Friday, October 25, 2013

Seven (Not Horribly Bad for Them) Cheater Meals


Do you do cheater meals?
For the most part I make a normal meal every night for the fam but once in a while I am just too plain exhausted or something unexpected comes up or Brian and I want an in-house date night after the kids are in bed so they eat separately.  Or those Saturdays when we've been working on a project all day and I totally forgot to put something in the crockpot or plan accordingly.  On those nights I rely on my cheater meals.  The meals that take five minutes or so to put together that they will eat without complaint.  I don't really keep frozen processed foods in the house so these meals are easy ways to make a meal that is fast and convenient without all the added preservatives and junk that the frozen boxed stuff contains.

1.
Tuna Cheesies
My mom made these growing up and now my kids love them.  My mom made them with english muffins but I usually just use whatever carb type product I have on hand: rolls sliced in half, simple slices of bread or bagels.  
Make some tuna salad, layer it on your bread product of choice, top with shredded or sliced cheddar cheese.  Then just broil for about 2 minutes.  
Pair it with some veggie sticks and you've got all your food groups covered.


2.
Meatball Sandwiches 
As you may or may not have heard, we are slightly obsessed with Trader Joe's and one of our favorite things they carry is their party size meatballs.  I suppose they might be considered processed by some people but I can recognize all the ingredients and with the exception of the soy flour, it's all legible and okay-by-me real ingredients.  They are so good.  In fact, Brian and I will use them for our own special date night dinner after the boys are in bed because we are that ghetto they are that delicious.

3.
Mini Pizzas
Pretty much the same exact idea as the tuna cheesies but pizza style.  Bread product of choice (roll, bagel, english muffin, pita), pasta sauce, cheese.  Add other toppings if you want but my kids are happy plain cheese eaters.  Broil about 2 minutes and the kids will be thrilled with their mini pizzas.  Again, I usually throw some sort of finger veggies or make some frozen peas or whatever to go with it.


4.
Bean and Cheese Burritos
This is a slightly obvious one but a can of refried beans (check the ingredients and get the kind without lard or hydrogenated oils), some cheddar cheese and a tortilla (again, TJ's has the healthiest ready-made ones).  Heat the beans and assemble at table.  Throw some veggies on there for good measure.

I tried and failed many a time to take an appealing picture of a burrito for you.  My apologies.

5.
Dip Night
The boys love them some dip nights.  We do this sometimes when Brian is out of town and I'm trying to make things fun for them and because Brian won't eat this stuff so it's our chance.  I'll set a couple of dips on the table, some blue corn tortilla chips, some veggie sticks, and let them at it.  Our dip choices have included pre-made hummus, Buffalo bean dip, refried bean dip, guacamole, or taco dip but there are lots of healthy dips besides those out there to choose from.

6.
Freezer Soup
Is this cheating?  Once in a while when we have leftovers that I don't feel like using for a lunch but that aren't enough to feed all of us for another dinner, I will freeze it and label it as a smaller batch for use on one of these easy nights.  It's almost always soup but sometimes chili.  The kids love my split pea soup more than I do.  Weirdos.  I use a quart size freezer bag.  Thaw, reheat, crackers, done.


7.
Crudite Tray
When you're the parent you get to make choices like serving a tray of crackers, cheese, fruit, tuna salad, hummus, and veggie sticks for dinner and that's allowed!  I take full advantage of that liberty.


Now tell me, what are your healthy-esque cheater meals?  I'd love to mix it up a bit!
See Cari-in-lieu-of-Jen for more Takes




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28 comments:

  1. Mmmm, good ideas. Our quick dinners are usually breakfast-for-dinner!

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    1. Ooh, yes! Eggs! Our hens are on a laying strike right now so eggs have been especially enjoyed lately!

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  2. Love 'em all . . . except for the tuna. ;-) No matter how hard I try I just don't like it. I love our dip nights, probably more than I should, but it's just so fun and yummy!

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    1. I will admit that I have been known to make a plate of dip for myself and polish off half for lunch...

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  3. I often make homemade mac and cheese (the super easy way - just melt cheese and butter and add milk). Or thaw some homemade spaghetti sauce (your mom's recipe) and throw it on spaghetti.

