Half-Assed Housewife’s Handy Tip #3 — What to Feed the Children

Here’s my tip.  Are you ready?

When you can’t think of anything to cook for dinner for your kids besides fishsticks, ask a 24 year old.  Yes.  I know one of those.  My new co-teacher actually just turned 24.  So she’s pretty much 23.  Which means she still has braincells.  So when I worried out loud about being the only one in charge of dinners pretty-much now that my honey has her fancy happy job far far away (for which I am extremely grateful, because it saved her from an awful situation and it is actually fulfilling and important), and how I didn’t want to fall into the frozen food abyss, yet I don’t really have much time to cook for the poor dears, this young thing (bless her braincell-filled soul) rattled off about fifteen ideas.  Let me just clarify that I must be able to assemble these dinners very quickly, as my dear little Trucker is a bit of a clingon. As much as I like to hang out in the kitchen and cook, that is not much of an option when Mama isn’t home.  Was my dilemma something she had been thinking about at all at any moment in the previous year?  No.  Youngins are so neat.

Of course, I not being 23/24, don’t remember all 15 ideas.  But what I do remember, I will share with you:

  • Quesadillas!  Duh.  You can put some veggies in, too.
  • Grilled cheese, or — she claims she ate this when she lived in Tanzania — grilled PB&J.  That actually sounds delicious to me.
  • Pizza bagels.  I did try to make these once, and Cakie did not approve.  But I tried them this week and they were a hit.  A smash hit.  He asked for seconds, which is unheard of in these parts.
  • Tuna and celery.  Dip tuna into celery.  Fun for the whole family.
  • Dip night.  Get several dips like bean dip, hummus and guacamole.  Then offer veggies cut into dipping sticks and whole grain crackers.  Fun fun fun!
  • I actually had my own idea.  I know, right?  I bought a whole roasted chicken on Sunday, and used it for the protein in several of the dishes.  There was chicken on the pizza bagels and chicken in the quesadillas.  And of course, one night we had… chicken.
  • Quiche.  Yum.  With veggies.  And… chicken?
  • Uh.  I only remember 6 ideas?  Ugh.
  • I bought a tasty soba noodle prepared thingee at my food coop.  It worked as a side dish and a main dish — with chicken.
  • I also whipped out the old Ge0rge F0reman Grill that we bought at the Dollar General several years ago and has been living in the closet.  I’m thinking I might be able to either think of some kind of panini situation, or grill something (other than chicken) quickly.

All of these meals are to be supplemented with veggies on the side.  Cake eats them first.  Trucker ignores them like they’re pork.  But I keep trying.  I will allow myself one night of real pizza a week.  And one night of fish sticks.  But just one, ok?

That brings me to lunch.  Because now that Cakie is a big kindergarten boy, I need to pack him a real lunch.  Now I really ought to ask my co-teacher about this because I’m sure she’ll have at least fifteen ideas.  And I need to whip out a recording device when I ask her, so I can remember more than 6 of the things she says.  But here are my ideas:

  • I have made the run-of-the-mill sandwich for Cake several times in the week.  He likes the turkey salami from the food coop.  And he likes peanut butter.  Though I feel guilty packing the nuts, because I don’t want to harm any allergic kids.  On the other hand, my school is not nut-free.  The cafeteria actually makes PB&J for school lunches.  So… I just packed it.
  • One day I gave him hummus and crackers instead of a sandwich.
  • I’m thinking of making a (I hate the real thing) healthy version of Lunchables.  I’m going to cut up the cold cuts into cracker-sized bits.  Then I’m going to put in crackers.  Then I’m going to put in a stack of cheese the same size.  And I’m going to put them in little cupcake papers.  And I’ll put in something sweet (yogurt or dried fruit), too.  It may be a success.  Or it may fall apart all over the place and be a big mess by the time he opens it.
  • I’m going to make the same old sandwich and cut it into shapes, a la Kevin Henkes’ Lily.
  • I’m going to make the same old sandwich and roll it into spirals, then toothpick together.
  • I’ve thought of soup in a thermos, but he generally does not eat soup, so I’m not sure how it will go over.

Mostly, I’m happy that thus far, he has chosen my food over the cafeteria food.  I’m not sure that he knows that he has a choice.  But I’m going to run with this while I can.

So, do any of you have any brilliant lunch or extremely easy, but healthful, dinner ideas to share with my teeny-tiny readership?  Do tell.

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16 Comments

Filed under Half-Assed Housewife's Handy Tips, my second son, my son

16 responses to “Half-Assed Housewife’s Handy Tip #3 — What to Feed the Children

  1. K

    Just wanted to say that this (non-23/24) member of your readership appreciates this list very much! I feel like my “toddler palate” rut is even deeper and more depressing than the “it’s hard to cook for two” rut we used to fall into.

