Here are over 70 recipes you can make using common pantry and freezer ingredients this week. Perfect for when you can’t find what you need at the grocery store (or get there in the first place!)
Whether you’ve stocked your pantry or freezer thanks to a natural disaster, global pandemic or to just plain be prepared for ANY unforeseen event, there are tons of ways you can put your ingredients to good use without getting bored. Here are over 70 of my favorite recipes (from CaliGirl Cooking and beyond) that will help you get creative in the kitchen when you have limited supplies to work with.
This Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce contains over five different vegetables, yet your little ones will never even know it. It’s the perfect base for a weeknight meal the entire family will love, plus it’s simple to make and freezer-friendly!
If you’re sick of struggling to get your toddler to eat anything of nutritional value, stuck in a rut with what to make for your family’s picky palates, or just ready to mix up your dinner game, this Ultimate Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce recipe is for you!
You’re going to love that this recipe is packed with nutritional value, comes together with almost no waste, can be made well in advance AND makes plenty to cover at least two dinners for your family. Every mama’s favorite kind of recipe!
Why Hide Veggies in Your Food?
While it’s important to remember to continuously offer your baby or toddler vegetables in their truest form, there are several arguments to be made for hiding them in recipes whenever you can:
Textural Issues of Whole Veggies
First, it introduces your child (or hey, even your picky spouse) to a new flavor or flavors even if he or she can’t get past certain textural issues with the vegetables in their pure form. The texture issue is a real one for many picky kids and this is a great way to overcome it!
Increased Nutritional Value
Secondly, sneaking veggies into a recipe your family already loves is a fantastic way to up its nutritional value. Many little ones love foods like muffins, pizza and pasta, so why not make them healthier versions and get some extra nutrients in in the meantime?
Benefits the Entire Family
One of the biggest things I stress to my clients and course students is the importance of eating together as a family and everyone eating the same thing. If you’re always thinking of ways to add more veggies into what you’re making for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the entire family will benefit from the increased nutritional value.
Hiding veggies in foods your little one(s) already love is also a great way to begin a food segue. This is a gradual technique used for feeding babies and toddlers that eventually gets them to like a certain food in its purest form. You can read more about how to do a food segue with your baby or toddler here.
Tips for Hiding Veggies in Food
I know what you’re thinking: But where do I start when it comes to hiding veggies in all my favorite recipes? Well, this Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce is a great start, but here are some general guidelines you can follow when you’re experimenting with adding veggies to other types of recipes:
Match Colors and Shapes
Think of a vegetable that will compliment a food that your little one already loves – and looks like it, too! For example, pair diced beets with berries, or kiwi with avocado.
Make It Small
One of the best ways to slowly start introducing a vegetable to your baby or toddler is to do it in small doses and then gradually increase the amount. Shredded or puréeing vegetables are perfect ways to work them into the mix.
Take Advantage of What Your Little One Already Likes
If your babe is already obsessed with sweet potato, slowly start working some butternut squash into the mix. If he or she can’t get enough of muffins or pancakes, play around with the different ways you can up their nutritional value the next time you make them. Capitalize on what already works!
How to Make Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce
The simple answer: throw everything together in a big saucepan or Dutch oven, let it simmer away, then purée!
Once you have all of the ingredients prepped, this recipe involves almost no hands-on time. I also love that this recipe has almost no waste, we use a full cans or cartons of everything, so you don’t have to worry about half a carton of broth sitting unused in your fridge for weeks to come.
Freezing Your Pasta Sauce
If your making this recipe in advance and plan to serve it later (which you totally should!) follow these tips for storing:
Once the sauce has cooled down slightly, transfer it to Mason jars or a resealable plastic bag
Let it cool completely
Label it (and be sure to include the date you made it)
Freeze until ready to use!
