Healthy Family Meals

Healthy Kid Friendly Dinners

We all want to ensure our kids are enjoying healthy meals, but it’s also vitally important to keep them interested at dinner time. A great way to do this is by combining healthy, ‘clean’ ingredients into dishes that look like classic comfort foods and takeaway treats - but without the frightening amounts of oil, salt, fat and refined sugar that so many processed versions somehow pack in.

The two recipes below are sure-fire winners on various counts; they’re relatively quick and easy to make, and both are easy to pair with other nutritious ingredients for satisfying and healthy kid-friendly dinners on busy midweek evenings. Neither of them are exclusively children’s dishes, either - in fact, both are entirely suitable for the whole family to enjoy, and should prove a hit with all ages.

Home-Baked Crispy Chicken & Pecan ‘Nuggets’

Crispy Chicken & Pecan Nuggets

Far tastier than bland, frozen store-bought versions, and much better for them than anything from a takeaway. They’re also great to eat cold - ideal for lunchboxes. This recipe is easiest if you have three similarly shaped wide, shallow bowls for dipping and coating the chicken.

Ingredients

Makes enough for 4 portions

  • 700-800g mini chicken breast fillets (or larger breast pieces cut into strips)
  • 200g raw pecan halves or pieces
  • 150g panko breadcrumbs
  • 150g plain flour
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • A good pinch of sea salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 210 C (420 F, Gas Mark 7). For fan-assisted ovens, drop the temperature by 10 degrees or so.
  2. Pulse the nuts in a food processor or blender until they reach a breadcrumb-like texture, then combine in one large, shallow dish or bowl with the actual breadcrumbs and the dry spices. Whisk your eggs together in a second bowl suitable for dipping, and tip your flour into a third.
  3. Take your chicken pieces one at a time, and dip/roll to coat them in the following sequence: eggs, flour, eggs, breadcrumb/pecan mixture. You may need to pat and press the dry crumb mixture onto the fillets in order to get it to stick properly. Try not to leave too many uncoated gaps.
  4. Place the coated strips on a greased or lined baking tray, leaving a small space between each one, and bake in the middle of the oven for around 20 minutes, or until lightly golden. (You can raise them off the tray surface with a cooling rack for slightly better all-round cooking, as long as you don’t mind the hassle of cleaning it afterwards!)
  5. Serve with salad and your choice of sauces, either on their own or in wraps.

Easy Cauliflower Cheese

Cauliflower Cheese

Brilliant as a side dish or a main, depending on how you choose to serve and accompany it. We like it on its own with roasted carrots and green beans, but you can easily throw in some quick-cook wholewheat pasta for an easy, more nutritious take on the traditional ‘mac and cheese’.

Serves 6 as a side, or 4 as a main (depending on what else you choose to serve it with!).

Ingredients

  • 1 large cauliflower with leaves removed, divided into florets
  • 500ml milk
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 100g strong cheddar, grated
  • 50g butter
  • 2-3 tbsp breadcrumbs

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 210 C (420 F, Gas Mark 7). For fan-assisted ovens, drop the temperature by 10 degrees or so.
  2. Bring a large pan of water to a gentle boil on the hob, and simmer your cauliflower pieces for around five minutes or until just tender. Remove the cauliflower and allow it to drain well, then tip it into a roasting dish.
  3. Put the empty pan (water discarded) back on the heat, and add in your milk, followed by the butter and flour. Start to whisk this mixture together, slowly at first to avoid splashing and spilling, then faster as it starts to come together.
  4. As the heat rises to a gentle simmer, you’ll find the mixture begins to thicken. Keep whisking at a low boil for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is fully blended with no lumps and a nicely oozy texture.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and, while still hot, stir about ¾ of your grated cheese through until thoroughly melted and well combined. Tip this mixture carefully over the cauliflower in the roasting dish, making sure to coat all the florets as much as possible.
  6. Scatter the remaining ¼ of your grated cheese over the top, and bake on the middle oven shelf for about 20 min until bubbling and starting to show some colour in patches on top. Check midway through - if the top appears to be browning too quickly, you can put foil over the dish for the remaining 10 min.

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