I don't know about you, but trying to merge my love of cooking with the dietary whims of young children can feel like a feat. And at the end of a busy school or work day, who wants to be jumping hurdles in the kitchen? Not me!
That's why we're rounding up a month's worth of quick, easy and delicious meals that won't completely neglect our nutritious hopes and dreams (I'm looking at you, frozen dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets!). Choose from a range of recipes that will satisfy everyone — from healthier, homemade fallbacks for nights when picky eaters prevail (we're talking staples like mac and cheese and oven-baked chicken tenders) to enticing new ideas that will get the fam gobbling up colorful veggies (hello, burrito bowls!).
And if all else fails, ask that young, stubborn diner to stick out their tongue, and exclaim, "Wow! Look at that! You grew a new taste bud!"
That's how I got my six-year-old to try the Bolognese.
This extra crispy oven-fried chicken is the ultimate dish for all the fried chicken lovers out there. The cracker crust provides a salty-yet-sweet flavor that's hard to resist.
Who doesn't love cheese toast? This version is energizing with jolts of brightness and flavor from the chile and peppers — a perfect pick-me-up any time of the day that can easily be adjusted based any diners' heat preferences.
Not only can this chicken and rice casserole be made ahead and frozen, it's a comforting way to get your kids to eat their vegetables. It doesn't get much easier than this on a weeknight.
"I used to sit at the kitchen table finishing my homework as my mom would whip something like this together for all of us to eat as we all finished up our respective activities," says Sarah Thomas about this nourishing (and easy to make) dish.
Any recipe from Nikki Dinki's cookbook, "More Veggies Please," is definitely an inspiring start to, well, getting kids to eat more veggies. For these not-so-chicken tenders, she uses an eggplant puree to increase tenderness while infusing a naturally smoky flavor into each bite.
This recipe actually comes from Dylan's husband's great-grandmother from Sicily, who taught it to his (very Irish) mother to ensure she knew how to master the perfect meatball. It worked! Light, flavorful and fluffy, they'll start to fall apart if they sit in sauce too long. So, eat up!
With star anise and lemongrass, the broth in this ramen is more reminiscent of a pho-style soup. Making noodles at home might seem really tough, but if you use baked baking soda, they will turn out springy and tender.
This recipe is super simple, plus it uses ingredients that normally get thrown away, including parsley stems and stale bread.
This dish is pure comfort food — a rich Bolognese, packed with delicious vegetables and satisfying ground turkey. You can serve it over spaghetti squash, zoodles or whole-grain pasta — eater's choice.
This recipe is a hearty, filling and vibrant meal packed with good-for-you ingredients that can help ward off headaches and migraines. Plus, it's always fun to have the family participate in assembling a deconstructed burrito.
Sweet, saucy, and oh-so-delicious, this is a dish your whole crew will really enjoy. It’s bright, colorful and packed with protein and other countless nutrients, thanks to the chunks of juicy pineapple, red onion and bell peppers. The best part? This recipe comes together fast on a single sheet pan.
This is a lighter, quicker but just as cheesy version of chicken Parm — no deep-frying required! Melissa Clark's 12-year-old loves it with a big green salad on the side, so it's kid-tested and approved.
This healthier and simplified version of eggplant Parmesan is a perfect fit for an easy weeknight meal. You can use regular eggplants for this recipe, rather than Japanese eggplants, and just salt them 20 to 30 minutes before.
Love spinach artichoke dip? This dish is basically the same recipe as the classic dip but with pasta. What could be better?!
This recipe is a home run for people who are worried about walking away from the table unsatisfied. It's great for large groups and serves up well, year-round. We promise, you won't miss the meat.
These baked chicken and ricotta meatballs are lighter than their beefy counterparts and don't require a lot of work. Baking skips the time and mess of browning on the stovetop and leaves you with one mixing bowl and sheet pan to clean at the end — and, most importantly, 20 delicious meatballs.
A combo of two of Molly Yeh's favorite dishes, this recipe is everything you could ever want on a cold winter's day. You've got veggies, protein and carbs in one warming dish that can feed a crowd. And it's got Tater Tots, one of the jolliest foods in the world!
