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12 Cute, Kid-Friendly Dishes That Are Actually Easy

06/30/2014 09:29 am ET | Updated Aug 30, 2014

When it comes to getting kids excited about food that doesn't involve shiny wrappers or fish-shaped crackers, I say bring on the cute. With four kids, ages 5 and under, I have only one rule in the kitchen: All ideas must be doable. (Do you hear me, Pinterest?) Kids begging for a banana while I'm sculpting pancakes into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles just won't work. Instead, these are all simple ideas with just the right amount of ta-da to dazzle even reluctant eaters in minutes.

  • 1 Fourth of July Themed Cheese & Crackers
    Charity Curley Mathews
  • The secret? Use veggie cutters (or small cookie cutters) to produce star-shaped cheese, then thread onto toothpick skewers. Time needed: 5 minutes tops. Get the recipe here.
  • 2 Bug-Shaped Baked Eggs
    Charity Curley Mathews
  • Easier than cooking omelets for a crowd: pour your egg batter into greased cupcake pans and let the oven do the work -- and don’t worry, even regular round ones will do! Get the recipe here.
  • 3 Marshmallow Flower Cupcakes
    Charity Curley Mathews
  • We loved this idea from Today’s Parent so much, we tried it at home -- and yep, it was just as easy as they promised. Get the recipe here.
  • 4 Chili & Cheddar Parfaits
    Charity Curley Mathews
  • These four-ounce juice glasses are my most versatile gimmick, er, tool. Yes, they work for juice, but they also make for mean yogurt & berry parfaits, smoothies and even chili. Just layer it on. Get the recipe here.
  • 5 Easy Birds’ Nests
    Charity Curley Mathews
  • Originally made for Easter, these sweet treats work for bird lovers year-round. Needed: your favorite brownie recipe, a glass to cut the round shape and a few candies for up top (Not egg season? Try jelly beans instead). Get the recipe here.
  • 6 Castle Casseroles
    Charity Curley Mathews
  • If you have a muffin pan and a favorite casserole recipe, you can make these. The flag? Painter’s tape + a wooden skewer. Get the recipe here.
  • 7 Pork & Pineapple Skewers
    Charity Curley Mathews
  • Speaking of skewers, pork chops are nice, but dinner is always more fun when served on a stick. How much longer does it take to cube the meat and thread on a stick? About as much as cooking a kebab saves you instead of doing a pan of whole chops. Get the recipe here.
  • 8 Mini Pumpkin Muffins
    Charity Curley Mathews
  • Making anything miniature always boosts a new recipe’s chances of being tried, and in this case devoured. All you need is a mini muffin pan, and trust me, it’ll be used over and over (and over). Bonus: Mini muffins are easy to freeze and fill out lunches, snacks or breakfasts later on. Get the recipe here.
  • 9 Roasted Whole Carrots
    Charity Curley Mathews
  • And sometimes it’s better to go big. When we cooked these full-sized carrots for the kids, the tips reached either side of their plates, making an impression at least as big. Bonus: no chopping needed. Get the recipe here.
  • 10 Smart Little Soups
    Charity Curley Mathews
  • Yes, these are technically eggcups, but I love them as fancy little soup dishes. The kids think they’re doing something elegant, while the portion size is just right for new recipes. Get the recipe here.
  • 11 Chicken Pot Pies with Flower & Star Crusts
    Charity Curley Mathews
  • Sometimes an Ina Garten recipe becomes kid-friendly with the simple press of a cookie cutter into pastry dough -- and individual ramekins help, too. Get the recipe here.
  • 12 Hard-Boiled Egg Hens
    Charity Curley Mathews
  • Admittedly, these are the most complicated of the group -- but even so, all you need is an egg, a carrot, two chia seeds and a paring knife. Ta-da! Get the recipe here.

Charity Curley Mathews is a former executive at HGTV.com and MarthaStewart.com turned family food blogger, editorial strategy consultant and mother of four. She's a contributor to FoodNetwork.com and the founder of Foodlets.com: Mini Foodies in the Making...Maybe.