DIY Dinners: Ingredient Bars to Please the Whole Family
Picture this: It's about 5:00 in the evening and you ask your family what they want for dinner. Your spouse responds with one dish — but it's not what you're craving — and what your kids answer with isn't appealing to the grownups in the house. Sound familiar?
It can be downright impossible to please everyone at the dinner table with a single meal, but that doesn't mean you have to cook multiple recipes to guarantee everyone enjoys what they're eating. The trick is to pick a single base dish and let each person customize it to his or her own tastes with their favorite ingredients. Family-friendly picks like pizza, tacos and baked potatoes are blank-slate recipes that can be prepped to a certain point, then finished by each person with preferred additions depending on if they are a vegetarian or diehard carnivore, or have a picky palate or simple distaste for certain foods. To serve these make-it-yourself dinners, set up an ingredient bar with toppings, condiments and more to which your family can help themselves; they'll be able to choose how much of each component they want, plus the interactive element of mealtime will go a long way in getting little ones excited about their food.
For a traditional taco preparation, stick with Alton's All-American Beef Taco (pictured above). He sautes ground beef with Taco Potion #19 — his signature blend of spices — and serves it in freshly fried tortilla shells before filling each with optional add-ons like crumbled panela cheese, pickled jalapeno, cool lettuce and cilantro.
Perhaps the ultimate kid-approved dish that even parents look forward to is pizza. Instead of relying on delivery and being forced to choose from just a handful of pricey ingredients, make Food Network Magazine's Basic Pizza Dough and let your family design their best pies. Finish with fresh tomatoes, five-minute Basil Pesto, plus an array of can't-miss toppings like olives, pepperoni, cheeses and vegetables for a simple dinner that everyone will look forward to.
For a riff on traditional pizza, try Aaron McCargo, Jr.'s Grilled Chicken Taco Pizza (pictured right) from Food Network Magazine. He shows off taco-inspired tastes by seasoning chicken with cumin and cayenne pepper and baking it with a duo of cheeses including mozzarella and cheddar. Avocados, sour cream, salsa and herbs served on the side are help-yourself ingredients that can be enjoyed atop the pie or skipped altogether.
The ultimate in starchy indulgence, Paula's Baked Potatoes Bar is a five-star recipe that lets each person control what fillings they put in their piping-hot spud. Kids may opt for a few pats of butter or a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of cheese, while pork lovers will want spoonfuls of crispy, salty crumbled bacon.