I love to cook a great meal. Good, hearty, from-scratch, real-ingredients, no-skimp food. I love to eat it too, with a fantastic glass of wine and if there’s no crispy bread to go with it then what is even the point.
In one of life’s ironies, I have one child who prefers raw fruits and vegetables over anything else, and I have another child who will only eat buttered noodles and hot dogs (without the bun). I am not a “crunchy” mom by any means but I try to give them mostly-good-food and lots of water and a solid 10-11 hours of sleep each night. We don’t miss school and I swear by this system.
But because they have minds of their own and there are only so many things you can sneak into a vanilla breakfast shake (it’s GREEN MOMMY) I have to get really creative with getting good stuff into their bellies. Along with probably every mom in America.
Bobbing for grapes
Last week on a particularly warm and sunny day after school the children were hopping back and forth between polar-bear swimming in the pool and hot-spring soaking in the spa. Whatever, crazies. Our backyard is on a corner lot, and backs up to a green belt, and is framed by two big trellises that are now covered in beautiful jasmine and grapevines. So we feel like the only people in the world back there. A lot of fun and weird stuff happens back there simply because it can and because our care-o-meter is broken (assuming it ever worked at all).
Knowing they needed at least a small meal before baseball practice, I grabbed a bag of grapes out of the fridge and asked if anybody wanted some. The answer was of course no.
So on a whim I grabbed a handful, yelled “WHO’S FIRST?!” and started throwing them into the pool. Brother scrambled out of the spa, dove headfirst in after the grape, and popped proudly out of the water with it between his front teeth. We spent the next 30 minutes bobbing for grapes and they ate the whole bag. Total mom win. (We did the same thing last summer with apple slices and an ice chest. Don’t overthink this.)
They will eat at least some of what you want them to as long as you are smarter than they are. Which of course you are!
11 Other Dumb Meal Ideas That Turned Out Awesome
- Make Your Own Stir Fry – lay out all the ingredients i.e. vegetables and let them build their own bowl. Use brown rice and liquid aminos instead of soy sauce (in the “crunchy” aisle) to cut back on starch and sodium. Trust me, I don’t like substitutions but this one’s good.
- Baked Potatoes – same as make your own stir fry. Let ‘em pick what they want to load them up with. You control the choices! This is a super-fast and easy dinner option when you have no time to spare.
- Breakfast milkshakes – find your favorite mix, use almond milk, and hide anything you can in it. Even better: if you use chocolate almond milk they can’t see anything you put in there.
- Nachos – sautee/roast/boil and blend up any veggies you have and add them to browned ground turkey with a little taco seasoning. Make your own seasoning, it’s tastier and better and you only need a few spices that are probably already in your cabinet. There are a zillion recipes online. Toss the meat/veggie mix with some black beans over tortilla chips on a baking sheet, add some cheese, and broil 2 minutes until the cheese melts. Take the tray outside to the backyard and let them eat right off the pan. Easiest meal ever.
- Stuff on Sticks – My minions will eat anything on a stick. Find wood skewers at the grocery store and carefully cut them in half so nobody goes to the emergency room. Fun ideas that worked:
- Fruit skewers with a cream cheese dip or peanut butter (bonus if you make them rainbow: strawberry, cantaloupe, pineapple, kiwi/green grape, blueberry, purple grape)
- Turkey/cheese skewers with a grape in between, first one to eat their way to 5 grapes wins (another grape. You’re smarter than they are!)
- Sausage and cheese
- Kale chips with any seasoning – Seriously. Toss kale pieces in a bowl with a little olive oil. Don’t over-oil but make sure they’re completely coated so they don’t parch in the oven. Season to your taste – garlic and salt are our go-tos, but you can add cinnamon-sugar or ranch seasoning or whatever your people will eat. Dump the kale out onto a baking sheet and bake at 425 for just a few minutes. When the edges get just a tiny bit brown, take the pan out. It goes from perfect to ruined in a second but if you mess it up, who cares? It only took 6 minutes.
- Watermelon chunks – throw ‘em in a giant plastic bowl or bucket outside and have a seed-spitting contest. Don’t overthink this. Bonus points if a sprinkler, hose, swimsuits, and sidewalk chalk get involved.
- Grow your own cucumbers and tomatoes – It’s easy and they love picking and eating what THEY grew themselves. Have ranch dip handy – make your own with a seasoning packet and plain greek yogurt or just buy a dip you like.
- Breakfast Tacos – Sunday night is tradition: breakfast for dinner and it’s their favorite. Fresh tortillas, scrambled eggs, a little cheese, and a strip of bacon. Orange slices or orange juice to wash it down. No veggie tricks on this one but it’s good protein and fills their little bellies for a good night’s sleep before a new week.
- “Nothing With Sprinkles” – this is an actual requested meal in our home. They complained one morning that they wanted to eat NOTHING. So I made a bowl of oatmeal and put one shake of bright colored sprinkles on it. They went crazy and it was a total smash-hit. Now we make it with cereal too (actual decent-for-you cereal), and whole wheat waffles. Stuff some fruit in there if you can. Toss a few sprinkles or a light dust of powdered sugar on ANYTHING and they will eat it.
- Random Stuff Laying Out – If you leave good stuff laying around for long enough, they will start eating it. Cherry tomatoes, sweet apples in a color they approve of, oranges or tangerines, plums, etc. Literally put it in a bowl on the counter that they walk past all the time and can get their paws into. Slowly get rid of the snacks you don’t really want them eating and they will not notice because there are fun new choices.
Use at your own risk
One meal idea that absolutely bombed but yours might love it – I made an avocado cream sauce to put over spaghetti and called it “Shrek Noodles.” I was so excited and proud of myself but they hated it. Sometimes these ideas tank and you have to make PB&J’s. It’s okay. You will win tomorrow.
Now the real deal is that we eat many a meal that includes donuts and Chick-fil-a. We have ice cream for dessert almost every night. But it’s fun to enjoy the treats when I know they’re getting good stuff too.
Got any creative meal ideas that turned out awesome? I would love to add them to my playbook!