By Sherry Jennings, Dream Dinners
Not everyone has the opportunity to be raised with parents who love to cook, who know their way around the kitchen and enjoy sharing that passion with their families. Some of us had that opportunity and we’d be brought into the meal making process at various times to stir, chop, taste, or simply salivate during the wait.
I was raised in such a family. My mom was Italian and spent long Sunday afternoons stirring pots of sauce even in the summer. My dad, an Englishman, enjoyed cooking just as much, although he cooked things he truly had a passion for. His family baked daily so the muffins and breads were on a seemingly endless cycle. He also loved hot sauces and would grow his own peppers and spend hours canning his well-known and sought-after “hot source.”
From fish to pasta, vegetable bakes to anything grilled, my parents kept me involved and I grew up loving home cooked meals shared with my family and friends.
Sure, today’s family schedules are jammed packed and events are endless. That’s why Dream Dinners is the perfect partner to keep families connecting, sharing and bonding through the power of the dinner table. I’m pretty sure my mom would have appreciated the effortlessness dinners Dream Dinners could have provided when we spent our summers at the lake house in Pennsylvania.
It’s that time of year when we begin thinking of trips over Spring Break, Memorial Day and throughout the summer. The calendar fills up quickly, and so do mom anxieties when trying to make sure every detail is in place and the trips ahead are memory-worthy, not in the Griswold family sort of way.
The Dream Dinners team is always looking for ways to simplify planning, and road tripping is no different. Most of us have raised our kids and some are still juggling high school and middle school schedules, while a few are still changing their kids’ diapers. We are always talking trip hacks to make everything so much easier on the entire family. Adventures should focus on the journeys and destinations, and that’s possible when a few tried-and-true planning steps are handled right from the get-go.
One way to get the kids psyched about the trip, not just the days out of school, is to bring them in on the planning right from the dream stage. When they are excited, the anticipation well outweighs a last-minute food stop.
There are ways to get the kids involved. Start with a list of destinations, break out the maps and research at the library, or online, all the details about where you hope to land. If you use a paper map, which is so much more fun to mark up Ken Jennings-style, take time to point out some fun spots along the way. Are there scenic vistas? Giant trees? Historic markers? Hikes? Places to play?
Football fans can find their emotions in a knot this time of year. As the sport’s ultimate game preparations head into the final plays, fans are both elated at the prospect of a dynamic matchup on the field, or flattened, knowing that once the Super Bowl credits are running and the confetti is floating to the ground, that’s it: game over for a year.
For some fan supporters, the last game is welcomed with Sunday honey-do lists piling up. There will be no more excuses not to clean the gutters.
Dream Dinners loves football, its fans and its party hosts. Our dinners are the perfect start to an MVP award-worthy appetizer spread. The best part is you already have the ingredients in your freezer and can spend less time in the grocery store with the other party hosts a few days ahead of February 4.
The January menu has loads of great recipes that can be remixed into appetizers. You can always serve bowls of the Down Home Texas Ranch Chili with Cheddar Corn Cakes, easily prepared on the stovetop or in a crock pot. Then there is the Garlic and Balsamic Marinated Flank Steak you can slice thinly and weave onto skewers. How about cutting the Crispy Coconut Chicken into chunks and serving them with toothpicks? Or serving the Crunchy Oven Fried Chicken Tenders with Sweet Potato Puffs on toothpicks? Easy peasy!
Meatball Marinara Stuffed French Bread is also another easy way to turn a Dream Dinner meal into an appetizer.
In 2018, our Sides & Sweets Freezers at the stores are packed to the gills with appetizer favorites.
Dinners with family have been our company’s focus for 15 years now; however, entertaining was a focus for our company’s founder for many years before 2002, during Stephanie Allen’s pre-Dream Dinners life as a caterer. Even today, Stephanie is the “the hostess with the mostest.” She invites groups to enjoy at her home and before people know it, there is a spread of food that could feed an army.
The mystery is that you never see her leave the gathering. She spends so little time in the kitchen and so much time with her guests, you have to ask yourself where she hides the elves. Surely, she has a merry band of chefs working with her behind the scenes. No, she doesn’t. She’s Stephanie. She’s learned through the years that it’s absolutely possible to focus on her guests because she’s taken the time before her gathering to prep and pre-cook what she can.
She once wrote that guests can pick up on a host’s mood quickly. If a host is stressed, the guests can’t really relax. Stephanie exudes a sense of relaxation that can only be emulated by pages in a lifestyle mag, where everyone is smiling and every plate and glass is filled: Cheers! Always laughing and with an ear to listen to the many stories, Stephanie quietly goes about the final touches. She is eating with her guests, laughing around a fire pit and cracking crabs at the beach because she’s taken steps ahead of time to make sure she’s not stressing and is focused on her guests.
From weeknight dinner to holiday appetizer in a flash.
We’ve learned a few tricks to turn Dream Dinners into dream appetizers during the busy holiday season. Founder Stephanie Allen loves to entertain, so she is always looking for fun ways to remix our recipes into appetizers when the holidays roll around.
One recipe on our November menu is Grilled Bruschetta Chicken Skewers. The skewers are perfect for dinner over rice, but when guests come knocking at the door, you can easily create a tasty appetizer when you bake the chicken, cut it, then place them on garlic crostini instead. Drizzle the chicken-topped crostini with the sauce.
Here are our instructions for this quick dinner, which of course, can be served as an appetizer, as well.
Simply delicious, tender shrimp coated with a sweet coconut crust served a Tropical Chili sauce.
The last few weeks have been tough on Texas, Florida and the Gulf Coast. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma made landfall back to back, causing extensive damage; even affecting members of our Dream Dinners family. Despite our communities being evacuated and closed stores, our team reacted quickly to aid those needing assistance. We talk about being committed to serving others through our mission, but events like this showcase how our dedicated franchisees do this without thinking twice about it.
Choose the Living the Dream Meal of the Month for your next session
Dream Dinners is making it easier than ever to join in the fight against hunger and food insecurity, in your own backyard and abroad, by simply making a homemade made easy meal for your family.
When you choose your meals for your next Dream Dinners session, make sure you check out the Living the Dream Meal of the Month. A dollar from each Living the Dream meal sold will be donated to the Living the Dream Foundation.
When you choose the Living the Dream meal of the month, everyone benefits. You’ll not only enjoy a delicious meal with your family, but you’ll help us make a measurable difference and fight food insecurity locally and globally.
The results are in! Dream Dinners stores nationwide put their game faces on for “March Matchness,” a unique program that allowed guests to host in-store fundraising events and give back to their favorite local organizations while helping to bring families together around the dinner table.
At the end of the month, the top six fundraisers nationwide received matching donations of up to $1,000 each. Altogether, the Dream Dinners family across the nation rallied together to donate $15,000 to a variety of great local causes throughout the month of March.
These steak bites come from aged sirloin marinated in soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame and green onions. Served on top of a gorgeous salt and pepper wonton.