Different Ways to Serve Your Sauce
News flash: This red sauce isn’t just for pasta! Here is a list of all of the different ways you can use up your batch of sauce:
This Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce is great for all ages and is the perfect base for a weeknight family meal. It's freezer-friendly and makes a ton so you'll always have a healthy dinner option on hand. It's also loaded with more than five different veggies!
1medium roasted sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 1/2teaspoonsItalian seasoningSalt-free for young babes
16-ounce cantomato paste
128-ounce candiced tomatoes in juice
132-ounce cartonchicken or vegetable broth
Salt and pepper, to tasteMinimize for young babes
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once oil is heated, add onion and sauté for about 3 minutes, or until onion starts to become fragrant and translucent.
Add garlic, carrot, bell pepper, zucchini and sweet potato and stir to combine. Allow to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes. Add Italian seasoning and stir to combine.
Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken broth, and once again stir to combine. Bring to a low boil (very gently bubbling), then turn off heat.
Transfer sauce to a blender in two batches. You may need to use a mixing bowl to hold some of the extra soup while you are blending. Blend until smooth, then return to the original saucepan or Dutch oven on low heat.
Season with salt and pepper as needed, but if you will be serving this to young babes, minimize the salt as much as possible.
TO FREEZE: Let sauce come to room temperature, then transfer to Mason jars with lids, label (including date made) and freeze.
You can easily sub in whichever veggies you wish if you need to use something up!
Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 26Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Vitamin A 1640IU33%
Vitamin C 10mg12%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
This easy stuffed spaghetti squash recipe has all your favorite lasagna ingredients stuffed into handy (and healthy!) spaghetti squash boats. It’s an easy weeknight meal the entire family will love!
I love finding ways to add an extra-healthy touch to a typically indulgent dish. While I’m certainly not against a hearty slab of lasagna every once in a while, putting all of the dish’s typical ingredients into a vessel that also just so happens to be a delicious vegetable ups the nutrition-factor AND presents the dish to the kiddo in a new and unusual way. You may recognize this tactic from my ever-so-popular Papaya Breakfast Boats recipe. Kids get such a kick out of eating out of something other than a plate or bowl.
So, here’s the scoop on this Easy Stuffed Spaghetti Squash: Lasagna-Style!
What You Need to Make Lasagna-Style Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
You don’t need much to make this delicious family meal, mostly all of the typical ingredients you’d use to make a classic lasagna, with spaghetti squash taking the place of the pasta.
Garlic herb butter (Trader Joe’s has a great one!)
And a few other basic things like salt, pepper, onion and garlic.
How to Make It
Aside from a little bit of cooking time on the front end, this meal is very much “set-it-and-forget-it.” My favorite kind of meal!
The first thing you’ll need to do is give your spaghetti squash a little head start on cooking. This will take the majority of the cooking time, about 30-45 minutes. You could also do this part in advance when you meal prep for the week!
If you don’t choose to prep your squash in advance, you can start on the filling while they’re cooking. You’ll be preparing the “lasagna” part of this dish over the stove top, to make sure the meat gets fully cooked and all of the ingredients get nice and integrated.
Once your filling is ready and your squash boats have gotten their cook on, it’s time to stuff ‘em!
Sprinkle on the mozzarella and then it’s time to bake. The stuffed boats will only need to be in the oven for 10-15 minutes, with another 4 minutes or so of broiling to get your cheese nice and bubbly. Everything is already cooked through, we’re just putting on the finishing touches right now.
How to Serve Your Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Unless you have some hungry teenagers on your hands, you’re probably going to want to divide your stuffed squash halves in half once again after they’re cooked. Serve them with a little sprinkle of fresh oregano and some fresh bread to scoop up any extra filling, and you have yourself a delicious, well-balanced dinner.
You asked, so I’m answering. Many of you have mentioned to me that you need more ideas for weeknight dinners (hence this tasty recipe) so I also want to point you in the right direction of some other great weeknight meals I have here on the site. Here are some of my other favorite weeknight meals, especially for this time of year:
1 spaghetti squash, halved with some of the insides scooped out to form a wellReserve any of the extra insides to stir into the filling.
