#30DaysofDinner Meal Plan: Week One

family-dishing-up-dinnerWe all know the month of September can be hectic. Kids are heading back to school. Fall sports and after-school activities are starting up. While getting into the routine of it all after the slow months of summer, it’s easy to feel like each member of the family is going in a different direction.

The 30 Day Dinner Challenge gives you the opportunity to focus on spending time as a family around the dinner table during this busy season.

To help you through the #30DaysofDinner, we’ll be sharing a new meal plan here each week so you never run out of ideas. Make sure to follow our #30DaysofDinner board on Pinterest to get even more recipes for easy dinners, delicious sides, and even a special dessert or two!

Monday:
Take advantage of a day off from work and school by fixing Texas Roadhouse Burgers with Seasoned Steak Fries from August’s menu. Serve with a fresh side salad for a meal fit for a celebration!

Tuesday:
Try something new by fixing the Chicken in Herbed Mustard Sauce Recipe from the Dream Dinners cookbook.

You’ll need: 
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp corn starch
6 4-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the lemon juice, wine, mustard, garlic, rosemary, peppercorns, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes and stir. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine chicken broth, olive oil and cornstarch and mix until incorporated.
  3. Combine the wine mixture and the cornstarch mixture in a resealable freezer bag. Add chicken and marinade over night.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and marinade. Bring the marinade to a boil and cook the chicken for 5 minutes per side, allowing the sauce to thicken.
  5. Serve over egg noodles or with roasted-garlic mashed potatoes.

Wednesday:
For an easy week-night dinner the whole family will love, serve Pub Style Chicken with Mashed Potatoes from August’s menu and a green salad with Ranch dressing.

Thursday:
It’s taco night! Fix the Carne Asada Steak Tacos from August’s menu. Don’t forget to set out lots of toppings, such as avocado slices, sour cream, and cheddar cheese, so everyone can customize their own meal. Serve Mexican Inspired Corn on the Cob as a side.

You’ll need:
6 ears of corn
6 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp chili powder
1/4 cup grated cotija cheese
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
2 limes, juiced

Directions:
Cook corn as desired. When done, rub each ear of corn with 1 tbsp of butter. Sprinkle with chili powder, cotija cheese, cilantro, and lime juice. Serve immediately.

Friday:
Try these Baked Honey-Lime Taquitos from Lovely Little Kitchen for a meal both parents and kids will love. These can be easily transported to wherever your family needs to be on a busy Friday night.

Saturday:
Chateau Chicken with Almond Butter Sauce can go from fridge to table in just 20 minutes, which is perfect if you have plans on Saturday. However, this Fan Favorite dinner’s savory flavor will make the whole family want to linger around the table. Serve with our Finishing Touch Garlic Asparagus Spears and some crunchy bread to soak up the extra almond butter sauce.

Sunday:
Utilize your slow cooker this Sunday so you can spend extra time with your family before the week starts without worrying about fixing dinner. Try our Keilbasa Bean Soup from the Dream Dinners cookbook and you’ll discover a new go-to Crock Pot recipe.

Want to win a month of dinners? Find out how to enter our 30 Day Dinner Challenge photo contest here.

Meeting Non-Talkative Teenagers Where They Are

As they hit the high school years, moms of teens know our once chatty kids can become aloof or too busy to connect. They have irregular work hours, a challenging class load, and are busy with friends and dates.

There are moments though, to capture.

Make a point to greet your teen when they get home, even if it’s an odd time.  My son’s curfew was 11:30PM, so I always stayed up to say, “hello” when he arrived. If he got home from work at 8:30PM and was ravaging through the refrigerator for something to eat, I would sit down with him while he ate.

When my teen did homework, I’d offer to help. Sometimes we’d do Continue reading

Who Eats with Your Kids?

The Hour That Matters MostAt a signing for our book, The Hour that Matters Most, one mom shared her transforming story about one simple dinnertime change that made all the difference with her daughter. Because her husband worked a late shift, she always fed her toddler dinner early while she bustled about in the kitchen.  Later, when her husband arrived home, she would sit down to eat dinner with him.

This mom was so fun to meet as she excitedly told me about something she’d picked up from the book. She realized she was overlooking the connection opportunity with her daughter at mealtimes and implemented a new habit.  Now, she always sits down at the table with a cup of tea and enjoys her daughter’s company. What a difference it’s made! They chat, face to face, which warms her heart and their relationship!  This mom’s found a valuable opportunity to connect with her daughter while still saving time for dinner with her husband.

