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Tired of Cooking? Try a Snack Tray

Did I have to cook this much before social distancing?

I think I did. I cooked dinner every night. We only ate out occasionally.  But somehow staying home all day has me cooking ALL THE TIME.

I love cooking, but I am getting burnt out. Between supervising distance learning for my three kids and teaching my own group of middle schoolers English and literature, I have been stretched thin. It would help if any of my kids liked to eat the same things.

How is staying home harder? Why is my house even messier than it was before? I have no idea. I am currently typing this on a laptop computer on my dining table surrounded by a Paw Patrol tower, a container of crushed red pepper, double-sided tape, two empty water bottles, my driver’s license (put that back in your wallet, self!), a deck of cards, and PILES of paper.

By the end of the day, I just don’t even want to cook. My sink is already full of dishes. The dishwasher is full of clean dishes. Various food items are littered around from the kids throughout the day.

Last week, I went to the small grocery store around the corner at 6:30 p.m.

I walked in blindly looking for something ready-made for dinner, and I spotted some gourmet olives in a little container in the deli. They looked amazing. “I’ll make a charcuterie board!” I thought. I was smiling with inspiration under my mask. I already had a lot of snacks at home that I thought could work, so I grabbed a few extra kinds of cheese and headed home.

When I got back in the car, my kids demanded to know what food I had secured for them. I told them I was making a charcuterie board (YAY!).

“What’s that?” said my 9-year-old.

“I hate those,” said my 5-year-old.

Sigh and eye roll from my 13-year old.

But too little, too late. I started assembling when I got home. When I sat the cutting board and bowls of crackers down on the table, my 9-year-old said,

“Wow! That is an awesome snack tray!”

“I like snacks!” said my 5-year-old.

And my 13-year-old was busy scooping out the most coveted bits before her brothers could get their hands on it.

At the end of the meal, we had quite a few fun food experiments.

For example, my 5-year-old discovered his favorite food is a blueberry wrapped inside a pepperoni. My 9-year-old tried to wrap a blueberry, a carrot, and a pepper strip inside a pepperoni and discovered he thinks it is gross. My 13-year-old said, “You should make this more often. For once, no one is complaining.”

Bingo.

It was a peaceful dinner. Everyone ate what they liked and left what they didn’t. It required minimal cleanup. It was wonderful.

So in case you are stumped on what to make for the 5,689th dinner in a row that you’ve cooked at home for skeptical children – try a snack tray (the name I will be calling charcuterie boards from this point forward).

The Breakdown of a Snack Tray/Kid’s Charcuterie Board:

I started with 4 small dishes around the corners of my cutting board: one filled with hummus, one with ranch, and two with olives: fancy and regular black.

cutting board with snacks

Next, I cut up some cheese and added some turkey pepperoni that I had in the refrigerator and put that around.

cutting board with snacks

Then, I added what veggies I had: some peppers, cucumbers, baby tomatoes, and carrots.

cutting board with dips, olives, cheese, meats, and veggies

Finally, I added fruit (blueberries, strawberries, and clementines).

cutting board with various foods

I added a few bowls of carbs, and I thought it looked lovely.

snacks on board and in bowls

 

While we ate, my kids and I brainstormed other items that we could add in the future. These included:

  • Chickpeas
  • Pickled beets
  • Regular beets
  • Nuts
  • Apples
  • Pickles
  • Pita bread or chips
  • Lunchmeat
  • Nut butter
  • Pineapple
  • Grapes
  • Smoked salmon
  • Prosciutto
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Goat cheese
  • Dried fruit (apricots, cherries, etc.)
  • Chips
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole

I hope this helps at least one person out of a dinnertime rut. What else would you add? Do your kids love snack trays, too?

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