It’s hard to be a committed “foodie” if you have children. You have to consider the need to feed them a healthy meal while also respecting their tastes, and you have to do it all when they’re hungry, not when it’s convenient for you. What you need are recipes that kids will like but that don’t require hours of preparation. Here’s a meal you can put together in less than an hour and that both kids and adults will love. All recipes (except the drinks) are written to serve four hungry people, but they can all be easily modified to feed a crowd.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper
4 cups milk
5 cups grated cheddar, divided
Put a large pot of water on to boil, and salt it liberally.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 9-inch-by-9-inch baking dish.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan on medium heat, and then add the flour, and stir for a few minutes to make a blond roux. Add the mustard powder and ground nutmeg, and cook another minute or so. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Add the pasta to the boiling water, and stir. Cover, but keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t boil over. Stir occasionally until the pasta is done, about 8 to 10 minutes.
As soon as you drop the pasta, whisk the milk into the roux, and let the sauce come to a boil. Immediately turn the heat to low, and let it cook for a few minutes, continuing to stir. Once the sauce is smooth, add 4 cups of the grated cheddar cheese. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as necessary. Drain the pasta, and stir it into the sauce.
Put the pasta into the prepared baking dish, and then top with the 1 cup of additional cheese, and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. If the cheese on the top of the dish hasn’t browned a bit, fire up the broiler and give it a couple of minutes.
Potato Salad With Caraway
2 pounds red potatoes
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dill pickle, finely chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Cut the potatoes into cubes, and bring them to a boil in a large pot of salted water. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. While the potatoes are boiling, toast the caraway seeds in a small frying pan, stirring and tossing them until fragrant, about 4 or 5 minutes on medium heat. Combine the caraway seeds with the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, and when the potatoes are done, add them, and toss gently to coat with the dressing. You can serve the salad warm, but it’s also good after an hour or so in the fridge.
Fried Catfish Nuggets
1 pound catfish fillets, cut into pieces
Salt and pepper
Cajun seasoning (optional)
For the batter:
2 cups flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup beer
1 cup seltzer water
Oil for frying
Cut the catfish fillets into pieces about 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches wide. Season them with salt and pepper or the Cajun seasoning mix of your choice, being careful not to over-salt the fish.
Mix the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl, and then add the beer and seltzer, whisking to make a loose batter.
Heat the oil in a cast-iron Dutch oven or an electric fryer to about 350 degrees. You’ll want a depth of about 3 inches.
Dip the nuggets into the batter, and then put them into the hot oil. Fry until golden-brown, about 5 minutes. Place the cooked nuggets onto paper towels, and season lightly with salt before serving.
1 head green cabbage
1/2 cup peanut butter
(either creamy or crunchy is fine)
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup green onion, sliced thinly
1 cup grated carrot
1/3 cup mint, chopped finely
(in a chiffonade cut)
Cut the cabbage into quarters, cut out the core diagonally, and slice the leaves as thinly as possible. It helps to have a very sharp, large knife. You want about 8 cups of thinly sliced cabbage.
Mix the peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice and honey in a large bowl until smooth. Add the cabbage, green onion, carrot and mint, and stir well to combine.
Red, White and Blue Trifle
1 cup sliced strawberries
(measured after slicing)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup blueberries
6-8 sesame biscotti
(preferred brand Angelo Brocato)
Slice the strawberries, and add the sugar and orange liqueur. Set aside for between 15 to 30 minutes.
Add the powdered sugar to the cream, and whip to the soft-peak stage. Reserve in the refrigerator.
Break the biscotti into large pieces, and then pulse quickly in a food processor. You want the texture to vary from crumbs to pieces as large as a dime.
Set a fine sieve over a bowl, and drain the strawberries. Reserve the liquid.
Put the chopped biscotti into the juice that drained from the strawberries, and mix. Put a tablespoon or so of the mixture into the bottom of four tall glasses, and then top with the sliced strawberries. Add a couple of tablespoons of the whipped cream and then another tablespoon of the chopped biscotti, followed by blueberries, whipped cream, biscotti, strawberries and another layer of whipped cream. Sprinkle any remaining biscotti on the top, along with any strawberries and blueberries.
Lime Soda and Mojitos
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 can seltzer
For the adult version:
Everything for the kids’ version, plus:
5 to 6 mint leaves
1 lime, cut into quarters
1 1/2 ounces white rum
For the kids’ version, mix the lime juice and sugar in a tall glass, fill with ice and then top with seltzer. Stir.
For the adult version, add the mint, sugar and lime juice to a tall glass, including two lime quarters. Muddle, add the rum, and stir. Fill the glass with ice, top with seltzer, and stir again.