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Food & Recipes
Articles: Food

Picky Eater Dinner Ideas

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If you are the mommy of a picky eater, menu planning can be extremely tough and discouraging. I would like to offer to you, however, a few dinner ideas that you can prepare for your family that can take some of the monotony out of your menu and satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.

If your children have a particular recipe that they enjoy, feel free to to share your recipe with our readers. Also let us know if a particular dish from these recipes turns out to be a hit with your children. We really love your feedback!

Be sure to check out our Picky Eater Survival Guide for more information on how to deal with the picky eater in your life.

Chicken Recipes

Amy's Chicken Fingers

*Note that the best way to get any breaded chicken to be crispy (and not soggy) on both sides, is to put the chicken on a cooling rack that is placed on top of a cookie sheet. This will allow the air to circulate under the chicken, as well as on top of it, achieving a much crunchier bottom.


2 tablespoons butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into strips (1 ½" thick)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt butter in rectangular pan, 13x9x2" in oven. Mix flour, paprika, salt, and pepper. Coat chicken with the flour mixture. Toss with melted butter in the pan. Bake uncovered for fifteen minutes. Turn chicken strips and bake ten to fifteen minutes longer.

Chicken Nuggets with Mustard Dipping Sauce

Serves Eight (five nuggets per person)


½ cup low-fat buttermilk
1 ½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into forty pieces
3 ¾ cups cornflakes (any brand will do)
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
½ cup prepared mustard
¼ cup honey
½ teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger

To prepare chicken, combine buttermilk and chicken. Marinate in refrigerator for thirty minutes to tenderize the meat. Drain the buttermilk from the chicken. Next, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Place cornflakes, paprika, sugar, and salt in a food processor; process until cornflakes are finely chopped. Combine chicken and cornflake mixture, tossing well to coat. Place the chicken on a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees for fifteen minutes or until done. To prepare sauce, combine mustard, honey, and ginger. Serve with the chicken.

Quick & Easy Chicken Parmesan

Serves Four


4 skinned and boned chicken breast halves
1 large egg beaten
½ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 ¾ cup prepared spaghetti sauce (your choice)
½ cup shredded mozzarella
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup freshly chopped parsley

Place chicken between two sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; flatten to ¼-inch thickness, using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Dip chicken in egg, an dredge in bread crumbs. Cook chicken in butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until browned on both sides. Spoon spaghetti sauce over chicken; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for ten minutes. Sprinkle with cheeses and parsley; cover and simmer for five additional minutes or until cheeses melt.

Beef Recipes

Yield 4 Servings

Super Sloppy Joes


1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 pound ground beef
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 T. McCormick Montreal Seasoning
1 medium onion chopped
1 small red bell pepper chopped
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 cups tomato sauce
2 T. tomato paste
4 crusty rolls

Heat oil and meat in a pan. Combine brown sugar and seasoning. Add this mixture to the skillet and combine. When meat is brown, add onion and red peppers. Reduce heat to medium and cook onion, red pepper, vinegar, and Worcestshire sauce with meat for five minutes. Add tomato sauce and paste to pan. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to simmer and cook mixture for five minutes. Serve on crusty rolls.

Main Dish/Pasta Recipes

Beer Battered Fish

*Note that that this can replace those fish sticks that your children love or and can even make the chicken nugget lovers happy. Be sure to put lots of ketchup on the side for the dip-lovers.


1 1/2 T vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 t. black pepper
1/4 t garlic salt
2/3 cup beer
2 large egg whites
2 cups dry bread crumbs (I used Italian breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 catfish or tilapia cut into four by one inch strips
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450. Coat bottom of a jelly roll pan with oil. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup. Combine flour, pepper, and garlic salt in large bowl. Add beer; stir well. Beat egg whites with mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold eggs into flour mixture. Combine breadcrumbs and parsley in a shallow dish. Dip each strip of fish into flour mixture, dredge in breadcrumbs. Place on prepared baking sheet. Coat strips with cooking spray. Bake at 450 for fifteen minutes, then broil fish sticks one minute or until tops are lightly brown.

