Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quick, Easy, Healthy: Kid Favorites Revisited

Is anyone else tired of restaurants assuming all children like is pizza, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese and cheeseburgers? O.K., maybe I'm alone on that one. (That's all right. I'm getting used to it.) I'm getting better at following recipes but still a novice at creating my own, so I'm going to point you to a few recipes that are healthier versions of the above "kid food". They also taste SO much better.

Instead of chicken nuggets, try this:
Garlic Lime Chicken (scroll down the page a little)
I promise, your kids will beg for this and they won't miss the breading at all! I use chicken strips to make it cook faster and sometimes just sprinkle the seasonings on instead of "dredging" and dirtying up additional dishes and counter space.

I told you about our main substitute for mac and cheese here, but if you want the real thing, this tastes awesome: (Hint: If your kids are used to the box with a K on it, add some orange food coloring. Unless of course, you like to see the real color of the food you eat.)
Creamy Mac and Cheese

There are many ways to do homemade pizza, but here is the fastest (and still pretty good!) I've come up with:
Homemade Pizza (in Less than 30 Minutes)
My adventurous little self actually made adaptations to this recipe. I poke the crust with a fork and pre-bake for 3 minutes before adding toppings, then I bake for 10 minutes at 500 degrees. For the sauce, I open an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce (1 per pizza), and stir into each can 1 tsp. each of garlic, oregano and basil as Anne recommends here. (I never seem to have the marjoram on hand, but I'm sure it's delicious, too!)

As for cheeseburgers, that's another one I usually hand to my husband because he makes delicious ones on the grill. We get grass-fed beef from a farmer each fall, so our beef is delicious (and cheaper, per pound, but this list isn't necessarily about frugal). Here are a few little tips to make our cheeseburgers restaurant-ish (but better!):

  • Spread the inside of your hamburger buns with butter and grill before topping with burgers.
  • Saute onions and mushrooms in butter until onions are transparent, spread bun with mayo and top with cheese and the onion mixture.
  • Add a little Ranch dressing, cheddar cheese and bacon. (To keep this healthy, make your own dressing, get real cheddar cheese and nitrate-free bacon or turkey bacon if you like it.) 
Hint: If you have to unwrap your cheese from individual plastic, it's not really cheese.
Hint #2: If there is bacon in the house, I usually count it as the 20% unhealthy (see below) and let it go.

Yes, I am aware that I left hot dogs off of the list of generally-accepted-as-kid-foods in restaurants. I'm not sure that these qualify as food, but if you get unprocessed beef ones from a farmer, I guess they would qualify as healthy. I'm just a little wary of unknown animal parts in my food, but that's probably just me.

By now, you probably think I'm a total food snob. Not really. My kids go to restaurants and order off the kids' menu occasionally, and I don't say anything (except maybe gasping when I have to pay $5 for 1/4 of a box of mac and cheese). We eat at friends' and family's houses and campfires and picnics and I don't say anything. However, as a general rule, I try to keep our house 80% healthy, and hope that someday my kids are 100% thankful.

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