Five Kids, Five Favorite Meals: Dinner Recipes for the Whole Family

Mealtime has always been a challenge in our family, but some things have gotten easier over the years. As our kids have grown they’ve become less picky (with the exception of our four-year-old, who is still in the phase where he only eats three things.) Shopping, planning, and prep have also gotten much easier since my husband took over the cooking duties. While most of the mealtime drama has subsided, one challenge still remains: finding a meal that all seven people in our family will eat.

Five Kids, Five Favorite Meals: Dinner Recipes for the Whole Family

The good news is that since most of our kids are older now, we let them have more say over the family menu. It’s been interesting to see how their tastes have changed over the years, and it’s been very rewarding to watch them take some ownership with the family meal planning. And although they’ve gotten less picky, they have very different opinions on which meals are their favorites.

Here are our kids’ five favorite meals.

The Preschooler: “Weekend Waffles”

Remember how I said my four-year-old only eats three things? Waffles are at the top of his list. He loves all types of waffles, but he especially enjoys when Dad makes “Weekend Waffles” with the waffle iron. “Weekend Waffles” are delicious, but what makes them really special is that we are able to slow down and enjoy the morning together as a family. Obviously waffles are not the healthiest meal so we try to find ways to bump up the nutrition.

Some ways we do this include:

  • Creating a “topping bar” with fruit (strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and raspberries)
  • Using lower-sugar or natural maple syrup
  • Adding special ingredients to the batter. When my husband makes the waffles, he uses Bisquick batter. They offer several suggestions for nutritious batter add-ins such as vanilla yogurt, ricotta cheese, peanut butter, fruit, and even bacon! (You can view more recipe suggestions here.)

Tween One: Pesto Presto Mac

(Original source: Allrecipes)

My husband and I really love this one since it’s quick and super easy. We usually double it to feed most of our family (our preschooler is the only holdout on this one.) This is my daughter’s favorite dish, and she loves helping her Dad prep the meal for the family.


• 1 (16 oz) package elbow macaroni
• 1 pound lean ground beef
• ½ cup pesto (we use DiGirono pesto)
• ½ cup sour cream
• Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add macaroni, stirring occasionally until pasta is tender. Drain water.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook beef until brown, breaking into small chunks, for about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and dispose of grease.
  3. Stir pesto and sour cream into ground beef. Combine and simmer until warm.
  4. Combine macaroni and ground beef mixture in large serving bowl. Mix well. Garnish with parmesan cheese if desired.

Tween Two: Garlic Butter Parchment Salmon

(Original source: Tasty)

Our 12-year-old loves salmon, and we love that he loves salmon! All four of these recipes in the above video are quick, delicious, and very healthy. Our son’s favorite version is the Garlic Butter Salmon.


(We usually do five pouches; our 4-year-old and 10-year-old don’t care for this recipe.)

• Parchment paper or aluminum foil, 12×18 inches
• 1 white potato, thinly sliced (1 potato per pouch)
• 6 ounces skinless salmon (1 salmon per pouch)
• 3 tablespoons butter, melted (per pouch)
• 1 clove garlic (per pouch)
• 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (per pouch)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Create pouches by folding parchment paper in half, then open up.
  3. In a bowl, combine the butter, garlic, and parsley.
  4. On one half of the parchment, lay down the potatoes. Drizzle on half of the garlic butter mixture.
  5. Sprinkle potatoes with salt and pepper as desired.
  6. Place the salmon on top the potatoes, and drizzle the remaining garlic butter over the salmon. Add additional salt and pepper as desired.
  7. Fold the parchment paper over the salmon, and cinch the paper together by folding it over itself along the edges.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until internal temperature of salmon reaches 145˚F/63˚C.

Teen One: Crock Pot French Onion Soup 

(Original source: Eating Well)

Our 15-year-old son requests this hearty, delicious soup every week. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it makes the house smell amazing! My husband preps French bread toasts topped with Swiss cheese for dipping about 10 minutes before the soup is done in the crock pot.

Side note: I’m guessing I’m not the one questioning the safety of the crock pot after “This is Us?” 😉


2 tablespoons butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bay leaf
2 pounds yellow onions, halved and sliced
2 pounds red onions, halved and sliced (Note: we usually reduce the onions by one pound.)
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon ground pepper
4 cups low-sodium beef broth
¼ cup dry sherry


  1. Place butter in the bottom of a 6- to 7-quart slow cooker. Add oil, thyme, garlic, and bay leaf, then onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high for 8 hours.
  2. Combine broth and sherry in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf from the slow cooker. Pour in the broth and cook on high, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Teen Two: Fast Four-Step Lasagna

(This recipe appears in “The Dinner Doctor” cookbook. I’ve had this book forever and it’s still one of our favorites!)

When asked to contribute a recipe for this post, my grouchy 17-year-old replied, “Nothing. Maybe coffee.” As an attentive parent, I have noticed he asks his dad to prep this lasagna on nights when he’s not at work or at an extra curricular activity. The no-boil noodles make this very easy. It’s so easy, in fact, that my husband always makes two at a time and freezes one for later in the week (in case our teen isn’t home when we serve it the first time!)


1 pound ground beef
2 26 oz jars of pasta sauce (We use Classico sauce.)
9 no-boil lasagna noodles
1 15 oz container ricotta cheese
3 cups pre-shredded Italian cheese blend 


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Brown ground beef in a large skillet over medium high heat. Break up the beef with a wooden spoon while cooking, for 4-5 minutes until cooked through.
  3. Drain if necessary; stir pasta sauce into the cooked ground beef.
  4. Spoon a layer of the sauce and meat mixture into the bottom of a 13 by 9 inch glass or ceramic baking dish to just cover the bottom evenly.
  5. Arrange 3 noodles side by side the long way on top of the sauce mixture. Top the noodles with a third of the ricotta cheese, followed by one cup of the Italian cheese blend. Repeat the layers two more times.
  6. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake until bubbling, for about 40 minutes.  
  7. Remove the dish from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Meghann is the mom of 5 kids. She is a Lecturer at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication and an Owner/Partner at Brand Driven Digital. Meghann was elected to the Coralville City Council in 2017 and is currently serving her first term. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Coralville Community Food Pantry (Vice-Chair) and on the DVIP Board of Directors. She is also a member of Johnson County's Juvenile Justice and Youth Development Policy Board. Meghann is passionate about her family, her community, and is a proud pop culture nerd.


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