Informal Dinner: Adults and Kids

Updated on December 16, 2010
A.F. asks from Bellmore, NY
15 answers

My husband and I bought a house about three months ago and would like to invite some friends over that have kids for an informal dinner. Our daughter is under two but our friends' kids are six through eight. I threw out the idea of making lasagna to one of my friends and the friend said her kids don't like Italian food! I don't want to make a separate meal for the kids being that this isn't a dinner party, just an informal get-together and I wouldn't expect a separate meal for my child. Any ideas on informal entertaining? I know my friends like meat so we could do a roast, potatoes and a vegetable with rolls and maybe an appetizer. Thank you!

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So What Happened?

Moms: Just want to say I love the suggestions you gave me as I've never had dinner other than a barbecue in my home. I am not used to the above five through ten age group so thanks for the heads up. My under two year old is pretty picky so I guess it doesn't change much even when they are a bit older!
A few of you expressed how it is rude for a parent to say their kid wouldn't eat something. Well, I told her if I brought my daughter over her house and she made something Alyssa didn't like, I wouldn't expect her to make something else. So if her kids will only eat the bread, so be it! The idea of making tacos sounds really great, easy and pretty inexpensive! As for pasta without sauce, that was a good tip too because I was picky like that myself as a kid. I didn't even like ketchup on my burger! Thanks again and Happy Holidays!

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answers from Houston on

For casual meals we usually serve roast and potatoes, spaghetti & veggies, or frito pie with homemade chili (and hotdogs for the kids).

We also serve buffet style- much easier for large groups.

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answers from Houston on

We do informal dinners for families all the time, both as host and as guest!

As host, I usually ask if anyone is allergic or vegetarian or doesn't like a certain food though before I decide what to make.

Make the lasagna if you want, the kids can eat the side dishes or learn to eat around the parts they don't like. Or do something they can create buffet style if they are picky, like tacos, fajitas, chicken and rice, burgers. The roast idea sounds wonderful.

I have to admit, the mom saying her kids don't like a certain food is interesting, I would never say that, even if they were serving raw tripe and brussel sprouts... though I would enthusiastically offer to bring some garlic bread or a nice salad or bowl of fresh fruit or brownies..

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

nothing is better than Mexican for informal. How about tacos? You can have fish, beef, chicken, or all the above. You can snaz it up by using shredded cabbage instead of lettuce, make a cilantro and lime sour cream, two different kind of bean, rice.....That way its customizable for picky kids.

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answers from Portland on

roast, potatoes and a vegetable sounds yummy. You could make that a pot roast and cook the potatoes and veggie in the same pot. Or an oven roast and cook veggies in oven.

I wouldn't expect a parent to expect you to cater to their child's likes and dislikes. And.....just because one child doesn't like Italian food doesn't mean the rest don't. I'd serve whatever you want to serve. Let the parents know what you're serving so that they can bring something for their child if they're that picky of an eater.

By the way, most children love spaghetti and lasagna has a similar taste. I'm guessing her child is in the minority, anyway.

If you did a buffet then it's easier for moms to dish up kids' plates. There aren't kids having to wait to be served, while sitting at the table. They usually aren't good at sitting or being patient. Our family frequently does the buffet from the kitchen so that we can use the table for actual eating. Sometimes, when the kids were young, we'd feed them first and send them off to play while we ate.

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answers from Los Angeles on

A., make whatever you make best and like. If her kids don't eat it, offer to pop a frozen pizza in the oven for them...otherwise you end up tearing your hair out. Or add a mac and cheese from scratch, platter of corn dogs or chicken tenders just in case.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I agree with the buffet idea, and just be prepared for the kids not to eat anything and don't take it personally. I have finicky eaters (sigh), and have long ago given up on expecting them to eat anything besides macaroni and cheese outside the house. They don't like spicy, they wouldn't touch any Italian or Mexican food outside the house. They'd pick at a roast, ignore the veggies, and maybe eat the bread. At home they eat other things, but not other people's food...except mac n' cheese.

By the way, short of them (your guests) having a wheat/gluten allergy, that might be a good thing to have on your buffet. Most kids will eat that.

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answers from Phoenix on

I didn't read your prior posts but maybe just throw chicken legs, breasts (steaks for adults???) on the grill with baked potatoes, homemade mac and cheese and a salad? And a variety of cookies for dessert. No need to get all fancy and almost everyone likes chicken! Good luck!!

