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How to avoid spending four hours cooking dinner for the family

Monday, February 2, 2009
I have been following the Weight Watchers Momentum program and learning about healthy cooking. Now that my husband and I are trying to eat better, I am finding that cooking dinner can be an all night chore.

My kids are relatively picky and very rarely will eat the different meals that I cook. On top of that, my oldest son will not eat red meat. The rule in our house is that they have to try new things before they can say they do not like them. It is usually more the texture they do not like as opposed to the food.

This past weekend I went to the grocery store and spent more time than usual. I tried to find healthy snacks and food options for the kids that could easily be prepared.

A popular dinner meal I serve to my kids is called "buffet supper". I make sure I have a few different options for them to chose from for each food group. They like being able to make their own choices of fruits and vegetables, dairy, protein, breads and grains.

You can purchase ham chunks, which just needs to be warmed up. I also keep a lot of chicken around and cook up as needed. Apple boats are also another favorite. My son created this recipe. Apple slices in a sea of peanut butter with a chuck of cheese on a toothpick stuck in each apple slice.

Other favorites include salad, carrots with ranch dressing, fruit salad with vanilla yogurt and granola, cottage cheese, cheese sticks, yogurt, snack packs of chips, crackers and cookies, pears, fresh berries.

I find if you can make the meal fun (i.e. apple boats) then kids will have more of a tendency to enjoy the food. Both my boys also enjoy cooking. By getting them involved in the meal preparation process, they get excited about trying new things.

My oldest son who is now eight, likes to host dinner parties. His favorite meal to cook is Easy Mac 'n Cheese from the Pillsbury Kids Cookbook. We go to the grocery store together and he helps find the ingredients we need to prepare.

He also likes to make the Pizza Snacks, Frosty Choco-Banana Snacks, S'mores Nachos, Create-a-Scene Cookie Puzzle, Frozen Brownie Sundae and Bunny Rabbit Pancakes.

I enjoy spending this quality time with my son. As a busy mom entrepreneur, it is so important to find quality time with the kids. Activities such as cooking and party planning gives us an opportunity to share something we both love to do.

How do you handle meal preparation for your family? Your tips and suggestions are welcome.