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Dylan Dreyer cooks up hearty stuffed peppers and baked chicken for busy weeknights

“Dining with Cal,” starring Dylan Dreyer and her 3-year-old son, features easy, kid-friendly meals.
/ Source: TODAY

TODAY’s Dylan Dreyer has always loved to cook, but getting to enjoy dinner with her son Calvin – a very enthusiastic dining companion – has become her favorite part of the day.

“I eat dinner with Calvin every night I’m in town,” Dylan told TODAY Food.“I cook dinner, we eat together and it’s always just so much fun. As he got older and ate everything I ate, it was fun to tell him what we were eating and he just naturally got so excited.”

Earlier this year, Dylan began recording Calvin’s adorably analytical and charmingly cheerful reactions to his dinner. Sometimes he’s trying something new, but many times he’s just enjoying old favorites. Encouraging Calvin to talk about what he's eating makes him even more enthusiastic about sitting down to meals, said Dylan.

Dozens of clips later, #DiningwithCal has become a true Instagram sensation, with many videos garnering hundreds of thousands of views and hundreds of comments. One video of Calvin enjoying a three-ingredient cauliflower soup has garnered over 40,000 likes.

The heartwarming response initially shocked the 3rd Hour of TODAY co-host, but it was a truly welcome surprise.

“I mean, people love kids saying and doing fun things, but I never thought people would love watching my kid so much!” said Dylan. “I think [the videos] are hilarious and special and it just warms my heart so much that others do, too.

"To get thousands of positive comments is really special. I’d love to reply to all of them, but it’s impossible because there are so many but I want people to know that I do read them and I’m so appreciative!”

The response from TODAY fans has been so overwhelming that Dylan decided to team up with TODAY Food to launch a new digital series, “Dining with Cal.” She’ll be sharing some of her favorite, easy-to-make kid-friendly recipes, as well as her favorite cooking tips for busy weeknights — all with Cal's stamp of approval, of course. Her stuffed peppers are great way to sneak veggies into a hearty meal, while her baked chicken thighs with wild rice recipe comes together in just five steps.

While a lot of busy parents worry about making meals everyone in the family will enjoy, Dylan’s food philosophy is pretty simple: she usually just fixes Calvin a plate with a smaller portion of whatever she’s having. And if he happens not to like something, Dylan has a few tricks up her sleeve for that, too.

“I always try new things or things he hates alongside things he likes and maybe one day I’ll get lucky and he’ll like it,” she said. “If he’s lacking on veggies for the day, a smoothie always works and when he’s off smoothies, I freeze them in ice pop molds and he’ll eat those."

Calvin, who just turned three and will soon be a big brother, also loves to help out in the kitchen. In addition to mixing and stirring up all types of ingredients, he enjoys chopping up soft veggies using a child-friendly, plastic kitchen knife. Allowing Calvin to be a part of the process not only helps him become more engaged and interested about food, said Dylan, but it also lets her to spend more time with her little helper.

When the cooking is done, getting to enjoy a home-cooked meal with Calvin is always a wonderful end to Dylan's busy day.

“He really just copies everything I do, so if I just sit and eat something, he’ll usually eat it too because he doesn’t want to miss out!”

Check out more of Dylan Dreyer's favorite recipes:

Dylan Dreyer's Chicken Potpie