    I lean pretty heavily on Trader Joe’s for quick-fix foods that don’t taste like quick-fix foods. Some of our favorites are their Harvest Grain Blend made with chicken broth (great as a side dish, or mix in veggies and protein for a one-pot dinner), turkey meatballs, pesto-marinated chicken breasts and chicken sausages (my son loves the sweet apple).

    Pizza bagels are going on our menu this week for sure!

  2. j

    Do you read 2 Moms, it can be done?
    She always posts pictures of Kylie’s lunches for the week, and it’s awesome.
    http://2-moms.blogspot.com/

  3. Lo

    My kid eats like two things, and I am a mom, so I am no help. But I will say I have a colleague whose kids are 7 and 1o, and she says smart things and finishes reading whole books. This gives me hope.

  4. yah know…especially regarding the lunches… you don’t need to have 30 different meal ideas.
    he is a kindergartener. they like routine and are not that hard to please. get some faves – go with them as a sort of routine. then every once in a while throw in something fun or different.
    sometimes when we repeated the same thing several times – we might draw a picture on the sandwich wrap or bag. a silly monster or goofy fish. that can make a big difference in the same sandwich.

  5. A list of things we regularly do for lunches and snacks: pb&j or cream cheese sandwiches, cheesy pasta, string or other cheese sticks, whole wheat crackers or graham crackers, fresh or canned-in-its-own-juice fruit including peaches, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, orange slices, banana, grapes, and melon, baked snap pea crisps (find at Trader Joe’s and Safeway has started selling them), quiche or scrambled egg with cheese and/or peas, pumpkin puree or whatever we have on hand, veggie or pirate booty, annie’s cheese crackers, kashi cereal, kashi fruit bars, turkey meatball, sweet potato fries, quesadilla, beans, leftover dinner from the night before including grilled chicken or steak pieces…ok brain stopped working.

  6. sn

    the dish i made this weekend that was eaten amazingly well (by my finicky “i don’t like it” pasta fiend) was lebanese couscous with roasted squash and lentils.

  7. Nethermeade

    For dinner, pasta’s always an option. Super quick if you use some TJ’s frozen turkey meatballs or nice sausages. I warm these up in a healthy bottled sauce while the pasta’s boiling and throw some frozen broccoli in the pasta pot when it’s almost done. Quick and easy.

    I’ve also embraced the cook big on the weekend method. A meatloaf, pot of turkey chili or curried chicken and brown rice will stretch out for a few days. And you can sneak vegetables into any of those protein dishes.

    Leftover rice is good to keep around for bean, rice and tomato taco thingys. Dump a can of refried beans in a skillet and add rice and some salsa. Plop some on a tortilla for a healthy and cheap meal and add a little plain yogurt or shredded cheese. Healthy, cheap and really quite yum.

    What else? White potatoes and sweet potatoes both cook really well in the microwave. For maximum speed, rinse them, prick with a fork and place on a plate covered with a glass bowl. Start with 5 minutes and check for doneness, continuing as necessary. Easiest way to make mashed sweets or taters I’ve found. Or serve ’em whole with whatever toppings your boys like.

    The bootleg lunchable idea was a big hit when we were packing lunches as were kid-sized yogurt cups. Some days we’d nuke mac and cheese which she was happy to eat at room temperature a few hours later.

    New adventures in mommying. You’ll rock these ones too.

  8. Meatballs! That was another one of my co-teacher’s dinner ideas!

    Thanks everybody. Keep ’em coming.

    And, Weese, it is a point well-taken that I don’t need to mix up the lunches too much. The drawing of a picture on the lunch bag is sheer genius! My readers. So clever.

  9. judecorp

    We have to provide lunch for preschool. Here are some of the things we’ve sent:

    mini bagel with cream cheese, veggie, fruit
    sun butter and jelly sandwich, veggie, fruit
    leftover mac and cheese (cold), veggie, fruit
    crackers, cheese, meat combo, veggie, fruit
    tuna salad with pretzel rods, veggie, fruit
    cold cheese-filled tortellini, veggie, fruit

    sense a pattern?

    veggies tend to be: green beans, carrots, corn, corn on the cob, whatever is leftover

    fruit has been a little of everything: raspberries, apple slices, peach slices, kiwi, squeezable applesauce, etc.

    we have also added things like string cheese, graham crackers, yogurt

  10. The important thing in “lunchables” (or BENTOs, a la my Facebook posts) is the size of the box. They won’t fall over and make a mess if the box is the right size. Small tupperware is often good.

    • Yeah, I tried to make the build-your-own sandwich of which I wrote. I showed it to him before we left for school. When I picked him up, he berated me for not putting in any bread. Anyway. Where can I git me one of them there bento boxes? I like the fact that I wouldn’t have to use plastic baggies, and his lunch may be less bulky.

  11. such good ideas here! my mom used to make me grilled PB&J sandwiches. Love. my dad made me grilled PB&cheddar sandwiches, which I also love but don’t recommend for tots. good luck!

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