8 Ways to Feed Your Kids Without Actually Cooking

happy girl eatingThere are a lot of "fun" surprises you encounter when you get divorced. One of my favorites is that acutely painful purgatory we call mealtime. No more "you cook and I'll clean up." Forget taking turns making dinner. I'm on my own here in the trenches. And that means I need to magically make dinner appear within minutes of walking in the door after I get home from work every day. So I've come up with a few strategies -- I call them cooking without actually cooking. Here are 8 ways to feed your kids without cooking a thing. 


1. Junior Tapas Plates. You know how you go to a tapas bar, and they serve you little plates of this and that? I do that at home, only it's a little plate of, say, turkey slices, chunks of cheddar, canned tuna, some dried fruit or apple slices, handful of nuts. Leftovers work great with this (a chunk of last night's rotisserie chicken, a dab of macaroni and cheese). It's all about the presentation: Everything on little cake plates or even saucers. 

2. Taco Tuesday. And speaking of that rotisserie chicken, when I'm not devouring it right off the bone, I like to use it for tacos. You just need tortillas or those hard shells, salsa, shredded lettuce, grated cheese, and whatever else you like in your tacos. 

More from CafeMom: 8 Dinner Shortcuts Using Rotisserie Chicken

3. The Raw Bar. I've made it a point to stock up on fruit and vegetables we both enjoy eating raw. Fruit is fairly easy. But for veggies, I'll get those long, skinny-style carrots (because "baby" carrots taste like wood to me), cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and cherry tomatoes.

You know what's tasty -- for moms, mostly? Radishes dipped in soft butter and sprinkled with salt. Know what else is surprisingly good raw? Zucchini, sliced super thin with a drizzle of olive oil and some Parmesan shaved over it.

4. Hummus Plate. If you're lucky enough to have a kid who eats hummus, this is a snap. Forget loading the hummus into the halved pita bread. That's just going to lead to frustration and mess. Instead, just have everyone dip their pita bread into individual-sized dishes of store-bought hummus or baba ghanoush. Throw some of those raw vegetables I was talking about on the side and that's dinner.

5. Yogurt Smoothies. For breakfast, for lunch, for dinner -- does it really matter? I buy large containers of plain yogurt. You can blend with bananas and peanut butter. Or you can make a simple cucumber yogurt soup. For a snack for my son, I'll stir some jam or honey into a single serving.

6. Nacho Ordinary Salad. Dump everything you might like in a burrito -- beans, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, corn nibblets -- into a bowl. Serve with corn tortilla chips. 

7. Japanese-ish Rice Balls. Onigiri are little balls of sushi rice, usually stuffed with fish. Here's the proper way to make Japanese rice balls. But you can make a simpler version with (ahem) leftover Chinese takeout rice. Just wet your hands and form it into balls. Dip into soy sauce if you like. 

8. Roasted Whatever. Okay, this is actually cooking, but it's so easy. Whenever I find pre-chopped vegetables (cauliflower, squash, carrots, potatoes, broccoli) at the grocery store I'll toss them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast them at 375 degrees until they're nice and soft. Sometimes I'll throw in some cumin and paprika, maybe garlic cloves. But even just the oil and salt is a total winner every time.

What do you "cook" when you don't have time to cook?

 Image © iStock.com/martinplkangno-cook meal ideas for busy parents


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