Do you know how important family dinner is? A favorite new find is The Family Dinner Project, which I think is wonderful and weird. Wonderful that we recognizing dinner’s importance. Weird that we have to be reminded just how important it is.
Is it really so hard to gather all together for just one meal? Looking back at our fall schedule, I may need to raise my hand with a guilty, “sometimes.”
“A recent wave of research shows that children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, get pregnant, commit suicide, and develop eating disorders. Additional research found that children who enjoy family meals have larger vocabularies, better manners, healthier diets, and higher self-esteem. The most comprehensive survey done on this topic, a University of Michigan report that examined how American children spent their time between 1981 and 1997, discovered that the amount of time children spent eating meals at home was the single biggest predictor of better academic achievement and fewer behavioral problems. Mealtime was more influential than time spent in school, studying, attending religious services, or playing sports.”
Yikes. It’s so simple.
I’m going to help you out with a simple family favorite: steak and cheese subs.
It’s so easy you can sit back on the couch while the kids make the dinner!
Easy, yummy, filling, with carbs, fat, and protein. Add a side of brussel sprouts and you might have perfect 🙂
We used to buy these subs before we had children. Now, to save money, we make them ourselves.
Start with a little olive oil over medium heat. Throw in sliced green peppers and onions. The Professor loves mushrooms, but the darlings vetoed them. Feel free to add! Cook a few minutes until softened! If you like your onions caramelized, keep on cooking. Add shaved steak. I can find this in the frozen section of my grocery store and one pound costs about $6. It cooks really, really quickly. Add salt and pepper to taste. In less than ten minutes you’re ready for the cheese. Put slices of American Cheese atop the steak, onions, and peppers. This is personal preference – I like cheesy! In about three minutes you’re done! Add a side of broiled sprouts, seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper – YUM. And that my friend is all it takes – dinner in less than 30 minutes. Wouldn’t Rachel Ray be proud?
Steak and Cheese Subs
6 Bulky Rolls
1 lb. Shaved Steak
9 pieces American Cheese
1 Medium Onion, sliced
1 Green Pepper, sliced
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced onions, pepper, salt and pepper. Cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes.
Add shaved steak. Cook until steak is no longer pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
Yesterday morning we had another school delay, due to 3-5 inches of SNOW getting dumped on New Hampshire. These are the times that try the souls of men. And mothers. The kids need to be outside romping! Dear Mother Nature, it’s time to move on to a different season. How do we cope? We make the ultimate comfort food: soup. I owe the deliciousness to Curt, my dear brother-in-law, who prepared this classic tomato soup one year ago when I was in Utah, preparing to run the Salt Lake City Marathon. They don’t eat much meat in their family due to my sister’s stomach issues.
My mouth dropped open as his children devoured this tomato soup, asked for more, and ate it as leftovers the next day. I mean, I had to elbow my way in for a slurp; a soup is filled with vegetables. And the kids were loving it! It’s filling, delicious, and gut-friendly (and believe me, before and after a marathon your gut needs friends).
Let me introduce you to the leek. I’d never cooked with leeks before. What a beautiful food.
Fresh garlic was a Christmas gift. Priceless.
Leeks, celery, onion, garlic will be your base, sautéed in butter.
Topped with fresh cilantro. Are your salivary glands working?
No fresh tomatoes? No matter. Canned work well in the middle of winter.
Light, fresh, and packed with whole foods, you’re going to make your body happy with this dish.
Easy Buttermilk Biscuits There are times when I like chunks in my soup. Adding vegetables adds nutrition and substance. Using an immersion blender makes this soup is classically smooth – and the kids are much more likely to eat it.. Paired with the easy buttermilk drop biscuits, this is one beautiful night at home. Does nothing spell love for the man like warm soup on a cold night? Homemade Tomato Soup
Homemade Tomato Soup
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 Leeks, chopped
1 Stalk Celery, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 20 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 Cup Water
2 Cubes Chicken Boullion
1 32 ounce Plain Tomato Juice
1 dash Nutmeg
1 dash cayenne pepper (depending on spice factor
1 Tablespoon Honey
1. Saute butter, garlic, leeks, onion, and celery until soft.
I have a fierce craving for Indian food at most times of the day. In my opinion it’s the perfect winter comfort food. Since we are hither and yon from quality Indian, I must make do on my own. Sadly, Chicken Tikka Masala is something I’ve failed at making too many times. What’s a mama to do? Ask The Professor of course. He threw in a little of this, a little of that, and ba boom, we had THIS.