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    1. I should get that recipe! I do keep a couple of organic mac and cheese boxes in the cupboard just in case!

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  4. I love cheater meals! Sometimes I think that they should be all the time meals!

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    1. I know, right?! It's a nice break to have the kids love an easily prepared meal and not have to feel guilty about it!

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  5. Thanks for sharing -- these will make great lunches for my bunch, especially the tuna cheesies on Fridays.

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    1. Glad to help! Yep, the boys always request them on Fridays especially during the summer when it's too hot for any real baking or cooking.

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  6. I love TJ's party meatballs too! Have you tried baking them with BBQ sauce? Perfection.

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  7. These look pretty familiar, hehe, except the meatballs I may have to try them since u have been raving about them( u should get a commission for all those shout outs!)

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    1. Totally should! Gift card form would work.

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  8. I love this b/c it helps me think out of the box! It is totally ok to have cheater meals - and these are actually nutritious too! Sometimes we (moms!) just need to cut ourselves some slack! :)

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    1. Especially during survival mode days when simply feeding them feels like (IS!) a heroic effort ;)

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  9. love 'em! Around here, our favorite cheater meals are nachos (chips and cheese! toast in the oven and done) and popcorn (with lots of butter and cheese, and maybe a glass of milk and some fruit on the side).

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    1. How could I forget nachos?! Yes, I've totally done that and the kids think it is the most special thing EVER,

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  10. Hey! My talk to me tuesday this week is going to be quick meals. I am easing into becoming a legit housewife and want to start slowly on the whole cooking thing ;)

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    1. Legit Housewifery 101 shall be my next blog series :) (Is that what the nun habit is all about? ;)

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  11. I just posted one of my favorites on my blog: mashed potato soup. It's so easy to pull out of the freezer and heat up in the Winter. I can't eat it anymore but I love recommending it. :) I also like to make mini pizza crusts (wheatless) in big batches and then we can just pull them out of the fridge and add cheese and sauce.

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    1. I love the crust idea! I should do that because I don't always have rolls or English muffins on hand. I do homemade pizza a lot but that would totally help me on the days where I need something fast. I'll check out that soup!

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  12. Great cheaters. My husband and son would not eat tuna melts but my daughter and I will. She and I eat Annie's Mac n cheese with a can of tuna stirred in -- tuna noodle! My favorite cheaters are soup, too. Cream of tomato with grilled cheese, leftover Chili (or BBQ beef) on baked potatoes, tortellini soup and potsticker soup (check my food blog for those recipes).

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    1. I don't think I even realized you had a food blog! Will do!

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  13. Love this thread! We eat a lot of the same cheater meals you do...english muffin pizzas, bean and cheese burritoes. I also do pizza quesadillas if we don't have english muffins or bagels (we usually don't). Take a tortilla (we usually use corn), spread with sauce and cheese, put another tortilla on top and back in the oven. We do the same thing with beans/cheese or shredded chicken/cheese.

    Also love the dip idea...we do hummus and chips a lot. Nachos are also a big hit...corn chips with beans and cheese and chopped tomatoes all baked in the oven.

    Pasta is probably my biggest cheater meal. Cook pasta and the toss with butter and parmesean cheese and serve with a side of breakfast sausage or hot dogs (if we have the heathier kind, w/o any nitrates) or scrambled eggs (I know eggs and pasta sounds weird, but it's actually really good).

    If we're really desperate, we do PB&J. :)

    All of these things, I serve with cooked frozen veggies.

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    1. Oh yes, we've definitely had sandwich nights aaaand I'll even admit cereal nights...mostly when I was too sick from pregnancy or illness to make anything else!

      Pasta is definitely one of my go-tos as well!

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  14. It's a great list - and you're lucky you don't have anyone with food allergies. I kept thinking, "Oh that's good but J can't eat it." Food allergies are no fun.

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    1. Oh, I know. From the little bit of elimination dieting I've done, I have only a glimpse of how hard that must be, especially with kids. We're very blessed that so far, no serious allergies have been noticed.

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