Pizza Dough

*Note that this recipe actually yields three crusts. Two of these can be frozen for later use in a freezer-safe bag. You can also increase the amount of whole wheat flour (for a healthier crust) and omit the same amount of bread flour. Play around with the ratios until you achieve the desired taste and consistency that you enjoy. This is a family favorite in our house. The two other crusts can be used for calzones.


1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 ½ cups warm water
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup whole wheat flour
5 ½ cups bread flour

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water. Let sit until creamy (approximately ten minutes). Stir the olive oil, whole wheat flour, salt, and four cups of the bread flour into the yeast mixture. Mix in the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time stirring well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out into a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about eight minutes. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and put in a warm place (I set this bowl in my oven) to rise until doubled in volume; about one hour. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and form into rounds. Cover the rounds and let them rest for about ten minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Shape your dough using a rolling pin and top with your favorite toppings. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese and crust are golden brown.

Cheese Ravioli

Serves Six


1 package frozen five-cheese ravioli
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 can of tomato paste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Handful of basil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the frozen ravioli and cook for two to three minutes or until heated through. Drain and set aside.

To a large skillet heated over medium heat, add oil, garlic (chopped), and red pepper flake. Cook together for one minute (be careful and don't let the garlic get brown or burn). Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and allow to cook together. Place ravioli into the sauce and sprinkle fresh basil on top.

Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs

Serves 6


1 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 can of tomato paste
1 cup beef broth
Handful of basil

1 pound all white meat ground turkey
¼ cup of breadcrumbs (more if needed to hold shape)
2 Tablespoons of tomato paste
1 egg
3 Tablespoons of beef broth
Handful of parmesan cheese & parsley
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the penne pasta and cook as directed or until al dente. The penne will continue to cook in sauce, later.
To a large skillet heated over medium heat, add oil, garlic (chopped), and red pepper flake. Cook together for one minute (be careful and don't let the garlic get brown or burn). Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and allow to cook together. Add beef broth and allow the sauce to simmer while you make the meatballs. In a large bowl mix together turkey, bread crumbs, tomato paste, egg, beef broth, handful of cheese, handful of parsley, and salt and pepper. Shape into meatballs (any size, just make sure they are all the same size for even cooking) and bake the meatballs for fifteen to twenty minutes or until cooked thoroughly. Carefully remove meatballs from the baking sheet and add them to the sauce along with a handful of torn basil leaves. Drain and add cooked pasta to the pan and mix together with the red sauce

Side Dishes

Cheesy "Fried" Potatoes


5 russet potatoes, cut into thin wedges
3 tablespoons extra-virgin
1 teaspoon dried thyme, eyeball it
1 teaspoon dried oregano, eyeball it
¼ cup Asiago, Romano, or Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to high. Cut potatoes and spread out on a cookie sheet. Coat potatoes with extra-virgin olive oil, dried herbs, salt and pepper. Spread potatoes to the corners of the cookie sheet. Cook potatoes in very hot oven (five hundred degrees or as high as your oven will go) for 25 minutes. Turn potatoes once, half way in the cooking process. In the last five minutes of cooking time, sprinkle cheese on top and cook just until the cheese melts. Serve fries hot from the oven. Sprinkle with more cheese if desired.

Slow Cooker Macaroni & Cheese


8 ounces elbow macaroni
4 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
1 ½ cups milk
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot cook macaroni pasta as directed; drain. In a large bowl, mix together 3 cups of the sharp Cheddar cheese, cooked macaroni, evaporated milk, milk, eggs, salt and pepper. Transfer to a slow cooker that has been coated with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle with the remaining one cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Cook on low for five to six hours, or until the mixture is firm and golden around the edges. Do not remove the cover or stir the mixture until the mixture has finished cooking. Serve warm.

Sunday Dinner Mashed Potatoes

Serves eight

*Note that these potatoes can be prepared in advance except for the baking. You can prepare these in advance and store them either in your refrigerator or these even can be frozen. If you decide to freeze them, unthaw them completely overnight in the refrigerator and then bake as directed. These are the perfect side dish for those holiday dinners when you want them prepared in advance.


