October #DinnerEffect

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At Dream Dinners, our mission is to grow great kids by promoting the family dinner. We are working continuously to strengthen American families by bringing the homemade meal back to the dinner table. For more than a decade, we have work to change the lives of our guests with our Homemade, Made Easy offerings. 

Throughout the years we have heard many stories of sadness and hardship, but we continue to hear stories of joy, triumph and reasons to be thankful.

 

Kim A. — Plainville, MA ( October #DinnerEffect Winner)

 

Dream Dinners saved my family. Year 2013-our condo was for sale-in search of a house, we had great jobs, two kids under the age of three and expecting number three! That all started to change one random winter morning when our second son starting having seizures — soon being diagnosed with Atypical Uncontrolled Epilepsy; a horrific condition that keeps you in fear every minute of every day. In addition, we learned that we would be losing our unborn little girl due to complications. Our lives were turned upside down. Too many days off from work, too many hopeless doctors appointments, too many lengthy hospital stays. EVERYONE in our house was being affected right down to the core. We were falling apart-mentally and physically. This is where we are forever grateful for good friends!

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Halloween Week Dinner Ideas

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Need a little help with meal planning this week? We’ve planned a week of easy dinners perfect for busy nights that include, recipe remixes and festive Halloween-themed meals. Be sure to follow our Fall Favorites board on Pinterest for even more ideas.

Monday:

Looking to add a bit of holiday flare and excitement to your dinner table? Spend your time outside the kitchen by serving up our Cheese Lover’s Manicotti. This delicious cook from frozen dish helps to keep dinnertime simple. We recommend spicing up your meal with these fun, tasty themed drinks for your family.

family_pizza_nightTuesday:

Keep Halloween full of excitement by remixing our Family Pizza Night.  Whether it is a pumpkin shaped pizza crust or toppings arranged in the shape of a spider, ghost or jack-o-lantern, enjoy fun family memories by having your kids create with food.

autumn_pot_roastWednesday:

For a  quick and easy meal loaded with fall flavors your family will love, try our Autumn Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes. This crockpot dinner is perfect for a busy evening filled with last minute Halloween preparations.  

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Get Your Kids in the Kitchen

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Did you know that kids learn about food and eating at a very young age? That getting your kids involved in the kitchen can help shape their eating habits for the rest of their lives. Positive experiences about food early on in a child’s life may help them develop healthy eating habits in the future. A recent study found that children who are exposed to cooking through culinary classes or aiding a parent or family member in preparing their meals in their home will be more likely to choose healthier foods not only in your own home, but when they are outside of your home, too. Researchers also found that the children who were involved in meal preparation had a higher intake of fruits, vegetables and dietary fiber and an increased willingness to try new foods.

Need some fun ways to get your kids involved in the kitchen? Try these tips for all ages:

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Introducing Our March Throwback Menu

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Family Dinner | February 27, 2015 | By

You asked, and we answered with March’s throwback menu! In honor of our anniversary month, we’re bringing back five of our most requested meals from past menus. These old favorites are only available for a limited time, so make sure to add them to your March order.

Never tried these dinners before? You can trust that these new-to-you meals won’t fail to impress. These are all fan favorite recipes that have withstood the test of time, and you won’t want to miss them.

0298_white_chicken_lasagna_socialWhite Chicken Lasagna
This creamy lasagna is layered with tender diced chicken breast, wild mushroom pesto, and spinach. Then topped with Parmesan and the unexpected elegance of toasted pecans. One pan goes from freezer to table in about an hour. Easy for entertaining!

0506_pesto_primavera_french_bread_socialPesto Chicken Stuffed French Bread
This old favorite has been updated with more sauce and cheese… so delicious! Our signature stuffed French bread bursts with a basil pesto cream cheese spread. Stuffed with chicken and artichoke hearts for an easy dinner. Comes out golden brown and bubbling with flavor.

0409_Mango_Chutney_Chicken_Jasmine_Rice_socialMango Chutney Chicken
Super easy! Sweet mango chutney makes a golden sauce that simmers stovetop. This delicious, 25-minute dinner features our all-natural, boneless chicken breasts. Serve over Jasmine rice for a perfect end to your day.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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Making Dinnertime a Priority

I remember well, my years spent at the Snohomish Soccer Fields. Both of my kids played and their staggered practice times not only cut into our family dinnertime, but bulldozed right over them. Even the weekends were affected since my son’s games were on Saturdays and daughter’s on Sundays.

soccer practiceEventually, I realized, “This isn’t working!” Sometimes it takes a while to catch up to the reality of our circumstances.

My friend had an ah-ha like this too, she realized that treating her toddlers to fast food had become a habit.

Her mentor asked, “How many meals do your kids eat in the car staring at the back of your head?” Ouch!

We all wake up in moments like this to realize we’ve somehow slipped from our priorities; the casual exception has unintentionally become the rule. This is the learning curve of life when we get an opportunity to do a little realigning.

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Developing your Kids’ Conversation Skills

family conversationCan your kids keep an interesting conversation going?
My young adult son and I were recently noticing other people’s inability to hold a conversation. Perhaps you’ve observed conversations that fizzle once you no longer carry the dialogue by asking inquisitive questions. My son works in an industry with a lot of adults, and although younger than most, he finds this same challenge. We soon discover that age, education, and leadership position are no guarantee for the ability to dialogue with others. The point is not to depreciate the person who has a difficult time with conversations, but, to ask, ‘How can I make a difference in my family to develop this life skill?’

 

How’s conversation modeled at your house?
Growing up, we learn basically by being modeled or taught. When were you modeled or taught to have conversations? How do kids learn to dialogue today? A healthy conversation includes eye contact, reading body language, showing interest, empathetic listening, and offering feedback. It won’t happen in front of a computer, TV or smart phone.

With my kids, dinnertimes were the best setting to have conversations as a family. (Bedtime stories and tucks-in were a close runner up!)There’s so much research supporting the value of family meals in the well-being of children. They develop a richer vocabulary; have higher grades, self-esteem, and resilience. Most likely, it’s not the food that’s making this difference but the quality interactions happening at the table. So, how can you develop your kid’s conversation skills?

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What Does your Food Speak?

potluck food partyPotlucks at my work are the best! From homemade tamales to quiche and fruit, we’ve got it covered. The dishes we share with each other hints of our heritage, hidden talents, and favorite indulgences.  Potlucks are hospitality ‘group style.’ They’re a chance to say, ‘You matter to me.’  Who knew food could speak so much? Well, it can, if you want it to.

What does food speak in your home?
This week, my husband went out of his way to bring home Wild Mountain Blackberry Cobbler from my favorite restaurant after my long fast from such delicacies! That spoke love. Yesterday, we all dug into the refrigerator for leftovers since our kitchen plumbing was torn up. That spoke, hum, real life.

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