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Actually Good Food to Feed Your Kids

Local chefs share their recipes, from mac and cheese pizza to banh mi-style PB&J

Esperanza eating a Banh mi–Style PB&J Sandwich
Taste-tested by Esperanza, age 4 Food, Wardrobe and Prop Styling: Melissa Elis; Hair and Makeup: Lauren Ward/Distinct Artists

Banh mi–Style PB&J Sandwich

From Matthias Merges of Mordecai and Billy Sunday

Merges made this tasty mash-up — call it a deconstructed PB&J with a Vietnamese accent — for his two daughters, now teenagers.

  Juice of half a lime
1 tsp. Honey
1 cup Lightly packed mint leaves
1 cup Lightly packed cilantro leaves
3 half-inch-thick slices of Publican Quality honey oat porridge bread, toasted
4 oz. Almond butter
1 Ripe mango, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Ripe banana, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 oz. Toasted coconut

Whisk together lime juice and honey in a small bowl. Place mint and cilantro in a mixing bowl and lightly dress the herbs with the lime-honey mixture. Lay all the pieces of toast on a cutting board and spread almond butter evenly on two of them. Layer mango and banana on top of almond butter. Spoon dressed herbs onto each slice of bread, distributing evenly. Sprinkle coconut over the top of each slice, then stack the slices to create a triple-decker sandwich.

 
Zion eating Leftover Mac and Cheese Pizzas
Taste-tested by Zion, age 5

Leftover Mac and Cheese Pizzas

From Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat

“Even my 2-year-old gets fussy about having last night’s dinner again,” says Izard, who repurposes her luscious take on macaroni and cheese into this kid-pleasing meal. The number of pizzas you can make depends on how much mac and cheese you have left over — half a batch will yield about five pizzas.

For the mac and cheese

¼ cup Unsalted butter
¼ cup All-purpose flour
1½ cups Heavy cream
¾ cup Milk
3 oz. Fontina cheese, freshly shredded
3 oz. Gouda, freshly shredded
3 oz. White cheddar, freshly shredded
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 lb. Gemelli, fusilli, or short bucatini

For the pizzas

  Fluffy pitas
  Store-bought pizza sauce
  Shredded cheese (a mix of any left over from the mac and cheese)

1. Make the base for the mac and cheese: In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add cream and milk and whisk to combine. Continue whisking until sauce begins to thicken. Add cheeses, whisking constantly until smooth and cheeses are fully melted. Season with salt to taste.

2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain, transfer to saucepan immediately, and stir until pasta is thoroughly coated with cheese mixture. Serve. (Or save it all for a whole bunch of pizzas.)

3. Make the pizzas: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place pitas on a sheet tray, spread a couple of spoonfuls of pizza sauce on top of each, then spoon on a generous helping of leftover mac and cheese and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake until cheese is golden brown, about 8 minutes.

 
Maggie eating Grilled Kimcheesy Sandwiches
Taste-tested by Maggie, age 5

Grilled Kimcheesy Sandwiches

From Edward Kim of Mott St.

Kim, who put this spiced-up grilled cheese on his restaurant’s kids’ menu — and frequently serves it to his 2-year-old daughter — says the fat in the cheese neutralizes the kimchi’s heat, resulting in a piquant, gooey filling he likens to pimiento cheese.

½ cup Kimchi (available at Korean markets), finely diced
2 Tbsp. Salted butter
8 Half-inch-thick slices of brioche
4 Slices mild cheddar
4 Slices mozzarella

1. Strain kimchi over a fine mesh strainer or colander, squeezing until you’re left with a moist pulp. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and add half the butter, stirring until melted and bubbly, but not browned.

2. Add 2 slices of brioche to the pan and toast until bottoms are lightly browned. Flip the brioche slices and place a slice of cheddar on one and a slice of mozzarella on the other. Spread 1 tablespoon kimchi on the piece of toast with the mozzarella. Flip the toast with the cheddar onto the kimchi-topped slice, and press down with a spatula so it sticks together as the cheeses melt. Sandwich is ready when it is evenly toasted a light golden brown on both sides.

3. Repeat with remaining ingredients, making one sandwich at a time, replenishing butter in the pan after second sandwich. (You’ll have some kimchi left over.) Slice sandwiches diagonally and serve.

 
Roan eating Hands-on Spaghetti
Taste-tested by Roan, age 4

Hands-on Spaghetti

From Jason Vincent of Giant

“I had these grand ideas that my kids would be adventurous eaters, but the reality is that most kids, mine included, are incredibly picky,” says Vincent. So how does he keep the basics, like spaghetti, interesting? By getting his two school-age daughters to help him make everything, including the pasta, from scratch.

For the pasta

2 cups All-purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling
2 Eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. Water
  Pinch of salt

For the sauce

8 oz. 85 percent lean ground beef
  Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Small onion, diced
2 Garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 14 oz. can diced plum tomatoes
10 Basil leaves
1 Sprig oregano
  Pinch of sugar

1. Make the pasta dough: Stir together all ingredients and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes. (Vincent usually divides the dough and lets each of his daughters knead her own piece.) Once dough is smooth, transfer to a bowl and cover with a dry towel to rest while the sauce is being made.

2. Make the sauce: In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, sear ground beef on both sides, then break it up with a wooden spoon, season with salt and pepper, and cook until browned. Add onion and garlic and reduce heat to low. Cook gently for 5 minutes, then add tomatoes, basil, and oregano. Cook at a low simmer until the sauce is no longer watery and has turned a deep crimson; add sugar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep sauce warm.

3. Make the pasta: Turn out dough onto a floured surface and roll flat with a rolling pin. Cut into thin strips and sprinkle with flour so they don’t stick together. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook pasta until al dente (about 3 minutes, possibly more, depending on thickness).

4. Using tongs, transfer the pasta to the saucepan. Toss to coat, and let it cook in the sauce for a minute or two. Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan.

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