And Now, I'm Going to Go Eat Some Cheerios

Corey is gone on yet another business trip right now. This is his seventh conference this year, so we're all a little weary of the separation.

Besides the obvious annoyances -- dealing with three kids by myself, trying to give everyone a bath at the same time, handling those "Mom, I'm done!" shouts while I'm nursing a baby -- I'm really feeling frustrated by dinner. I love to cook, and when Corey is home, making dinner is often the highlight of my day. (Yes, I realize they have a treatment for that. But this is my cross to bear.)

But when Corey's not here, it feels silly to make a healthy dinner only to have the kids leave everything on their plates. It's the very definition of "exercise in futility."

I used to deal with this by making kid-centered meals for Connor and Natalie (read: chicken nuggets) when Corey was away. Then I would eat a bowl of cereal. Or three.

But Corey travels a lot. And last year, he was away from home at least two nights every week, since he was working two hours from where we lived.

I hit the bottom of the cereal bowl.

Enter my new resolve to cook something healthy and kid-friendly so I wouldn't be forced to buy stock in Kellogg's.

Also, so the kids wouldn't think chicken meat is supposed to be gray and shaped like a dinosaur.

Today, one of my favorite imaginary Internet friends, Missy, wrote a post about what she feeds her kids for dinner. Because she has four children ages four and under...

(Pause here for a moment of respect. Because Missy? She's my hero.)

... she feeds them two hours before she and her husband have a real meal. Thus, she's in the market for some fresh kid-friendly fare.

I am too.

So in the hopes that we'll both discover some new recipes, I'm going to share my favorite kid-centric meal that's also healthy enough to make even Martha Stewart applaud. Which is appropriate, since it came from her magazine "Everyday Food."

Mini Turkey Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries

2 slices white sandwich bread
1 lb. 93% lean ground turkey
2 ounces cheddar cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 small onion, coarsely grated
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tsp. olive oil
12 party-sized potato rolls

1. In a food processor, pulse bread until fine crumbs form. (Or, just substitute 1/4 cup breadcrumbs. That's what I use most of the time.) Transfer to a medium bowl; add turkey, cheese and onion. (Note: I also substitute whatever grated cheese I have in my fridge for the cheddar -- usually, I use co-jack -- and I have been known to throw in a couple of tablespoons of minced, dried onion for the grated fresh onion.) Season with salt and pepper, and mix gently until combined. Form 12 two-inch patties.

2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium. Cook patties until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Serve on rolls with lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup and mustard, if desired.

2 sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds total), peeled and cut into 1/2-by-2-inch sticks
2 tablespoons olive oil
coarse salt and ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss potatoes with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. (Use two if necessary; they shouldn't overlap.) Roast, tossing once, until tender and starting to brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

I serve this with raw, sugar snap peas. Connor is still wary of the "crazy orange French fries," but Natalie loves them now. And truthfully? They are so good, I could eat them for dinner every night. Yummy.

Also, if you have leftover burgers, they are great the next day for lunch. Just throw them in the microwave for 30 seconds or so.

Anyone else want to play? What do you feed your kids when your husband isn't home?


  1. I just ate my first sweet potato fries at The Queen B's tonight and they were awesome.

    I can't help you on the dinner thing because I just "cook" for myself now. Quit laughing QB! My new chef is Ronald and he is working out well for me (as in McDonald).

  2. When it was just my first and I I would make the stuff my hubby doesn't like. The list is long.
    HOWEVER, this time when my hubby is away there will be great quantities of chef boyardee consumed by my kids and popcorn will be my meal of choice.
    Please don't judge me, I'm moving by myself with 2 and 3 year old boys.
    Nutrition smuition. We have locked into survival mode this time.

  3. Chick~fil~a......just kidding.:)

    Your kid friendly meal looks yummy!
    I'll be right over.:)

  4. Chick-fil-A. (NOT just kidding, unlike Amy!)

    Baked potatoes & fish sticks.

    Grilled cheese.

    I'm just a wealth of helpful information, aren't I?!

  5. I will buy a pizza crust thing and let my daughter do with it what she will. It keeps her entertained for a bit and she'll eat it because she made it!!

  6. I'm bad.
    Bolonga, grilled cheese, hot dogs, waffles, pancakes. ANYTHING that I can fix that all 3 kids will eat instead of them thinking I run a restaurant. ;0)
    And yes, sometimes once in a blue moon we turn to Ronald or King too.

  7. My kids love spaghetti, which I make from scratch with onions, meat, garlic, zucchini, carrots, celery, etc... it's very veggie-packed and they just eat it right up. They also love stuffed shells, with cottage cheese, spinach & mozzarella inside.

  8. I do easy food when my husband is traveling too. It's usually scrambled eggs, grilled turkey/cheese, pancakes, or tacos. I try to do easy stuff that I know they will all eat.

    Sometimes cooking dinner is the highlight of my day too. And I never, ever, ever thought I'd be saying something like that!

