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Published July 05, 2010, 01:04 PM

Secrets to Family-Friendly Meals

Your son dislikes vegetables, your daughter is avoiding all things greasy. Your husband wants a stick-to-the-ribs meal, while you desire something light and healthy.

Your son dislikes vegetables, your daughter is avoiding all things greasy. Your husband wants a stick-to-the-ribs meal, while you desire something light and healthy.

Let's face it, planning a meal for the entire family can be difficult when you have mixed opinions about what is flavorful and desired. Chances are you cannot please everyone all of the time. But with a little compromise and some participation by the entire family, most meals can be enjoyed.

When selecting meals, consider those that can be customized. For example, pita pizzas can be changed based on toppings, so a meat-eater can pile the sausage on high, while someone who likes lighter fare may opt for fresh vegetables. Tacos, fajitas, soups, and more can be modified with different flavors, easily changing up the base recipe.

Think about what meals generally are crowdpleasers and give them a new spin. Macaroni and cheese is often a kid favorite but can do a little

growing up by changing the pasta and cheese to more adult tastes. For example, switch out the tube pasta for a penne rigate and change the

mystery yellow cheese sauce to a blend of fresh cheeses, such as parmesan, colby, brie, or even mozzarella. The addition of vegetables or small

bits of meat will make the dish more of a casserole than a side-dish classic.

Fattening comfort foods tend to be family favorites. Just think about those stews, soups and chilis. However, you can lighten up hearty meals

by swapping higher-fat meats for lean poultry or even tofu.

Talk about what meals are favorites at area restaurants. Try to recreate the flavors of that meal at home. With a little effort you can mimic

the tastes of chain or restaurant food with ingredients around the house. Searching online also can yield recipes that are close to the real thing.

Not only will you be enjoying favorite foods, but you will save money on dining out.

Assign calendar dates to the people in your family. On specific days each person gets to pick the meal. This way fairness prevails in how many

times favorite meals are prepared and served.

Picky eaters tend to enjoy the foods they spent the effort creating. Therefore, involve the kids in the meal planning and execution. You

just may be surprised at what they'll try when they had a hand in making it.

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