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?
For many of us September signifies the start to a new school year and combined with extracurricular activities your quality family time dwindles. Don’t let additional responsibilities discourage you from getting a great meal on the table – instead continue to enjoy homemade family dinners with the help of Dream Dinners.
These dinners are great in the crockpot.
- NEW! Slow Cooked Lasagna Soup with Parmesan Breadsticks
- Honey Chipotle Pork Roast With Almond Green Beans
These dinners cook in under 30 minutes plus they travel well for a quick dinner on-the-go.
- Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwiches on French Roll
- Chicken Bacon Ranch Stuffed French Bread
- Carne Asade Steak Tacos
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:
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
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?
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:
Would 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.
It’s fun to see a renewed interest in nutrition, cooking, and canning in this generation of 20-somethings. Yet, many of this age group have been left behind in being taught how to cook. A generation ago 80% of Baby Boomers could cook from their pantry without a recipe; today 20% of their children can prepare a meal from scratch.
Teaching kids to cook isn’t difficult and provides them with lifelong skills. As the old adage goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” You’d be surprised what children can learn at a young age with a bit of coaching. Soon, they’ll have skills that will serve them for a lifetime.
Follow this model for a helpful way to train kids to cook:
- You show them, while they watch you
- Do it together
- They show you, while you watch them
Here’s what your budding chefs can learn:
What mom wouldn’t love a freezer full of meals to make dinners nutritious and easy for a whole month?
Here are some fun options to make Mom smile with Dream Dinners on Mother’s day or any special day:
- Sit down at the computer together and let Mom select her meals while you pick up the tab.
- For a fun night out, take Mom to a Dream Dinners’ session and prepare meals together. Then, put them all in her freezer when you bring her home.
- Surprise Mom with a bag of homemade meals you deliver to her front door.
- If mom lives far away, purchase a gift card online and we’ll mail it to her or send her an e-card (your choice). We suggest $75 for our Introductory Offer (for first time guests) or $200 for ~ a month’s supply!
Wow, a freezer full of meals – this will be a gift she’ll remember!