2tablespoonsgarlic herb butter, melted
1/2of a large onion, diced
3/4poundsweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1cupmarinara sauceSee notes for recipe, or use a jarred version.
1/2cupwhole milk ricotta
2teaspoonschopped fresh oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place spaghetti squash halves on a rimmed baking sheet facing up. Brush the garlic herb butter evenly over each of the spaghetti squash halves. Roast in the preheated oven for 30-45 minutes, or until the squash is fork-tender.
While the squash is cooking, prepare the filling. Place a deep skillet on the stove over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is heated, add the onions and sauté for a few minutes, until fragrant and translucent, then add the garlic and stir to combine. Let cook for a minute or two and then add the Italian sausage and cook until browned.
Add in the marinara, ricotta and oregano and stir to combine. Let the mixture heat up and come to a gentle bubble, then turn off the heat.
When your squash is fork-tender and you’ve pulled it out of the oven, lower the oven heat to 350 degrees. Then, carefully scoop the filling into each of the halves and sprinkle with mozzarella.
Return the squash to the 350-degree oven and cook for 10-15 minutes, then turn on the broiler and cook for another 4 or so minutes, until the cheese on top is browned and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before cutting the halves in half and serving.
These Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joes take a classic Sloppy Joe recipe and turn it into something the whole family – even your youngest eaters – will love. Sloppy Joe filling is tucked into fluffy crescent cups for a neater, handheld version of the popular weeknight dinner.
If you have questions about starting solid foods, consult a physician or health care provider.
This post is a collaboration with Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. on behalf of the Beef Checkoff. I received compensation, but all opinions are my own.
I hope you’re ready for an easy weeknight dinner that the entire family is going to love, because these Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joes totally fit the bill. They’re quick, easy, and so tasty you won’t even know they’re made specifically for tiny appetites.
That’s right, I’m thrilled to be partnering with Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. to bring you this baby-led weaning-friendly recipe and share all of the amazing benefits of introducing beef as a first food to your babes.
By now you likely know what a huge proponent I am of the baby-led weaning method, which encourages the introduction of ALL foods in their most natural form starting from very early on in a child’s solid food journey. With BLW, it’s recommended that foods like peanut butter, eggs, dairy, and, yes, beef are all introduced before a child turns one in order to expand their palates and set them up for optimal physical and cognitive development.
You can read more about the baby-led weaning method here. In the meantime, let’s dig into some of nutrition benefits of beef, and how it lends itself to these important developmental milestones.
Nutritional Benefits of Beef for Babies
Beef contains high-quality protein, iron and zinc, all of which are essential nutrients for a child’s healthy growth and development. With more than ten essential nutrients, beef can assist in improved recall skills and reasoning abilities, and also support brain health and optimal cognitive development. You can read more about the nutritional benefits of beef as a first food on BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.
While beef purées are certainly an option for ensuring your baby receives all of these benefits, I wanted to create a recipe with beef in one of its more natural forms for all of my baby-led weaning fans out there. So how did I create a Sloppy Joe recipe that’s baby-led weaning approved?
Let me tell you!
Ground Beef Sloppy Joes That are Baby-Led Weaning Approved
If you’re not too familiar with baby-led weaning, there are a few things to pay special attention to when offering foods to your little one:
CHEWING AND SWALLOWING ABILITY
When presenting food to a babe who’s just starting to eat, you want to make sure it’s appropriate for his or her current chewing and swallowing abilities. Ground beef – which I used for these Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joes – is a great option as it’s already in small pieces and easy to chew. It’s even “gummable” for babies who may not have many (or any) teeth yet.
Sodium deserves some special attention when it comes to cooking for your little one. While adults can consume between 1,500-2,300 mg of sodium a day, babies and toddlers should be consuming much less, between 400-800 mg per day. That’s why you won’t see any added salt in this recipe, however, if you feel you want more salt in your Sloppy Joe mixture, feel free to set some “joe” mix aside for your baby and then season the rest as you wish.
