5 Kid-Friendly Meals for 5 Days

CC BY 2.0. Jose Nicdao

Stuck for ideas? Here's what I'll be cooking this week.

It's the start of another work week and every parent knows what that means – another week of struggling to figure out what to feed hungry kids. Don't leave it all to the last minute; do some planning now so that you can stock up on ingredients, get certain components of a recipe started in advance, and plan for leftovers. Here's a peek at my own game plan for the upcoming week. I hope it gives you some inspiration.

Day 1: Calzones and vegetable soup – out late for music lessons, dinner on the go

Calzones are no harder than making pizza from scratch, and they're just as tasty and less messy. I'll start the dough in the morning and take a half-hour to fill them mid-afternoon, then bake while preparing to leave the house. I used to fill them with mozzarella and Genoa salami, based on the New York-style calzone recipe I found in Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid's 2003 cookbook Home Baking, but I recently discovered another delicious version in Jessica Battilana's Repertoire that uses broccoli rabe. When serving calzones, I like to make a pot of vegetable soup to serve alongside. I'll make it the day before and it will help the meal to feel less heavy.

Day 2: Lentil-Rice Casserole – kids at after-school activities, gym workout for me, quick dinner needed

The first time I ever looked at Vegan Richa's website, this recipe was on the front page. I went straight to the kitchen and made it that night for dinner. Needless to say, it was so delicious and easy that it made it into our regular rotation (and into my handwritten binder of personal recipes).

What makes it so helpful is that it can be made in advance. All the ingredients are layered into a 9x13 pan and it bakes together into a delicious mess of lentils, vegetables, and rice. (I usually skip the dumplings.)

Day 3: Spanish tortilla – kids out for activities, but no rush for dinner

Dad handles the extracurriculars on this night, so I've got more time in the evening to cook. This week it will be a Spanish tortilla with thinly sliced potatoes and eggs, accompanied by a green salad and any leftover vegetable soup. Usually I make Mark Bittman's version, but right now I'm seriously crushing on Battilana's new cookbook, Repertoire, mentioned above, so I'll probably try her "Cheater's Spanish Tortilla" that doesn't require a messy flip.

Day 4: Butter paneer with rice – pre-dinner CrossFit workout for me, hubby preps dinner

My husband has a few staple meals that he has perfected, and Madhur Jaffrey's butter paneer is one of them. The recipe comes from Vegetarian India and makes a luscious, perfectly spiced tomato sauce with chunks of crispy-edged paneer. We eat it over hot basmati with plenty of chopped cilantro. The kids call paneer "yummy tofu" (which I suppose indicates that we need to up our tofu game).

Day 5: Bean burritos – no extra-curriculars, lots of time to cook

Bean burritos are a weeknight staple. I used to put the filling and tortillas separately on the table and let each person wrap their own, but recently I discovered a recipe in The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America's Test Kitchen that has the cook pre-wrap the burritos and broil them under melted cheese.

It's more work, but it's definitely worth it. The burritos are more compact and easier for tiny hands to hold. As a result, there's less mess at the table and not as much begging for help. Plus, the recipe itself is packed with flavor – rice cooked with stock and herbs, a spicy bean filling with leafy greens, and lots of cheese. (Here's a link to the recipe.)