Side Orders: Recipes to help kids' cooking abilities

Side Orders: Recipes to help kids' cooking abilities

August 20th, 2014 by Anne Braly in Life Entertainment

Ham and Cheese Biscuit Casserole

1 cup frozen baby English peas, thawed

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 (18.5-ounce) cans creamy loaded potato soup (such as Progresso)

2 (8-ounce) packages diced cooked ham (or 1 pound leftover ham, diced)

8 ounces (2 cups) shredded smoked Gouda cheese, divided

1 (16.3-ounce) can refrigerated jumbo biscuits

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Stir together first 4 ingredients and 1 1/2 cups cheese in large bowl. Pour mixture into lightly greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Arrange biscuits over hot soup mixture. Bake, uncovered, 22 more minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake 2 more minutes or until cheese melts.

Anne Braly

Anne Braly

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

This is always a hectic time of year for busy families trying to get back into the swing of things. From soccer practice to ballet lessons and all other extracurricular activities, it's little wonder that dinner is put on the back burner. For many cooks, the idea of making a complete meal seems daunting when there's so much else to do.

"Eating together as a family can have a positive impact on good nutrition," says registered dietitian Jamie Welch, clinical nutrition manager at Parkridge Medical Center. "When we eat together as a family, we tend to have a variety of choices, including fruits, vegetables and lean protein choices."

Welch also stresses the importance of letting children help with the cooking.

"It gives them the opportunity to make healthy food choices. And when they participate in the process of planning and preparing a meal, they are more likely to try any new foods they may have helped to prepare. And the bottom line is that it not only teaches them, it also gives them a sense of pride. We will make better food choices at the market to have better options at the table. Then, we all eat better."

Here are some ideas that prove delicious dishes don't have to be complicated and can be accomplished with just five simple ingredients. They're all ones I pulled from my files and have been using for years.

• Mushroom pork chops: Take 4 to 5 pork chops and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Brown them in a little olive oil over medium-high heat, then add a chopped onion and a cup or two of sliced fresh mushrooms. Canned mushrooms are OK, too. Sauté them with the chops for about a minute, then reduce heat to low. Add a can of cream of mushroom soup and let the chops simmer for about a half hour. Serve over rice.

• Tomato-basil salmon: This is a delicious way to get your weekly allotment of fish in your diet. Place a few salmon filets on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil that you've sprayed lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle the salmon with dried basil and top with a tomato slice. Drizzle each filet with olive oil and sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the salmon is cooked through and the cheese is lightly browned.

• Shepherd's pie: An all-in-one dish that needs only a green salad on the side. Brown a pound of lean ground beef with a chopped onion. When the onion is tender and the beef is cooked through, drain off any fat and mix with a can of mushroom soup. Place the beef mixture in the bottom of a casserole dish. Cook a bag of frozen peas and pour enough on top of beef to cover. Make instant mashed potatoes, or from scratch if you have time, and cover the peas with the mashed potatoes. Add a layer of shredded cheddar cheese and bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted and the mixture is bubbly.

• Salsa chicken: Place 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a lightly greased 9-by-13-inch dish and sprinkle them with a little taco seasoning on both sides. Then pour enough salsa (mild, medium or hot) over to cover all. Bake at 375 degrees for about a half hour or until chicken is tender and juices run clear. Sprinkle shredded cheese (Monterey Jack or cheddar) over all and return to oven for 4 to 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Top each chicken breast with sour cream right before serving.

So there you go, four easy ideas using fish, chicken, beef and pork that will bring your family back to the table.

And if you want more ideas, buy a copy of Southern Living's newest cookbook, "5-Ingredient Weeknight Meals: Delicious Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less" (Oxmoor House, $19.95). It's filled with a dozens of delicious recipes, ranging from gourmet to grits to Ham and Cheese Biscuit Casserole. Talk about simple.

Contact Anne Braly at