New Year, New Meal Plan!

happy new year 2016

New Year, New Plan!!

This past year, Kid has decided he wants to be less picky.  (YAY!!)  He doesn’t like the attention and questions he gets when eating away from home.  He’s very polite about it… will eat a few bites of things, but usually comes home hungry.  I’ve been super lazy with cooking this past year, too.  I started a new business ( and have resorted to making lots of processed & packaged foods (which he LOVES).

Combining his desire to be less picky and my desire to be more healthy, we have come up with a plan together that I, for one, am very excited about!  We’ve just completed week one and it has gone well enough for me to share out loud. 🙂

Here’s the plan:

Rule #1.  No more separate meals for dinner.  BUT, breakfast and lunch he gets to choose.  Plenty of people will try to claim that never making separate meals is what ‘cured’ or even ‘prevented’ their kids from becoming picky eaters, but they’re lying.  If it worked, they didn’t have picky eaters in the first place.  I tried that years ago when he first started eating table food, remember?  The kid didn’t eat for 3 days.  No, the key here is balance.  Separate meals for breakfast and lunch so he will eat at least 2 meals a day.  Plus, we don’t even eat breakfast and lunch together anyway, so I’d be making those meals separately regardless.  But when dinner comes around, I’m only making one meal for the both of us.  (Chef is at work, so not eating with us till the weekends.)  One meal, one mess, more creativity.

Rule #2.  He needs to eat 3 bites of everything on his plate.  If he doesn’t like anything after the 3 bites, he can have a bowl of fruit. (Which, yes, is still kind of a separate meal, but he can get it himself, so I’m not making it.)

Rule #3.  Friday night is still pizza night, so he’s not missing that.  This is the night that Chef is usually home and makes something ‘foodie’ just for us, so nobody wants this night to change. 🙂

Rule #4.  I promised that one meal a week would be the processed food he likes, and that I would have to eat it, too.  (He knows I don’t like it, so I gotta show him that I’m willing to make sacrifices, too.)  I try to do this on Wednesday, to break up the week a bit.

Sundays we often meet the grandparents out for dinner somewhere, and he can order whatever he likes at a restaurant.  So really, he’s only changing 4 meals a week.  This felt very attainable to him, and surprisingly liberating for me!

The goal is more exposure and experimentation.  I’ve been trying these things all along, but finally this time he’s willing… which is key.

We’re both pretty excited about this plan and I will post recipes of our successes here whenever I can.   I am still super busy with the new business, but if I can figure out how to do the recipes from my iPad, I’ll be golden.  😉

I’d love to hear your suggestions for healthy family meals in the comments.  You can leave a link to a recipe or just tell me how you do it.  It takes a village after all.  🙂




School Lunch Ideas #15: Bologna Snowman

School lunch ideas: Bologna Snowman from

School lunch ideas: Bologna Snowman from

I know it’s a little too early to be thinking about snow, but this cute Sandwich Snowman is good for a smile any time of year.  This is a bologna sandwich snowman.  I use kosher bologna (because I don’t think there is such a thing as organic bologna, so kosher is about as close as you can get), whole wheat bread and low-fat mozzarella cheese slices.

Just make the bologna sandwich as normal, then use round cookie- or biscuit-cutters to make the body and head.  Sometimes it’s easier to cut the shapes before making the sandwich, so do whatever’s easier for you.  Cut a little hat out of the scraps.

For the arms, I used grape stems (they look like twigs!).  For the eyes, I pressed two dried black-eyed-peas into the bread.  I cut a smile from the bologna scraps and ‘glued’ it on with butter, and did the same with cheese scraps for the buttons.  For the ‘carrot’ nose, I used orange cheese, but you could use a real carrot piece.  It’s not my best artwork, but he liked it, so that’s all that matters. 🙂

School Lunch Ideas #14: Sandwich Kabobs

Sandwich Kabobs from

Sandwich Kabobs from

Sandwich Kabobs are a fun twist on a regular sandwich.  And, for my Kid, it’s about the only way he’ll eat lettuce!

