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Katy England Katy England
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Meal time Meal time

Meal time. It's a source of stress, I'm not going to lie. But it's also a source of creativity. Because when you have two thirds of your children eating with gusto and the remaining third deciding that you are trying to spoon feed her grim death, you start to flex your creative muscles. After all, a lot is riding on them eating their vegetables. It's like an epic battle of wills. And since I don't have a lot of willpower in the face of screaming, I resort to underhanded tactics - like spinach in the oatmeal. 

But one thing I've noticed since I picked up this parenting gig two years ago is that my repertoire of recipes is ever expanding. We're talking leaps and bounds. 

I've always enjoyed cooking. My dad was the one who taught me the basics. He was the one who did the majority of our three squares while I was growing up. My mom would pack our lunches, and to this day makes a mean sandwich. But my dad ruled the stovetop.

These days I will try recipes that I wouldn't have dared back in my Child-Free days. Things like baking bread. From scratch. It seemed hopelessly complicated when I was free of infant obligation. Now, letting some dough rise doesn't seem like such a big deal.

And some of my concoctions that I have pursued in the hopes of getting my daughter to nibble on things aside from graham crackers have been downright tasty. Here are a few things that I make that I will probably eat more of myself (you know, when I'm feeding them).

Banana oatmeal

Bananas are sweet. This is not the observation of the century. But if you're looking for a natural way to sweeten oatmeal and simultaneously get your kids to eat some fruit, banana is awesome. I dash a little cinnamon and nutmeg in it and it tastes and smells like banana bread. If your kids are old enough, you can even go crazy and add some crushed walnuts or pecans for the full experience. I was serious about the spinach. I put just a little in. And since my picky eater loves her oatmeal, she's also getting another veggie.

What you need (these are adult portions, not kid portions): A banana, one cup of quick oats, 1/4 tsp. of cinnamon, dash of nutmeg, handful of nuts of your choice.

Smush the banana in the bottom of the bowl. I like to add the cinnamon and nutmeg and mix it in at this point. Add oats and pour hot water over it until you get the consistency you like (add some milk or cream if you prefer). Mix in nuts and enjoy.

Roasted sweet potatoes/beets

This recipe is basically the same regardless of which root vegetable you use (though sweet potatoes soften up pretty quickly, so keep that in mind). Cut them to a size that is appropriate to your kids. Don't just go by the recipe (recipes are for big people). But remember to keep an eye on them, because smaller pieces mean quicker cooking.

They usually follow the same basic premise: Toss in oil, season with something nice (salt, pepper, garlic powder), bake until crispy and awesome and stuff your face. As the kids get bigger, so can the sizes of the slices. You can make rainbow fries!

Smooties and popsicles

I went and bought popsicle molds. It's one of the best investments of the summer. I enjoy smoothies, but not everyone in the house has mastered straws which makes popsicles a nice alternative. Hannaford Supermarket sells these great little bags of frozen fruit in different combinations. They have awesome names like 'Fruit Explosion' or 'Berry Mango Tango.' You toss them in the blender, add yogurt (I like vanilla), OJ or some other juice you have around. I toss in a handful of frozen spinach or grate a carrot into it, and then I blend it until it's smooth. The best part about using frozen fruit is that is comes out automatically smoothied. No ice required.

Drink what you want and pour the rest into the popsicle molds to be enjoyed as a frozen treat at your leisure.

These aren't all of the recipes I've tried, but they are the ones that translate best into adult-type food.

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