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answers from Colorado Springs on

Wow, I've never heard of kids who don't like Italian! I like to do taco salads, where everyone can put what they like in their bowl. You can have chips, lettuce, tomatoes, meat, black beans, cheese, cucumbers, corn, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, ketchup (my kids like ketchup instead of salsa), and really anything else you want! Surely, there will be something for everyone with those options. It's easy, too, which is a huge bonus. Enjoy! What a fun idea!

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answers from Houston on

I've been on both sides, lol. I wouldn't tell someone my kids didn't like something, but that's just me. You got some good advice here. Just keep it simple, and it will be fine. If you do spaghetti, don't pour the sauce on, let everyone put their own selection of meatballs, italian sausage, sauce, etc. If you choose tacos, maybe some chicken and beef and again, let them choose. Kids especially like to customize, they feel control :-). This allows you to enjoy everyone w/o too much fuss, too. It's not WHAT you serve, it's that you want to enjoy your friends in your new home! Congratulations!

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answers from New York on

For an informal get togehter, why not do a buffet with a small variety of foods.

You could do a mexican type theme and have a make your own taco bar. I did this once and it worked out very well. Since I knew one of the guest was a vegetarian, I included some black beans. I also put out salad dressing, so guest could make a salad instead. For an additional side dish, I had some spanish style rice.

I think serving a meal is a great idea. However, you may want to have friends over and just serve a variety of munchie/appetizer type foods.

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answers from New York on

pasta and meatballs for the kids. it's fun food and does not take long to make. heck, make pasta meatballs for everyone.
i say it's still informal but you want them to eat right? then make something that everyone will like.
all our get together that we organize at our home are informal (i could not throw a formal dinner even if my life depended on it), and we always grill meats, hot dogs, hamburgers, salad, and some kind of a side dish. very easy, very simple and all young and old get to eat.
don't bother with appetizer, a cheese platter with crackers will do.

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answers from Honolulu on

They ALL just eat what YOU make.
YOU are the host.
You CANNOT, possibly nor reasonably, cater to each and every single person's or childs, food dislikes or likes.

It is RUDE... for any invited guest... to designate, what you make or serve.

If it were me, I would make:
1) a buffet of various stuff, even store bought so its easier.
2) or a BBQ

all the best,

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answers from Boston on

I would make something that you can make a couple of extra sides with. So a roast would work - then do potatoes, vegetable, egg noodles, rolls, salad. For appetizers you could just do chips and salsa and hummus and pita, and you can ask each set of friends to bring a dessert. At a minimum the kids would eat the chips and salsa, hopefully the noodles, and dessert (and I'd make sure that you have some plain cheese on hand).

And while I agree, it's kind of rude to tell you that her kids don't like lasagna, if it really is an informal dinner, it would also seem like a waste to make a whole big thing if a lot of people weren't going to eat it. Maybe she doesn't like lasagna and was blaming it on her kids! Anyway, I'd try not to get too bent out of shape about that - better just to try to enjoy dinner.

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answers from Jacksonville on

I am sure that your friend didn't want to offend you, but some kids really don't like things like lasagna. Mine don't. And they are older than the ones you mentioned. We don't make it at home because my husband doesn't care for it, so they never learned to like it from sampling at home. But they also don't care for ANY kind of casserole main dish where the food has any sort of sauce. Again, my spouse isn't a big fan of carb laden casseroles, so they did not grow up eating anything like that. The easiest way to keep kids that age happy, is to serve something "plain" and simple. My kids will eat any kind of meat as long as it is meat. Chicken, steak, hot dogs, meatloaf, etc. But don't put the chicken in a casserole or use a sauce, and don't put the beef in a casserole or they won't want to look at it.
Fajitas are great for picky kids. cook/grill the chicken, slice it up and serve it alongside different dishes of veggies that they (or mom) can add (buffet style) on the side. My daughter will eat the grilled chicken, the cheese, the lettuce, black olives, uncooked sliced red bell peppers, etc. But if I put all that rolled up in a tortilla, she won't touch it. It's just the way some kids are.
Or grill hamburgers and hotdogs! All kids will eat one or the other of those. My youngest will only eat the hotdog - with no bun and no catsup or mustard. And I know other kids that are the same way.
I also serve my kids chef's salads that way. My son will eat them "made" now, but my daughter still likes all the parts separate on her plate. She eats them, but not mixed up.

Most kids will eat spaghetti though. So instead of lasagna, you could make spaghetti and still serve a salad and bread on the side. Even if the kids opt for no sauce on theirs, they will likely eat the noodles. :)

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answers from Los Angeles on

What about a big homemade macaroni and cheese casserole? Some bread, a green salad and you're done. My daughter doesn't like lasagna, either. *sigh* Someday she'll know what she's been missing!

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