In this case, I did a couple of different sandwich fillings:  pepperoni and deli meat chicken.  He doesn’t like the deli meat chicken in a sandwich, but for some reason on a stick it’s okay.

To make them:  First take a slice of bread and cut off the crusts.  Then cut the remaining bread into 12 squares.  Take a string cheese stick or two and slice them so you have 2 or 3 rounds per kabob.  Cut Sandwich Stacker pickle slices into 1″ chunks or use small 1″ round pickle slices, enough for one per kabob.  Tear lettuce leaves into small 2″ diameter chunks.  Get 5 or 6 bamboo appetizer picks (or lollipop sticks or other small skewers).

Slide them on in any order you like, but I did: bread, lettuce, meat, cheese, meat, cheese, pickle, bread.  I also vary this a bit based on the fillings.  For example with the deli meat (which he doesn’t like so much) I add extra pickles.  With the pepperoni, I sometimes add extra cheese.  They are not all the same as you can see, and that keeps him more interested in going in for another one.

School Lunch Ideas: Sandwich Kabob from

School Lunch Ideas: Sandwich Kabob from

School Lunch Ideas #13: Pizza Stackers

School lunch ideas: Pizza Stackers from

School lunch ideas: Pizza Stackers from

Pizza Stackers are another take on homemade Lunchables.  Use tortillas as the pizza crust, and mozzarella slices, cutting each of them to size with a biscuit cutter or cookie cutter.

I also found a cute little squeeze tube at a gourmet kitchen store that I filled with pizza sauce instead of putting it in a cup.  He liked the squeeze tube so he could draw faces on the stackers.  And he’s responsible enough to keep track of the lid.  We have ones with attached lids but they’re too stiff and don’t squeeze very well, so this one gets used a lot.  Fair warning though, pizza sauce stains it, so you can’t really use it for much else afterward.

For variety, you can send them already stacked, or split into groups (all the pepperoni together, etc.), or assemble them -sauce and all- at home.  You can vary the shapes and really get creative with them.  He would eat nothing but these if given the chance, so we tend to re-use this one a lot in different ways.


School Lunch Ideas #12: Warm Puppies

Warm Puppies from

Warm Puppies from

Remember “Happiness is a Warm Puppy” from Charles M. Schultz?  And if you’re a state fair goer, you remember some version of the Pronto Pups corn dogs, right?  Well, Warm Puppies are a little bit of both.  They’re hot-dogs on a stick – like the fair version, but smaller and without the corn batter.  Hence, ‘puppies’ instead of dogs, they make Kid happy, and we serve them warm, so… you get the idea.

People love food-on-a-stick and kids are no different.  Simply quarter a kosher hot dog and slide a sandwich pick, popsicle stick,  or other 3″ – 4″ skewer into the cut end leaving plenty of room for a handle.  Microwave for 30 seconds at the most.  Serve with organic ketchup and organic carrot sticks.

School Lunch Ideas #11: Pizza Rollups

Pizza Rollups from

Pizza Rollups from

These Pizza Rollups are so easy, I wore them out last fall.  I made them 3 times a week because I got lazy and he’s over it now.  Although, the first couple of weeks he loved them and encouraged me to make them ‘every day’.  So I think he holds some blame there, too.  😉

Seriously, though, they can’t be any easier:  Take a flour tortilla.  Sprinkle an ounce or so of your choice of shredded cheese (we do mozzarella) on the tortilla (just one side).  Heat in the microwave for 25 seconds (or until cheese is just melted).  Take it out, and add a layer of pepperoni (about 6 or 7 slices) leaving some room at the edges.  Fold opposite sides toward the middle so it looks like an open-ended burrito.  The whole thing takes less than 2 minutes.  Serve with pizza sauce for dipping.

One trick about the apples… notice how they’re tucked into one another like a weave pattern??  This is the best way I have found to get a whole apple into a flat sandwich container.  See, my Kid doesn’t like to eat whole apples.  The peels get stuck in is teeth, etc.  So, I have to cut them and this pattern fits even those huge organic Honeycrisp apples.  Apples are his favorite, so we do this a lot!

