaghetti sauce. The pasta was Prince brand, and it came in a box with a colorful train cut-out puzzle on the back. (More fun to contemplate than to actually do.)

    10. Weaver's Chicken (frozen meal of the 70s & 80s). Oooh … Weaver's Chicken!

    Need I go on? ….


  37. I babysit my four year old God child every Friday. We always make something healthy and nutritious for lunch and she helps! She absolutely loves it.

    One of her favorite things to make and eat is peanut butter and jelly sushi! We use whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter (with no sugar added, who needs sugar!?) and home made whatever berry preserves we have on hand. We cut the crusts off (then she eats them), roll the bread flat with the rolling pen, and then smear some peanut butter on the bread and top it with jelly. Then you roll the bread into a sushi roll, slice and eat! She's going through a growth spur right now so she's been eating these two at a time (along with some home made apple sauce and some sort of veggie).

  38. My daughter is still pretty young, 18 months, so our lunches are still pretty simple. When we're not doing grilled cheese on wheat or pb&j we like to make our own pizza or make homemade chicken nuggets. It's super easy. We cut up chicken breasts to bite sized chunks and put them in an egg bath (which usually has a dab of hot sauce in it for a little extra flavor) then bread it with crushed multibran cereal and oats and maybe some crushed cheezits (yes all mixed together). It goes into a glass dishes that's been sprayed with Pam and a little honey and Pam go on top before it's baked. Serve with baby carrots with ranch and some fruit and it's a great lunch and super easy.

    I don't see why schools can't make chicken nuggets from scratch so they're healthier. Kids love the things, which is fine but why not try to make them from real meat and proper ingredients?

  39. I'm a working mom. And I am pursuing a master's degree so I'm going to school part time. And my daughter is a competitive gymnast, currently she works out 2hrs a day, 2 days a week with an occasional 1.5hr Saturday workout. With all that, it seems like there's no time to cook. I rely heavily on the pre-processed food everyone is criticizing. Maybe that's wrong but I'm trying my best.

    Two examples:

    1) My daughter has gymnastics class from 6-8pm Tuesdays and Thursdays. So on Mondays and Wednesdays I cook up half box of dry spaghetti and top it with out-of-the-jar spaghetti sauce. I send that to work with my mom so she and my daughter can have it for dinner before my daughter's gymnastics class.

    2) Wraps with pre-cut, pre-cooked fillings. These are a huge hit at my house, we have these at least once a week. Here's some links to my blog which describe my most recent "invention" which my daughter described as my best cooking ever.



    I read some of the options listed in the comments and I think "I wish, if I only had time." Maybe you'll say that I am spending my time incorrectly and I should reprioritize. But I'm doing the best I can.

  40. As a kid, my mom used to serve us what we called party plates. It was basically the fun plastic plates (we had the old McDonald's ones and some others with animals or the alphabet), which would be covered in a variety of fruit, vegetables, crackers, and cheese. Some of the best ones had a little bit of cheese, a few crackers, apple slices, grapes, and carrots. I remember always asking for a party plate. For some reason the plate made all the difference and I was happy to eat my fruits and veggies.

  41. My favorite lunch to make to eat with my family is an antipasto platter: salami, ham, prochuttio, aged cheeses, little smokies, apples, oranges, cherries, berries, grapes, and peaches. I also love to make "roni-mac" which is elbow maccaroni, a can of diced or stewed tomatoes, a little tomato sauce, and ground beef or ground turkey! Served with homemade corn bread and butter. Yummy.

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