I always find that as the weather warms up and the sun starts to shine, we start to spend more and more time outside and I want to spend less and less time in the kitchen. This is probably true for a lot of us, and while all that outdoor time is a wonderful thing, sometimes it means falling into a bit of a rut when it comes to making meals. Keeping things simple, easy and fast enables me to still make healthy choices and adding some fun through, colour, texture and interesting combinations keeps the kids engaged and interested.

I like getting a little creative with food…and when I say creative, I’m not talking about gourmet creative. I’m talking about adding a little fun, creative. Taking what I have on hand and using those ingredients in simple, easy and fun ways to get the kids interested, engaged and excited about eating and trying new foods.

Lunch Box Granola Bar & Fruit Bowl // Mixing fresh and frozen fruit is a fun sensory experience for kids, involving colour, texture and temperature.

These Lunch Box Granola Bars are a favourite around here. Pair them up with fruit and they are perfect for popping into school lunches, for quick snacks after school or for snacks on the go. Even though the kids love them (ok, not just the kids:), for this snack it was all about the fruit, which got an extra shot of colour with some frozen blackberries.

They were just so excited about the combination of both fresh and frozen fruit and the talk around the table reflected it. “This one is sooo cold and this one’s not”, “This one is hard”, “The orange one is soft” and so on. In my experience, getting kids engaged and interested in food like this, leads to more adventurous eating and tempts, even picky eaters, into trying something new or different.

I serve frozen fruit a lot – on banana logs, with cereal, on apple sauce, on yogurt, or on skewers. I also serve frozen peas and corn a lot too – with pasta and in saladsBut it was the combination of both fresh and frozen that created the spark this time.

Omelette & Veggie Skewers with Roasted Asparagus Soup // We all love skewers, for appetizers, for snacks, for lunch, for leftovers.

Skewers immediately add an element of fun, they’re like a little party, and what kid (ok, or adult) doesn’t like a party? But there is another reason I love skewers. They are terrific for using up leftovers, especially when you need to stretch those leftovers a little bit further.

For dinner we had omelettes with cheese and chopped green peppers, plus roasted asparagus on the side. With just two leftover omelettes, I was able to make these crazy popular omelette and veggie skewers, for five kids for lunch. I also roasted the asparagus with some leeks and celery (as per the Roasted Asparagus Soup with Lemon and Parmesan recipe), making sure I had enough for dinner and the soup, then right after dinner I quickly made the soup.

To make each omelette, whisk 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons of milk, and some salt and pepper, in a bowl. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in an 8 inch non-stick pan, over medium-high heat. Pour in egg mixture. When the eggs set around edge of the pan, use a spatula to gently push cooked portions toward the center of the pan. Tilt and rotate the pan to allow the uncooked egg to flow into empty spaces. When eggs are almost set on surface but still look moist, sprinkle on your choice of toppings (I used cheddar and chopped green peppers), then carefully flip one-third of the omelette toward the centre, followed by the other side (like a letter).

To make the skewers, let the omelette cool completely (I refrigerated it overnight), then cut into 1 inch cubes. Thread the omelette cubes onto a bamboo skewer, alternating with veggies of your choice.

Looking for other fun ways to eat omelettes? Try Omelette Training (you could also serve the veggies on the side and let them top their own) and Omelette Sushi.

Mozzarella Bacon and Spinach Melt // Part pizza, part BLT but all fun when you start experimenting with topping your own.

Flatbread, melted cheese, a few bits of cooked bacon. A lot of kids would eat melted cheese on flatbread at every meal (ok, not just kids). So, often I use that as a jumping of point for a little food fun and adventure.

There are two ways I do this:

First, I add toppings, right after I pull the melt from the oven (just 2 minutes under the broiler is all it takes), in this case the spinach. I know that some of the kids are going to want to pull that spinach off, the hot cheese sticks it down enough that it won’t fall off on its own, but not so much that the kids can’t take it off, if they try it and don’t like it. And even if they pull it off their first slice, I still continue to put it on each time, for exposure. Almost always they will eventually eat it. Maybe not today, but eventually. If I stop putting it on, then they never get that chance (or exposure).

Second, I give them toppings they can add themselves, because topping things up is fun and sometimes the desire to top, outweighs the hesitation to try. In this case we were talking about the spinach, who tried it, who liked it etc., and I asked what everyone thought the tomato would taste like on the melt. When two of the kids wanted to try, I offered to cut up their tomato wedge, so they could add it to the melt and before I knew it, everyone wanted to give it a try. Sometimes monkey see, monkey do, is a good thing:)