10 kid-friendly dinners in a flash
Feeding a hungry family a healthy dinner can often be a challenge, especially when food is needed fast. In these situations it is often easiest to reach for quick fixes and forget the healthy part, but these recipes are proof that healthy food can be quick too.
Just remember that, in order to produce a healthy meal, include some lean protein, grain foods such as rice, pasta or bread, and plenty of veggies. Also try to keep your kitchen stocked with back-ups such as canned and frozen veggies, tinned fish, eggs, reduced-salt sauces like soy sauce and tomato paste, and basics like rice and pasta, and you will be able to turn out tasty, healthy dinners without too much fuss (see our article on pantry staples for more tips on stocking your pantry).
Here are a few recipes to get you started, and don’t be afraid to experiment and use those leftovers!
Chicken and corn soup
Simply cook everything in the one pot to save time on washing up.
- 1 litre salt-reduced chicken stock
- 400g skinless chicken breast, finely sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 1 x 420g can creamed corn
- 1 x 310g can salt-reduced corn kernels, rinsed, drained
- 1 cup diced vegetables of your choice (e.g. frozen peas, mushroom, capsicum)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 egg
- 3 spring onions, finely sliced
- Place chicken stock and chicken breast in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked.
- Add garlic, ginger, creamed corn, corn kernels, diced vegetables and sesame oil. Bring to the boil and simmer for two minutes.
- In a small bowl, lightly whisk egg. Slowly pour into soup while stirring to form long threads of egg.
- Ladle soup into bowls and top with spring onions. Serve with wholemeal bread.
Creamy ham and veggie pasta
Everyone loves a creamy sauce. This recipe uses low-fat evaporated milk instead of cream for a healthier take on a family favourite.
- 350g penne pasta
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 150g lean leg ham, sliced
- 250g mushrooms, sliced
- 1 bunch English spinach, washed and chopped
- 1 red capsicum, sliced
- 375ml can low-fat evaporated milk
- ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- Cook pasta according to packet directions and drain.
- Sauté onion and garlic in a non-stick pan with a little water until onion is soft.
- Add ham and mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are golden brown, adding a little water if necessary.
- Add spinach and capsicum, cooking until spinach is wiled.
- Add milk to vegetables and bring to the boil.
- Remove from the heat. Add milk mixture to pasta and toss to combine.
- Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.
You don’t have to stand stirring a pot for ages to produce a tasty risotto. Use whatever veggies you have on hand to make this cheat’s risotto.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 brown onion, chopped
- 300g butternut pumpkin, peeled and chopped into 2cm pieces
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 3 cups salt reduced chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cup sweet corn kernels
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 bunch asparagus, end trimmed, cut into thirds
- 1 cup cooked chicken, diced
- 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
- Baby spinach, to serve
- Combine onion and oil in a microwave-safe container. Cover with paper towel. Microwave on HIGH (100%) for 3 minutes or until soft. Stir in pumpkin. Microwave on HIGH (100%) uncovered for a further 2 minutes.
- Add rice and stock and microwave, covered, for 12 minutes on HIGH (100%).
- Remove cover and stir in corn, peas, asparagus and chicken. Cover and microwave on HIGH (100%) for 8 minutes.
- Stand for 2 minutes. Remove cover, stir and sprinkle with cheese. Serve topped with baby spinach.
Lettuce cup nachos
Serve nachos with lettuce leaf cups instead of corn chips to increase the veggie content and reduce the fat and salt.
- 4 large wholemeal pita bread, cut into triangles
- 8 iceberg lettuce cups
- 500g lean beef mince
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- ½ red capsicum, thinly sliced
- 1 large carrot, grated
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika powder
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons reduced salt tomato paste
- 1 x 420g red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- Preheat oven to 180°C. Place pita bread on baking tray. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until golden. Remove and set aside to cool.
- Heat oil in a medium saucepan, add beef and cook for 2-3 minutes or until browned.
- Add onion, red capsicum and carrot. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until tender.
- Stir in cumin, paprika, water and tomato paste. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Add red kidney beans and cook for a further 10 minutes.
- Serve with lettuce cups and toasted pita bread triangles. If desired, add reduced fat plain yoghurt, mashed avocado or reduced fat grated cheese.
- Add other vegetables such as capsicum, green beans, mushrooms and zucchini.
- Instead of the beef use two cans of kidney beans and add one cup of sliced mushrooms.
- Use chicken breast instead of lean beef mince.
- Use four bean mix instead of kidney beans.
- You can use dried mixed herbs or fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, rosemary and thyme.
- For a vegetarian alternative, substitute beef mince with other beans such as four bean mix.
