I Don’t Like It! (Part 3)

August 23, 2012, Parenting Success Network

This summer I had the pleasure of chatting a friend who gave me a wonderful idea for my final blog entry in our I Don’t Like It! series,

As summer winds down and many parents return to the hustle and bustle of school days, homework, and after-school activities we begin to consider and reconsider ways to make the upcoming school year manageable. One of my biggest challenges is dinnertime. Not only do we need dinner solutions that are quick and easy but my family needs dinner options that can be equally enjoyed by five family members, even the picky ones. So what is a parent to do?

In today’s post, I am going to list my favorite “Go-To” weekly dinner ideas. Check out the ideas below and think about some of your fabulous family favorites. I invite all of our blog readers to submit your family’s favorite busy weeknight “Go-To” meals. Hopefully, we can get a conversation going and many of us can begin the school year with at least one new dinner idea or recipe.

My favorite “Go-To” meals are:

taco bar – see the first blog entry, I Don’t Like It!

chili bar – This dinner starts with a basic chili recipe and all the toppings (cheese, onions, sour cream, etc.) are on the side. Each family can build a bowl of chili to their liking. Additionally, this dinner can be expanded into chili over potatoes, chili over burgers, chili over hot dogs, or chili over corn chips as the week goes on.

tortilla soup bar – Again this recipe starts with a basic tortilla soup (vegetarian or chicken) as the base. All of the toppings (cheese, tortilla chips, cilantro, onions, guacamole, sour cream, etc.) are on the side for each family member to choose from. If your soup is hearty enough, this can be served with just a side salad or other vegetable option.

pizza bar – This one is simple and my kids enjoy their part in building their own mini-pizzas. Use your favorite pizza crust to prepare mini-pizza size crusts or use English muffins, french bread, flatbread, or whatever bread you like. Just be sure to prepare them in individual sizes. Again, toppings are available for family members to choose from. If you are feeling creative, you can also have a variety of sauces and cheeses for the pizzas. We like traditional red pizza sauce, pesto sauce, alfredo sauce,  plain old olive oil, and my daughter likes no sauce at all. Of course, pizza toppings can be numerous so again, be creative and offer both meat and veggie options such as: ground or shredded beef, pork, chicken, bacon, etc., and non-traditional veggies such as kale, spinach, carrots, and beets. Just for fun, we have even made dessert pizzas with any leftover crust and toppings such as: sweetened cream cheese, yogurt, chocolate drizzle, caramel sauce, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, chocolate chips, and a touch of powdered sugar.

sandwich or panini bar – This is a fun dinner option for us because we feel like we are at a gourmet restaurant or cafe. We start with a basic panini-style flatbread cut into individual sandwich portion sizes.  Offer the sandwich options that your family likes such as: various lunch meats, bacon, tuna or egg salad, (a veggie patty would also work here), etc. We also include our favorite veggie options (think of Subway or ToGos) such as: onions, bell peppers, banana peppers, olives, mushrooms, cheeses, pickles, artichokes, spinach, lettuce, shredded carrots and beets, avocado, guacamole, tomatoes, and cabbage. Be creative with condiments too. Along with the traditional condiments try other sauces and dressings such as: ranch dressing, honey mustard dressing, and other homemade or store-bought salad dressings. To make paninis without a panini griddle, place the sandwich on a nonstick skillet and put a foil-wrapped brick (or another heavy flat object) on top of the sandwich to flatten it out as it grills.

Hopefully one of the above “Go-To” meal options will spark some ideas for you and your family. Don’t forget to be creative and have fun with your family in the kitchen. I look forward to adding your submissions to my dinnertime options for the coming school year.