Ending the Picky Eater’s Power Struggle

Stephanie AllenThe Battle’s On
Your child might be winning now, but, losing later to finicky habits and poor nutrition.

Picky eaters can turn rational parents into obsessed, battle-weary, rationalizing, bargaining, pleading, crazy people!  Whew, I’m worn-out just from describing it! We’re afraid our ‘little darlings’ will never eat balanced meals and will become malnourished skeletons, vanishing away like a puddle on a sunny day. I know; I’ve butted up against my share of picky strong-willed wonders. Someone’s cornered, and it feels like me!

Tough Love is not Mean
If you’ve done your due diligence with the family MD and he’s assured you they’re not going to die, then maybe it’s time to heighten your strategy and offer a little tough love. Although very cute, picky eaters are typically masters of the power struggle. If this is your child, read on. Continue reading

Teacher Appreciation Week May 5th – May 9th

If you’ve spent time volunteering in a classroom, you’ll know how big of a responsibility our teachers carry. Keeping a classroom of kids organized and focused takes dedication, diligence, and a whole a lot of love.  Education is a big accomplishment!


Dream Dinners is an easy and delicious way to spoil your teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week.

Gather some helpers and load up their break room with these wonderful lunches and snacks from our May menu.

  • Parmesan Chicken Sliders (Great for a grab-and-go quick lunch)
  • Santa Fe Shredded Pork Burritos (Easy to bring in a crock pot and dish up hot anytime).
  • Coconut Shrimp and Sweet  & Sour Sauce with Jasmine Rice (Serve these skewered shrimp hot or cold)

Let the appreciation begin!

Fire up the Grill

Grilling this spring? Try these tips:

  1. Family-BBQ-4-kidsClean your grill. First rub the grate with a ball of aluminum foil. Turn it to high and burn off any remaining food residue.
  2. If your grill is prone to sticking, oil your grill when cool.
  3. Make sure your grill is hot when you place your meat on it to sear the juices into the meat.
  4. Pre-season steaks either with a marinade or with salt and pepper. Soak meat in marinade per cooking instructions (usually several hours), or for a steak, pat dry, season with salt and rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking to absorb the flavors. Use about 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt for 1 pound of meat.
  5. When forming hamburgers, shape about 3/4th inch thick, slightly thinner in the middle, to allow for swelling.
  6. To get a seared crust, pat marinated meat dry before cooking. Continue reading

Timing your Meal

Stephanie AllenPreparing meals involve a lot of abilities from knowing how to cook to choosing what goes well together. The last thing you might be thinking about is timing. With a well-timed meal, your hot food is hot, cold food cold, and nothing is overcooked or mushy. This takes skill! Besides looking at your cooking times and counting backwards, here are some general principles that help me:

  • Make cold things first (salads, relish plates, cut fruit)
  • Prepare the starch next (potatoes, breads, and rice –they usually hold their warm temperature easily)
  • Save the meat and vegetables for last (they can overcook if you try to hold them)

Bon Appetit!




Stephanie Allen is Co-founder and President of Dream Dinners and a New York Times best-selling co-author of The Hour that Matters Most.
Naturally a visionary and optimist, Stephanie hopes to inspire America through her nurturing voice of encouragement, assuring families…    

“You’re doing a great job!”




Come Ride with Us

Living the Dream Foundation, something you can get excited about!


Tina Kuna, Dream Dinners Co-founder, leads a fun team of volunteers each spring to bike the beautiful Snohomish, Washington country back roads for charity. In its second year, the Living the Dream Ride is everything a woman could want: fresh air, friends, fitness and fun! This year, the proceeds will go to Make-A-Wish® Alaska and Washington.

Riders will enjoy Washington’s most beautiful bike ride for Women, May 10th (Mother’s Day weekend). It’s all about reaching your personal best, giving back, and making it an occasion with those who share your passion. The ride offers 3 different length courses: 18, 36, and 62 miles.

2659634_origCycle for your best time, or, simply for the fun of finishing at a great destination. Riders and spectators can’t beat the charm of historic downtown Snohomish. After a getting free gift and lunch, participants stroll through a shopper’s heaven where quaint shops and restaurants abound!

Registration: Regular ($50) or Premium ($150) by May 9, 2014.

Come as a rider, or, a fan, and have an inspirational day for a great cause!

For more information visit Living the Dream.