Use leftover spaghetti to make this recipe even easier.
- 2 cups cooked spaghetti
- 1 medium zucchini, grated
- ½ red capsicum, diced
- 3 slices reduced fat ham, diced
- 6 eggs
- ½ cup reduced fat milk
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Grease 12-hole muffin tin with spray oil (line with muffin cases if preferred).
- Dived cooked spaghetti between muffin holes. Top with ham, cheese and vegetables.
- Whisk together eggs and milk in a jug.
- Cook in oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
- Serve with steamed veggies or a side salad.
Chickpea and couscous salad
Add in extra veggies such as diced cucumber and capsicum, grated carrot, baby spinach or corn kernels for extra colour and flavour. Serve with some lean grilled chicken, beef or lamb for a complete meal.
- 1 ½ cups salt-reduced chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 ½ cups couscous, uncooked
- 1 x 425g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 3 medium tomatoes, diced
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup parsley or coriander, chopped
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Bring stock to the boil. Remove from heat and mix in couscous and cumin. Cover and allow to stand for 5 minutes or until stock is absorbed.
- Fluff couscous with a fork. Mix in remaining ingredients. Serve warm or cold.
As an alternative base, try different breads such as wholemeal pita bread, Turkish bread or bagels.
- 6 wholemeal or whole grain English muffins
- 12 teaspoons tomato paste, crushed tomatoes or passata
Toppings of your choice, for example:
- Sliced tomato, diced lean ham, pineapple slices
- Sliced mushrooms, diced capsicum, diced ham
- Corn kernels (canned, rinsed and drained), chopped spring onions
- 1 cup reduced fat tasty cheese, grated
- Dried mixed herbs
- Split each muffin in half.
- Place muffins cut side down on toaster tray and lightly toast.
- Turn muffins over and spread cut side with tomato paste.
- Top muffins with your choice of ‘topping’ ingredients.
- Sprinkle with cheese and dried herbs.
- Return muffins to the oven/griller and toast until golden brown.
- Serve whole or cut muffins in half or quarters along with a side salad.
Jaffles are a quick and easy meal, and you can vary the fillings based on your family’s preferences and the ingredients you have available. Remember to use wholemeal bread and make sure to serve with extra veggies or salad on the side for a complete meal Some ideas for fillings are:
- Pizza jaffle – tomato paste, corn, capsicum, tomato, olives and reduced-fat cheese.
- Tex Mex jaffle – tomato paste, baked beans, corn and reduced-fat cheese.
- Savoury jaffle – tomato paste, mushrooms, capsicum, spinach, and reduced-fat cheese.
- Tropical jaffle – tomato paste, ham, pineapple and reduced-fat cheese.
- Caprese jaffle – sliced tomato, mozzarella, and basil.
- Bolognese jaffle – use leftover bolognese sauce and reduced-fat cheese.
San choy bau
Place leaves on a plate and pork mixture into a bowl and allow your family to make their own san choy bau.
- 1 tbsp oil
- 500g minced lean pork
- 6 spring onions, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 small piece ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 stick celery, diced
- 1 medium red capsicum, seeded and diced
- 100g mushrooms, diced
- 1 cup cooked rice (or use 100g mung bean noodles prepared according to packet instructions)
- 2 tablespoons reduced-salt soy sauce
- 8 large iceberg lettuce leaves
- 1 Lebanese cucumber, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced diagonally
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- Heat oil in wok or fry pan. Cook pork quickly until separate and cooked through, then set aside leaving oil in pan.
- Place onions, garlic, ginger, celery, capsicum, mushrooms and rice (or noodles) into the hot pan and cook gently, stirring until softened.
- Return the pork to the pan and mix well. Add soy sauce to pork mixture and stir through.
- Spoon filling into each lettuce leaf. Top with cucumber and bean sprouts. Serve at once.
Baked salmon patties
This recipe is a great way of getting fish into a tasty, kid-loving patty. You can serve the patties in a burger as this recipe suggests, or with a simple side salad.
- 1 x 210g tin salmon, drained and flaked
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 grated carrot
- 1 grated zucchini
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- 150g (1 1/4 cups) dried breadcrumbs
- Wholemeal buns, lettuce, sliced tomato and cucumber, and reduced fat mayo to serve
- Preheat oven to 190°C.
- In a medium bowl, mix together salmon, egg, carrot, zucchini, olive oil, spring onions, and half the breadcrumbs.
- Coat patties with remaining breadcrumbs and arrange in a single layer on a baking tray.
- Bake 10 minutes in the preheated oven, turning once, or until golden brown on both sides.
- Serve in wholemeal bun with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and mayo.