Got 6 Minutes? Try These Quick Family Recipes

Try these wintery recipes to whip up a tummy-warming meal.

Hush, now, and I will let you in on a Momma Chef secret — when my kids were little, they ate *gasp* boxed mac and cheese. I mean, a LOT of boxed mac and cheese.

Sure, I (mostly) bought the all-natural, organic brands to balance out my guilt from the unnecessary ingredients they were putting in their little bodies by the bowl full. So I became obsessed with finding an easy way to make homemade mac and cheese and more.

No-boil Mac and Cheese

I wanted the kind of mac and cheese that almost brings you to tears because it is so rich and delish. After searching and testing and tweaking, I finally found my holy grail of no-boil baked mac and cheese. This recipe is so unbelievably easy that it actually makes the store-bought directions look difficult. Huzzah!

Our boxed mac and cheese days are over. Your kids will love to help make it, but you’ll need to be on hand to transfer the heavy dish in and out of the oven.

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 2 cups elbow macaroni (regular or gluten-free)
  • 4 cups 2 percent or whole milk
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp. salted butter, melted
  • 5 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, add the macaroni, milk, salt, butter and 3 cups of the cheese, mix well.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining 2 cups of cheese over the mixture and cover with foil.
  6. Bake covered for 35 minutes, then remove the foil, and bake uncovered 20 minutes more.

Crispy Cornflake Chicken

This is “Shake and Bake” à la Momma Chef. Kids love to help with the shaking step, but be sure to keep their hands — and your hands — extra clean around raw chicken. Our family prefers chicken breasts, but you can also try boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

My kids typically go for the classic dipping sauce: ketchup! I like to mix it up by adding a second dipping sauce for variety. A current favorite is 1⁄2 cup of mayonnaise, 1⁄4 cup of ketchup and a shake each of Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and black pepper. Make the sauce ahead of time and chill it for several hours (or overnight!) in the refrigerator to maximize the flavor. Make this once and it will become a favorite in your weekly menu rotation.

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 1⁄2 cup zesty Italian salad dressing
  • 4 cups crushed cornflakes (regular of gluten-free panko)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Grease a baking sheet with nonstick spray.
  3. Pour the Italian dressing into a large bowl.
  4. In a gallon-sized zip-top bag, add the crushed cornflakes and salt.
  5. Dip each chicken breast in the Italian dressing, then put them in the zip-top bag.
  6. Shake to coat all sides of the chicken with the cornflake mixture.
  7. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet, and bake uncovered for 35 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 165°F.

TIPS: If you prefer, in place of Italian dressing, use 2 eggs mixed with 1 Tbsp. of water.

If you want to add a bit of sweetness, before baking, drizzle a bit of honey on the chicken. I suggest trying this with half of the chicken and seeing which one you like more.

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup with Dill

This is my dad’s favorite soup and I love making it for him. He requests it for any and all occasions. After surgery, people sent him get-well cards and flowers. To me, he said, “Please bring over the soup.” Pulled tooth? “Karen, please bring over the soup.” Whenever I ask him how I can help on any given day, the answer is always “make the soup.” Listen to my dad—make the soup.

To keep the veggies “hidden” from the suspicious eyes of any anti-vegetarians, don’t forget to puree your final product. Invest in an immersion blender to avoid the hassle and mess of transferring your soup to a blender. Friend to friend, let me offer you a tried-and-true way to convince my little eaters to try new soups: give them a separate small bowl of tiny croutons to sprinkle on top. I’m not sure why adding their own toppings makes food more appealing to kids, but it works over here every time!

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup dry green split peas
  • 1 (8-ounce) bag baby carrots
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp. dried dill

Directions

  1. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion for 3 minutes.
  2. Add the split peas and carrots and cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Add the vegetable broth and dill, stir to combine.
  4. Partially cover the pot and cook for 45 minutes until the peas are very tender.
  5. Remove from the heat and puree the soup in batches in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender until smooth.

Scrumptious Mandarin Orange Cake

Something that I learned in 2020 was that I definitely do not want to homeschool my kids. Ever. One silver lining was that my then 7-year-old son grew leaps and bounds as a mini-chef. At his request, we added “baking time with mom” into his morning schedule. Now, this was a class I loved teaching! We made a lot of Nutella-based recipes. One day, he wondered what we could do with a can of mandarin oranges. Skipping the Nutella trend, we created this cake. For budding cooks with a short attention span, the prep only took four minutes: It was finished before my oven preheated!

I would definitely give my son an A+ on his baking assignment. The cake was moist and delicious, and boy did it make our house smell terrific!

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 (15- to 18-ounce) package yellow cake mix, regular or gluten-free
  • 3 eggs
  • 1⁄2 cup avocado or canola oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Coat a 9 x 13-inch baking dish or a 10-inch Bundt cake pan with cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, oil and vanilla, and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the mandarin oranges with their juices, and lightly fold them into the cake mixture until well blended.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish or cake pan.
  6. Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool.

Karen Nochimowski is the mom behind MommaChef.com. All her are quick and easy made with six ingredients or less and take less than six minutes of prep time. Karen also started and runs Momma Chef’s Soup Kitchen and Momma Chef’s Little Free Pantries in Chicago, which provides food at no cost. Her first cookbook, 6-Minute Dinners (& More!), is filled with simple and delicious recipes with six ingredients or less. Find it wherever books are sold. Follow her on Instagram @themommachef.


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