One of the things they wisely don't tell you when your child is three and starting gymnastics is that as they get older and their passion ignites for the sport, practices get longer (and more expensive). So much so, that when your child is six you may have three hour practices twice a week that stretch over dinnertime. They do give the kids a break to eat a heavy snack/light dinner. So in addition to making school lunches you're also planning for these snacky dinners that must be delicious, nutritious, and easy to eat for her and whichever parent is hanging out for practice. Ease is especially important because there is so much chattering amongst the girls as they share their meal that anything difficult to eat gets ignored. Before you know it the break is over and your child is still hungry. While this may not seem like a big deal when there is less than an hour or practice left, let me tell you, at the end of practice you will suffer the consequence of an exhausted and starving child.
So, I've been racking my brain to come up with good options. Usually it's one protein (meatballs, fish sticks, sliced turkey) and one fruit or vegetable like fresh berries or green beans. The trick is keeping things interesting because dinner can't resemble lunch in any way shape or form, nor can it resemble whatever she's eaten at the last practice because our girl has a thing for variety. I've been thinking back on the things I loved as a child and kara-age instantly came to mind. The Japanese version of chicken fingers, it's simply boneless, skinless chicken thighs ( I use the skin and bones for stock) cut into bite-sized pieces, marinated, rolled in potato starch, and fried. To make mine kid-friendly, for 4 large chicken thighs I used 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon of apple juice, a pinch of salt and 1/8-teaspoon each of ground ginger and garlic powder. Marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours in the fridge, dredge in potato starch, and fry until golden brown. Easy-peasy, they hold up well for a couple of hours, and taste so good. The hardest part is not eating them all before it's time to leave.