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5 Kid-Friendly Weeknight Dinners From Local Foodies (And Fellow Parents)

The time of day that I dread the most is 4pm. That’s usually when I realize that I have no plan for dinner, a nearly empty refrigerator and zero motivation to get the kids to the store. And so we end up ordering food or microwaving chicken nuggets — neither of which is cost-efficient or healthy. It has been a New Year’s resolution of mine to do better: to meal plan, grocery shop for the week in advance and put healthy dinners on the table. Meals that are easy enough to make while I have a toddler, a baby and work deadlines hanging over me. So I chatted with some of my favorite North Texas restaurateurs, chefs and food bloggers, who also happen to be parents, to come up with quick, simple, kid-approved recipes. Bon appetite!
 
Monday
Crockpot Chili from Randi Dukes of Dukes & Duchesses, a DIY- and craft-focused lifestyle blog that also has some of the tastiest recipes on the Internet.
 
Easing into the week, I rarely want to exert much energy on the Monday night meal. Enter the slow cooker and Dukes’ seriously simple recipe. “Chili is the quintessential comfort food,” says the Flower Mound mom of five. “Nothing hits the spot like a big pot of crockpot chili, a pan of cornbread and the whole family sitting together around the table.”
 
Crockpot Chili Recipe
Ingredients
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 ½ pounds ground beef, browned and drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 green pepper, finely diced
2 14.5-ouce cans diced tomatoes
2 14.5-ounce cans kidney beans
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
 
Step 1: Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
 
Tuesday
Enchilada Lasagna from Julie Markley of Gypsy Scoops in Fort Worth. Visit the shop or follow Gypsy Scoops on Facebook to locate the ice cream truck (there are two) nearest you.
 
This hearty dish is a twist on two favorites: a casserole with layers of tortillas instead of traditional noodles. The kids love it and it takes me two seconds to put together,” Markley says. “I have the ice cream truck rolling all day so when I see my kids (ages 9 and 7), I don't want to spend all day in the kitchen, and I don't want to pick up fast food.”
 
Enchilada Lasagna Recipe
3 cups cooked chicken breasts (done in the slow cooker on low for 4 hours, pan cooked with olive oil or canned)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup cilantro (or if I don't have fresh cilantro, I flavor the cream cheese
with a package of Hidden Valley fiesta dip seasoning, Markley adds)
1 small onion, diced
12 corn tortillas
1 28-ounce can enchilada sauce
 
Step 1: Mix together the chicken, cream cheese, cilantro and onion.
Step 2: Lightly soak the tortillas in the enchilada sauce.
Step 3: Layer the tortillas and cream cheese mixture in a deep baking dish. Top with more cheese if desired. Cook at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Step 4: Serve with an ear of corn or steamed vegetables.
 
Gypsy Scoops, Fort Worth, 817/357-6730 // gypsyscoops.com
 
Wednesday
Breakfast-for-Dinner: Homemade Pancakes from Landon Amis of Rodeo Goat, an ice house and burger joint with locations in Dallas and Fort Worth.
 
This is an Amis family favorite, passed down to Landon’s wife Sarah from her mother. This couple knows how challenging it can be to get little kids (they have a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old) to eat anything at all. “This is one that my kids will actually eat!” Landon says. “Besides being tasty, pancakes are an easy dish to get creative with, making it more fun like adding chocolate chips or making shapes. I do Minnie Mouse with a strawberry bow."
 
Recipe
Ingredients
2 cups flour (we do 1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup of all-purpose, Landon says)
2 cups milk
2 eggs (separate the whites and set aside)
1/3 cup olive oil (for a richer flavor, use 1/3 cup melted butter)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup applesauce (try the individual portions, which equals one serving)
 
Step 1: Pour flour into a mixing bowl.  
Step 2: In a separate bowl, beat the milk and egg yolks together — don't forget to save the egg whites.
Step 3: Add the milk/yolk mix to the flour and beat until consistency is uniform. 
Step 4: Next add the oil, baking powder, salt, vanilla and applesauce. Beat to consistency again.
Step 5: In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until firm, then use a spatula to gently fold them into the pancake mix.
Step 6: Cook on a hot griddle. Serve with butter, maple syrup and fresh berries.
 
Rodeo Goat, Dallas, 214/741-4628; Fort Worth, 817/877-4628 // rodeogoat.com
 
Thursday
Crock Pot Root Beer Pulled Pork Sandwiches from Wylie mom Carrie Lindsey of Carrie Elle, a lifestyle blog about Dallas, crafts, simple recipes and her never-ending attempts to get organized.
 
Wrapping up the week while preparing for the weekend can make it tough to also get dinner on the table. Kids love the root beer component; moms like that there’s no prep except to throw everything in a crockpot with this dish. “This recipe is seriously so easy, and everyone in my family eats it — and requests it,” says Lindsey, the mother of two picky eaters.
 
Recipe
Ingredients:
2 liters root beer
1 3-pound pork loin (not tenderloin)
 
Step 1: Combine ingredients in a crockpot. Turn on low for 8 hours or until the pork’s internal temperature reaches 190 degrees.
Step 2: Remove from crockpot and let sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. Shred.
Step 3: Serve on toasted, buttered buns with your favorite coleslaw and BBQ sauce.
 
Friday
Pizza Night from Neel Gibbons, catering and events manager at Cane Rosso, a pizzeria with multiple locations throughout Dallas-Fort Worth.
 
Friday tends to be pizza night in a lot of households. As an alternative to ordering in or dragging everybody out, try these DIY personal pizzas from local pizza power couple, Neel and Joe Gibbons. “These are great because everyone can do exactly what they want,” says Neel, who juggles work and three kids (ages 10, 7 and 2). “I bet if I made them the same pizza, they would complain. But when they make it themselves, it’s a work of art!”
 
Recipe
Mama Mary’s mini thin and crispy pizza crusts (3 to a pack)
Pizza sauce (we like Ragu, Neel says)
Fresh grated mozzarella (we like Kraft, Neel adds)
Various toppings (we love veggies such as olives, onions and mushrooms and meats like pepperoni, ground beef and ground sausage, all cooked ahead of time, Neel suggests). Put each in its own bowl.
 
Step 1: Let the kids create their pizzas. “My daughter loves hamburger and black olives, while my husband and I like it spicy with fresh jalapenos, sausage, mushrooms and onions. My son’s choice is no sauce at all, a white pizza,” Neel says.
Step 2: Throw the pizzas directly on the oven rack and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.
 
Bonus: “This is also a proven birthday party hit,” Neel says, “We just did a make-your-own-pizza party for our son’s birthday. They all created their own pizzas, and the kids loved it!”
 
Cane Rosso, multiple locations // canerosso.com