School Lunch Ideas #10: Pepperoni & Crackers

Pepperoni & Crackers from

Pepperoni & Crackers from

I once asked on Twitter “How many days in a row can a child eat Pepperoni & crackers before blowing out his colon?”   Apparently quite a few since he eats this all the time, for several years running, and said colon explosion has not yet happened.

This is another cheat day for me using the store-bought Jello.  I haven’t yet found a way to make Jello in an organic or otherwise healthy way, so it gets relegated to the dessert list.  Not totally sent to the ‘naughty’ list though.  If you have thin or weak hair and nails, making Jello a mainstay in your diet can work wonders to remedy that.  True story.

We love these rosemary flatbread crackers and you’ve seen them in other lunches here.  We make an olive tapenade that he clamors for (but won’t let me send it to school… hmm.) that we eat with these crackers and it’s a heavenly combo.  One of the few things all three of us go ga-ga for.

He also loves it when I send these little wooden appetizer forks/picks with his fruit.  He says it feels all ‘fancy’ to use them… like he’s at a party.  Every day’s a party with you, buddy. xoxo


School Lunch Ideas #9: Chicken Fries & Cantelope Men

Chicken Fries and Cantelope Men from

Chicken Fries and Cantelope Men from

I’m cheating with the chicken fries here… these are the Tyson brand of frozen chicken sticks.  So not organic, not free range, or any of the things I usually insist upon.  I could – and sometimes do – easily make these at home but Chef brought them home one day and they have been a special treat ever since.  They’re kind of a special treat for me, too since they cook in about minute in the microwave.

Since they’re on my ‘naughty’ list, I sent them with organic ketchup, matchstick-cut organic carrots, and organic cantelope (locally sourced) cut into little gingerbread men shapes using my Pop Chef cutter.  A little naughty and a lot of nice makes for a better balance in my mind.

A little trick with the cantelope… sprinkle with a hint of cinnamon sugar if it’s not super-sweet.  You know how sometimes you get anxious and cut that thing open before it’s reached its full sweetness potential?  Cinnamon sugar does the trick.

School Lunch Ideas #8: Pizza Pasta Salad

Pizza Pasta Salad from

Pizza Pasta Salad from

If your Kid loves pizza as much as mine, Pizza Pasta Salad could be their new favorite thing!   Basically, instead of crust, we have pasta.  Turns out Kid doesn’t love Italian dressing, so we added a little pizza sauce to the dressing for our next version (not pictured) and that went over much better.  But he did like it well enough to eat more than half, which in my book is great for something he claims not to like.  Kid also doesn’t always like cheese in stuff, so we try to put it on the side whenever possible.  He does love green olives and pepperoni, so those we added liberally.  And that’s really all there is to it.

You can experiment with different pastas – whole grain, whole grain blends, different shapes, etc. to find the combo that works best for your Kid.  We do that all the time to present familiar flavors in a new way.

One thing that’s great about this dish is that whenever we have to bring a potluck dish, we can bring this and know that our son will have something he likes to eat.  But be forewarned, it’s a crowd-pleaser so either make a big batch, or bring Kid his own private container of it so he gets enough.

School Lunch Ideas #7: Mini Tortilla Pizzas

Mini Tortilla Pizzas from

Mini Tortilla Pizzas from

Mini Tortilla Pizzas are ChefsKid’s version of homemade pizza lunchables.  The crust is made from cutting flour tortillas with a scalloped-edge 2″ biscuit- or cookie-cutter.  It’s slightly bigger than the size of the prepackaged pepperoni.  We add organic pizza sauce and low-fat mozzarella cheese in 2oz containers (with lids – not shown) inside the shallow sandwich container and can fit a lot in there.  Way more than you get if you buy the prepackaged kind.

Grapes are cut in quarters so you can fit a lot more of them in there and round out the food pyramid.  Goldfish crackers make a great snack during class and you can fit a surprising number of them in the 200ml container.  Sistema also makes this great silverware pack.  It has two handles with interchanging tops of fork, knife, spoon, and chopsticks!  It’s so clever!  Not to mention handy and easy to wash and reuse.

Since Kid is a pepperoni addict, this is one of his all-time favorite lunches.