Steeling Home: Family Meals That Don’t Break the Bank

27 01 2009

This is a special edition Super Bowl article written for a mom in Arlington looking for something that will score a field goal with the family without breaking the bank.  So in honour of the Pittsburgh Steelers we are steeling (sic) home for some good food at a low price.  

A lot of typical bar food or Super Bowl party food can be a great starting point for fun family meals.  With a few modifications you can make some healthy, tasty, and inexpensive meals that will appeal to the whole family.

Tacos
Tacos are great with kids because if they are old enough they can help prep.  I had my 2 and 4 year olds help.  Yes, we had to throw out a tomato because my son decided that 1/4 cup of salt would be really fun to pour and mix with it, but aside from that all ingredients were spared and delicious.  The other benefit of tacos is they can be personalized (yes salsa, no cheese, extra sour cream).

In our house we have the following little bowls set up:  sour cream, grated cheddar, shredded lettuce, salsa, cubed tomatoes.  We have decided that soft corn tortillas make it a lot easier to eat so we microwave some soft corn tortillas ( you can use blue ones for more fun) and add the meat and toppings to your liking.

For the meat we use a taco seasoning mix (I prefer the ones at Whole Foods or in the “natural” food section of the grocery store).  If I can’t make it to Whole Foods for some organic, hormone free, etc. meat then I buy buffalo meat or organic turkey at the regular grocery store.

This is an inexpensive dish because a little meat goes a long way as do most of the toppings.

Nachos

I know nachos are not typically a meal, but you can add some shredded chicken (from a store bought rotisserie chicken or your own roasted chicken), a side of re-fried beans or home-made bean dip to add to it, add some extra diced tomatoes and guacamole and you might find more protein and vegetables on your child’s plate than usual.  To really make it a whole meal I would serve a dish like this with a salad, or some vegetable crudites (just the kids favourite raw veggies and dip).  This would also pair well with a bowl of tomato soup or black bean soup.

If you buy a store bought chicken it may cost a little more in money but save a lot on time and you can usually stretch it for at least two meals.

Soups and chilis
The secret to soups and chilis for the kids is the “add ons”.  Make a soup or chili (Vegetarian, poultry or red meat) and set up an “add on” bar of sorts.  You can have a little dish of grated cheese, sour cream (that’s my daughter’s favourite), oyster crackers, croutons, or strips of toast.  You can always add a grilled cheese sandwich to this (with Tomato on whole wheat is what we like to make) and you have a very hearty meal.  For soups, know your children well.  My daughter loves miso soup with bean curd.  She used to call the little tofu cubes noodles.  In the beginning that was all she would eat.  Another family favourite is Matzoh ball soup.  Some children will only eat the noodles at first, but eventually they acquire a taste for the broth and veggies too.

Dips and dippers

You can get a pretty decent meal of dips and dippers.  Cut up some raw veggies.  Have some pita (whole wheat or white) on hand.  The children often like the mini pitas.  You can also use baguette rounds, crackers, tortilla chips.  Then for the dips it is easy to make a light white bean dip , some hummus, perhaps a good guacamole, and a warm artichoke dip if you feel like having something warm to dig into.

The thing about dips is that sometimes the children need to participate in the making of it so they know what’s in it.  It can work either way.  My children won’t try something that looks mysterious.  They like to know what they’re getting into.  So we have much more success when they help make the dips.

To round out the meal serve this with a filling smoothie (call it a milk shake and it’s even better) and you have a nice light, healthy, inexpensive dinner.

Pizza
You can use pita bread or english muffins to make quick pizzas.  If you make your own pizza sauce you can add some extra veggies by adding veggie purees into the sauce.  I prefer to take a little extra time and use a fresh pizza dough (store bought) and let each child customize a section of the pizza. You can add slices of ham cut into strips, peppers, fresh tomatoes, or whatever the children are likely to eat.

When you are really out of ideas and just want something quick and easy then you can almost always score a touch down with the children if you make breakfast for dinner.

Finally, a great resource for meals that both you and your children can enjoy I highly recommend checking out Annabel Karmel’s recipes on her website.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more inspiration check out these Super Bowl menus: Rachel RayMartha Stewart

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