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Stefanie Tsabar

How to Make 15-Minute Family-Style Meals



A lot of parents worry that serving meals “family-style” will take too long to prepare and could waste a lot of food because their “picky eater” won’t eat that much.

I can totally relate! But, over the years, I’ve learned how to make healthy meals that everyone in the family loves – in just 15 minutes.

On those nights, I don’t use recipes and rely heavily on the freezer and pantry staples. It’s just about assembling a variety of mostly “favorite” foods that go together to create a great meal. No catering to picky eaters necessary!

It might seem daunting at first, but it’s worth trying.

Research tells us that serving meals “family-style” with comforting and new foods is the best way to teach our kids to self-regulate their eating AND try new foods.

Below, I break down three 15-minute dinners that I made last week to show you how you can do the same thing for your family’s meals.

You’ll notice that the bulk of each meal is based on comforting foods for my son, which keeps kids calm and more likely to try the new foods.

Also, I tried to have at least one new (or not-a-favorite) for him to try when he’s ready. For example, roasted veggies were not always something he would eat, but now he loves them, so they’ve moved into the “comforting” category.

Monday’s Dinner


  • Comforting: Best Black beans (I don’t consider this a “recipe” because I’ve made it so often, I can make it with my eyes closed), steamed brown rice, cherries, sprouted tortillas (not pictured)
  • New / Not-a-favorite (for my son): Israeli salad with Tahini sauce (from Trader Joe’s), quinoa
  • Toppings: salsa, hot sauce, avocado

Tuesday’s Dinner



  • Comforting: Burgers and whole wheat buns (all waiting for me in the freezer), pretzels, bowl of cut-up plums, carrots with a few dips.
  • New / Not-a-favorite (for my son): No time, so no new dishes tonight!
  • Fixings: tomato, avocado, cheese, ketchup and mustard (forgot to buy onions… oops!)

I prepared the fixings while the burgers were cooking. I cook the turkey (for my son) and Mahi Mahi (for my husband) at the same time in one pan, and I pop my veggie burger in the toaster for just 5 minutes.

Sunday’s Dinner

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So, this one took a little bit longer because the veggies were roasting for 35 minutes. But, actually, assembly/prep of the entire meal took only 15.

Also, I always make a few trays of roasted vegetables on Sunday nights. Depending on the type, I’ll use the leftovers in quesadillas, on tortilla pizzas or topped with tahini as a great side dish.

  • Comforting: Brown rice & Quinoa Pasta with sauce on the side, roasted veggies & butternut squash (all pre-chopped from TJ’s), cut-up mango.
  • New / Not-a-favorite (for my son): zucchini “noodles” with pesto (I made the pesto a few weeks ago and froze the leftovers in cubes, so it took just 2 minutes to heat up).

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