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Children for Dinner


legant
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I'll be taking care of the nieces (ages 8 and 9) for a week while their mother is out of town. Mom, a single mother, has very little fresh food in her fridge. Lots of processed stuff like chicken tenders and Stouffer's mac and cheese. So I use this time to introduce the nieces to new things. (Mom wasn't too happy about the ice cream before dinner concept, but I'm learning. :) ) They also help me with meal prep. One time it was quiche; another it was coleslaw; and they have come to love visiting the salad bar at the local grocery store, selecting their own fixings. (I nearly fell over when the 8 y.o. wanted radishes on her salad!)

In an effort to engage them, I'm allowing each one to design a menu for one night that week. One night will be a joint cooking evening. Taking cues from the Packing Lunch thread I'm looking for suggestions for the three/four nights that I need to prepare dinner. One idea: tortellini soup with spinach (kale?) and white beans. I figure they would like the tortellini and not notice that there are vegetables swimming around. (Spaghetti doesn't go over well; they don't like the texture of carrots or tomatoes. But if I can hide them...)

Other things I'm tossing around: sesame noodles with peanut sauce; empanadas (they loved the quesadillas we made on my last visit), and a make your own pizza night.

I also prepared a heat-n-eat dinner for when Mom returned. Last time it was beef ribs with rice. It was grown-up enough for Mom yet appealed to the kids.

Other suggestions? What works in your house?

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How about a kebab meal? You could do an assortment of meat and veggie skewers with various dipping sauces. You could provide a combination of safe choices with some more interesting ones. For dessert you could do fruit skewers or cake skewers.

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How about going to the produce section and letting them pickout what they want for a stir-fry? My boys like the process of deciding what to cook and in what order. Anything using the food processor is also a big hit, although that could be a "guys playing with toys" thing :)

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Spaghetti is a staple. Or, if you're feeling particularly adventurous, pizza: you can buy pre-made dough (if you must) and letting them select toppings, make pizza in odd shapes etc works well. Plus, everyone thinks it's cool when the dough rises.

And who doesn't love to make chocolate chip cookies, especially if there's beater-licking involved.

As you can see, we never worried too much about "educating" the kids. Let them have fun and the example you set will be the best pedagogicial tool at your disposal.

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I love letting kids make their own pizza. One thing that made a huge difference, and I think someone else posted this as well, was to take them to the farmers market and letting them pick out what they want to eat. I find that the more I get them involved in the cooking process, the more they like to cook.

Also a few months ago I wrote a piece for the Washington Post on cooking with kids, if you would like to see it just let me know and I will email it to you.

Good luck!!

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Anything that involves a "build your own" approach is great. Tacos, quesadillas, burgers, sandwiches, etc.

Spaghetti carbonara, big salads with some kind of protein, soups with homemade stews (cornbread or biscuits (cutting out the biscuits into different shapes), and cold sesame noodles are all big hits here.

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Every now and again my friend's 10-year old daughter is under my watch. Unfortunately, her dad is not an adventurous cook or eater, but she she loves to try new things! :) We've made a variety of homemade pizzas and many things with pesto (noodles, on pizza with cheese and roasted red peppers). She LOVES hummus, white bean dip, pita chips, and spanokopita. It's fun to cook for her.

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Anything they can dip usually goes over well. Homemade baked chicken strips with honey mustard dip, ravioli dipped in marinara, cut up fruit with vanilla yogurt, cut up veggies or pita with hummus...lots of options.

Remember the old Shake 'n Bake commercials? "It's fried chicken, Daddy, and I helped!"

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Remember the old Shake 'n Bake commercials? "It's fried chicken, Daddy, and I helped!"
Man, I used to love Shake 'n Bake! Memories...

Have you considered breakfast for dinner (the waffle suggestion made me think of this)? Pancakes with blueberries or bananas and walnuts added in. It's a fun, easy thing to make that the kids can participate in and I think everybody enjoys a breaksfast for dinner meal once in a while (or maybe only I do!).

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Man, I used to love Shake 'n Bake! Memories...

Have you considered breakfast for dinner (the waffle suggestion made me think of this)? Pancakes with blueberries or bananas and walnuts added in. It's a fun, easy thing to make that the kids can participate in and I think everybody enjoys a breaksfast for dinner meal once in a while (or maybe only I do!).