(The man sure is handy, isn’t he?)
Chicken Tikka Masala is an Indian staple with juicy pieces of chicken simmered in a creamy, spiced tomato sauce.Now tell me, what’s not to like? Especially with that amazing flatbread Indian naan on the side?Ingredients are likely on-hand or simple to procure. So. I think it’s time to get some Indian on!
2. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, red chili flakes, and shallots, stirring often until fragrant (about 3 minutes).
3. Stir in the spices and cook 30 seconds.
4. Stir in the tomatoes, scraping bottom to incorporate spices.
5. Transfer sauce to blender and puree. Return sauce to the pan, stir in the milk, season with salt and pepper (we like a lot!) and bring to a boil.
6. Add chicken, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until cooked through, about 15 minutes.
7. Stir in the peas; simmer 5 minutes.
8. Eat up, my friends!
Oh, and by any chance were you drooling over the flatbread naan? The truth is, if you’re going to eat Indian, you have to have toasted naan to mop up the delicious Indian sauce. Never fear, that recipe is coming up next! And it’s wicked good.
Since tomatoes only comes once a year, it’s worth the time in the kitchen. Score the Tomatoes (I started with about 30 perfectly imperfect ones). Pop them into a pot of boiling water for 1 minute-ish. Look at those beautiful colors.Spoon them out Plop them right into a pot of ice cold water for 1 minute-ish The skin will peel right off! Put in separate bowl. Feed to chickens later?Give the Tomato to your child. Have them squeeze out the juice and seeds. Oh, they’ll like this part! You now have three bowls: skin, tomatoes, juice and seeds. Now, add Olive Oil to a pan and saute Carrots, Onion, and Garlic. Add Salt and Pepper. The kitchen will smell divine by now. Our children are more likely to eat sauce that isn’t chunky so we put our sauteed deliciousness and Tomatoes into the Vitamix for 20 seconds. Done.Simmer that sauce for a few hours until it’s no longer watery. Add Basil and Oregano and 1 Tablespoon Sugar.
So. So. Good.
Use for pasta, lasagna, or store in the freezer for those cold winter nights.
#4: Freshly Squeezed Tomato JuiceAll the juice and seeds couldn’t go to waste! We added some Salt, Pepper, and Celery and gave it a whirl in the Vitamix. Done.And have been guzzling for days.
Today I’d like to introduce you to a magical summer salad ingredient you never knew you were missing.
But must obtain now.
Thank you to dear Tamar for introducing me to the delectable, edible squash/zucchini blossom.
If you are growing zucchini or any type of squash, you already have these edible flowers right in your background. But perhaps you’ve never tasted them?
You can pick the squash or zucchini blossoms and it will not affect the plants. The blossoms are beautiful, local, seasonal, healthy and incredibly unique. They will also prompt many oohs and ahhhs from your guests 🙂
Salad #1: Kale and Quinoa Salad with Squash or Zucchini BlossomsFirst, go find that blossom! (Come on over if you’re local!) Pick in the morning when the blossoms are open. They will all have bees doing their business. Gently pluck the the blossom off their stem and shake the bees out. Easy peasy. Now run!
Add flowers to the bounty – including that kale you see poking out. You’re going to want both for the amazing kale, quinoa, and squash blossom salad.
Don’t have any blossoms? Pillage the neighbor’s garden, visit a farmer’s market, or, pin this page and grow some next spring 🙂 Gently rinse the blossoms and pat dry. Cut them in nice stripsThey’ll look like this. Aren’t they so beautiful? A rare August treasure.Kale and Quinoa Salad with Squash or Zuchinni Blossoms:
1 Bunch Kale (Tuscan best)
2 Cups prepared Quinoa
2 Cups cut vegetables: Tomato, Zucchini and Cucumber
Saute cut kale in olive oil, salt, and 1 clove garlic
Put Kale, Quinoa and Vegetables in bowl. Use a light vinaigrette or make your own!
2-3 Tbsp Orange Juice
1/2 Lime, squeezed
2 tsp Maple Syrup
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1-2 Cloves Garlic
Salt and Pepper
Garnish with the squash/zucchini blossoms
Salad #2: Kale Salad with Gorgonzola Cheese and Grilled Peaches and Plums.
Oh my goodness this is good. Wash and cut peaches and plums. How many is up to you – 3 or 4 each? Someday we will have peach and plum trees around here… Put them on the grill. No seasoning required. Mmmm. Just for a few minutes until they become soft – but not mushy! Something like this with those nice grill lines.
