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Family Going in all Different Directions at Dinnertime?

On those nights when practices, meetings and performances prevent your family from sitting down to dinner together, it’s all too easy to turn to fast food or frozen dinners.  But if you plan ahead a little, there’s a less expensive (and usually healthier) way. Here are some fun ways to get a hot meal into the kids as they zoom by.

whatsfordinner

Chili & Cornbread

I got this from a dutch oven recipe, but it works just as well in the oven.  Put canned chili into individual sized bowls, pour cornbread batter on top, and bake.  Because they’re individual portions, you can put them in the oven at different times for each kid. If you get ceramic bowls, you could even nuke a bowl to warm it up a little if someone is running later than expected.

Tacos

tacosKids love tacos! Prepare all the ingredients ahead of time.  Each person can heat some meat and/or beans and assemble their own tacos.  Easy and customizable!

Soup in a Breadbowl

This is a restaurant favorite, but you can do it at home too. Get those little round sourdough loaves – Ralphs sells them.  Hollow out the middle and put your favorite cream based soup or chili inside – everyone can pick their favorite kind of soup. And the best part: dunking the bread!

Mini Pizzas

pizzaKids can prepare these ahead of time.  You need little pizza crusts.  The kind the bagel stands at the Orange County Swap Meet sell are great. Add sauce and topping and then put them in the fridge or freezer for later.  Don’t just stick with pepperoni either. Take a look at California Pizza Kitchen’s menu for inspiration and let the kids make truly unique pizzas!

Burritos

Another meal for kids to prep ahead of time. Everyone can put their favorite ingredients inside and then freeze them. Kids can microwave their burritos when it’s time to eat. This is a great one to have on hand for those times when the day just gets away from you.

Stew

Put the ingredients in a crock pot before you go to work. It will stay hot and everyone can serve themselves when they’re ready to eat.  Get some bread for dunking too!

Lasagna Toss

My sister-in-law wowed my kids with this one.  Next time you’ve having pasta, cook a little more than you need.  Mix the cooked noodles with sauce, put it in individual size pie pans and top with mozarella.  Bake it long enough to warm it up and melt the cheese.

Fruits and Veggies

Many of these meals are a little light on the vegetables and fruits.  That’s fine for once in a while, but if it’s every other night, you need to squeeze some veggies in there somewhere.  Here are a couple of ideas.

saladSalads – green salads, broccoli salad, cole slaw, other salads.  Check out the service deli at your grocery store for ideas.

Put a veggie platter out. Use their favorite veggies and throw in something different, like jicama. Put some ranch dressing or other dipping sauce nearby, and don’t say anything. Pretty soon the nibbling will start.

Try putting fruits or vegetables on a shish kabob stick.  Same food, but more fun.

Smoothies are a special treat. There are shops that sell healthy smoothies, but they’re too pricey to buy on a regular basis.  But you can throw your favorite ingredients in a blender and have a cool treat. Use the any combination of the kids’ favorite fruits, milk, ice, ice cream and sugar.  Invent a new recipe!

Other Meal-Related Ideas

We all know that it’s good for kids to sit down with the family for dinner.  In addition to a healthy meal, they get family conversation.  If the kids’ activities make that difficult on a regular basis, throw in a sit-down breakfast or lunch. You can even flip flop meals.  Cook a full meal at mid-day and have sandwiches for dinner.  It will take the kids by surprise.

One of the reasons these work so well is because they’re special and different from the norm.  Try to mix it up so these don’t become boring.  In fact, my kids already know all these.  Does anyone out there have ideas to share?