We do this too. I think omelets would be excellent for kids to have fun with in the kitchen.
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My twin 5-year old godsons are coming by for an overnight at uncle Al's Saturday night. We don't have chil'ren of our own yet, so my cooking experience is limited when it comes to kids. I'm looking for ideas for something fun that we could all enjoy. It might be good to get them involved in the prep somehow as well. Ideas for breakfast are welcome too!

The movie selection for the night is ET. Do kids still watch movies that aren't cartoons?

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PIZZA! Let them cut up their veggies for toppings and arrange it all.

You might want to check with their Mom that the scary bit when the Army puts ET in the tent won't be too much for them. It looks like he dies, remember?

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We don't have chil'ren of our own yet, so my cooking experience is limited when it comes to kids.
How about a nice cotoletta or osso bucco? Kids are basically human veal, anyway.

A tip:

Waste not, want not. Their scalps make excellent cellphone cozies.

Happy Halloween!

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We don't have chil'ren of our own yet, so my cooking experience is limited when it comes to kids.

I was going to suggest serving with fava beans and a nice Chianti.

I actually saw this painting at the Prado earlier this year. It's from a rather, umm, "disturbing" period in Goya's life when he did a series called "The Black Paintings."

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Our son loves raclette and keeps asking when we'll have it again. The version with the little griddles is participatory and fun, and it teaches them about all kinds of different flavors and textures.

And children really are delicious. Just don't feed your kids kids, otherwise they'll end up with Mad Kid Disease. Oh, wait...

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On a serious note, best to ask the parents, though there are great suggestions here.

With real home-made baked macaroni and cheese (no icky bread crumb topping, mild cheddar), I've had mixed results. Kid bliss and parental gratitude on the one hand, and on the other, suspicious looks cuz it's not like Kraft or Annie's. And avoid cute little individual ramkins because they retain heat too well.

I've scored well w flank or skirt steak with older child who loved his mother's pepper steak. Otherwise, it's a good idea to have very white bread and a pot of water to boil plain spaghetti, no cheese. Plain white cake, even if made w potato starch instead of flour goes over well when toppings are separate. The mac & cheese nay-sayer: "You made this yourself???"

Besides the taste for white food, things that are easy to eat and child-size go over well. At least this was the explanation of a nursery-school teacher when her charges came home raving about the peas.

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PIZZA! Let them cut up their veggies for toppings and arrange it all.

You might want to check with their Mom that the scary bit when the Army puts ET in the tent won't be too much for them. It looks like he dies, remember?

Veggies? Five-year-olds don't eat vegetabes. Let them use you mandolin to slice the pepperoni -- a good opportunity to teach first aid, as well! Making dough is quite a thrill, as well, assuming there's enough to screw around with and syill have some left over for baking. And kids think risen dough is cool.

Depending on their macho instincts and the strength of your stomach (does watching ET make you feel like he did when he got into the beer?) you might rent Star Wars.

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Tacos or quesadillas might be good options for dinner. Like pizza, cheese needs shredding and vegetables need chopping. For breakfast, my nephews are big fans of waffles.

Kids love to dunk--at least mine did at that age. Cut crispy waffles into strips and give them each a small ramekin of syrup to dip into. Same with the quesadillas--a mild, soupy salsa will allow them to dunk the quesadilla pieces. You might also get away with some refried beans with melted cheese on top. From a very young age, my daughter loved bean and cheese burritos, and still does--quesadillas with beans on the side are essentially a deconstructed bean and cheese burrito, so you might consider just doing burritos.

You can sometimes get them to eat veggies like carrot, celery or jicama sticks if they have ranch dressing to dunk them in. Apple slices dipped in non-spicy peanut sauce might go over well, too.

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I'd make chocolate-chip cookies together before the movie, too. Or maybe lay in a supply of Reese's Pieces if they don't have nut allergies. You could also do real popcorn on the stove. I've taught kids to do that and they're amazed that all popcorn doesn't come out of a microwaveable bag.

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Depending on their macho instincts and the strength of your stomach (does watching ET make you feel like he did when he got into the beer?) you might rent Star Wars.

