Confession time. When it comes to making dinner I’m actually NOT looking for quick hacks in the kitchen. I may be in the minority, but I actually love to cook!! I’d spend half my day in the kitchen if I could.
BUT…my reality is that I don’t often have much time for it. I’m a work-at-home and homeschooling mom of three…with number four coming any day now! Which means my time in the kitchen will soon be non-existent again.
A new baby is such a joy and blessing. And tiring and time-consuming. But it does not change my commitment to providing my family with nourishing food. Hey, mama needs to eat well too!
Kids Can Make Dinner!
I’ve been teaching my kids to cook for the past couple years with Katie’s Kids Cook Real Food ecourse. My older kids (10 and 7) are pretty proficient with knives and stove-top cooking. One of my before baby to-do list items was to make sure they each knew how to make a few full meals on their own (or together). This is my strategy for eating well in the first few weeks after the baby is born.
I came up with this chicken and veggie sheet pan dinner so my kids could easily make dinner any night of the week. It fits all of my requirements.
- Easy enough for kids to make.
- Prep can be done any time of day, all at once or little bits at a time.
- Nutrient dense.
- Loaded with colorful veggies.
- A balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
My daughter is still a little apprehensive about putting things in the oven. We’re working on it. But that is definitely a step mom or dad can do once the kids have everything ready.
What’s even better is that there is very minimal clean up after dinner!
A Double Sheet Pan Dinner
I have seen other sheet pan dinners…and the one thing that confuses me is how you get enough food for your family on one tray. Normally we have an overflowing tray of just veggies in addition to our other food. So my recipe calls for two sheet pans. And they are FULL.
This is also a great way to be able to cook foods that take a little longer (like root veggies and meat) along with quicker cooking foods (like lighter veggies).
Bonus – kids helping make dinner is a great way to elude picky eaters. If they make it, they’ll want to taste it. And it’s a great way to try some new veggies. Roasting is the best way to get kids excited about eating vegetables.Print
A sheet pan dinner is a great way to have kids help make dinner. This recipe is so full of healthy veggies it calls for 2 sheet pans, but still comes together quickly and easily!
- Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch chunks.
- Cut the bottom off the Bok Choy and peel apart the layers.
- Cut the asparagus into bite-size chunks.
- Scrub and cut the sweet potatoes into uniform size pieces.
- Line a large baking pan with parchment paper. Lay the chicken pieces on one side of the pan and season with salt, garlic powder and onion powder to taste.
- Lay the sweet potatoes on the other side of the lined pan and drizzle with and salt. Mix to coat.
- On a separate baking pan arrange the asparagus pieces and Bok choy leaves. Drizzle with evoo and salt. Mix to coat.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cover the chicken with a small sheet pan and place the chicken/sweet potatoes in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove the cover over the chicken.
- Add the asparagus/Bok choy pan to the oven. Continue cooking both pans for 30 minutes, until the chicken is golden and the veggies are tender.
- Add extra salt before serving if desired.
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Try Something New
Thanks to inspiration from Katie’s chicken curry masala recipe we decided to try a new veggie for our family in this sheet pan dinner – Bok choy! I’ve never cooked it or even tasted it that I’m aware of. It was a fun experiment for us all. The kids all wanted to taste it as they were preparing it. And we actually like it. That’s one more veggie to put in our normal rotation!
Next, I added a family favorite that is abundant in the spring – asparagus. We like to cut it into pieces before roasting to make it easier for kids to eat. That step is optional. The asparagus and Bok choy can be roasted on one sheet pan.
Note to nursing moms asparagus might make your milk taste funny (just like it makes urine smell)! I always avoid it while nursing, which is no fun with three spring babies.
Starch and Protein
The other pan has homemade fries. You can use any potato you like. My kids’ favorite is sweet potato. This is a great way for older kids to practice their sharp knife skills. Cutting potatoes is hard. Plus you want to cut them evenly. If you don’t want or have potatoes carrots are a great substitute. We make carrot fries a lot.
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10 Snacks Your Kids Can Make
Packed with our favorites for the road, like
- Pumpkin Pie Bars (grain-free)
- Homemade Granola Bars
- Fruit Juice “Gellies” (like gummy snacks but real food!)
- Energy Bites (pictured below)
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Finally, add the protein. My kids are always begging for chicken. We rarely eat chicken because we only buy whole chickens from a local farmer once in a while. Which means just whole, roasted chicken and then the leftovers get used in casseroles and soups. So I splurged and got some boneless skinless chicken breasts to cut up for easy chicken nuggets. You can simply season them or add a breading (I just dip them in seasoned rice flour). If you have ground chicken on hand this recipe for chicken nuggets will work too.
Little Kids Can Help Too!
Don’t forget about the little ones! My three-year-old is very fond of making dressings and dips. Who doesn’t love to pour and shake?! She’s in charge of the homemade honey mustard for dipping the chicken. Though her knife skills are pretty impressive too. She surely was not going to be left out of making this meal.
If you really want to make it fun, grab some popsicle sticks or sucker sticks at the store to keep on hand in the kitchen. Food always tastes better on a stick! This is another great job for the little ones. Adding sticks to the chicken nuggets. Plus it makes them easier to dip.
I don’t know about you, but after winter I am so ready to be outside in the sun. Making sheet pan dinners in the spring and summer is a great way to get your dinner prep done early so you have lots of time to play. Just toss it in the oven an hour before dinner and head back outside (or use that time to for bath!). And if your kids get bored in the summer, tell them there are always veggies to be chopped.
The leftovers (if there are any) can be heated quickly in the oven or toaster oven for a super easy and nutritious lunch the next day. Though we only had a few veggies left from our meal. Reheating leftovers is another job the kids can do! I may not have to leave the couch for the first few weeks postpartum.
I’m looking forward to enjoying a variety of sheet pan dinners after baby arrives. My oldest was delighted to learn to make this easy chicken and veggie version. Now she can be creative and come up with her own combinations of meat and veggies, using whatever we happen to have ready in the garden.
Looking for an easy way to get your kids in the kitchen and encourage them to eat their veggies? This simple chicken and veggie sheet pan dinner is just what you need!
Here’s more easy dinner recipes kids can make.
A New Twist on Batch Cooking
Have you tried batch cooking? It’s one of my favorite kitchen hacks to save time while cooking real food, but my take may be slightly different than the ones you’ve seen before.
Instead of making large batches of food and saving them for later, I batch together kitchen tasks and link one night’s dinner to the next. Think of it as getting a head start on your next meal. The net result is time savings AND fresh dinners every night.
The current trend in meal prep seems to be focused on taking several hours on a weekend day to chop and prep veggies, cook meats, and then assemble the leftovers into a multitude of containers.
This is great if it works for you, but my family gets sick of eating leftovers all the time and I get tired of keeping track of all the containers in the fridge! Plus, spending 3-4 hours in the kitchen on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon is usually the last thing I want to do.
My Real Food Head Start 7 Day Dinner Plan provides a framework for incorporating my technique each day to save time on future meals and even start stocking your freezer if you want, while still making and serving a fresh dinner. The best part is, you use the time you are already in the kitchen – no extra prep day needed!