Throw some onions and cut beets on the grill if you like. That’s about it my friends. Add the cheese, walnuts, kale, and mixed greens and you’re in business. optional: grilled onions and beets Last night’s dinner.Kale Salad with Gorgonzola Cheese and Grilled Peaches and Plums
1 Bunch Kale and Mixed Greens
1/2 Cup Gorgonzola Cheese
Grilled Peaches and Plums
Squash/Zucchini Blossoms, cut
Optional: Grilled onions and beets (we used both!)
Use a light balsamic vinaigrette or make your own!
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
Salt, Pepper, and Garlic Salt to Taste
Wash 1 Bunch Kale and Mixed Greens. Put in bowl. Grill 2-4 cut Peaches and Plums (each) until soft but not mushy. Let cool. Grill onions and sliced beets (optional). Saute 1/2 Cup Walnuts on stove top. Put on salad. Slice Peaches and Plums. Put on Salad. Add Gorgonzola Cheese and sliced Squash/Zucchini Blossoms. Put on Salad and add Vinaigrette.
My brother-in-law has a theory: “For every nice thing you do for your child, they will punish you for it.”
At the time he said it, I was confused. What do you mean? That’s a little cynical, don’t you think? But as time went by, I started paying attention to all the “wonderful and nice” things I do for my children.
When I pack their lunches they often say, “I hate that!” When we take them on a fun trip they fight in the car. When I buy them one thing at the store, they often get upset that they can’t have TWO things. I seem to vacillate between being the recipient of two statments…”Oh, thank you Mommy, you’re the BEST Mommy in the world!” and “You’re so mean!”
It is often baffling to me how I can be a witch and Glenda the Good Fairy within the same ten minutes.
I’m really into chore charts, making kids weed, having children vacuum their own rooms because I believe this makes me less of a doormat and them more capable and thus, more confident. And clean.
Lately though, I decided that I wanted to work on having more “fun” with my kids. My head swirled with wonderful activities we could do together. I downloaded Kelle Hampton’s Petco Scavenger Hunt (FUN idea!). For everything I’m trying to teach, I also want my children to remember their mother smiling and having fun with them.
This month on powerofmoms.com the author call-out theme is, “How Do You Have Fun With Your Kids?” Perfect, I thought. I’d do something fun and submit my story.
I picked Sunday, not traditionally a “fun” day in our house, more of a collapse after church day. Every Sunday afternoon Gregor and I take a long afternoon nap. When I’m not yelling down the stairs to “Be Quiet!” or “Paige, do not open my door to ask me about licorice,” Sunday naptime has to happen for us all to coexist.
I also decided, that Sunday dinners would become more special. “Yes!” Nelson shouted, “Does that mean no more spaghetti?” I guess we have too much spaghetti. So, with “fun” on my mind, I woke up from my Sunday nap and hopped downstairs. Inspired by Shawni’s International Nights of food, I chose Chinese to cook for dinner. The kids were super duper double dog decker excited about that one – they love all things Chinese food. Even the bad buffet lines. They love it all.
Now, waking up from my Sunday naps is usually not a fun experience. Leaving four children downstairs for two hours is a dangerous proposition, but there you have it. I need the nap more than I need the house clean.
But instead of wallowing in the overwhelming sea of oh my gosh what have you done to this house…I swallowed and smiled. Today was going to be fun. Taking pictures always helps me see the lighter side.
This is only the kitchen. The entire living room was a very impressive-looking fort. The other side of the kitchen was a ship made out of the table and chairs. Cope also decided she would make her first skirt with her brand new sewing machine. She’s never made clothing of any sort before. I did appreciate her go-getter attitude.
It didn’t quite turn out. She didn’t know that the fabric was supposed to be doubled. “I’m so bad at this domesticity!” she wailed. I hear ya’ girl, I hear ya. It takes a lifetime to master, honey. And I never did master the sewing and that’s why I stay far, far away from sewing projects. That is why I have my sister-in-law Kimmy. The skirt barely fit Paige, but still, way to try, Cope.
Quick, quick, I said, clean up time so we can have Chinese! They actually hustled with excitement.
Time to move on to our very easy Chinese dinner. Yum.
I found this idea on Pinterest, I think. Fortunes cooked in rolls! I put Nelson in charge of writing the fortunes which he whole-heartedly embraced with great gusto and glee. Yes, dangerous, but FUN nonetheless.
Write the fortune on a little piece of paper and fold in a tiny square of tin foil.
In the mean time, Grandpa showed up for dinner with summer produce. Hooray! Making the evening that much more fun.