While many traditional Sloppy Joe recipes use brown sugar as a sweetener, I try to steer away from pure sugar as much as possible when cooking for new eaters. To sweeten up the sauce a little bit, I recommend adding just enough maple syrup to tone down the acidity of the tomatoes.
If there’s one thing anyone who’s already gone through baby-led weaning can attest to, it’s that it makes a huge mess! In BLW, babies are encouraged to practice self-feeding from the very beginning, so things definitely don’t stay neat and tidy. The great thing about this Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joe recipe is that the mess of the Joe filling will be at least somewhat contained by those fluffy crescent cups, and babies won’t even need to wield a fork to get to the good stuff.
While the nutrients in beef offer an ample amount of benefits, tomatoes and bell peppers give the recipe an extra dose of nutrition. With less mess and babies’ nutritional needs in mind, these “Not-So-Sloppy” Joe’s will be the perfect addition to your weeknight dinner rotation, not to mention they’ll be enjoyed by the whole family!
For more great family recipes and additional information about the health benefits of beef, be sure to check out BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.
I’d love to hear all about your BLW adventures with beef in the comments below!
These Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joes take a classic Sloppy Joe recipe and turn it into something the whole family - even your youngest eaters - will love. Sloppy Joe filling is tucked into fluffy crescent cups for a neater, handheld version of the popular weeknight dinner.
Course: Main Course
Keyword: baby-friendly, baby-led weaning, beef, entree, kid-friendly, main course, weeknight
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
1bell pepper, diced
1/2teaspoondried ground mustard
114-ounce cancrushed tomatoes
1-2 tablespoonsmaple syrup
Salt to taste (for adults)
3cansrefrigerated crescent dough (enough dough for 3 dozen crescents)
Preheat oven according to crescent dough package directions. Spray cupcake pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until just translucent, about 3 minutes, then add bell peppers. Once bell peppers begin to soften, add Ground Beef. Stir in pan until it begins to brown, then add garlic powder and ground mustard. Continue stirring until most of the meat is browned.
Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste to pan and stir until combined, then stir in the coconut aminos, maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. If you want to add some salt for the adults and older kids in the family, now’s the time to do it, but go as light as you can. Turn the mixture down to low and let it simmer while you prepare the crescent cups.
Unroll the crescent dough from its package and separate each triangle. Cut the top off of each triangle and then reattach it to the side to make a rectangle (as shown in the photos). Press rectangles one by one into the cupcake molds.
Take a tablespoon measure and scoop 1-2 tablespoons into each crescent cup. Place cupcake pans in preheated oven and bake according to the crescent package directions (typically at around 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes), or until golden. Leave in pan until cool enough to touch, then gently remove, using a butter knife to gently ease them out if necessary.
DISH DENSITY: Low
When serving this dish to younger babies, be sure to watch the salt content.
Ground Beef "Not-So-Sloppy" Joes
Amount Per Serving
Calories 160Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 4g25%
Vitamin A 176IU4%
Vitamin C 7mg8%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Many toddlers are picky when it comes to eating meat, even if they’re not on a vegetarian diet. Here is an ultimate roundup of high-protein vegetarian recipes for toddlers, featuring quinoa, beans and lentils as primary ingredients.
When it comes to toddlers’ picky eating habits, one of the food groups I hear most about is meat. Meat can be tricky – it needs to be prepared a certain way that makes it easy for little ones to eat, and the texture can sometimes be offputting. While it’s important to continually expose your child to animal proteins (if your toddler isn’t on a vegetarian diet), there are tons of other ways to ensure your babe is getting this vital nutrient.
Here’s a roundup of 28 fantastic high-protein vegetarian recipes for toddlers, broken down by meal. Seriously, though, there is so much inspiration here! And if you want more tips on how to deal with a picky eater, check out these 9 Easy Ways to Combat Picky Eating in Toddlers.