They recently watched Star Wars with dad. Instead of ET, I'm now leaning towards Good Fellas or perhaps The Deer Hunter.

Quesadillas are a great idea! We might go that route. Or maybe grilled cheese. I haven't gotten the panini press out in a while.

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They recently watched Star Wars with dad. Instead of ET, I'm now leaning towards Good Fellas or perhaps The Deer Hunter.
Or maybe Jaws, if they like the ocean.

And it is absolutely not true that 5-year-olds don't eat vegetables. Both of my kids love them.

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They recently watched Star Wars with dad. Instead of ET, I'm now leaning towards Good Fellas or perhaps The Deer Hunter.

Quesadillas are a great idea! We might go that route. Or maybe grilled cheese. I haven't gotten the panini press out in a while.

Depending on the size and variety (you don't want them playing Russian roulette with an automatic, and five-year-olds don't really get the difference) I'd go with the Deer Hunter. Spare their parents the awkward moment when the principal calls and says "your son threatened to 'fuckin' have me whacked.' at recess today."

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I've got no strong opinion on dinner, but I'll second pancakes for breakfast. One of the things I loved about staying at my grandparents' overnight when I was little was helping my grandmother make pancakes in the morning. There's room for error there, and when they came out in funny shapes, we'd guess at what they looked like (kind of like when you look at clouds and say what they are).

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And it is absolutely not true that 5-year-olds don't eat vegetables. Both of my kids love them.

Indeed. And don't forget soup. Recently I've been making a celery purée bound with just a bit of potato and a dollop of cream. It's good hot or cold, and the kids love it.

As for movies, a Halloween tradition for us is "The Shining," a delightful, heart-warming story about the love between father and son. Afterward my son puts on his pajamas, then I take him on my knee and tell him, "I love you, Danny. I would never hurt you."

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My twin 5-year old godsons are coming by for an overnight at uncle Al's Saturday night. We don't have chil'ren of our own yet, so my cooking experience is limited when it comes to kids. I'm looking for ideas for something fun that we could all enjoy. It might be good to get them involved in the prep somehow as well. Ideas for breakfast are welcome too!

The movie selection for the night is ET. Do kids still watch movies that aren't cartoons?

Consider, too, picking up a 12-slice, 16” pepperoni pizza from Guiseppi’s. In my own, rather dated experience, you will only need enough salad for two people since the lads will likely touch nothing green willingly for several more years. The time that you save by not cooking can be put to good use explaining that the flying bicycles are not real; I failed to do that twenty years ago, and my younger son promptly launched himself and bike off of the garage roof, thereby earning me the coveted Sibley ER Platinum parking pass.

And, the leftover pizza will make for a wonderful breakfast, especially if there’s any Coke left.

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We do homemade pizza when we have our 4 yr old's friends over because it's an easy way to deal with picky eating issues. I generally help them shape dough into individual six or eight inch pizzas and then let them go to town on the toppings. My daughter will take all of the olives and pepperoni if allowed. One of her little friends put a piece or two of chopped onion on her pizza and then proceeded to eat the rest of the bowl of raw onion.

I also find most kids will inhale a nice steak cooked medium rare. It's tender enough for their little mouths to chew easily.

Since it's close to Halloween, decorating sugar cookies for dessert might be fun.

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I've got no strong opinion on dinner, but I'll second pancakes for breakfast. One of the things I loved about staying at my grandparents' overnight when I was little was helping my grandmother make pancakes in the morning. There's room for error there, and when they came out in funny shapes, we'd guess at what they looked like (kind of like when you look at clouds and say what they are).
Third the pancakes for breakfast--we used to look forward to Sundays when my Dad would make pancakes and he would make them in the shape of our first initials. (they tasted better that way :blink: )
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Pizza and pancakes (though not together) are great. Peanut loves to, as she says, help me with the ingredients.

I would also recommend anything pasta-related. Whether or not they help you make it, kids love the stuff! Although...Peanut will not go anywhere near mac and cheese.....

As far as I can tell, the point of showing kids movies at home is so that the adults can go sit on the porch and drink and smoke. My standard for these films is that they must be mesmerizing. The Muppets, Mary Poppins and Madagascar are tried and true favs. The older movies are better because they can run to almost 2 hours. You know, kids had longer attention spans in the 60s and 70s.

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