I used to love the challenge and reward of preparing gourmet meals and desserts. The reality as a parent, however, is that simplicity is key — not only to save time and energy, but to appeal to as many grownups and (potentially fickle) little people as possible. Since that epiphany, I’ve become obsessed with creating recipes that include six ingredients or fewer (condiments excluded), especially for outdoor entertaining.
Here’s my favorite “six or less” menu, perfect for happy kids and adults alike during this upcoming holiday weekend or anytime throughout the summer.
Wicked Easy Turkey Burgers
Ground turkey or chicken tends to appeal to the palates of my daughter and her friends more than beef, but you could easily apply the same formula to make “wicked easy hamburgers.”
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- Your favorite cheese, buns, and condiments
Mix turkey, egg, bread crumbs, and coarse salt in a bowl. Shape into patties; this recipe yields about four regular burgers, or more if you make smaller burgers for little people. Note that the patty mix will be pretty soft; simply shape and set on a plate and transfer to the grill using a spatula. Grill, melt cheese over top, and finish with your favorite condiments.
Perfectly Roasted Potatoes
When you’re entertaining for a crowd, the grill can fill up quickly. This dish is easy to make, adds a yummy starch to the meal, and kids love them!
- 1 bag of red baby potatoes (about 2-3 pounds)
- Extra virgin olive oil, about 1/4 cup
- Coarse salt, about 1 to 2 teaspoons
Wash potatoes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut potatoes in half (or leave tiny ones whole; you want the pieces to be roughly the same size) and place in 9 x 13 baking dish (metal or glass works fine). Toss with olive oil, making sure all pieces are coated. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of coarse salt and toss again; if the salt doesn’t look well distributed, add more salt and toss again. Place dish in oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Check in at 20 then 40 minutes to turn potatoes with a spatula. Potatoes are done once edges are crispy brown and a knife or fork easily pierces the largest chunks. Turn off oven and let rest in oven until ready to serve.
Easy Grilled Veggies
Instead of fussing over complicated veggie salads, opt for seasonal produce and simple treatment. Note that some kids don’t like “yucky black specks” (i.e., black pepper), in which case skip the pepper step below and simply offer a pepper grinder at the table for the adults.
- Mixed vegetables, e.g., zucchini, bell peppers, onions, eggplant — go for an assortment of colors for a nice aesthetic
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coarse salt (and fresh ground pepper; see note above)
Cut vegetables into large, easy to grill pieces. For zucchini and eggplant slice into 2 to 4 pieces lengthwise (so you’re grilling large slabs), cut bell peppers in half and de-seed, de-skin and cut onions into halves or quarters. Skewer the onions if the layers are falling apart.
Lay out vegetables on a large baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt (and black pepper if kids are OK with black specks). Grill veggies (starting with slower cooking items first, e.g., onions). Arrange grilled veggies in a pretty arrangement on a serving dish.
Fruit Skewers or Salad
I always offer fruit at a party in case the kids don’t eat the vegetables, and also to pad the belly before dessert. A big fruit salad including favorites such as cantaloupe, Honeydew melon, watermelon, grapes, blueberries, pineapple, strawberries, and blueberries will do well (again, go for an assortment of colors for a nice aesthetic), or another festive option is to place fruit chunks on wooden skewers. This is a better option for older kids who know to be mindful of pointy skewer ends, or you can de-skewer (and cut down chunks) for toddlers.
Clown Ice Cream Sundaes
My daughter learned about “clown ice cream sundaes” at a friend’s house and it’s now a party standard. The nice thing about this presentation is that a small scoop of ice cream is plenty; better for the belly and the budget!
- Ice cream
- Ice cream cones
- M & Ms (we use organic M & M type candies)
- Chocolate sauce
Place a small scoop of ice cream in a bowl. Place cone upside down and on an angle to form a hat. Use three M & Ms to make eyes and nose. Drizzle chocolate sauce either in a starburst pattern around the scoop to look like a collar or around the top of the scoop to look like hair.
What are your favorite, frugal “six ingredients or fewer” recipes? We’re always looking for new ones to try!
Story and image: Copyright 2009, Shoestring LLC & Christine Koh / MinimalistMama.com.