Can you name your five all-time favorite dinner remembrances?
A first date, grandma’s house, a momentous celebration … they might stir up your memories with a smile. Most likely, these events happened around a table.
We’ve all got a table somewhere—indoors, outdoors, fancy or worn—they’re functional, common, and sometimes…magical. Simple pieces of furniture, our tables, quietly offer unforgettable opportunities for all who gather around them.
One of my special memories originated on a warm July evening when we celebrated our friend’s wedding anniversary while vacationing on a houseboat. Between all of us adults we had about a dozen children, so we hired the oldest to keep the others occupied. We set up folding tables and chairs on the upper deck complete with table cloths, wine glasses, candles, and music. As we ate, we watched a gorgeous setting sun
Let’s face it, sweets and treats motivate kids! From the time they begin potty training we start reinforcing their behavior with whatever works best. Rewards come in smiles, high fives, a cheerful “good job,” and quite often, a piece of candy or a trip to their favorite restaurant. Much of our cultural celebrations involve food and these are wonderful traditions. There’s nothing wrong with having cake & ice cream for birthdays or going out to eat to celebrate your ‘Student of the Month.’ But what happens when food becomes a prize for just about everything? Think about your family, what food rewards are your doling out on a regular basis?
Too many food rewards have a downside: we learn to eat for emotional reasons, sugar becomes a habit or an addiction, and we pack on the pounds. We’re a product of our time, everyone gets a trophy. If we reward every little accomplishment, we diminish its uniqueness while the overused prize loses its value. We can end up treating ourselves (and our kids) for everyday occurrences, just because we ‘deserve’ it. There has to be a balance.
Try to find other ways to reward your kids and celebrate accomplishments. This is
Tina and I just had the craziest week traveling to NYC to appear on Good Morning America Live. I say, ‘week’ but it was really only 2 days!
Our segment was on demonstrating Super Bowl party appetizers using Dream Dinners.
Before we left, we packed up all of our frozen dinners in a suitcase and pre-cooked the flank steak. Also in our bags were, green and blue shirts along with 12th man buttons so we could properly root on our home team. Go Seahawks! I threw in a knife too (which ended up being a brilliant idea that I will tell you about later).
Discover ‘True Hospitality’ and Never be Intimidated Again
What kind of friend are you: the one who hosts or the one who’s often the guest? Sometimes we let self-doubt, fears, intimidation, or an imperfect environment inhibit us from having people over. We can easily confuse the food and presentation with the art of hospitality.
When you’re a guest, what’s more important: Gourmet food or feeling welcome and included? A well decorated environment or feeling loved by your host who is so glad you came? You see, hospitality is how we make people feel when we have them in our home.
Our last Christmas gathering is one I’m sure my family will never forget. Not because it was ‘perfect,’
Whether your work environment is serious or light hearted, take advantage of ‘Fun at Work Day’ and add a little joy to your co-worker’s lives. Here are some ideas to get your imagination spinning with fun and your work breaks teaming with laughter.
- Surprise co-workers with a little gift on their desk when they arrive.
- Bring a camera and take snapshots being silly, post them on your bulletin board.
- Play a Minute-to-Win-It game
- Share your uncommon talent (wiggling ears, whistling, double joints)
When I think of soup… I envision my family around our sturdy, oak table, leaning over big bowls of chowder. The light overhead envelops us in a scene we know as family while the windows hold out the blackness of night. My nose inhales the unmistakable aroma of sautéed onion lingering in the air as we tear into crusty loaves of sourdough.
My favorite soups to make are Ham & Split Pea, Turkey Vegetable, and ‘Amazing Soup’ (which is always different because it’s inspired from anything I have leftover in my refrigerator)! What truly warms my heart are the people around me. Our conversation can range from ordinary to funny; yet, there’s something assuring about the security we find in being together.
There’s no better way to warm up on a chilly winter day than with a steaming bowl of soup. In honor of National Soup Month, we’re sharing this recipe for Kielbasa Bean Soup, which is a hearty meal in itself. It’s perfect for throwing together while the kids are outside playing or putting in the slow cooker so it’s ready when everyone gets home from school and work.
- 2 cups potatoes, ½-inch diced and par boiled*
- 2 10.5-ounce cans bean with bacon soup
- 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
- ¾ pound kielbasa sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, soup, tomatoes, kielbasa, onion, carrots, celery, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Transfer to a crockpot or large pot.
- Slow-cook in the crockpot, set on low heat, for 5 to 6 hours, until thick. Alternatively, simmer over low heat on the stovetop for 2 hours or until thick.
- Make sure to serve this with some crunchy bread!
- *To par boil potatoes: Scrub and wash unpeeled potatoes. Dice potatoes into ½-inch pieces. In a large pot, bring water to a rolling boil. Add diced potatoes and cook for 2 minutes. Remove potatoes from water. Rinse potatoes in cold water. Drain and use as directed in recipe.
Children welcome and wish for snow days… a day off from school and a chance to play outside. When the weather keeps you from getting out of the driveway, seize the day. Bundle them up and head outside, you too!
- Summer games seem new in the snow. Try: Tic-Tac -Toe, Hop-Scotch, Follow-the-Leader, and Tag.
- Play Act. Pretend you’re the Grinch, Frosty, or any of your favorite Christmas story characters and reenact you kid’s favorite scenes outside together.
- Build something with snow. Give them shovels and buckets to create roads, forts, cities, creatures, and furniture.
Are you Worried that your Kids are Headed Toward Obesity … before they Grow Up?
We’re a culture obsessed with media-glorified body images and yet our lifestyles are mostly sedentary with a high caloric intake. We live in a contradiction that’s challenging to win. The grocery check-out highlights our dilemma with these two messages: (1) Follow these recipes and indulge, and (2) look like these super-skinny models. Research shows our health is the loser. Both children and adults are experiencing an obesity epidemic. 30% of American children are overweight or obese [i] and 35.7% of adults are obese [ii]. On top of that, our self-esteem wanes as we don’t meet the size and shape expectations we’ve accepted.
Thursday, January 16 is National Hot and Spicy Food Day. It is the perfect opportunity to combat chilly weather with food that will heat you from the inside out.
Warm up with our Buffalo Ranch Chicken, Sweet Chipotle Chicken Cavatappi, or Outlaw Chicken Sliders from January’s menu. The great thing about celebrating spicy flavors with Dream Dinners is that you can make your dinners as hot or as mild as your family likes. By adjusting the spices to fit your family’s tastes, you can rest assured that your kids will still enjoy all of these family-friendly meals.