Being a mother of two makes mealtime a stressful endeavor. The dinner table becomes an expansive plain. Where many talents are tried and few stand the test of time. Here tonight, we honor the fallen and lift up those who have withstood the ultimate taste-test.
*As a rule of thumb Always try to avoid carb-heavy, nutritionally deficient meals and snacks. They will be fast-metabolizing carbs/sugars, but they will offer almost no nutritional value, leaving you hungry again soon. The cycle can become a snack-happy spiral that you must train your cravings in order to free yourself (and your family) from.
*Kids favorite*Versatile: capable of many variations in cheese and pasta*
Add-ins Win it for me. The usually bland but creamy kid classic becomes healthier with Annie’s Mac’n’Cheese, or by melting your own blend with some neufchatel for creamier texture and even veggie pastas work for color.
*My go-to: Finely chopped fresh spinach. But you can add the broccoli florets or even some chopped basil for a variety of flavor and texture with a healthier twist. Some kids may actually Love the cool green color!
*Classy yet economical*Saucey & Cheesey*
Another one that I adore. My husband makes the breading out of parmesan and panko, or flavored ritz crackers (if you want to go all out-otherwise plain chicken works well). The sauces and cheese can be exchanged from basic to vodka or puttanesca. Fancy sauces too expensive? Try adding a can of chopped black olives and succulent tomato wedges yourself. Having trouble with obvious veggies? Cut half of it with an orange variety of baby food veggies. They’ll never find out.
There’s also a great recipe for homemade chunky tomato sauce that is Excellent! About 3 pints made a jar for me (the kids were happy to help): “https://www.pinterest.com/pin/320811173439303631/”
TORTILLAS, TORTILLAS EVERYWHERE!!!
Anything can go inside a tortilla. Anything. Beware weirdish combinations kids may not be accustomed too. Also if you have a pickier child (like mine) expect the gloves to come off…. and the food to come out. Everywhere.
These things seem easy enough, and in certain preparations kids may latch on fairly quickly: chicken nuggets and fish sticks for instance. But if you’re anal like me…not many really are though, these overtly processed or “natural” processed foods are a very middle of the road compromise. So if you don’t understand why your chicken never crossed the road here’s why: The sometimes bland taste and the lack of kid-appeal. Remember that you are going up against big brand packaging in fun colors and shapes, with perhaps a regular white looking piece of meat, naturally paired with some delicious veggie combination. Kids don’t appreciate. Fun things like a sauce or exciting arrangement may excite you kids, but most of the time there isn’t enough time for this. Sometimes it’s best to help them develop their palette and try new things slowly without the fun. Life’s tough.
Fish is tougher. It’s colors, textures, and flavors all vary. But most kids just don’t seem to eat this until they are older. Unless they are exposed to it regularly from a young age. There is a lot to be looking for though. GMOs are worrisome though. Be careful of the synthetic salmon now approved for market, it’s FDA approved but seems fishy too me. (Forgive my pun.) It takes a bit more $$$ but if you shop sales or go to a Weis’ or other grocer that puts discount stickers on their day-old meats you may luck out most weeks for organic and wild-caught options. Even if Farm-raised, GMO, or synthetic is safe, I feel better being guaranteeing a safer, more flavorful culinary variety to my kids. (Even if they do not want to eat it at first.)
Rices and grains have a bland taste an usually grittier texture. Although flavor may vary, don’t fret if it just isn’t part of their palette yet. There are so many varieties and options, pace yourself and rotate until you find one your children seemingly like. But once they admitted they do like something new, you’re not out of the gate yet! Go slowly, make it sparingly, so they don’t overwhelm their budding interest.
Poptarts, Sugar crusted corn/rice puffs. Carb heavy, nutritionally deficient foods. The fast things we throw at our kid’s faces (and probably eat the remains of) before shoving the pack out the door and into the blinding light of day. They may feel “full” but in actuality this will wear off shortly unless they bloat, and that sugar-high you send them off with has got to drop sometime.
Kids don’t usually like oatmeal. But toast can be buttered, cinnamon’ed, and more. They are veracious when it comes to pan-fried toast, this is just buttered and bread made in a pan, but the flavor and texture is perfection with the butter melted in and the bread crisped. Orange juice with or without fancy lemon slices is delicious too. We have a tiny waffle-stick iron that can crank out 5-6 at a time within 5 mins. And with enough preparation the batter can be altered (by cutting some of the milk/water with sweet baby food mixes for additional nutrients) and put in the fridge for the morning. It’s still portable and kids love to dip. I know the freezer section has premade waffles which are made in half the time, but there is really no comparison and the time difference is minimal if you prep ahead and start heating up the iron when you reach for your coffee. (Because let’s be honest- Nothing comes before coffee these days.)
Years back, when he first began cooking, my husband was notorious for two things: mashed potatoes (endless fields of fluffy white blanketing out our existence and loading our dinners night after night- still very delicious, creamy, and buttery though) and Stir-Fry. The roles have reversed, at this point it seems stir-fry and “anything I can fit in a tortilla” have become my go-to.
Stir-fry is the mother of all variety. It usually contains a starch, veggie, meat, and sauce brought to a wonderful sizzle and served in one bowl from one pan, with so few dishes I could cry from joy. These are also cost-effective because they can utilize just about anything within your fridge if done right they can even dwindle down leftovers.
And yes. I can wrap them in a tortilla shell with spinach and spring mixes (this is my go-to). My husband has seriously remarked that “everything I make at some point ends up in a tortilla shell”. It’s true, I’m resourceful, thrifty, and if there’s one thing I love it’s emptying the fridge of leftovers and being able to nullify dishes with a handheld wrap.
Be prepared for messes. So many messes. Any picky eaters will literally pick this apart. If you have/had carpeting- burn it. There’s nothing worth saving now.
NOODLING AROUND- with Pasta
Pastas and noodles come in as many varieties as notebooks. There is no limitation here. Make your own ramen (it is amazing if you whip up a teriyaki sauce and pan-fry it), or use some homemade tomato sauce (see above) and throw some linguine in the mix. For a unique surprise for the older kids try rice noodles. They cook differently, and perhaps a bit faster, their texture is a bit coarser, and they are translucent white.
These are only a few ideas, and honestly, each family has a unique go-to or flavor combination. Don’t be afraid to add to it. Don’t be afraid to start over if a sauce isn’t for you. Variety is the spice of life after all.
One thought on “REcipes to REuse & REfuse”
Love this post.