I am often asked by family and friends for ideas on quick and easy meals. I will get texts or messages in the afternoon asking for last-minute dinner ideas or for creative and new snack ideas. I love when I get these messages because I get to share my favourite go-to recipes with people that I care about and it also reminds me to try a few new ones out so that I have a steady supply of ideas.
What I look for in a recipe is this:
a) It's easy to throw together
b) My kids will eat it
c) It's nutritious AND tasty
If a recipe meets all three criteria, it is added to my go-to list and I share it with everyone I know.
Despite my best efforts, I am not a master meal-planner, however I do have a knack for throwing a quick and easy meal together last minute as long as I have a fairly well-stocked pantry, fridge and freezer. It also helps when I have hundreds of delicious kid-friendly recipes at my fingertips, created by my fellow foodies here at YMC. So, I've selected some of my favourites for you to try out. I guarantee that these will become some of your go-to recipes that you will share with your friends and family too.
*Please note that all of these recipes are perfect AS IS, but I thought I'd share some ideas on how I would tweak them to either make them a little bit more nutritious.*
Why I love this recipe: I love the idea of making a salad in a mason jar. It adds a fun and creative spin to a simple yet yummy meal or snack. Nicole always thinks outside the box when she creates recipes, and the fact that she created a salad that tasted like bruschetta is brilliant to me. I love the addition of quinoa as it adds a healthy dose of protein and fibre to an already nutrient-rich dish. YUM!
How I would tweak it: As a snack or side, I wouldn't change a thing. If you are making this for your meal, I would add another source of protein such as barbecued chicken, salmon, shrimp, a hard-boiled egg, or feta cheese. I might even add some fresh baby kale or arugula to bulk it up a bit.
Quick tip: As Nicole suggested in her post, make quinoa as a side dish one night and save the leftovers for this salad the next day.
Why I love this recipe: My whole family (including my 10-month-old) LOVE this recipe and it is super easy to make. I always have the ingredients on hand and it takes no time to throw them into the blender to create the sauce. My 3-year-old loves helping me measure out the ingredients and turn on the blender.
How I would tweak it: If I don't have boneless, skinless chicken thighs on hand, I will use chicken breasts and cut them in half width-wise to make smaller pieces (you can also use a combo of breasts and thighs). If you like a saucier dish, multiply the sauce ingredients by one and a half.
Quick tips: Make sure that the chicken is well-cooked. Because the chicken cooks in a sauce, it can be tricky deciphering whether the chicken is fully cooked or not. I use a meat thermometre and often cook an extra 10-15 minutes to be safe (you can't really overcook the chicken in this dish).
Why I love this recipe: There are so many things about this recipe that I love. Where do I start? I love the fact that it is a dessert that is made out of avocados. Because nutrient-rich avocados have a soft, silky and rich texture, they make the perfect base for pudding. This recipe calls for real, natural ingredients, which I love. It is sweetened by maple syrup, which is my go-to sweetener of choice because it possesses anti-oxidants that other sweeteners don't.
How I would tweak it: As Gwen mentions in her post, you must follow the instructions carefully, so my advice is to do just that and not change a thing!
Why I love this recipe: Again, this is one of those recipe that I can throw together in half an hour because I always have these ingredients on hand. This recipe is packed full of nutrition, including protein, fibre, iron, and zinc.
How I would tweak it: I usually add some extra veggies such as bell peppers and tomatoes (I usually add the peppers to the pan when the chicken is almost cooked through and then add diced tomato to the pan with the beans and corn). Sometimes I also top it with a mild fresh salsa. If you don't have brown rice on hand, quinoa would be a great substitute.
Why I love this recipe: Quinoa, which is packed full of nutrition, is often thought of as a lunch or dinner food, when really, it's perfect for any meal (including breakfast) because of its mild flavour and the fact that it is a complete protein source. This is a delicious (and nutritious) spin on classic breakfast oatmeal that you'll love.
How I would tweak it: There's not much I would change here. I might add an extra boost of protein by topping it with a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt, but that's about it!
Why I love this recipe: This is one of my all-time favourite weeknight recipes. It is a delicious spin on a classic spaghetti dinner and makes great leftovers.
How would I tweak it: I usually add extra veggies (such as chopped mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini—whatever I have on hand) and often use ground bison or ground turkey instead of ground beef.
Why I love this recipe: I make smoothies almost daily for myself and my kids. Katja's smoothie is jam packed full of flavour as well as nutrition, and unlike many smoothies, has quite a bit of protein (which is perfect for growing kids and moms who want to stay fuller longer). I love that it includes some fresh greens (I use spinach or kale —whatever I have on hand), not because it's a way to "sneak" vegetables into my child's diet, but because it's an easy and tasty way to have one or two extra servings of veggies a day.
How I would tweak this: I don't usually have a container of Greens+ powder around, so I would likely omit that and I may use regular milk for more of a protein boost (rather than coconut milk), but other than that, I wouldn't change a thing!
Why I love this recipe: This is a healthy and tasty snack that everyone will love. Instead of grabbing a bag of potato chips, pour a bowl of these roasted chickpeas instead, as they will satisfy your salty tooth and keep you fuller longer thanks to the protein and fibre naturally found in chickpeas. This is a snack that I feel good about eating and serving to my kids.
How I would tweak it: I wouldn't!
Why I love this recipe: This is my all-time favourite cookie recipe. I always have a stash of these in the freezer, ready to take with us on the road or to pair with milk for a snack. Because these cookies are lower in sugar and higher in fibre than most, I feel like they are a treat that is also snack-worthy.
How I would tweak it: Depending on if I'm craving chocolate or not, I will substitute dark chocolate chips in for the raisins, or a combo of both. I have also started using stone-ground whole grain flour instead of regular whole wheat flour, because the stone ground flour contains the entire whole grain (including the wheat germ, where most of the grain's nutrition is).
Why I love this recipe: We often make tuna salad sandwiches at home, so this delicious chicken salad recipe has been a nice alternative. We make it all of the time because my kids love it and it's not only healthy, but SO tasty. I'm not a fan of deli meats, so this recipe, using fresh cooked shredded chicken is right up my alley. This chicken salad is extra satisfying and filling because of the protein-packed Greek yogurt.
How I would tweak it: The only thing that I have ever changed with this recipe is adding a bit of minced garlic and salt and pepper to the Greek yogurt before mixing the chicken in. That is completely optional of course.
I am always posting recipes that I love (as well as nutrition tips for kids and families) over on my facebook page, so please feel free to check it out!