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5 Fast and Easy Dinners Your Kids Will Love to Eat AND Cook

Do your kids want to get more involved in the kitchen? Now they can with the recipes collected in Tiffany Dahle's The Ultimate Kids' Cookbook: Fun One-Pot Recipes Your Whole Family Will Love! Inside you will find simple yet delicious recipes with instructions for you and your children so you can make dinner together, all while your kids learn valuable cooking skills.

School Night Chicken Fajitas

No need to wait for Taco Tuesday to enjoy these chicken fajitas; they are so easy to make. You could even do big batches of chicken over the weekend and use the leftovers to pack yummy lunches for school. My girls love them hot or cold.

SERVES: 4-6

1 tablespoon chili powder
1¼ teaspoon cumin
¾ teaspoon paprika
¾ teaspoon oregano
¾ teaspoon marjoram
¾ teaspoon thyme
¾ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon nutmeg
Juice from 1 lime
3 teaspoons canola oil
2 pounds chicken tenderloins
1 red bell pepper
½ red onion
8 small flour tortillas

PLAY WITH IT!
Fajitas are always a favorite because everyone can mix and match their very favorite toppings. Try setting out any combination you like: corn, fresh tomatoes, chopped green onions, beans, prepared salsa, fresh cilantro, lime wedges or sour cream.

Hey kids, please get us started!

  1. Measure all the seasonings, and stir them together in a small bowl. This makes a large batch of fajita seasoning. You will use 1 tablespoon for every 2 pounds of chicken. Save the remaining mix in an airtight container so your seasoning will be all ready to go next time you want to make this dish.
  2. Wash the lime, and then cut it in half and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup. Measure and add the canola oil, and stir it together with the juice. Add 1 tablespoon of your seasoning blend to the cup and stir.
  3. Place the chicken tenderloins in a large zip-top plastic bag. Pour in the spice-juice-oil mixture, and seal the bag shut. Gently toss the chicken in the marinade until all the pieces are coated with the oil and spices.

Parents, it’s your turn!

  1. Slice the pepper and onions into thin strips. Add them to the bag of chicken pieces, seal the bag and gently toss.
  2. Heat the broiler in your oven. Line a broiling pan with tin foil.

Teamwork gets it done!

  1. Use a fork or tongs to separate the chicken from the peppers, and place just the chicken on your prepared broiling pan. Broil for 7 minutes.
  2. Flip the chicken pieces over so both sides brown. Pour the reserved peppers and onions down the middle of the broiling pan, and return the pan to the oven. Broil for 5 more minutes.
  3. The chicken should be cooked through, and the peppers and onions should be tender and beginning to char. If the veggies need another minute, remove the chicken to a cutting board before putting the peppers back under the broiler. Slice the chicken into smaller pieces while the peppers finish in the oven.
  4. Place the tortillas on a microwave-safe plate, cover them with a dampened paper towel and heat for 20 to 30 seconds on high.
  5. Serve the chicken and peppers in a large bowl, and let everyone top their fajitas with their favorite items.

Better Than Boxed Mac and Cheese

Challenge: Try cooking a favorite restaurant or packaged food at home.

Kids love macaroni and cheese, but the question always remains: to blue box or not to blue box? Once you taste this homemade version, you will never look back. It’s easy and totally creamy, and it has just the right amount of sauce. Not too soupy, thank you! The best part? You can change the shape of the noodle to whatever you enjoy the most.

PLAY WITH IT!
You can change the flavor by swapping out different cheese blends. Colby Jack, cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan—use what you love. How about making it a Mexi-Mac and stir in some taco-seasoned cheddar and a can of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and peppers?

SERVES: 6-8

1 pound pasta shells
4 ounces meltable prepared cheese, such as Velveeta
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar-cheese blend
¼ teaspoon seasoned salt
Sprinkle of black pepper

Hey kids, you can do this all by yourself!

  1. Set a big pot of salted water over high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta shells and stir. Be sure to cook them for the lowest time listed on the package. Drain the pasta in a colander in the sink, asking an adult helper for help moving the heavy pot if you need to. Return the empty pot to the stove.
  2. While the pasta cooks, measure and cut the meltable cheese into large chunks. Set it aside.
  3. Once the pasta has been drained, measure and add the butter to the pot over medium-low heat. Once it’s melted, measure and pour in the milk, cheddar-cheese blend, meltable cheese, seasoned salt and a pinch of black pepper. Gently whisk it until the cheeses are both melted and the sauce is smooth.
  4. Return the drained pasta to the pot, and stir it up to combine with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Magic Crunchy Coated Fish

Our favorite way to prepare fish or shellfish is to roast it in the oven with some veggies. You can mix up the seasonings to be as spicy as you like. If you are a fish newbie, adding some butter and crispy breadcrumbs is a perfect way to try it because it helps to mask the new texture with a familiar and delicious crunch.

