Weekly Meal Plan: Family Dinner

Cooking a family dinner that both the adults and kids will enjoy can be hard.  During the week, Dave and I work late and so the kids will eat dinner with their nanny.  But on the weekends, it’s FAMILY DINNER!  My 5-year-old, Alexa literally dances around singing “family dinner” because it is so exciting to her.  I warms my heart, but also breaks it a little since it isn’t every night.  I count my blessings that both girls love family dinner so much!

But…family dinner and cooking with kids can be tough, especially if you are an adult with any sort of culinary adventure – or basically want anything other than pasta, breaded chicken, and carrot sticks or broccoli.  At least that’s how it is in my family.  My kids have somehow ended up liking only a handful of bland foods and Dave and I either have to make 2 separate dinners or suck it up and eat the same boring things.  When I was growing up in the Midwest (suburb of Chicago), I honestly don’t remember there being any discussion about dinner at all.  My mom made dinner every single night and we all sat down and ate the same thing.  I didn’t always like what we were served, but there were no alternate menu items – it was what was on the table for dinner and you either ate it or didn’t.  So, I don’t know why it is different today for so many of us.  Perhaps it’s because we work late and the kids eat before we get home, so they get what we/the nanny knows they will eat?  Or perhaps it’s because we want to do things differently than we were raised and ask them for their input more (I have learned, perhaps too late, this is not the wisest move).  Or perhaps it’s because I have mommy guilt from being a working parent and if I hear so much as an unhappy moan, I’m asking what she would rather eat, and next thing you know…my 5 year old is running the dinner show!

Whatever the reason, I’m not suggesting that we do a 180 degree turn the other direction and start force-feeding them things they don’t like – who needs that kind of fighting and angst in the house!  No, I’m suggesting that there are happy-in-the-middle options where everyone wins!  I also believe that involving your kids in the kitchen helps to give them ownership of their dinners.  And by this, I mean giving them small tasks (or bigger ones if you are brave enough) in the kitchen to help prep dinner.

I have also learned that a love for food and cooking can come in different ways and I have to recognize and embrace the ways that my kids want to be involved.  I signed my older daughter, Daniela up for a “Top Chef” Camp this summer.  I was shocked and amazed that Daniela LOVED everything she made!  I spoke to other parents with the same reaction too.  Daniela even asked to make the basil pesto crostini at home, which of course confirmed my suspicions…she had been abducted by aliens and brainwashed, of course. ​

​​Side note #2 – I am really about to put it all out there, so please do not judge…my 5-year-old daughter, Alexa, is obsessed with YouTube Kids and basically walks around narrating everything she is doing all day – playing with playdough, in the bathtub, playing with her dollhouse….  When asked who she is talking to, she will respond, “I’m doing a youtube video for the fans”…oh, well, of course!  Specifically, she loves watching kids cooking.  So, she asked me if we could do a real YouTube video cooking.  So we did, and here it is for you’re, a-hem, enjoyment 🙂

​So again, embrace any food opportunity you have with your kids!  You don’t have to find some pricy camp, you can have her select and then watch a cooking video together and make the recipe.  You can certainly take a video of them cooking so they can play it back and get excited seeing themselves cook.  Or simply just asking them to help you in the kitchen…mixing a sauce, making meatballs, selecting the cut of pasta.  Here are a couple other recipes that my daughters loved helping to cook and then to eat!

Asian Meatballs

Apple Cinnamon Cake

This week’s meal kit addresses these challenges you may have with eating with your kids.

Mac & Cheese Two Ways – with & without Chorizo and Brussel Sprouts  This is such an easy mac & cheese dish that is creamy and delicious.  My older daughter, Daniela, says that mommy makes the best homemade mac & cheese in the world, so that makes me happy :).  However, for Dave and I, we need to take it up a notch and how better to do that than with CHORIZO!  Seriously, Chorizo makes everything better so why not add it to mac & cheese??  What else can make it even better?  Adding fresh off-the-cob sautéed creamy corn.  After Chorizo and Cheese, a veggie is likely in order, but these brussel sprouts are not just any veggie, they are filled with yummy Chorizo flavors!  I have to say…while my younger daughter, Alexa, remained a mac & cheese purist, Daniela tried and loved the chorizo addition so I couldn’t be more thrilled!


