Five dinners your kids might actually eat

From cheesy flatbreads to breakfast burritos: these recipes may even appeal to the pickiest eaters, says Emily Weinstein

Wednesday 20 October 2021 18:00
<p>An adaptable noodle dish makes dinner for everyone easy and speedy </p>

An adaptable noodle dish makes dinner for everyone easy and speedy

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The other day, my younger daughter, who is not quite two, was given a piece of homemade blueberry pie. She screamed in agony. How dare someone offer her pie!

As of now, my children are both picky and mercurial about food, a terrible combination. This is very annoying and very common: one of the questions I get asked most often is what to feed kids who won’t eat anything.

With apologies to those of you who don’t have kids at home, this week we’re featuring recipes that I believe children might – emphasis on might – eat happily. But really, they’re all-ages recipes. Would you eschew flatbread with feta, parmesan, ricotta and mozzarella? Or crunchy breaded chicken?

Ritzy cheddar chicken breasts

These cheesy, crispy chicken cutlets are as good as they sound

They’re as good as they sound: cheesy chicken cutlets coated with buttery Ritz crackers. Skipping the usual flour-egg-breadcrumb dredge, this recipe relies instead on a flavourful base layer of tangy sour cream, which has lactic acid that tenderises boneless, skinless chicken breasts beautifully. When it comes to breaded white meat, thin cutlets are ideal, which you can buy from the store or achieve by slicing thick breasts in half horizontally (no pounding necessary). They cook more evenly this way, staying tender throughout as they’re quickly baked in a hot oven. Serve with something fresh – a big green salad, perhaps – to balance the wonderful richness of this nostalgic number.

By: Eric Kim

Serves: 4 servings

Total time: 30 minutes


1tbsp olive oil, plus more for greasing wire rack

60g sour cream

1 large egg white

1tsp Dijon mustard


2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 680g total)

1 sleeve Ritz crackers (about 100g)

60g extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

½ sp garlic powder

½tsp onion powder


1. Position rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat oven to 230C. Place an ovenproof wire rack over a baking tray. Dab a folded-up paper towel with olive oil and rub it over the wire rack to grease it.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, egg white and Dijon mustard until smooth. Season with salt. Lay the chicken flat on a cutting board and carve each breast in half horizontally so you end up with four thin cutlets. Add the chicken to the sour cream mixture, and using your hands, smear the sour cream all over the chicken.

3. In a large bowl, crush the Ritz crackers into coarse pieces with your fingers. Some crackers will turn to rubble while others turn to dust. Add the cheese, garlic powder, onion powder and olive oil. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and toss until evenly distributed. Holding one of the chicken cutlets by its thinner end, add to the bowl with the crumbs, and using your hands, pack the crumbs onto the chicken, pressing them in to create a thick coating. Transfer the breaded chicken to the rack in the sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining three cutlets.

4. Bake the cutlets until the outsides are crispy and the insides are no longer pink, 10 to 15 minutes. Let the chicken cool slightly so the coating can set, about 5 minutes, before transferring to plates and serving.

Four-cheese flatbreads

A pre-made naan, flatbread or pita makes these pizzas extra speedy

You can make personal pizzas quickly by using pre-made naan, flatbread or pita as the base, then topping with whatever sounds good to you. Here, the combination of feta, parmesan, ricotta and mozzarella hits every note – salty, creamy, tangy and gooey. Corn’s sweetness balances the savouriness, and a generous amount of black pepper cuts through the richness, as it does in cacio e pepe. Feel free to swap the cheeses based on what you have – pecorino instead of parmesan, fontina instead of mozzarella – and incorporate any toppings you like: spinach, herbs, garlic, red pepper flakes, hot honey and so on.

By: Ali Slagle

Serves: 4 servings

Total time: 15 minutes


170g whole-milk ricotta

85g crumbled feta

70g finely grated parmesan

45g grated mozzarella

1tsp fresh thyme leaves

185g corn kernels (from 2 ears of corn or frozen and thawed)

Black pepper

4 flatbread, naan or pocketless pita (roughly 22cm diameter, shop-bought or homemade)


1. Heat the oven to 230C, and place a rack in the lower and upper thirds of the oven. In a large bowl, mash the ricotta, feta, parmesan, mozzarella and thyme together with a fork. Stir in the corn, and season to taste with black pepper.

2. Place the flatbread on two baking trays, then top evenly with the cheese mixture. Roast, rotating pans halfway through, until the bread is crisp and the cheese has melted and browned in spots, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Let cool for a few minutes, then cut and top with more black pepper.

Breakfast burritos

A delightful breakfast that is also great any time of day

A delightful breakfast, these burritos filled with soft scrambled eggs, spring onion-flecked refried beans and buttery avocado slices are also great any time of the day. Coriander adds freshness, and a few drops of your favourite hot sauce will deliver a nice zing. The non-traditional, open-ended rolling technique used here will tightly encase the filling in the smaller-sized tortillas while ensuring the optimal tortilla-to-stuffing ratio. To seal completely, wrap each tortilla in a strip of foil and twist both ends. For convenience, the little wraps can be made ahead of time, stored in the fridge or freezer and reheated in an oven.