  9. I'm a popcorn eater when Husband is gone. And I'm completely apt to let the boys eat breakfast food to their hearts content as well. My attempt at a kid friendly meal is to sprinkle tortilla chips on my baking stone, top with browned, seasoned to taste, ground beef, and shredded cheese. About 15 minutes in the oven at 350 or till cheese is melted. Then each child is free to either sprinkle salad toppings on top of that or have a salad on the side. It's quick, and we're all willing to eat it. Then the Cheerios are for dessert.

    Hang in there, friend. Praying for your stamina.

  10. Do we have a cosmic link? Healthy food? Kids who won't eat what you cook? A husband who's away? Well, mine's not away that much anymore, but I've been there and it's hard! Thanks for the links and I'll be begging through pages looking for the solace of what should be obvious - healthy eats.

  11. I do kind-of what the Queen B does with the pizza, except D-Man just likes sausage, so we make sausage. I also keep taco meat frozen and can thaw and heat and add some rice and chips and we are good to go. I'm going to have to try your recipes! Thanks!

  12. I have found some healthy baked chicken nuggets at Walmart. They are called Eat Well Stay Healthy Kids Chicken Nuggets. They come frozen in a teal and white bag. For 4 nuggets, it's 2 grams of fat and 16 grams of protein. They don't do very well in the microwave, but in the oven they are great! My kids are SO picky. I rarely cook even when the hubby is home because it's just not worth all the work for just 2 of us. Besides, hubby is pretty picky, too, and won't even very many veggies and does not eat "fattening" foods. So it's real hard to cook for him. We eat a lot of sandwiches and fruit. My kids love ham and cheese or pb&j. And cereal.

  13. My husband is gone for 4 days out of the week - every week. During the nights he's not here we usually eat something simple - spaghetti, kalua pig & cabbage, mac & cheese - anything quick and easy.

  14. Cooking. A sore subject around here.

    Just tonight I told Gary I was going to try a new recipe and he groaned and asked, "Why?"

    But you asked about the kids. When Gary's gone for dinner - which is often - we often have breakfast for dinner. He's not a fan of that, so it works well. Otherwise, we're a lot alike in that it's chicken nuggets, sandwiches, cereal or fish sticks. There's no point cooking for just me when I doubt they'd eat it. Plus, it's just easier to keep it simple when I don't have to woo Gary with my culinary skillz.

    So... no help here! I'll be checking back to see what brilliant things you learn!

  15. I love how moms everwhere face the same dilemmas... makes me feel better that my kids aren't the only ones eating chicken nuggets and mac & cheese when Daddy works late. The problem is that now he works late every night, rarely getting home before bedtime. I have decided we cannot exist on processed foods, so my new standby is grilled chicken with salad, or baked potatoes, or.... mac & cheese.
    How's that for variety?

  16. I love how moms everwhere face the same dilemmas... makes me feel better that my kids aren't the only ones eating chicken nuggets and mac & cheese when Daddy works late. The problem is that now he works late every night, rarely getting home before bedtime. I have decided we cannot exist on processed foods, so my new standby is grilled chicken with salad, or baked potatoes, or.... mac & cheese.
    How's that for variety?

  17. We made those sweet potato fries last week per your suggestion, and I could have eaten ALL of them... I'm buying sweet potatoes more often.
    Thanks for the idea! yum.

    And, I'm with you on the favorite part of the day being making dinner. If you do find a treatment center, you might want to let my family know too, so they can arrange an intervention for me.

  18. My husband used to travel two weeks out of every month and most of the time, they ate frozen waffles or if I felt like "cooking", it was mac and cheese from the blue box. They only seem to like day-glo orange cheese. Weird. Yep. That's me. Mother of the Year! :)

  19. Beyond a bowl of cereal I had to think about this a bit, but I've finally got it...breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, waffles, or eggs and (turkey) bacon - yummy and fast. :-)

  20. Ok, that sounds fun.

    And let me tell you a bath trick I have recently learned. My kids LOVE taking a bath in the kitchen sink, even Shep. Why? Novelty, I guess? But the cool thing is, I can bathe them one at a time, in succession, and still unload the dishwasher, make school lunches etc at the same time (at least with the big ones, who do not need me to be hands on).

    It's workin for us.

  21. My husband is rarely gone but my easy kid-friendly meals consist of: blueberry pancakes (made w/ frozen blueberries), chicken and/or cheese quesadillas, grilled cheese and tomato soup.. yep that's it. My son is SO PICKY!

  22. My kids have become great at picking what they like out of what I make. For example tonight we had chili and my daughter ate only the beans and corn and my son ate only the ground beef. Then they filled up on the veggies and fruit side dishes. It doesn't always work but it does allow me to expand what I cook knowing that there might be something in it that they will pick out and eat.

  23. well tonight it's home made pizza! But Donn isn't usually gone this year, and I'm giving the kids a cheap treat.
    When he's gone, I don't worry about meat. I do easy stuff--scrambled eggs (with cheese and veggies cooked in) on toast, or black bean burritos.