Family meal ideas that everyone loves are not always easy to come by. Check out these healthy and delicious options that are sure to be a hit!
I love the spring time. The days get longer, school-year activities start to finish up giving way to more flexibility in our days, and the grill is an option for almost every meal. Speaking of grills, we bought a new one a couple months ago, and are really pleased with it! It’s a REC TEC Grill, which is not gas, but a wood pellet grill. It’s ridiculously easy to turn on and I love it.
The only downside we’ve experienced is that it’s a bit noisier than a propane grill, but we’ve grown accustomed to it now. Plus the food tastes delicious, so that and the ease of use win out.
Family Meal Ideas Everyone Loves
We’ve used our new grill quite a bit recently because it allows us to cook outside without heating up the kitchen (did I mention our AC has been broken for over a week now?) and it adds a delicious smoky flavor to our food, like last night’s dinner:
Grilled Sirloin and Vegetable Kabobs
To make these, I cut a sirloin steak into cubes and marinated it in a pre-made sweet garlic mango marinade I bought from Whole Foods (though if you have time to make your own, go this route). At lunch time, I chopped the vegetables, assembled the skewers, laid them on a tinfoil-lined baking sheets and drizzled the remaining marinade on top. After grilling, we ate them over coconut basmati rice with a drizzle of Dave’s Gourmet Spicy Ginger Citrus Sauce (so delicious!) for the adults.
I’ve been all about the marinades lately. While I bought the one I used for the kabobs, I’ve mostly been making my own, like the one I used for:
Grilled Chicken with Wild Rice Salad, Sauteed Kale, and Corn
No wonder this one was a hit with the kids- carb city! The girls gobbled up this wild rice salad, which was full of apples, craisins, and pecans with an orange vinaigrette. It paired beautifully with the grilled chicken that had marinated in this delicious marinade all day long. I gave them each a small portion of the sauteed kale, and ate the rest myself, but they both ended up liking it and asking for more, so I’ll double it next time. For the kale, I sauteed sliced shallot in olive oil, then added the kale. Once slightly wilted I added a a pinch of salt and a splash of champagne vinegar. It was great!
I’ve been doing some meal planning lately, but I’ve also been experimenting with “reverse” meal planning. This is where I check all the sales, buy the groceries, then look at what I have and piece together the meal ideas for the week. I’ve been doing this for two reasons. First, to do a better job of using the things I have in the freezer and pantry. And second, to see if it will help lower our expenditure on food a bit.
It’s been a fun challenge for me, too (you know how I get excited about food and meals!). It’s resulted in me making some meals that are not in my usual repertoire, like:
Meatloaf with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Salad
I don’t know if I’ve ever made meatloaf, but I had two pounds of ground beef and some onions, so I opened my cookbooks, found a recipe in the William Sonoma one, and went for it. I accidentally over-toasted the sweet potatoes, but they still taste like candy and the whole family loves them. Between the sweet potatoes and the ketchup for dipping the meatloaf, it was a success all around the table.
One tactic I’ve been employing more often is the buffet line. We’ve always used this for taco night, but I’m starting to use it for lunches, too.
The above may look like a lot of work, but it’s actually a lot less work than we assembling and serving each individual plate. This works for salads, power bowls, sandwiches, or wraps. The line up changes every time, but it’s not uncommon to see: turkey, cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, onion, shredded carrots, sprouts, spinach, purple cabbage, hummus and a variety of sauces or dressings. The girls absolutely LOVE anything they can pick and assemble themselves, and often surprise me with what they choose to include without any coaxing.
Like I mentioned, I’ve been using this set up a lot from everything from yogurt parfait lines (fruit, nuts, granola, chia seeds, etc) to:
Greek Night with Rotisserie Chicken, Cucumber Tomato Salad, and Tzatziki
When Kaitlyn was a baby, new to eating solids, I wrote a post entitled One Meal: Four Ways. It illustrated how I avoided being a short order cook by using the same components to make a meal that fit all of our needs. Years later, I’m still using the same tactic. The kids really love wraps or snack plate style meals. David likes wraps or buns. I tend do go lighter on the processed carbs.