Dream Dinners, Inc. established Living the Dream Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, in 2005.  Our motto is Feeding a need. Over the years we have raised over 70 thousand dollars in support of individual families going through some of life’s more difficult challenges, as well as hosting special events in support of organizations such as Cook for Cancer, The Foundation for Prader-Willi Research, Ronald McDonald House Charities®, MOP’s, and Snohomish’s own Community Kitchen.

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo!

Did you Know … Cinco de Mayo is celebrated more in the U.S. than in Mexico? 

It originated when the Mexican army gained victory over France in the city of Puebla in 1862.  It’s evolved in the US, especially in our Southern states, to celebrate Mexican culture and heritage.


Join in the festivities this year by serving our Carne Asada Steak Tacos on May 5th.  Line your table with a brightly striped fiesta table runner; add Maracas, sombreros, and a Moustache for each person.  Then turn up La Cucaracha and La Bamba on your stereo and you’ll be sure to have a fun fiesta with your family!

Limited on time to plan Easter Dinner?

Menu planning takes time and creativity - two things most of us want more of!

When Easter rolls around (or other holidays), we find ourselves back to scanning recipes trying to make our holiday beautiful, special and delicious.  Let Dream Dinners help make your Easter a cinch.

Try this Easter Dinner Menu:

Honey Chipolte Pork Roast
Honey Chipotle Pork Roast with Almond Green Beans

Roasted Heirloom Potatoes

Strawberry Feta Spinach Salad

Rustic Country Rolls

Luscious Lemon Bars

Save your Holiday Menus

Have you ever sat down to a wonderful holiday meal or even a normal family dinner and thought, ‘Wow! That was perfect?’  Sometimes we land on a winning combination of sides with our entrée that we’ll want to remember and repeat. Why not start saving your favorite menus?

Create a ‘Menus’ file on your computer or start a ‘Menu Card Box’ like you would for recipes.  You can have a section for each major holiday, special events/parties, and everyday menus that work well for you.  When next year rolls around, repeat last Easter’s menu, or, add variety by substituting an item or two.  It’s much easier than starting from scratch.

With the baseline menu planning done, you can spend more time on something that stirs your creative energy like making a special beverage, decorating the buffet table, or preparing little gifts!

Happy Easter!

Helping your Kids Have a Hospitable Heart

Stephanie AllenThere’s something so heartwarming to see my kids practice hospitality as young adults. As parents we spend years teaching them to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ among a host of other manners, so it’s nice to know it eventually pays off!

Arrive with a gift in hand.
Besides the usual table manners regarding napkins, elbows, and full mouths, I taught my kids to never go to a party empty-handed. They would always bring something to share like a bag of chips or soda. Today, it warms my heart when my daughter makes grandma dinner and my son brings her flowers.  Recently, my son went to a friend’s in Eastern Washington and I asked him what he brought. After mentioning donuts and some other items he chirped, Continue reading

Outdoor cooking tips

Family-BBQ-4-kidsNo matter the season, more and more of us are cooking outdoors. During the warm summer months outdoor cooking and dining are even more popular. Here are some steps you can take to stay healthy and reduce your risk of illness during the summer months.

When meat and other protein foods are cooked at high temperatures, chemical compounds can form that are believed to increase risk of some types of cancer. To decrease formation of these compounds use a lower flame on your grill, trim away fat on meats to avoid flare-ups and marinate meat prior to cooking.

The heat of summer makes for perfect outdoor BBQs, but it also sets the stage for foodborne illness. Leaving food out for even a short period of time in the heat can result in rapid growth of harmful bacteria. Here are some tips to help you keep food safe:

  • Immediately refrigerate all perishable items when you get home from the grocery store.
  • Keep meats and other perishable foods refrigerated until ready to use, and pack coolers just before leaving.
  • If using coolers, keep out of sunlight and avoid opening too often (a good rule is to keep beverages in a different cooler to avoid opening frequently).
  • Return foods to the refrigerator or cooler immediately after serving.

For cooked foods:

  • Completely defrost foods prior to cooking so they cook evenly.
  • Cook completely; use Dream Dinners cooking instructions which include safe minimum internal temperatures, so there is no guess-work.
  • Use clean utensils and platters for cooked foods to avoid contamination of prepared foods.

Source: Cindy Farricker, MS, RD, CDE, Registered Dietitian, Dream Dinners, Inc.