By: Yewande Komolafe

Serves: 4 servings

Total time: 20 minutes


8 medium (soft taco-sized) flour tortillas

140g cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

2tbsp neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

½tsp ground cumin

1 cup refried black beans (from a 450g tin)

6 large eggs, beaten


Hot sauce, for drizzling (optional)

1 small ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced

Handful fresh coriander leaves


1. Heat grill to high and line two baking trays with foil.

2. Place the tortillas on the trays. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the tortillas. Grill, one pan at a time, until the cheese is just beginning to melt, about 20 seconds.

3. In a medium non-stick frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium. Add the spring onions and cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the refried beans, stir to combine and cook until the beans are warmed through, about 2 minutes. Divide the beans among the tortillas, spooning in even lines down the centres.

4. Wipe out the pan and set over a medium-low heat. Pour in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, add the eggs and season lightly with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggs are just set, about 3 minutes. Divide the eggs evenly among the tortillas, in lines over the beans. Drizzle on hot sauce, if using.

5. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the eggs and top with avocado and coriander. To roll, fold one side over the filling to enclose it, then tightly roll away from you, leaving the ends open. Serve immediately, or wrap in foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Reheat in a 200C oven or toaster oven until warm, about 8 minutes.

Takeaway-style sesame noodles

Cold sesame noodles became popular in the west in the 1970s

Noodles dressed with sesame are popular in many parts of China, but this particular style, made with peanut butter and served cold, became a western staple in the 1970s. The family of Shorty Tang – an ambitious restaurateur who emigrated from Sichuan to Taipei to New York – firmly believes that he invented the dish and still serve it at Hwa Yuan, the restaurant he opened in the 1980s in Manhattan’s Chinatown. They have never divulged the exact recipe; this is our own lush but refreshing version.

By: Sam Sifton

Serves: 4 servings

Total time: 10 minutes


450g noodles, frozen or (preferably) fresh

2tbsp sesame oil, plus a splash

3½tbsp soy sauce

2tbsp Chinese rice vinegar

2tbsp Chinese sesame paste

1tbsp smooth peanut butter

1tbsp sugar

1tbsp finely grated ginger

2tsp minced garlic

2tsp chilli-garlic paste, chilli crisp or chilli oil, or to taste

Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into ⅓cm by ⅓cm by 5cm sticks

40g chopped roasted peanuts


1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add noodles and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes. They should retain a hint of chewiness. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and toss with a splash of sesame oil.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and chili-garlic paste.

3. Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with cucumber and peanuts.

Tip: The Chinese sesame paste called for here is made of toasted sesame seeds; it is not the same as tahini, the Middle Eastern paste made of plain, untoasted sesame. But you could use tahini at a pinch. You need only add a little toasted sesame oil to compensate for flavour and perhaps some peanut butter to keep the sauce emulsified.

Traybake sausage and squash

The perfect improv dinner

Like chicken thighs, whose rendered skin leaves behind a beautiful puddle for frying vegetables, bread or beans, sausages yield delicious fat for cooking. Paired with butternut squash and crisped in a hot oven, the spicy fat slicks the sweet squash, while parsley and lemon cut through all the richness. Feel free to switch up the squash for carrots, broccoli, potatoes: any vegetables that are good roasted will work well in that liquid gold. If the meal seems light, bulk it up by topping with a cup of feta or rinsed tinned chickpeas, adding rocket or watercress to the parsley, or serving it all on a bed of kale or or other leafy greens, like a warm salad.

By: Ali Slagle

Serves: 4 servings

Total time: 30 minutes


1 (900g) butternut squash, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded

450g spicy sausage (fresh chorizo, Italian, Andouille or otherwise)

60ml extra virgin olive oil

Salt and black pepper

Big handful parsley leaves

1tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as desired

Flaky salt, as desired


1. Heat the oven to 220C and stick a large baking tray in the oven. Cut the squash into 1.5cm-thick slices, then cut the slices crosswise in half. Transfer to a large bowl. Score the sausages in a few places on both sides, making sure not to cut all the way through. Transfer to the bowl with the squash, then stir to coat with the olive oil and fat pinches of salt and pepper.

2. When the oven comes to temperature, carefully dump the squash and sausage mixture onto the hot baking tray and spread it out into a single layer. Roast, stirring every so often to coat the squash in the rendered fat, until the squash is tender and sausages are crisp and cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes (to add some colour, put them under the grill for a minute or two). Let cool slightly while you prepare the parsley.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the parsley and lemon juice, and add salt and pepper to taste. Slice the sausage diagonally in thirds. Serve the sausage and squash on a platter with a pile of parsley on top and sprinkled with an extra squeeze of lemon and flaky salt, if desired.

Tip: The squash and sausage can be roasted 3 days in advance. Reheat in a low oven before serving.

© The New York Times

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