Chicken Enchilada Casserole  Were you wondering why I told you to make so much mac & cheese?  This is why…Round 2: Enchilada Casserole!  Yes, we are going to use the leftover mac & cheese and repurpose it into an amazing Mexican-inspired, filled with smoky flavors, Chicken & Chorizo & Corn Enchilada casserole.  This will feed your family for an entire new meal PLUS more leftovers for lunch or a second meal the next day!  The mac & cheese that keeps on giving :).


Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Stir Fry Carrots & Brussel Sprouts  Next up?  Nope, no more mac & cheese, it is now time to move on to something less, a-hem, loaded?  These lettuce wraps are light, but so incredibly filled with flavor, especially when dipped and dripping with the amazing garlic, slightly sweet, soy sauce.  The carrots and brussel sprouts from the first meal round out the flavors stuffed into light butter lettuce leaves.  Of course, you can use iceberg lettuce leaves if that is what you have and the outer leaves are still intact.  This recipe is something that I have made for years, but I never considered it for the kids until Daniela made a ground turkey variation of this in her cooking camp this summer.  I was so excited when she said she loved it, that I had to include it in this week’s meal kit.  This is a fun dinner for kids to make for themselves and of course, you too!

Shopping List

Dinners with the kids don't have to be a compromise ending in bland food! This week's Meal Plan has 3 meals that are full of flavor, but give enough options for the kids who may not like all of the taste adventure 🙂 Meal 1 is Mac n' Cheese with and without Chorizo. Meal 2 is simply a delicious Enchilada Casserole all will love. Meal 3 is simple, light, but extremely tasty...Chicken Lettuce wraps! Get 1 Shopping List, Pre-Ahead Instructions, and 3 Recipes.

Here is 1 Shopping list for all 3 Meals. For any item with a * buy the smallest pack available if you do not already have this

Author Carrie Tyler

Ingredients

  • 1 Butter lettuce head
  • 8 oz Shredded Brussel Sprouts
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1/4 Red Pepper 1 quarter
  • 3 Scallions/Green Onions
  • 2 Carrots, Medium
  • 2 Ears of corn on the cob or frozen
  • 2 Tomatoes, Medium
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 4 Chicken Breasts whole
  • 4 Chorizo sausage links
  • 2 sticks Butter
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 4 Slices American Cheese
  • 4 Cups Shredded Cheese Blend
  • 16 oz Ditalini Pasta
  • 1 Cup Basmati Rice, uncooked
  • 1/2 Cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 Can Chicken broth
  • 1 Can Tomato sauce
  • White Wine Vinegar*
  • Honey*
  • Soy Sauce*
  • All-purpose flour*
  • Extra-virgin olive oil*
  • Salt*
  • Ground Pepper*
  • Dried Oregano*
  • Chili powder*
  • Cumin*

 

Cooking With Kids - Prep-Ahead

These are the simple steps that you can do in advance to make your life easier for weeknight meals.
Author Carrie Tyler

Ingredients

  • 8 oz brussel sprouts
  • 2 ears of corn on the cob
  • 8 oz Shredded Brussel Sprouts
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1 quarter Red Pepper
  • 3 Scallions/green onions
  • 2 cups Carrots, sliced thin
  • 3/4 cup Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tbls Honey
  • 4 Chicken Breasts whole
  • Ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel corn husks off and stand corn on a small bowl upside-down inside a larger bowl. Holding the corn steady with one hand cut the kernels off the cob. They will fall into the bowl.  
  2. Then using the back of the knife, press down against the husk to get all of the “cream” out of the husk.

  3. Prep carrots: peel carrots, cut into 1.5 inch chunks, then slice into thin strips and store in fridge
  4. Prep Brussel Sprouts: If you can find pre-shredded brussel sprouts, go for it! If not, simply slice them thin and then break them up a little. You need about 3 cups shredded. Store in fridge
  5. Dice a quarter of a red pepper, approximately ¼ cup or so. Store in fridge.
  6. Finely slice 3 scallions, store in fridge
  7. Make the Garlic Soy Marinade and dipping sauce: In a small bowl, whisk 3/4 cup soy sauce, 2 Tbls honey, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tsp ground pepper.