4 more tips for making sure to connect with our little ones at meals: Continue reading

Fill up your Summer Season with Fruits and Vegetables

Summer is the perfect time to focus on eating plenty of delicious, ripe seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are loaded with disease defying vitamins, minerals and fiber.  An adequate intake is good for your skin, immune system, digestion, and will help ward off high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Often our lifestyle goals focus on what not to eat; what if we tried the opposite? How about increasing our produce intake? Continue reading

10 Tips for Relaxing and Enjoying your Guests

When I host gatherings, my friends and family often say, “You’re so relaxed; how do you do it?” I didn’t know I was relaxed, but, I guess I am! Through years of practice, both at home and in the catering business, I’ve found a rhythm that works best for me.

family gathering and entertainingMy style is informal entertaining. Whether we’re in the yard serving a buffet or at the table eating family-style, my aim is to focus on our guests. I want to enjoy our company instead of fussing over something I could have done earlier.

Guests will pick up on our mood and quickly notice if we’re stressed or relaxed. Our emotions set the tone for everyone else. Relaxed entertaining has everything to do with: Continue reading

Make your Own Salad Dressing

making salad dressingEach week, I pick up my bag of organic produce from our nearby healthy eatery and find renewed inspiration to mix up some fresh picked greens with my homemade salad dressing. I love that my produce is local and sustainably grown and that the ingredients in my salad dressing are natural. I’m not a purist, but, I do appreciate healthy food that doesn’t require learning ingredient names with a dictionary.

Making your own dressing is simple and fun to personalize. You can almost never mess it up, even if you don’t use a measuring spoon.  Mix it in a cruet or use any small sealed container to shake it up one last time before adding to your salad.

The following is one of my favorite dressing recipes that I keep on hand for the summer. Continue reading

Celebrating a Graduation this Year?

Here’s how to make it special!

If you’re throwing a graduation party, be free to make it unique to your graduate.

Celebrate their way.
If they don’t like crowds and shy away from too much attention, make the guest list small and let them open their gifts personally with the giver.

graduation-now-and-thenBut, if they like to be the center of attention, invite all their friends and let them take center stage! Set up a time to publicly praise your graduate and let others have a chance to affirm them too.

Show off their ‘then’ and ‘now.’ Continue reading

Dinnertime Ground Rules

While visiting from out-of-town, Grandma (my mom), was having breakfast with us when her cell phone rang. This was a predicament for the kids who turned to me wondering what I’d do (knowing we don’t allow cell phones at the table). Since Grandma has disregarded our house rule before, I thought it a good time to kindly ask, “Do you mind not answering that?”  She looked at me, thought for a ring, and then answered it anyway!  We sat trying to enjoy our meal while she carried on a conversation with someone else at the table. She eventually got up and walked away.  But, by then, everyone was nearly done and our ‘quality time’ felt spoiled.

Now, Grandma LOVES her grandchildren. She didn’t realize what affect her choice had on us. No doubt, we’ve all made decisions that have been detrimental to quality mealtimes together. The point of having dinnertime ground rules is to enjoy one another.  Although unfortunate, this experience taught my kids a little lesson on why we don’t allow cell phones at the table – and I didn’t have to preach.

Since I’m making the effort of prioritizing family meals, it’s important to guard our time from unwelcome interference.  Although some meals feel like ‘eat-and-run,’ I want to make room for more: real discussion and heartwarming laughter.

When eating together, try these mealtime ground rules: Continue reading

Making Time for your Spouse

Men and women are a great mix aren’t we? We fall in love and want to be together every possible chance and then later we notice our differing interests take us apart. Being together often takes a compromise.

stephanie-vern-big-wheel-nightHere’s some ways I enjoy time with my spouse:

  •  If he’s doing a project, like working on the boat, I grab a book and just hang out by him.
  •  He loves the news more than I do, yet, we’ve made it a habit to record it on DVR and watch it together when we both get home. It always stirs up interesting conversation.
  • Even if I’m not interested in the sports he prefers, I make it a point to watch the last quarter of a game or the last 20 laps of Nascar. I’m learning to enjoy them too!
  • The best way we connect is by praying together regularly. We’re more vulnerable that way and it helps us feel supported by each other throughout the day.

Continue reading

Are you a Skillful Listener? Learn to O.W.L.

family talking and listeningWould you like to really know how someone feels or what they’re thinking? We ask the question, “How are you?” all day long, but do we really know how a co-worker, spouse, or even our children are doing? Just Observe, Wait, and Listen (OWL), it’s that easy!

We adapt this approach from Speech Pathologists who began using OWL in language development. It’s a valuable communication tool for us all.

OWL encourages us to notice what has captured other’s interest and to patiently wait as they communicate about it.  Listening shows people their value.  When we aim first to hear what’s on their mind, rather than dominating conversation with our thoughts and opinions, we’ll discover just how much we’ve been missing!

Tonight, at your family dinner, I challenge you to OWL. Continue reading