5 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup (8 ounces) low or nonfat sour cream
2 packages (3 ounces each) 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover them with water. Cover the pot and bring the potatoes to a boil. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until very tender: drain well. In a large mixing bowl, mash potatoes. Add sour cream, cream cheese, two tablespoons of butter, and salt and pepper. Transfer to a greased 2-qt. baking dish. Dot the top with one tablespoon of butter. Bake uncovered at 350 for twenty to twenty-five minutes or until heated through.

Rosemary & Cheese Breadsticks


1 cup grated Parmesan, Asiago, Romano cheese (made by Kraft in the dairy aisle)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 (11-ounce) container refrigerated breadstick dough (recommended: Pillsbury)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 heavy large baking sheets with silicone baking sheets or parchment paper. Pour cheese and chopped fresh rosemary on a paper plate to roll the dough in. Separate the dough strips. Using a pizza cutter or a large sharp knife, cut each dough strip in half lengthwise to form thin strips. Working with dough strip at a time, coat each strip with the cheese mixture, pressing very gently. Twist each cheese covered dough strip and place onto prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle with the salt, if you wish.

Bake until the breadsticks are golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the warm breadsticks to a basket or tall glass and serve.

Sweet Cornbread

Serves Twelve


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups of water
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray or lightly grease a nine inch round cake pan. In a large bowl combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk, and vegetable oil until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.


Banana Crumb Muffins


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3 bananas, mashed
3/4 cups white sugar
1 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 T butter

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease ten muffin cups or line with muffin papers. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. IN a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut the butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins. Bake in preheated oven for eighteen to twenty minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of muffins comes out clean.

For a lower fat version use half butter & half applesauce- they taste just the same! These muffins are just as good as you would get at any local bakery. They are best served warm. My husband and son gobble batches of these up in minutes. Individually wrap them in saran wrap for a quick breakfast or snack as you are running out the door. I fill a basket of them and set them out for easy access.

Chewy Granola Bars


4 ½ cups rolled oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup butter
¾ cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 T butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease one 9x13 inch pan. In a large mixing bowl combine the oats, flour, baking soda, vanilla, butter, light corn syrup, brown sugar, and peanut butter. Stir in the two cups of assorted chocolate chips (you can also use chocolate chips, raisins, or nuts). Lightly press the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for ten minutes and then cut into squares. Let bars cool completely (very important) before removing or serving.

I also individually wrap these in saran wrap for a snack on the go. I fill a basket of these and set them out for everyone to enjoy.

Monkey Bread


2 cans regular size refrigerator biscuits
½ cup brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
1 t. cinnamon
½ cup melted butter

Mix sugar and cinnamon. Cut each biscuit into four pieces and roll each piece in butter then sugar mixture. Layer in large loaf pan or 9" square pan that has been lightly greased. Pour any remaining butter over the top. Bake at 350 for 25030 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and pull apart to eat with your hands. This is great to eat while enjoying a Curious George book.

Spider Cookies


2 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
¼ cup milk
½ cup peanuts
¾ cup chow mien noodles

In a small saucepan, heat the chocolate chips and milk until the chocolate is thoroughly melted. Stir in peanuts and chow mien noodles. Drop a teaspoonful of batter at a time on wax paper. Stick in chocolate covered chow mien noodles for spider legs. Cool and allow setting before packaging. Eat these while reading The Itsy Bitsy Spider

Low-Fat Snickerdoodles


1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 T. corn syrup
1 t. vanilla
1 large egg
3 T. sugar
2 t. ground cinnamon
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375. Combine flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar, stirring with a whisk. Combine one cup of sugar and butter in another large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended. Add the corn syrup, vanilla, and egg; beat well. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, beating just until combined. Cover and chill for ten minutes. Combine 3 T. sugar and cinnamon stirring with a whisk. With moist hands, shape dough into 42 (1-inch) balls. Roll balls in sugar mixture. Place balls two inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Flatten balls with the bottom of a glass. Bake at 375 for five minutes (cookies will be slightly soft). Cool on baking sheets for two minutes. Remove cookies form pans, cool completely on wire racks.