Cooking with Kids on Vacation: A Fun and delicious way to spend time with your family!

It seems like everyone is catching up on lost vacation time since the start of the pandemic – even with high gas prices, summer vacations seem to be at an all time high. Here at Kookist we love vacations too – and we wanted to share some ideas with you on simple recipes for dinner that are easy and how kids can help make it a success. A few of the writers here at Kookist actually just came back from the Outer Banks (with their kids) – so the recipes and tips below are actual real-life experiences!

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3 Easy and Fun Dinner with Kids

It’s important to balance keeping the dinner simple, ensuring it’s healthy, and maximizing kid involvement in both the preparation and cooking. Obviously time is important too – we all love cooking; but it’s also your vacation – you don’t want to be in the kitchen for hours for one meal! Here are the meals we made with the kids at the beach:

  • Eggplant Parmesan – surprisingly eggplant parmesan is pretty easy to make yet delicious, healthy, and vegetarian. There is a little preparation and then it bakes in the oven. You can even do the preparation hours before you pop it in the oven.
  • Fajitas – a Mexican classic that really never gets old and is super easy. It’s also pretty easy to make Fajitas meatless if you chose.
  • Seafood Pasta – this was probably our favorite; it takes the most time compared to the others, but it’s a classic beach dinner. You can also vary the seafood you put in – meaning it’s super flexible.

Eggplant Parmesan

Yield: 8 servings

Eggplant Parmesan

eggplant parm

This is similar to the Martha Stewart recipe with a few minor changes. Martha Stewart Eggplant Parmesan

Have the kids help with dipping the eggplant into the mixture and placing on the sheets.

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 large eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
  • 6 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 8 oz thin spaghetti pasta

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and slice eggplant (keep the skin on). Cook pasta al dente.
  2. Combine eggs and 2 tbs water in a bowl. In another bowl mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan, oregano and basil; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Dip eggplant in egg mixture and then breadcrumb mixture - place on baking sheets. Bake 25 minutes; turn slices and bake another 25 minutes. Remove from oven and increase temperature to 400 degrees.
  4. Spread 2 cups sauce in 9-by-13 baking dish. Add in half the eggplant and half the pasta, then 1/2 cup mozzarella. Repeat and add another layer of sauce, eggplant, pasta, and mozzarella. Bake 15 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Fajitas

Yield: 8 servings

Fajitas

fajitas

Who doesn't like Mexican food?! Try our simple Fajita recipe to please the entire family.

This is a quick and delicious meal that can be customized/substituted to no end, made vegetarian easily, and scaled up or down depending upon the number of people.

Pro Tip - consider pre making the fajitas with the protein for the kids, then let them dress them up.  This will save food and speed along the fajita building so you can get to the eating part faster.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. chicken chopped
  • 20 small/med torillas
  • 2 cups rice
  • 2 cans black beans
  • 1 minced onion
  • 2 sliced peppers
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 limes
  • 1/2 package fajita seasoning
  • Toppings: cheese, guacamole, sour cream, salsa ,etc

Instructions

    1. 2 hours before you start, marinate chicken in chopped cilantro, juice of 1 lime, salt and pepper, and mushrooms
    2. Make the rice - 2 cups of rice to 4 cups of water. After cooking and while it is still warm, add salt, pepper, cilantro, and lime juice. Taste, adjust, and allow to rest.
    3. While rice is cooking, grill chicken marinade in skillet - about 8 minutes over medium heat. Also while rice is cooking, warm tortillas in oven.
    4. In another skillet, sauté the peppers and onion with the fajita mix and a little water. Add in lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Warm beans in microwave.
    5. Transfer everything to individual bowls so that people can make their own fajitas: 1 bowl for the chicken, 1 bowl for the beans, 1 bowl for the peppers and onions, and bowls for each of the toppings (cheese, guacamole, sour cream, salsa). Also place warm tortillas on table.

Seafood Pasta

Yield: 8 servings

Seafood Pasta

seafood pasta

We wanted to keep this a bit on the easy side - we used shrimp, scallops, and salmon for our pasta. For the more adventurous you can add in clams, mussels, and even crab; although the prep for these is longer.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. spaghetti pasta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3/4 lb. scallops, patted dry
  • 3/4 lb. salmon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped finely
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes (fresh or from can)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan (grated) cheese
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Cook spaghetti in a large pot; drain and return to pot.
  2. While spaghetti is cooking, in a large skillet (medium heat) add in olive oil. Cook salmon for 4 minutes on one side. Flip salmon and add in shrimp and scallops. Flip shrimp and scallops after 2 minutes (while leave salmon on same side). After another 2 min - seafood should be ready. Transfer to plate and add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In skillet add in garlic (maybe a touch more of olive oil) and cook for 3 minutes. Add broth, Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, and parsley. Cook over low heat for 4 minutes then add in seafood. Toss well.
  4. Add seafood mixture to spaghetti pot and add in lemon juice.
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