9 Dinner Recipes for Picky AND Adventurous Kids


{Disclaimer:: We have partnered together with Healthy Living Market and Cafe to bring you some of these dinner recipe ideas!}

To quote every mom at some point during her kids’ formative years: I’m not a short order cook. If I’m not standing at the side of the dinner table with a notepad and a pencil, then it’s pretty likely that tonight is chef’s choice. Just like last night. It can be easy, though, to fall into the trap of planning dinners that cater to the lowest common denominator in the family, a.k.a. the picky one. The trouble is, many “kid-friendly” recipes out there are completely unrealistic for the truly picky. Or, the true picky-pleasing options are sometimes a little, well, bland. In my house, the picky kid is outnumbered three to one, and one of the majority members is my jalapeno-loving, curry-eating, hot wing-obsessed other child.

I’ve adopted an approach to the picky problem by preparing meals that have a dash of excitement but can be deconstructed enough to please the whole family.

Disclaimer: adventurous eating is a relative concept. I have a friend whose son was eating sushi by age three. He’s probably now on to cow tongue tacos and wild fennel clafoutis at the ripe age of 12. I also have a niece who considers non-cartoon shaped chicken nuggets to be unacceptable. If she even ate a plain beef taco, we’d probably throw a party. Let’s just say I come from a baseline somewhere in the middle.

Dinner Recipes for the Picky & Risky
Deconstructable recipes for the picky and the adventurous.

(1) Taco Bowls with Carnitas Style Pulled Pork 

Recipe from Healthy Living Market & Café

Taco bowls are the ultimate in customization. While you can easily use regular taco meat, the slow-cooked centerpiece in this recipe brings a flavor that will have you salivating. Fill out each bowl with spiced-up black beans, fluffy cilantro rice, avocado or guacamole, grilled corn, and/or cheese. Dial up the heat on the beans for those who want it by adding in a little jalapeno.

(2) Macadamia-Mango Chicken

Recipe from myrecipes.com

This is a recipe you wish you would have thought of, but never would in a million years. The combination of components is guest-worthy, but because there are three parts (chicken, mustard sauce, and mango salsa), it’s easy to customize. Particularly if you leave some plain mango aside for you-know-who.

(3) Red Thai “Panang” Curry with Chicken and Jasmine Coconut Rice

Recipe from Healthy Living Market & Café

The real draw of this curry for my adventurous eater is the option of not only dialing up the heat, but also adding accouterments like red pepper, basil, lime or even chopped peanuts. The appeal for my picky eater is that this sauce leans towards thinner, making it easy to pick out the chicken and peppers, if used. The rice is the finishing touch but is subtle enough to avoid provoking the fussy among us.

(4) Breaded Pork Chops with Warm Apple-Cabbage Slaw

Recipe from Food Network

Breaded anything works pretty well with my peeps, and this recipe is no exception. As it’s pan-fried using a lean cut, it’s also a healthy option. I’m a big fan of slaws, as they add a nice zip to many kinds of meats. As with the Macadamia-Mango Chicken, it’s easy enough to separate some fruit for a simple side.

Chicken & Dumplings, Healthy Living Market & Café
Ready to make a Chicken & Dumplings recipe from Healthy Living Market & Café.

(5) Chicken and Dumplings

Recipe from Healthy Living Market & Café

If there’s ever a recipe to please everyone, it’s one that essentially starts as a chicken soup. Not only is homemade chicken soup a whole different universe than straight-from-the-can, once you add dumplings the meal elevates from ho-hum to something really special. But check out the list of ingredients – you probably have most of them in your pantry and fridge already, and prep just takes some chopping and stirring.

(6) Honey-Turmeric Pork with Beet and Carrot Salad

Recipe from Epicurious

First of all, the colors in this dish will knock you over. It’s a beaut. The pork itself is a simple pan fry (and I use leaner chops), but the marinade and raw beet and carrot salad are anything but. The honey-turmeric flavor won’t bowl your kid over, and the salad can be sophisticated or not. As in, you can serve plain carrots to Picky Pete if it will help you sleep at night.

(7) Penne with Summer Squash, Basil and Ricotta

Recipe from Healthy Living Market & Café

The sequence of this recipe makes it easy to set aside deconstructed portions at many different points. Still trying to get your tot to try zucchini at all? Pull it after it’s blanched. Looking to go one step further? Yank it after sautéing with garlic. Try with sautéed shrimp for added protein.

(8) Pasta with Butternut Sauce, Spicy Sausage and Baby Spinach

Recipe from skinnytaste.com

If pasta sauce ain’t red, my kid ain’t eating. So deconstructing this one is simple – plain pasta with sausage crumbles and steamed squash cubes on the side for Finicky Fran. It’s basically the same. Basically.

(9) Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Créme Fraiche

Recipe from Healthy Living Market & Café

There’s a reason some chefs choose scrambled eggs as their last meal on earth. It’s the ultimate comfort food, but it’s also highly versatile. The add-in possibilities, like salmon and créme fraiche in this recipe, are endless. They make eggs as sophisticated as you want (and trust me, buying ready-made créme fraiche and smoked salmon is super easy). Pair with toast and fruit for a complete meal.

Find more recipes on my Pinterest page. Share your favorite recipes in the comments below!

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Jessie lives in Essex Junction with her first grader and fourth grader, her husband, and the family's "furry baby” Yorkshire terrier. Adopted by her husband’s home state of Vermont more than a decade ago, Jessie loves the Green Mountain state for its Midwestern affability, all things lakes and mountains, and a foodie scene to rival any other. Jessie works as a marketing strategist, and when she can wrangle free time, she's usually found kicking back with friends and family, cooking up something in the kitchen, reading a book, or–yes–browsing social media.



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