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

Try Out a Few New Burgers for Memorial Day

Rustic Country Rolls for BurgersIn honor of National Burger Month, we want to share how to make some unconventional burgers with some of our favorite recipes. Follow these easy-to-follow instructions to create unique burgers that will have your family saying “WOW!”

Grilled Bruschetta Chicken Burger on Garlic Bread

  • Grill chicken and heat marinade as directed.
  • Bake Garlic Bread as directed, and then slice into approximately 3” pieces.
  • Place grilled chicken* on bread, top with bruschetta sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil.

*These flavors would also work great with the Tuscan Steak.

Steak Gorgonzola on Garlic Bread

  • Grill steak as directed. Top with Gorgonzola Butter and allow it to melt.
  • Bake Garlic Bread as directed, and then slice into approximately 3” pieces.
  • Place steak on bread and top with Arugula.

Kentucky Pork Chop Sliders

  • Cook pork chops as directed.
  • Bake Rustic Country Rolls* as directed. Slice baked rolls in half.
  • Slice pork chops in half and stack both halves on a sliced roll.
  • Top with Crispy French Onions.

*Rustic Country Rolls can be used to turn any burger into a slider.

Enjoy!

Empowering your Kids to Cook

teaching kids to cookIt’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:

  1. You show them, while they watch you
  2. Do it together
  3. They show you, while you watch them

Here’s what your budding chefs can learn:

Continue reading

Military Spouse Appreciation Day

Share Some Love, May 9th, with a Military Spouse you Know
When their loved ones are deployed or they are moving to a new place, military spouses can feel isolated, lonely and homesick. Why not widen your circle of friends and reach out?

Fun ideas to make their day:

  • Invite, invite, invite… draw them into your social circle and introduce them to your friends. Invite them to play dates, parties, outings, Mothers of Preschooler groups, church, the gym… whatever you do, welcome them!
  • Offer a ride. They may have only one family car and can’t get out a lot.
  • Call and text to offer encouragement and friendship.
  • Bring them a meal! If they are ‘single-parenting’ while their spouse is deployed, they will really appreciate a homemade meal. Dream Dinner’s makes it easy – fill an insulated tote with a frozen dinner along with some sides and sweets from our Finishing Touch Freezer.
  • Offer babysitting. They might not have developed a list of safe child care yet, but, need a break or date night.
  • Throw them a party! Baby showers and birthdays make great opportunities to do something for them that an old friend might have done back home.

Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the masses. Reaching out to just one person makes a difference! You don’t have to change the world, but, you could certainly change their world.

 

Mother’s Day is May 11th

mothers dayWhat 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!

Ending the Picky Eater’s Power Struggle

picky eatersThe 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