PLAY WITH IT!
Add any mixture of seasonings you love to the breadcrumbs: a pinch of cayenne to make it spicy, some lemon pepper to give it zing or single seasonings such as basil, dill, oregano or even a little grated Parmesan cheese are all delicious here.

SERVES: 4

1½ cups panko breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons garlic salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
½ cup melted butter
4 fish filets: tilapia, flounder or cod
1 tablespoon olive oil

Hey kids, please get us started!

  1. Measure and mix the breadcrumbs and seasonings together in a small bowl. Place the butter in a microwave-safe container and heat it for 20 seconds, or until melted. Stir the butter into the breadcrumbs with a fork, and mix until all the crumbs are dampened.
  2. Place the fish filets on a baking sheet. Brush their tops with the olive oil. Gently press the breadcrumbs evenly over the top of each filet.

Parents, it’s your turn!

  1. Heat the oven to 375F (190C, or gas mark 5).

Teamwork gets it done!

  1. Bake the fish for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Mini Meatball Skillet

These yummy meatballs are the ultimate “play-with-your-food” food! Mix the filling together and roll the balls out with your hands. It’s better than playing with Play-Doh because you can dip your breadsticks in the delicious sauce and gobble them up when you’re done. Add a simple salad as a side dish and this is a perfectly well-rounded meal.

PLAY WITH IT!
You could add several different seasonings to the meatball mix; basil, thyme, oregano or red pepper flakes would all be delicious with the marinara. Or you can turn this into a completely different kind of dish and season them with your favorite Mexican blend of spices. Add some onions and peppers to the tomato sauce, and then sprinkle with some fresh cilantro.

SERVES: 4-6

½ cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons milk
1 egg
1 pound ground beef (OR ½ pound ground beef mixed with ½ pound ground pork)
1 teaspoon jarred minced garlic
1 tablespoon parsley
½ teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese breadsticks, for serving

Hey kids, please get us started!

  1. Measure and add the breadcrumbs and milk to a large mixing bowl, and stir them together. Give the crumbs a minute to soak up the milk, and mush it all together with a fork.
  2. Crack the egg into a small cup and whisk it with a fork to break the yolk. Stir until light yellow.
  3. Measure and add the ground beef, garlic, parsley, nutmeg, Parmesan cheese, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and the egg to the mixing bowl. Use your hands to gently combine all the ingredients. Don’t over mix the beef or it will get tough. Just lightly turn the meat until all the seasonings are well mixed throughout the beef.
  4. Pinch off portions of meat just smaller than a golf ball, and roll them in your hands. Line the formed meatballs on a plate.

Parents, it’s your turn!

  1. Set a skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the olive oil to the pan.

Teamwork gets it done!

  1. Add the meatballs to the skillet and brown them on all sides, about 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, and pour in the jar of marinara sauce. Cover the skillet with a lid. Simmer the meatballs in the sauce for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through. Turn the heat off.
  2. Sprinkle the meatballs with the mozzarella cheese, and let the cheese melt as the meatballs rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Serve alongside fresh breadsticks for dunking.

Pesto Pizza

Pesto is made mostly from fresh basil, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. It smells like summer in a jar. You can grow a forest of basil really easily on your patio or even in a windowsill to make your own, or buy prepared pesto from the grocery store. It’s fantastic on top of pasta, but we love to use it to make “green pizza.”

PLAY WITH IT!
Stick with the green theme and play with how many green veggies you could add to your pizza. Green peppers, chopped broccoli, asparagus or spinach would all be yummy with the pesto. You could add some cooked chicken or sausage too. If you want pizza with a little kick, add some roasted red pepper flakes to your serving.

SERVES: 8

1 premade dough
Parchment paper
½‒1 cup prepared pesto
3 cups mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 Roma tomatoes

Hey kids, please get us started!

  1. Roll out your pizza dough on a piece of parchment.
  2. Measure and spread the pesto over the surface of the pizza crust, leaving a small bit of room around the edge for the crust.
  3. Measure and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese over the pesto. Spread them evenly with your fingers.
  4. Ask your adult helper to slice the tomatoes.

Parents, it’s your turn!

  1. Heat the oven to 500F with a pizza stone on the middle rack. If using a prepared pizza crust, follow the instructions on the package.
  2. When your kid chef asks, slice the tomatoes into thin slices.

Teamwork gets it done!

  1. Lay the tomato slices over the top of the pizza.
  2. The adult helper should transfer the pizza on top of the parchment paper to the oven. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes. The pizza is ready when the cheese is melted, the tomatoes are roasted and the crust is golden brown.
  3. Carefully slide the pizza off the stone and onto a cutting board or baking sheet. Slice and serve.

Reprinted with permission from The Ultimate Kids' Cookbook by Tiffany Dahle, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018.

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Adela Delgado

#USC. The chica and the brains behind it all. #RedRoseMafia managing director and chief editor for RR-Magazine.

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