For this dinner, I made a simple cucumber and tomato salad with red onion, kalamata olives, and a quick homemade dressing. I picked up a rotisserie chicken, hummus, and Cedar’s Tzatziki. I set it all up as a buffet and it was one of everyone’s favorite meals of the week!
Not to stretch out this “make your own” concept further than it needs to go, but it truly works so well for our family that I just want to highlight one more way that it works-
Pick Your Own Pancake Style
I love pancakes for breakfast because it’s a meal that everyone loves and is easy to make. We usually reserve these bigger breakfasts for Saturday mornings, but now that we are on a more relaxed summer schedule, they’ve been happening during the weeks as well. We are a Pamela’s Pancakes family because they are absolutely delicious. They also happen to be gluten-free.
When we do pancakes, I love offering mix-in options: blueberries, chopped pecans, chopped walnuts, cooked and chopped bacon, banana slices, etc. I also sometimes throw in fun toppings and spreads like peanut butter, raspberry jam, and occasionally whipped cream! My food philosophy with the girls has always been to keep mixing things up so they continue to be adventurous eaters. Pancakes is an easy way to do this because it’s all delicious!
Hang with me while I share one last “create your own” dinner that is a huge hit. It’s every Friday night in our house-
I make my own dough (well, I use that word “make” lightly since I layer the ingredients in my bread maker and allow it to do all the work). The girls and David use this dough, while I’ve been using a frozen cauliflower crust lately because I’ve been eating gluten-free (as I’m still working on figuring out what works best with me with all this hormone stuff).
I always saute up mushrooms, onions, and peppers. We usually have pepperoni and both shredded and fresh mozzarella. Sometimes we have two sauce options, like pesto and marinara (though we’ve done BBQ before, too!). I give each girl their own ball of dough, take a deep breath as I hand over the flour for sprinkling, and let them go for it. They like being in control of whether they have thin crust or thick crust and which toppings they choose.
While many of our meals become weekly repeats, just for ease of planning and execution, I try to switch things up at least once a week to try something new. A recent hit for the whole family was:
Baked Boneless Pork Chops with Roasted Potatoes
This was easy to prep early in the day, then just pop in the oven late afternoon. I marinated the pork chops, using this marinade recipe, all day. I chopped the potatoes in the morning, too, and kept them in a glass bowl covered with water (which removes excess starch and makes them crispier) until I was ready to roast them. Then I drained them, patted them dry, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with salt and garlic granules.
Since the pork chops only need to bake for about 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees, I roasted the potatoes for a solid 40 minutes, then added the pork chops to the baking sheet and finished them both together. The juices from the pork chops brought even more delicious flavor to the potatoes!
I feel I can’t close out this post without mentioning our family’s favorite night each week, which someone even overtakes pizza night as best dinner of the week:
Mexican Fiesta Night
Doesn’t adding the word fiesta make it even more fun? Again, I set this up in a “serve yourself” style. We always have sauteed veggies, cabbage slaw, avocado or guacamole, salsa (usually more than one) and a protein. The only rule we have is that each person must pick at least 3 things to include in their wrap or bowl. I wouldn’t even make this a rule except that Kaitlyn (5) is prone to rolling up a plain tortilla and calling it dinner.
Hailey (7) typically makes one wrap, like Dad, and one bowl, like Mom. However you assemble it, it’s our favorite dinner every week.
In case you are reading this to get a little weeknight meal inspiration, let me share a few other meals that have been successful for us more than once:
- Red Pepper Cashew Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower
- Easy Homemade Pad Thai
- Southwestern Sausage and Vegetable Brown Rice Casserole
- Grilled Chicken Thighs using This Marinade with Summer Vegetable Couscous
- Salmon Burgers with Slaw
Now I’m hungry!
Share with me- what is the one meal you make that you can always count on everyone eating happily?