One Bite Rule
For a good long while, my husband and I have been awfully smug about what an adventurous eater our oldest is. We chalk it up to the “one bite” rule we have in our house. Darah must try one bite of everything offered for a meal. If she likes it, great! She can have more. If she doesn’t, we respect that and offer her something else that she will most definitely like. We go nuts any time she finds a new food to enjoy and celebrate, and I think for that reason, she has tried and admitted to liking MANY things.
Well, my friends, that one bite rule is starting to lose its shine. Or perhaps Darah is just getting wise to how to ensure she gets what she actually wants for dinner. Lately I have found myself making dinner for her 2 and 3 times before she is content.
Something’s Gotta Give
Yeah….we’re gonna need to put a stop to that! I’ve got some ideas for changes we will be implementing moving forward (one bite for every birthday and no alternative if I have seen her eat and enjoy the dish before). As we all get used to the new rules, though, I also want to serve some meals that are sure to please any 3 year old, and also leave mom and dad with happy bellies. So I’m going to be adding some kid-friendly comfort foods to our rotations.
Recently I made an entire meal that kids would love, and I think your family will love it, too! I made slow cooker mac and cheese, homemade fish sticks (I swear….TOTALLY easy) and s’mores from the oven for dessert. I used different Reynolds products to help me out. They made all the difference between dinner prep being a complete kitchen wrecker and it being not the least bit messy. Can I show you? Let’s do it!
Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese to Please
First up, the mac and cheese. I basically made this recipe up based on what I had available in my home. You can adapt it to your own preferences.
Here’s what I used:
- 4 cups uncooked macaroni noodles
- 16 oz (half the container) Velveeta queso blanco cheese, cut into pieces
- 3 cups shredded cheese of your choice
- 4 oz butter, cut into pieces
- 2 3/4 cups milk
- Reynolds Slow Cooker Liner
The very first and most important step in making this dish is to use a Reynolds Slow Cooker Liner. If you aren’t convinced that these are needed, especially for a recipe like this, just you wait. I’ve got a picture later on that will convince you! After your liner is in place, simply layer half of the macaroni, half of the butter, half of the shredded cheese and half of the Velveeta cheese. Then repeat these layers one more time, and pour all the milk on top. When I made this recipe I used 2 1/3 cups milk and I believe it needed more liquid, so I adjusted the amount to 2 3/4 cups for the recipe. That’s how I will make it the next time!
Then you set the slow cooker on low for 4 hours. At the 2 hour mark, the mac and cheese will look like this:
Give it a quick stir and then put the lid back on and let it finish cooking! Two hours later, you have some seriously delicious mac and cheese. The outer rim of the dish has browned mac and cheese. That’s my husband’s favorite part, and even I have to admit, browned cheese is DELICIOUS. But it is most definitely NOT fun to clean. Just try to imagine if what you see below was sticking to the side of your slow cooker:
This would have been one of those epic messes that would have given me pause to consider if I should just give up and get a new slow cooker. But with my Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners, clean up took 2 seconds, as that is how long it takes to remove the bag once the food it out. I actually cackled with glee as I “cleaned up.”
I also made fish sticks for the family. For all of you “non-foodies” out there, don’t skip this part! If you don’t already know, I’m TOTALLY not a professional cook. Not even close. In fact, I’ve never attempted making fish sticks on my own because anytime I try to bread anything at all, I just end up with a huge mess and very disappointing food. But I did a little research and I learned some great tips that made this dish painless, mess-free and a total winner.
Idiot-Proof Homemade Fish Sticks
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 to 1 /2 pounds firm white fish (I used tilapia)
- 1 cup flour, lightly seasoned with salt and any other seasonings you like
- 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
- 2 eggs, beaten and in a shallow pan (I used a pie plate)
- Reynolds Parchment Paper
- Reynolds Aluminum Foil
Line your work surface with Reynolds Parchment Paper. This stuff is not only great for baking, but it also helps when you have some messy work you need to do in the kitchen. It is very easy to work on top of and as you’ll see later, it is a real winner when dinner prep is over.