Packaged gnocchi are one of Ree Drummond's go-to ingredients during what she calls "this need-things-to-be-easier season." The meatless marvel is both a cinch and a revelation: soft and tender gnocchi pillows roasted on a sheet pan with the best variety of veggies and topped with Parmesan and basil.
This sheet-pan Parm skips the frying step and adds roasted garlic bread and broccoli to make it a complete meal with very little cleanup.
For any family who loves the Disney movie, "Ratatouille," make this dish to wow the kids for weeks. Made by chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley to look and taste just like Remy's famous ratatouille in the film, it's definitely a fun way to entice kids to eat more vegetables … especially on movie night!
This recipe features Ryan Scott's DIY take on taco spice, used here to season a side of salmon — although it can also go on pork, shrimp, beef or tofu. Serve his salmon, guacamole and pico de gallo with tortillas and have a make-your-own-taco night!
This meatloaf is light in texture but heavy in flavor, and when it's combined with Siri Daly's favorite potato recipe of all time and cooked on just one sheet pan, it's pretty much an award-winning dish.
Lasagna is always a crowd pleaser, but Al Roker’s stands out for being packed with vegetables — he uses a colorful mix of red bell pepper, zucchini and yellow squash. Leftovers will be a welcome sight for lunch the next day.
Rice flour and gluten-free panko make this crispy treat a little lighter and easier on the stomach. Giada De Laurentiis serves it the way they do in Italy, topped with an arugula salad dressed with lemon and salt, or without the salad and just a squeeze of lemon juice.
"Growing up in India, biryani was one of my favorite family meals," says Palak Patel. "The robust flavor of a variety of spices like cumin, coriander and garam masala bring warmth and heat to the biryani. The saffron and milk add color and aroma."
These easy rice rolls make for a fun dinner activity on a weekend or slower weekday. They're great for kids because they love helping make them as much as eating them! Not sure where to start? Use our illustrated guide for step-by-step instructions.
The secret is in the marinade of this fuss-free pork include white wine, soy sauce, brown sugar, Sriracha, mustard, rice wine vinegar, garlic and orange zest and juice that can made ahead so the meat marinates overnight. Leftovers, if there are any, are perfect for sandwiches.
These bowls can be customized, so each family member can pick and choose the ingredients and combinations they like best. To get a jump-start on meal planning, make double batches of your favorite components and use them to create different lunches and snacks throughout the week.
If there’s anything that can make spaghetti and meatballs more enticing, it's being able to prepare the whole dish in the slow cooker. This recipe makes a generous amount of meatballs, so pick up some rolls and enjoy meatball subs for lunch the next day.
If your kids love fish sticks, definitely make them this perfectly crispy baked fish sticks recipe. They are crunchy and flavorful on the outside with tender fish right inside.
This recipe makes a simple ham and cheese sandwich totally decadent. It is a classic and one of Katie Lee Beigel's favorites, especially on a cold winter evening or afternoon.
This recipe transforms a traditionally individual dish into a family-friendly, shareable meal. The biscuit topping is also a unique touch that makes it all the more comforting and delicious.
Once you see how easy it is to make these oven-baked chicken nuggets, you'll be whipping them up at least once a week for the whole family.
This is a quick and easy recipe for lunch or dinner that easily incorporates veggies and leftovers you might already have in the fridge. That’s the magic of bowls: You just put everything together, serve and enjoy!
This salmon dinner is full of healthy fats, protein and nutrients. It's an easy, fuss-free healthy meal that you will want to make over and over again.
This is a classic Taiwanese recipe that is perfect for an easy and speedy supper. It's called three-cup chicken because traditionally it uses 1 cup of soy sauce, 1 cup of rice wine and 1 cup of toasted sesame oil. It is a fuss-free recipe for a fabulous family meal that is inexpensive, too.
This super nostalgic, comforting recipe, an ode to Hamburger helper, can be pulled together with ingredients that are usually already on hand.
"When I tell my kids we're having chicken for dinner, they always ask if it's 'the good chicken," says Elizabeth Heiskell. "'Yes, the good chicken,' I reply, and the celebration begins. This is the chicken breast that's gussied up and gets them excited."