I know you’ve been there. You’re kid is starving, having a meltdown, and you barely have time to prepare something for the little guy. I feel your pain! Being a parent is tough and kids can be the harshest critics. When I’m in a pinch, my go-to cooking solution is to jazz up something basic.
For the kids- that’s the elusive frozen chicken nugget and mac ‘n cheese. I started with a chicken parm pizza that turned out so great- even the adults couldn’t put it down! I always use quality nuggets: gluten-free, organic, and hormone/antibiotic free. Then, we add a little pizzaz! Mac ‘n cheese, on the other hand, is a great way to sneak vegetables onto the plate. Here are my top recipes for fast and easy kids meals under 5 minutes!
1. Chicken & Broccoli Teriaki
- Defrost sliced chicken nuggets in a microwave
- Cut broccoli into bite size pieces, place in a plastic bag, and microwave for a few minutes until steamed soft
- Mix with teriyaki sauce. My favorite is Island Teriyaki marinade & sauce
2. Chicken Sliders with Tomato & Honey mustard
- Toast a high fiber, whole wheat bun. Mini whole wheat bagels work great too!
- Mix equal parts whole grain mustard and honey, and spread on both sides of the bun.
- Layer 1 microwaved chicken nugget, a slice of tomato, and some mozzarella cheese.
- Add a side of your child’s favorite fruit or veggies. The Little Man goes nuts of cucumbers!
3. Chicken Parmesan & Wilted Spinach
- Layer chicken nuggets with mozzarella and my delicious marinara sauce. Bake in the oven or microwave until the chicken is warmed through and the cheese is melted.
- Wilt some chopped spinach in a pan over low heat, and spoon some marinara sauce on top. Sometimes you have to hide the veggies to get kids to eat them!
4. Chicken Nugget Quesadilla
- Place a whole wheat tortilla (add points for fiber-enriched brands) on medium heat in a grill pan.
- In a separate pan, sauté chopped broccoli and tri-colored bell peppers with chopped chicken nuggets.
- When the nuggets are warmed through and the bell peppers have softened, place them on top of the tortilla with lots of shredded cheese. Add another tortilla on top, and carefully flip over to grill the other side.
- Carefully remove from the pan, and cut into triangles.
5. Chicken Nugget Pasta with Zucchini
- Did you know you can cook pasta in the microwave? It’s not ideal – but if you’re in a pinch, I won’t tell a soul. Just put pasta in the microwave with some water and heat until it softens. Then drain out excess water.
- Throw in bite size pieces of cooked chicken nuggets, carrots & zucchini
- Add my jarred Alfredo sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan or toasted breadcrumbs!
Easy Upgrades Mac n’ Cheese
1. Start with quality and make a healthy choice: get the high fiber or whole grain pasta.
2. Look for natural cheeses and mix it up with different kinds- don’t just stick to American cheese!
3. Figure out what your kids tolerate and add their favorite veggies in really small pieces. Peas, carrots, and broccoli work well and are the Little Man’s favorites.
4. Add a side of raw veggies- my Little Man loves cut up cucumbers and carrots!
5. Add steamed or grilled chicken for extra protein- I like to buy rotisserie chicken from the store, remove the skin and chop up white breast meat. This saves time and goes along way. You can even save the bones to make chicken stock down the road…
6. For a fun twist, add Canadian bacon, (American) bacon, prosciutto, or crumbled sausage. Use chicken or turkey for lean meat.
7. If you need to make a sauce in a hurry, grab a couple of Kraft single slices, add a little butter or milk, and melt it over the stovetop on low/medium heat. I do this all the time!
8. When your kid is really having a melt-down and you need to make the whole meal in a hurry- microwave the pasta it in a bowl with some water & put the veggies in a zip lock bag for about 30 seconds. It’s so fast & easy.
9. Add garlic bread crumbs and bake it in the oven for extra taste & a delicious crunch.
10. Check out my Italian Baked Mac & Cheese recipe. This is great for when the whole family is craving gourmet “kid food!”