So many of us miss eating out our favorite local restaurants these days, unless they’ve got heat lamps outside these days and a good social distancing table plan. As for our kids, well, they mostly miss eating out so they can make us spend good cash on the most basic kids’ menu items, like chicken nuggets, popcorn shrimp, and that perennial favorite, butter noodles hold the green stuff.
To keep things fun at dinner time lately, I thought it would be fun to recreate some of our kids’ menu favorites — only with a twist, so the adults in your family will be happy too.
(Not like any of us complain during mac n cheese night.)
I suppose if you are really in the mood, you could set out some free printable coloring coloring pages as placemats (we’ve shared so many on Cool Mom Picks through the years!) and place some crayons in the middle of the table for the authentic experience.
Don’t forget to add a juice box or chocolate milk and maybe a side of sliced apples.
Adults? Feel free to drink whatever you’d like.
Chicken nuggets…with an upgrade
For a super delicious twist on the “chicken nugget,” give this Chicken Schnitzel recipe from Lindsey Eats LA a whirl. Don’t get overwhelmed with the list of ingredients — it’s basically chicken, panko bread crumbs, and spices you probably have in your cabinet already.
Pro-tip: The Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend would work really well here, or just skip the spice all together and use some sea salt if your kids aren’t big on spices.
Buttered noodles…with an upgrade
It always cracks me up when my kids excitedly order buttered noodles when we go out to eat ; how can something so simple bring so much joy? Of course it’s easy to make the original kids’ menu favorite — like, soooo easy — but this recipe for Bucatini Ciao e Pepe Pasta from Tasting Table is a delicious twist on the kid’s menu staple that will please adults too. The trick is to use really good fresh parmesan and Romano. Nothing in a can!
Be sure to serve it up with a side of garlic bread, oven roasted broccoli if you want some greens, or even a restaurant-style steak if you need a more hearty entree for the adults.
Grilled cheese…with an upgrade
We’ve shared an entire post of wonderful ways to upgrade a grilled cheese and turn it into a legit family dinner, but here’s a new one. Since it seems I can never make a grilled cheese that is the “same” as the one my kids order off the kid’s menu, I’m diverging a bit with this Monte Cristo recipe from Shurgary Sweets.
One of my favorite things about Aimee’s recipe is that it is a copycat of Disney’s Monte Cristo. So not only does this meal remind me of eating out, it reminds me of some of our happiest memories visiting Disneyland.
Popcorn shrimp…with an upgrade
Are my kids the only ones who seem to order popcorn shrimp every time we eat out…while at home claiming they “hate” shrimp? Argh. This recipe for popcorn shrimp by Sara at Dinner At The Zoo is a tried and true recipe from a mom of three guaranteed to have everyone gobbling it up. I love that she provides a few flavor variations, so you can tailor it to your family’s preference. I suggest serving family style with some fries and finger veggies, and of course an assortment of your favorite dips. No silverware makes for an easy clean up!
Mac n cheese…with an upgrade
True story: So many of the kids’ menu mac n cheese recipes are right from the blue box. So yes, we can do that at home affordably and easily. But to upgrade this kids’ menu meal staple for everyone, try baking it in a skillet, using this fantastic recipe for Southern Baked Skillet Mac and Cheese from Imma at Immaculate Bites. Her trick: using evaporated milk for a creamier béchamel, and three kinds of cheeses. (And she mentions not to use the pre-shredded stuff for the best flavor so she’s a cook after my own heart.)
If you want to skip the creole seasoning for the kids’ sake, feel free but I’d take all of it. Be sure to visit her site for really helpful, thorough step-by-step instructions and photos.
French toast…with an upgrade
One of the magical things about the kid’s menu meals is that there always seems to be one breakfast item on there. no matter the time of day. Breakfast for dinner is always a winner, and this recipe for an Overnight French Toast Bake from Easy Budget Recipes frees up some time during the hectic dinner hour by allowing you throw it together in the morning while the kids are on Zoom school.
Later, all you need to worry about is baking it, slicing up some fresh fruit, and maybe frying up some bacon and scrambled eggs for a heartier dinner.