People with young kids often ask me what I cook for mine, since dinner can’t actually always be plain rice or pasta. (Or can it?) This goes doubly for what I put in my daughter’s lunch box: I’m sorry to tell you I don’t have any brilliant, genre-exploding solutions there.
I always have that question for my food colleagues, too. What do they make for their kids? What will their kids actually eat? (The tip lines are open. Email me at email@example.com.)
So I took notice when I read Kenji López-Alt’s most recent column, which is about niku udon, the Japanese beef noodle soup — a go-to weeknight dish that he makes for his family. Then I asked a few of my co-workers what they cook for their kids that actually gets eaten (as opposed to rejected with wails of anger, despair or disgust). Their replies are below. None of this is “kid food” — just delicious stuff that works for an all-ages group. (See also: My recent newsletter on feeding picky eaters of all ages, and this list of 19 more recipes kids might like.)
Kenji López-Alt, who makes this fast, slurpable soup for his family, writes that “if you can boil water, slice an onion and use a strainer, you can make niku udon.” Scroll down on the recipe for tips on where to find shaved beef, which is sold in different forms at the market. You can also cook the beef and serve it over rice — i.e., you can turn your niku udon into gyudon.
Margaux Laskey, one of our editors, makes this dish for her daughters. It’s adapted from Alana Kysar’s cookbook, “Aloha Kitchen: Recipes from Hawai‘i.” The recipe is written for the grill, but Margaux makes it with boneless thighs in the oven, baking them at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. “They love the salty-sweetness of it,” she said of her daughters, “and the way the edges caramelize in the oven.” That’s a really good endorsement.
This recipe is a favorite of Genevieve Ko’s kids, and the beauty of it — beyond the baseline fact that children will eat it — lies in how it is designed to be made ahead and eaten chilled or at room temperature. It can even go in lunchboxes and be eaten at schools where nuts aren’t allowed.
My older daughter loves salmon, which I think of as a good kid fish because it’s rich, mild and not particularly fishy. This recipe by Genevieve Ko is perfect because it’s simple and pings with maple sweetness. I’d leave the cilantro out of the glaze and just use it as a garnish for adults. You could easily make this with individual portions of fish, rather than one large fillet. Keep an eye on the oven, because the cook time will vary.