Let’s get the worst part about the beginning of school out of the way: Summer and its freestyle living is over. What’s in its place is anxiety about new everything — classrooms, teachers, teams, clothes, routines.
The best part about September is a chance for the family to regroup every night, or most nights, or even some nights, turn off phones, and talk about the day. To accomplish that, it may mean that kids are doing some of the prep for dinner, maybe picking the menu, maybe making the grocery list. Every nutritionist will tell you that if you involve kids in meal planning, they take the responsibility seriously. Fussy eaters start seeing exactly what they like in the lunchbox or on the dinner plate and remarkably some struggles disappear.
Here are half a dozen recipes to weave into your weeknight menus and get things off to a good start. Taco night, a perennial favorite, offers spicy ground pork tucked into corn tortillas and topped with peppers and avocado. If family members need to be able to recognize every ingredient in a dish in order to approve of it, then it’s beloved American chop suey for you, a baking dish filled with macaroni or curly pasta, ground beef, tomato sauce, and a thick topping of melted cheese.
Vegetarians will be happy with cheese custard squares made with goat cheese and grated cheddar in an eggy custard. Turkey meatloaf with a brown sugar-mustard glaze comes with a surprise inside. When you bake the loaf and cut into it, each slice has a little round of melted Gruyere. When you’re looking for a meal-in-a-bowl, you might make rice noodles with stir-fried chicken and broccoli, simple ingredients that come together in minutes. Teach the kids to use chopsticks if they don’t already know how.
For dessert, an effortless blondie batter is baked in a tart pan to form a round you can cut into triangles and serve with ice cream, or into smaller pieces to tuck into the lunch box. It may become your new go-to confection. If you want to hear a resounding yes, just ask the kids.