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Rachael Ray to the Rescue

Anthony, 4, and Angelina, 2, are ready for more than just buttered noodles. Rachael showed Helena and Joseph how to make her mom's favorite pasta recipe -- and the kids ate it up.

Pasta, Cheese, and Trees My Mama's Way

  • 1 pound penne, corkscrew pasta, or medium shells
  • 1 pound broccoli tops
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut up
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Meanwhile, pull apart broccoli into small "trees." Put the broccoli into a pot and add enough water to just cover the tops. Bring the water to a boil and add 4 pinches salt. Cook for 5 minutes once the water comes to a boil. Drain.
  2. Pour EVOO and butter into a deep frying pan and heat over low heat. When the butter melts, add the garlic and cook 5 minutes. Stir in broccoli and cooked pasta. Add ricotta and Parmesan, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Here's a quick Sunday meal: These patties cook in a quarter the time of traditional meatloaf.

Potatoes
Meatloaf Patties and Smashed Potatoes

  • 8 to 10 small white or red-skinned potatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Coarse salt and pepper, to taste

Patties

  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 tablespoon low-fat milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 rounded tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 pound 90% lean ground beef sirloin or turkey

Gravy

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 14-ounce can lower-sodium beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
  • 1 rounded tablespoon tomato paste

  1. Prepare potatoes: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook 10 to 12 minutes, until fork tender. Drain and return to hot pot. Add sour cream, milk, and butter, and smash with a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. While potatoes are cooking, prepare patties: Combine the bread crumbs, cumin, and allspice in a large bowl. Add milk, egg, onion, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, parsley, and beef. Mix together and form 4 or 5 oval-shaped patties.
  3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat with vegetable cooking spray. Add patties to pan and cook 5 minutes. Flip, reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes more or until cooked through. Remove from pan and keep warm.
  4. To make gravy, add butter to pan and melt. Sprinkle in flour and cook over medium heat 2 minutes, whisking. Slowly add broth, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes. Whisk in barbecue sauce and tomato paste. Serve with meatloaf patties and potatoes. Makes 5 servings.

Both older kids are pizza fanatics. This meal's got that familiar flavor, but it's more substantial.

Pizza Burgers

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped and divided
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey or beef
  • 1/2 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
  • 1/8 pound sliced pepperoni, chopped into little pieces
  • 1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
  • Slices of smoked mozzarella, optional
  • 1 large, round focaccia

  1. In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of EVOO over medium-high heat. Add half of the onion, the garlic, tomato paste, and oregano, and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes or until the onions soften. Add crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and then until the sauce is thick.
  2. For the burgers, combine the ground turkey or beef, sausage, pepperoni, green pepper, and the remaining onion in a mixing bowl. Add a little salt and pepper and mix with your hands until well-combined. Divide into 4 to 6 equal patties. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons EVOO. Add the burgers and cook on each side for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Once the burgers are cooked, top with smoked mozzarella, if using, and melt under the broiler.
  3. While the burgers are cooking, cut the focaccia into 4 to 6 wedges. Slice each triangle of focaccia in half. Transfer the cooked burgers to the bottom triangles, top with some of the pizza sauce and then cover with the tops. Serve with a simple green salad. Makes 4 to 6 servings

"Don't be turned off by the red hot peppers," Rachael told Helena and Joseph. "They add tons of flavor to this super-easy dish." For the kids, just pick out the peppers right before serving.

  • 4 center-cut pork-loin chops, 1 inch thick
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 to 4 jarred red hot Italian cherry peppers, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon EVOO to the pan; add chops and cook 5 minutes on each side.
  2. Transfer cooked pork chops to a platter; keep warm. Add remaining EVOO and the bell peppers to the pan. Saute the peppers, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the hot peppers and a splash of the brine, and cook 1 minute. Add broth and scrape up the drippings. Sprinkle with parsley. Makes 4 servings.

Angelina loves chicken fingers, so Rachael was convinced she'd go for this crunchy, slightly spicy version. The verdict? Yummy!

Crunchy Oven-Baked Chicken Toes

  • 1 cup cornflakes cereal, crushed
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken-breast tenders, cut into 20 pieces
  • 1/4 cup honey mustard
  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine cornflake crumbs, bread crumbs, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and allspice.
  2. Drizzle the vegetable oil evenly over the cornflake mixture. Mix well to combine. Place flour and beaten eggs into separate bowls. Dredge the chicken toes in the flour, then the eggs, and then the cornflake mixture. Pat to form an even coating. Arrange the chicken toes about 1 inch apart on a nonstick baking sheet. Place the chicken in the oven and cook until crisp and brown all over, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together honey mustard and barbecue sauce for dipping. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Creamy Salsa Dip and Veggies

  • 1 cup mild salsa
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 12 carrot sticks
  • 12 celery sticks
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 12 sugar snap peas

Stir together salsa and sour cream in a small bowl. Arrange the veggies around the dip and serve with Crunchy Oven-Baked Chicken Toes. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Crunchy Oven-Baked Chicken Toes, Creamy Salsa Dip and Veggies, and Pasta, Cheese, and Trees My Mama's Way recipes are adapted from Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals for Kids.