Skillet chicken and other weeknight recipes our kids love

By Margaux Laskey, The New York Times

You might assume that the children of New York Times food editors and writers have adventurous palates. Surely, you might think, a person who spends so much time cooking and eating would raise a fearless eater who happily devours composed salads for school lunch. But you’d be wrong. Most of our kids are just as picky as anyone else’s.

Who knows why some kids are so tough to please at the table? Maybe their tastes are still developing, perhaps it’s one of the few ways they can exert their independence, or it’s possible they have legitimate biological sensitivities to certain tastes, textures and smells. Whatever the reason, just like you, we struggle daily with what to cook for our kids that they’ll actually eat and enjoy.

Here are a handful of recipes our kids really do love. Not to say yours will, too, but here’s hoping.

1. Skillet Chicken With Tomatoes, Pancetta and Mozzarella

With a topping of tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, it’s no wonder that I always think of this easy skillet dish as “pizza chicken.” It’s a tangy, milky, gooey, lovable meal that’s somewhat reminiscent of chicken Parmesan, but with succulent bone-in chicken pieces instead of breaded and fried cutlets. Even better, it has pancetta and anchovies for complexity of flavor, and the whole thing comes together in under an hour.

By Melissa Clark

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 45 minutes


  • 3 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (or use a 3 1/2 pound chicken cut into 8 pieces)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes
  • 1 large basil sprig, plus more chopped basil for serving
  • 8 ounces bocconcini, halved (or use mozzarella cut into 3/4-inch pieces)


1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.

2. In a large ovenproof skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate.

3. Add chicken to skillet. Sear, turning only occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil.

4. Add garlic, anchovy and red pepper flakes to skillet; fry 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and basil. Cook, breaking up tomatoes with a spatula, until sauce thickens somewhat, about 10 minutes.

5. Return chicken to skillet. Transfer skillet to oven and cook, uncovered, until chicken is no longer pink, about 30 minutes.

6. Scatter bocconcini or mozzarella pieces over skillet. Adjust oven temperature to broil. Return skillet to oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes (watch carefully to see that it does not burn). Garnish with pancetta and chopped basil before serving.

2. One-Pot Rice and Beans

Rice with beans is adored the world over (see: gallo pinto, khichdi, hoppin’ John, and Caribbean rice and peas). This deeply flavored rendition is inspired by these comforting traditions and a desire to wash as few dishes as possible: The rice cooks with the beans and the starchy liquid they’re canned in. As the two ingredients cook together, the beans disperse and glom onto the rice. For an extra kick, sauté chopped jalapeño with the onions, or add 1/4 cup salsa with the stock.

By Ali Slagle

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 30 minutes


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can black or pinto beans
  • Lime wedges or cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)


1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the stock, cover and bring to a boil.

2. Add the salt, rice and beans (including the liquid). Stir just to combine, then cover.

3. Turn the heat down as low as it will go, then let simmer, undisturbed, for 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 4 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

4. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then garnish with lime or cilantro as you wish.

3. Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

This tangy, mildly spicy white-bean chili is as warming and comforting as a traditional chili, but in a lighter, brighter form. Plenty of green chiles — fresh and canned — provide kick while creamy white beans mellow it all out. To decrease the heat level, remove and discard the seeds from the jalapeño before you mince it. A large handful of chopped cilantro added at the end brings freshness, but if you don’t care for cilantro, pass it at the table along with the other toppings or omit it entirely. Continuing the spirit of customizing your chili, you can make this in the slow cooker or on the stovetop. Use 3 cups chicken stock in the slow cooker and 4 cups on the stovetop, where liquid is more likely to evaporate.

By Sarah DiGregorio

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Total time: 4 to 6 hours


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow or red onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 3 (4-ounce) cans chopped green chiles, hot, mild or a combination
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (about 1 small bunch), optional
  • 1 lime, juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Pickled jalapeño slices, sliced scallion, cubed avocado and sour cream, for serving


1. In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeño and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chopped green chiles, cumin, onion powder, oregano and cayenne and stir until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Transfer the mixture into a 5- to 8-quart slow cooker. Generously season the chicken thighs with salt and add them to the pot. Stir in 3 cups chicken stock and the beans. Cover and cook on low until the chicken is tender, 4 to 6 hours.

3. Shred the chicken using two forks. (You can do this directly in the pot, or remove the chicken to a bowl, shred it, then return it to the pot.) Stir in the frozen corn, cover and cook until warmed through, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro, if using, and lime juice. Season to taste with salt. Serve in bowls and pass the toppings at the table.

TIP: You can also cook the chili in a Dutch oven on your stovetop. In step 2, add 4 cups stock instead of 3 cups and bring the mixture come to a simmer over medium-high. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the chicken is tender, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.

4. Pastel (Israeli Spiced Meat Pie)

This gently spiced beef pie, adapted from the “Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking” by the chef Michael Solomonov, is scented with cinnamon, dill and parsley. The recipe calls for purchased puff pastry, which makes it extremely simple to make yet wonderfully rich to eat. Leftovers will last for a few days in the refrigerator. Reheat at 350 degrees before serving.

Recipe from Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook

Adapted by Melissa Clark

Yield: 8 servings

Total time: 2 hours


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 pound puff pastry, defrosted (see note)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds


1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and carrots and sauté until vegetables have softened, but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add beef, cinnamon, salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Cook until beef begins to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Let mixture cool completely.

2. While beef is cooking, split puff pastry in half if it’s in one piece. Roll out each piece with a floured rolling pin to roughly 9 x 11 inches. Line an 8- or 9- x 11-inch baking dish, or a shallow 2-quart gratin dish, with 1 piece of pastry, pulling up the dough to cover the sides of baking dish.

3. Whisk 2 eggs and add to cooled beef mixture. Spoon mixture over pastry and top with chopped parsley and dill. Top with remaining piece of pastry, pinching together the sides of both pieces of pastry. Chill in fridge for at least 1 hour (and up to 4 hours) or freeze for 15 minutes.

4. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk remaining egg and brush over pastry. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until golden on top, about 40 minutes. Allow to cool 15 to 20 minutes before cutting. Pastel may appear wet when removed from oven, but pastry will absorb the moisture as it sits.

TIP: If your package of puff pastry is slightly larger or smaller than a pound, just roll the dough a little thinner so it covers the bottom and top of the pan.

5. Overnight Oats

When soaked overnight in milk, oats become tender and creamy. Unlike oatmeal, the uncooked but softened oats retain a fresh flavor and, of course, they’re delicious cold. Soaking dried fruit — use your favorite — alongside the oats sweetens the mixture nicely, but you can stir in additional sugar, maple syrup or honey to taste just before eating. Then, just before you dig in, top it with nuts for an irresistible crunch against the creamy oats.

By Genevieve Ko

Yield: 2 cups

Total time: 5 minutes, plus overnight soaking


  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit, cut into small pieces, if needed
  • 1 tablespoon chia, flax, poppy or sesame seeds
  • 1 cup milk or unsweetened dairy alternative, such as almond or oat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Maple syrup, honey or brown sugar (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped or sliced nuts, toasted, if desired


1. Mix oats, dried fruit, seeds, milk and salt in a pint jar or 2-cup airtight resealable container. Seal tightly and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or up to 5 days.

2. Uncover, stir well, and taste. If you prefer more sweetness, stir in some sweetener. Top with the nuts just before eating.

TIP: The soaked oat mixture will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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