Prep chicken:

  1. Take 2 of the chicken breasts and cut into thin bite-size strips. Place them into a sealable baggie (1-quart size should be ok). Pour HALF of the garlic soy sauce into baggie with chicken.  Seal bag and massage marinade into chicken. Store in fridge.

  2. Take the other 2 chicken breasts and sprinkle to coat the outside with Chili Powder and salt. Bake in 400 degree F oven for 25 minutes. Let it come to room temperature, then shred the chicken. Store in fridge.

 

Mac & Cheese with & without Chorizo and brussel sprouts

This is such an easy mac & cheese dish that is creamy and delicious. My older daughter, Daniela, says that mommy makes the best homemade mac & cheese in the world, so that makes me happy . However, for Dave and I, we need to take it up a notch and how better to do that than with CHORIZO! Seriously, Chorizo makes everything better so why not add it to mac & cheese?? What else can make it even better? Adding fresh off-the-cob sautéed creamy corn. After Chorizo and Cheese, a veggie is likely in order, but these brussel sprouts are not just any veggie, they are filled with yummy Chorizo flavors! I have to say…while my younger daughter, Alexa, remained a mac & cheese purist, Daniela tried and loved the chorizo addition so I couldn’t be more thrilled!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Carrie Tyler

Ingredients

  • 16 oz Ditalini Pasta
  • 4 Chorizo sausage links
  • 1 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & ground pepper
  • 8 oz Shredded Brussel Sprouts
  • 2 ears of corn
  • 1 quarter Red Pepper
  • 2 Tbls Butter 1Tbls for sauce + 1 Tbls for topping
  • 1 Tbls All Purpose Flour
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 4 slices American Cheese
  • 2 Cups Shredded Cheese Blend
  • ½ Cup Panko Breadcrumbs

Instructions

  1. Boil large pot of water and cook the Ditalini according to the package directions. Note: you could do this step ahead and store the cooked pasta in the fridge. Just, run the pasta under water to soften it up again before mixing.
  2. Remove chorizo from casings and put into heated pan and lightly oiled large saute pan. Add chorizo and break it up with a fork or spatula into small bits and cook until browned throughout.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the cooked chorizo out into a bowl and set aside
  4. Leave approximately 3 Tbls of the chorizo bits and oil and add 8oz of shredded brussel sprouts to the hot pan. Sprinkle 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of ground pepper and cook on med/high heat stirring occasionally until the Brussel sprouts are all are cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Set aside
  5. In the same pot that the pasta cooked in, turn to low heat and add 1 Tbls butter. Once melted, add 1 Tbls flour and whisk with the butter until combined. Cook the flour mixture for a minute, stirring so as not to burn. Whisk in a ½ cup of the milk and once combined into a paste, whisk in another ½ cup and then another ½ cup, then finally whisk in the cup of broth. At this point, you should have a thick soupy mixture.
  6. Break up the 4 slices of cheese and add them to pot whisking them in until they melt. Last add in the 2 cups of shredded cheese. Add the pasta and mix to combine thoroughly.
  7. Pour half of the Ditalini and cheese into one side of a casserole dish. With the remaining half in the pot, mix in half of the chorizo and half of the corn that was prepped ahead. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  8. In a small bowl, mix the panko breadcrumbs with 1 Tbls melted butter. Add ½ tsp salt and 1/s tsp pepper. Mix and sprinkle over the mac n cheese. Cook in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes – until toping is golden brown.
  9. Serve & enjoy!

 

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Enchilada Casserole! is an amazing Mexican-inspired casserole with chicken, chorizo, corn, and lots of cheese. Top it with sour cream and a chili flavored tomato and cucumber salad on the side, and this is the perfect dinner!

Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Carrie Tyler

Ingredients

Enchilada Casserole

  • 3 Chicken Breasts
  • 1 cup Ditalini Pasta, uncooked (or other small pasta)
  • 2 links Chorizo, about 8oz
  • 1 cup Corn, frozen or cooked and cut off the cobb
  • 3 cups shredded cheese
  • 3 Scallions
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp Chili powder
  • 2 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 tsp Salt

Tomato and Cucumber Salad

  • 2 Tomatoes, medium
  • 1 Cucumber, small
  • White Wine Vinegar 3 Tbls
  • 1/4 tsp Chili Powder
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. For the chicken breasts, sprinkle to coat the outside with Chili Powder and salt. Bake in 400 degree F oven for 25 minutes. Let it come to room temperature, then shred the chicken. 

  3. Cook the pasta, rinse, and drain.

  4. Thinly slice scallion. 

  5. Cut 4 of the corn tortillas into small 1” pieces

  6. Remove chorizo from casings and put into heated pan and lightly oiled large sauté pan. Add chorizo and break it up with a fork or spatula into small bits and cook until browned throughout.

  7. Mix the ingredients for the sauce in a medium bowl: 1 can tomato sauce, garlic powder, oregano, chili powder, cumin
  8. Mix the enchilada ingredients: cooked pasta, shredded chicken, cooked chorizo, corn, 2 cups shredded cheese, 3 scallions diced (save 2 Tbls for garnish), the tortilla pieces, and half of the sauce.

  9. Add 4 tortillas to the top layer, breaking them to fit fill in all of the holes. Top the tortillas with the remaining sauce.  Place in oven for 30 minutes.

  10. After 30 minutes, remove the casserole to top it with the remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese and put back in the over for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

  11. While the Enchiladas are cooking, clean and cut the tomatoes into large dices. Cut the cucumber in half and then slices about ¼ inch thick. Place tomatoes and cucumbers in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with ¼ tsp of Chili Powder, salt and pepper to taste and then mix with 2 Tbls white wine vinegar.
  12. Serve a piece of the enchilada casserole and top with sour cream and scallions.  Enjoy!

  13. Enjoy!

 

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Stir Fry Carrots & Brussel Sprouts

Next up? Nope, no more mac & cheese, it is now time to move on to something less, a-hem, loaded? These lettuce wraps are light, but so incredibly filled with flavor, especially when dipped and dripping with the amazing garlic, slightly sweet, soy sauce. The carrots and brussel sprouts from the first meal round out the flavors stuffed into light butter lettuce leaves. Of course, you can use iceberg lettuce leaves if that is what you have and the outer leaves are still intact. This recipe is something that I have made for years, but I never considered it for the kids until Daniela made a ground turkey variation of this in her cooking camp this summer. I was so excited when she said she loved it, that I had to include it in this week’s meal kit. This is a fun dinner for kids to make for themselves and of course, you too!

Ingredients

  • 1 Butter lettuce head
  • 2 Chicken Breasts
  • 1 Cup Left over Brussel Sprouts
  • 2 Cups Carrots sliced into thin strips
  • 1 Cup Basmati Rice uncooked

Pre-made Garlic Soy Sauce:

  • 3/4 Cup Soy Sauce
  • 3 Tbls Honey
  • 2 Cloves Garlic minced
  • Ground Pepper

Instructions

  1. Make the rice according to package instructions.
  2. Take out the Brussel sprouts from Mac n Cheese night, the prepped carrots, and the marinated chicken.
  3. Take the premade garlic soy sauce out of the fridge to come to room temperature
  4. Preheat a large skillet on high heat and add extra virgin olive oil to coat surface. Then add the marinated chicken and spread it out into one layer separating the strips so each can sear. Turn over the strips after about 3-4 minutes and cook the other side for another 3-4 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet and place on a plate.
  5. To the same pan, add a teaspoon more olive oil and the sliced carrots. As they are searing in the pan, add a teaspoon of the garlic soy sauce. Once the carrots are starting to soften, but are still crisp, add ½ cup of the Brussel Sprouts and heat through. Add the chicken back to the pan and mix through.
  6. Clean and gently pull off the outer leaves of the butter lettuce.
  7. Put the remaining garlic soy sauce into individual dipping bowls and start to assemble the lettuce wraps.
  8. Plate with Rice on the side and Enjoy!

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