Once I had my parchment paper out, I laid out my fish which I had cut into smaller “fish stick” portions. I did opt to make them significantly bigger than those skinny fish sticks that you buy at the grocery store. The size you cut them to is strictly your preference. I also had my pile of flour (which I seasoned right there on the paper) and my pile of breadcrumbs laid out. And then I had my beaten eggs in a pie plate. I was so happy to see how few dishes I was using for such a messy endeavor. Yay parchment paper!
You will first want to dredge every piece of fish in the flour. Shake off the excess. I suggest doing this step for all the fish first rather than taking each piece of fish through the entire breading process because it saves your hands from getting as messy as fast. I also think it is just a good thing for the flour to have a minute to sit on the fish before it gets dipped in egg and breadcrumbs. I believe it made the breading stick better.
Ok, so once all your fish is floured, then you do take each individual piece and dip it in the egg wash (make sure all sides get covered) and then dip it in the breadcrumbs, also making sure all sides get covered. This part is totally fun, though you will need to stop and wash your hands a few times.
Place your breaded fish sticks on a baking sheet. Here’s another tip to make cleanup even easier: line the baking sheet with aluminum foil and then spray it with a nonstick spray. This worked LIKE A CHARM and made flipping the fish sticks so easy.
Next you’ll want to put the fish sticks in the oven that has been preheated to 450 for 8 minutes. At that point, remove them, flip them over, and then let them cook for 8-9 minutes more. If you opted to make very tiny fish sticks, you may want to watch them a bit more closely, as they may not need quite as long as mine took to be finished.
The end result are beautifully browned, beautifully crunchy fish sticks with a breading that doesn’t fall off (hallelujah!). MAJOR hit at my house.
And here’s clean up for that messy meal:
I mean, it almost feels like cheating. All that mess is gone in mere seconds.
Since I didn’t have to spend 30 minutes cleaning the slow cooker and my counters, I could make some dessert! What’s more kid-friendly that s’mores? And no, I didn’t go outside and make a camp fire. I just fired up my oven and reached, once again, for my new BFF, Reynolds Parchment Paper.
6 Minute S’mores
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Chocolate bars of your choice cut into chunks
- graham crackers
- large marshmallows
- Reynolds Parchment Paper
Will it gross you out if I tell you that I used the same baking tray that cooked the fish sticks without first washing it for these s’mores? Well I did! And there was no need to wash it as the aluminum foil contained all the fishy stuff…that baking sheet was as clean as can be!
So, you line your baking sheet with parchment paper. I used the baking sheet as a guide for the size of the paper, and then I just folded under any excess so that it wasn’t hanging off the sheet. You could also use scissors to remove the excess paper if you are not as lazy as me. 😉
Preheat your oven to 350. Lay out as many graham crackers as you want. We made 8, which was way too many. And then we ate them all, anyway (don’t act like you wouldn’t do the same!). On each cracker, place your chocolate. Make sure it doesn’t hang over the side or you’ll have a serious mess.
Then take your marshmallows and give them a pretty decent squish with your hands, like this:
Since they tend to expand a bit in the oven, I find that squishing them before you bake them helps them not get out of control.
You then bake the s’mores, WITHOUT the graham cracker top on them, for just 5 minutes! Remove from the oven, and add the top graham cracker. Give it a little smush, and then get ready for all the awesome.
You’ll probably have a little chocolate and marshmallow run over the edges. No worries. The parchment paper catches it all, and I can say from experience that it is REALLY easy to lick melted chocolate and marshmallow off parchment paper.
And just in case you are wondering, the slow cooker and the twice used baking sheet both got put away without so much as a rinse under the faucet. That’s how this Reynolds Real Mom does it!
I am a #ReynoldsRealMoms finalist. I have received complimentary products and am in the running to be an ambassador for the company for the remainder of the year! Please go to the Reynolds Facebook page to meet the other finalists, learn fantastic tips and tricks like the ones in this post, and to vote for your favorite (voting is held every Wednesday).