Making Dinnertime a Priority

Stephanie Allen

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.


Eventually, 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.

Is it worth the effort to gather everyone around the table?
We know that families are positively influenced by the time shared conversing and relaxing over a meal. Research proves what we intuitively know; kids become better conversationalists, Continue reading

Making a Difference, No Matter How Small



In just one morning at a Mother’s of Preschoolers Group, I heard two real-life stories that begged me to ask myself, “How do I encourage people when their need hangs heavily on a scale – too much for me to resolve?” One mom was expecting to move to a new home in a week and a half when suddenly their arrangements fell through and they have no place for their young family of four to live. The other mom is raising two small kids while her husband is serving away in the military. She planned to visit him after 5 months of being apart and now they can’t afford it since she lost her job.

Real hardship and suffering are all around us.  Often our own resources are not enough to help. Yet, doing nothing because we can’t do everything is no solution.  We certainly don’t want to just pat people on the back and say, “It’s all good; you’ll get through it.”

On March 22nd, a massive landslide in Oso, a rural northwest Washington town, Continue reading

Developing your Kids’ Conversation Skills around the Table

Can 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.

How Can You Develop Your Kid’s Conversation Skills? Continue reading

What Does your Food Speak?

Stephanie AllenPotlucks 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.

The messages communicated by our family meals will change like the weather, because that’s reality. If I can affect our family’s home climate, I want to make most of their days sunny.

I’ve got time for you. You matter. I thought of you today. Those are the predominate Continue reading

The Puget Sound, My ‘Home Away from Home’

Stephanie Allen

Driving the boatBoating in the Puget Sound with my husband Vern at the helm is my favorite ‘home away from home.’ There is something peaceful about inhaling the salty breeze, watching sunlight dance on the water, and taking in the grandeur of the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges from the east and west. I love rushing out to snap photos of sunrises and sunsets, always unique and saturated with color. Time on our boat never gets old. “Ah,” I’m often in wonder at the beauty surrounding us. This is my heaven on earth.

olivia-playing-on-beachAt night, waves lull us to sleep; we hear the lines moan and the water splash the stern. By day, we drop anchor in our favorite bays and come ashore to enjoy the beaches and island hikes. Other times we moor at charming ports like Salt Spring Island or Roche Harbor and enjoy the quaint shops and local fare.

Even in a small space like our boat, we always make room for company. I love hosting! Before dinner, adults share conversation over glasses of wine or we steal moments away to snuggle our little granddaughter, Olivia, with a book and a blanket. Her eyes show delight, glancing up from storybook scenes to the water all around.

Herb Crusted Flank SteakAs an added bonus, with Dream Dinners, we get to eat gourmet food wherever we go! I always have a freezer full of meals we can thaw and prepare (instead of cramped cupboards overflowing with ingredients). My favorite entrees to serve on our boat are Herb Crusted Flank Steak and Greek Island Shrimp. The minimal preparation and easy clean-up make it possible to focus on each other and causes our guests to feel like royalty wherever we sail!

Life is full of ups and downs, so it makes time even sweeter when we can cruise around the Sound and get away from it all. I’m so grateful!


PS. Our post was inspired by DogVacay.com who asked, ‘What’s your favorite Home away from Home?’



Stephanie Allen is Co-founder and President of Dream Dinners and a New York Times best-selling co-author of The Hour that Matters Most.
Naturally a visionary and optimist, Stephanie hopes to inspire America through her nurturing voice of encouragement, assuring families…    

“You’re doing a great job!”


Dreaming the Dream 12 Years Later

Stephanie Allen

Spring sports are in full swing (think baseball, mowed grass, and lots of time in a lawn chair on the side lines)! What spring sport(s) do your cheer on: baseball, softball, track, tennis, lacrosse, girls’ soccer, golf, swimming, and/or volleyball? Who knew there were so many options? Although wonderful and meaningful, they impact our schedules more than ever.

girl_soccer_ball2The novice parent has little foreknowledge of just how much life is going to change when junior joins the team or how challenging it will be to have family dinners together again. Maybe after they graduate!

My children are older now so the change in seasons doesn’t have the impact it once did. Back in the day I struggled to juggle work, family responsibilities and the never ending sports schedule.

The challenge of getting dinner on the table for a busy family Continue reading