Planning out your holiday menu can be an enjoyable experience for lots of home cooks. With so many yummy-sounding recipes to choose from (roasted asparagus! bacon-wrapped dates! cauliflower gratin!), figuring out holiday food can be the best part of the whole season.
But if you’re hosting younger guests at your holiday festivities this year, you may want to edit your cooking choices. For most kids, it doesn’t matter if that vegetable dish was prepared by a 5-star chef—it wouldn’t hold a candle to frozen chicken nuggets. So if you’ve got a kids table at your holiday dinner, keep the following cooking suggestions in mind:
• Keep food familiar
Getting too fancy with a dish can be one of the biggest turnoffs for younger picky guests. Calling something a gratin or a bisque sounds a lot more intimidating than calling the same dishes casseroles or soups, so keep your descriptions simple. Kids will be more willing to try out food if it doesn’t sound like a different language to their ears!
• Provide food just for kids
Having one or two dishes at your holiday table made specifically for the younger crowd (like the ravioli lasagna recipe below) is a great way to get kids excited about the meal. You’ll also feel less pressured to have them enjoy the other, more grown-up dishes if you know they have something on their plate that they’ll want to eat.
• Let kids help out
Cooking with kids  is one of the best ways to get picky eaters to try new things. If you have kids, nephews or nieces who will be around while the cooking’s taking place, have them help out with simple kitchen tasks. They’ll be more likely to try a dish if they have a hand in making it.
• Don’t force feed
Whatever you do, don’t insist that the kids at your holiday get-together try every single dish on the table. At the end of the day, kids will like what they like, and if they want to eat an entire plate of mashed potatoes and nothing else, don’t stress yourself out trying to balance out the plate with vegetables. It’s a holiday, after all!
If you plan on getting fancy with your Christmas cooking this year, consider serving something a little more basic at the kids table for potentially pickier palates. It’s easy, familiar and definitely fits into that “holiday comfort food” niche. Plus, the kids can help make it so you can worry about less!
Prep Time: 15 min
Total Time: 30 minutes
PAM® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray
1 cup frozen loose cut leaf spinach
2 cans (15 oz each) Chef Boyardee® Beef Ravioli
1 can (14.5 oz each) Hunt's® Diced Tomatoes, drained well
1-1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1 cup 1% low-fat cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup shredded Italian blend cheese
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray an 8×8-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Place spinach in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes; squeeze spinach dry.
Combine ravioli, drained tomatoes and Italian seasoning in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH 3 to 4 minutes or until mixture is hot. Combine cottage cheese, spinach and black pepper in small bowl.
Place half of the ravioli mixture in the bottom of your baking dish. Top with half of cottage cheese mixture and 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Repeat layers. Bake 15 minutes or until cheese is hot and bubbly.
Tip: Have kids stir together the cottage cheese mixture and help layer the ingredients in the dish. If you’ve got extra picky eaters, substitute the spinach with another vegetable. You also could place all of the spinach mixture between the layers of ravioli or leave the spinach out completely for those who really don’t want greens in their food.
Author Bio: This is a guest post written by Meredith K. on behalf of Chef Boyardee®. For more kid-friendly holiday recipes that are perfect for cooking with kids , visit www.chefboyardee.com.