That Sunday morning, I took out a frozen loaf of bread (3 for $3.99 at grocery store) and let it rise during the day. After my nap it was ready to be cut up into eight rolls. Easy. The kids always tell me how good my bread recipe is so you should feel very lucky that I shared it with you.
Flatten out the roll, put the tin foil fortune into the roll. Fold dough up and put on greased pan. Cook 10 minutes at 400 degrees.
Uncle Ian came over for games of chess in the backyard. Love having their pictures taken. Fun.
I admired the swiss chard that was sitting the sink, then froze it for the next day’s Vitamix concoction.
The stir fry came together quickly. The rice was plucky and fluffy.
And was so delicious. It really was a hit with the whole family. Easy recipe:
Ginger (didn’t have fresh; used dry)
Garlic (minced…to taste)
stir fry in a little oil
Add chicken and saute to cook through
add chopped red pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
red pepper flakes
Mix together and add to stir fry. Sauce will thicken after a minute or two
Then add some dry roasted peanuts and scallions.
Serve over rice.
I also made frozen egg rolls. They were fair. Gregor cut up the squash and made this amazing spicy Chinese dish, but I really couldn’t tell you how.
The biggest hit of the night was…
Baked inside these beauties were small nuggets of a better life and future…
Mine said, “Good things are being said about you…somewhere.”
I’ll have to always remember how much fun it was to have Grandpa open the fortune roll that said, “It is a bad sign when someone says, ‘you’re ugly.'”
Grandpa is a very good sport.
With our Sunday dinner almost completed, I looked around the table and felt a swell of family love. Everyone was laughing, talking, chowing down. The light was low, the table had been set and even had a tablecloth. We used cloth napkins and matching cups. Yes, a success. It was decided that our Sunday meals would be a little more special from now on.
My eyes wandered around the table, resting on Gregor who gave me a smile. We went around the room and asked, “What did you learn today?” and my favorite, “Who did you help today?” Then my eyes came to rest on Nelson. He had laughed like Shrek’s donkey and scarfed down so much food he was swaying back and forth with happy delirium.
“Oh…” he moaned, “Can I go lay down?”
“Sit,” I said. “You’re not getting out of dishes.” I’m convinced my children are masters at being sick at opportune times.
“I really don’t feel good,” he said, patting his stomach.
He got the look.
Minutes went by and when his mom wasn’t looking, the boy wandered into the living room and flopped on the couch. I took note of his whereabouts and turned back to our dinner. Until I heard this noise. It was that noise. I looked over to see Nelson leaning over the couch and hurling food out of his mouth. His entire dinner, all the contents of his stomach came up. It kept coming…and coming…and coming.
I have never seen so much food come out of a person.
I looked at Gregor. “Oh…Nelson,” he lamented. “Why didn’t you grab the bowl?” (We have empathy issues.)
“You have to clean that up,” I said to Gregor, while yelling to Nelson, “So sorry buddy!”
Gregor went into the living room, turned around, and walked back in the kitchen gagging. “Can’t. do. it,” he choked out. This has been Gregor’s one annoying trait since we were engaged. (Yep! He only has one 🙂 He really did come a long way in our marriage. For instance, he managed to hold my hair when I threw up every morning pregnant with Cope. He changed diapers, wiped up spit-up, and scrubbed poop off carpet. I’ve been so proud of his progress.
But these skills have obviously been under-used and gotten rusty.
So I went into the living room and I’m not joking, I had to run right back out my gag reflex was so intense. My eyes watered, my nose was so overpowered by the smell that I had to force myself to keep it in.
And so, dear 76-year-old Grandpa, asked for a bowl and a scraper and went to work cleaning up the vomit of his grandson. I have had very few moments when I felt so ashamed. But still, even that shame couldn’t get me back into the living room.
Arthur, I’m so very sorry.
Well, Nelson stayed on the couch and fell sleep. The rest of us ate brownies and ice-cream.
We did have fun.
We were punished.
No, I did not submit my “fun” story. It was better here anyway, where I really live.
One thing I vow to continue: We will continue to have better and higher-quality Sunday dinners where we sit around the table like a Norman Rockwell painting meeting an episode of Parenthood.
But at the back of my mind I am circling back to my brother-in-law’s comment. “For every fun thing you do for your child, they will punish you for it.”
I’m sorry to say, Curt, that you just might be right. I’m still holding out a teensy weensy bit of hope though…
This weekend I am running away to NYC with husband. The children are not coming. Uncle Ian is in charge…Good luck, honey.