One Pan Wonders in Your Baking Dish

Ever wanted to serve your Dream Dinners pan meal in something prettier than the foil pan you made it in? It can be easy to do if you follow these steps.

  • Spray your rectangular baking pan
  • Peel the foil pan away from the frozen dinner.
  • Insert the dinner right into your baking dish.
  • Bake as directed.
  • Serve beautifully!

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Family Conversation Starters For Around the Dinner Table (and Elsewhere)

From Stacey Seybold Hiller, M.S.,CCC-SLP, Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist and Owner, Dream Dinners of Indianapolis, IN

Family setting the tableIf your family is like ours, you may work hard to create a family dinner time routine, or other family activity (“forced family fun” as our oldest calls it), and then realize that you are not sure what to talk about.  There are many resources in print and on the internet that have conversation starters for families.

Here are few:

  • What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
  • What cartoon character would you most like to be?  Why?
  • What is the hardest/best thing about being ___ years old?
  • Describe your all-time best day ever. Continue reading

A Few Tricks for Healthier Meals

Stacey Seybold Hiller, M.S., CCC-SLP is an industry expert in speech, language and feeding skills in children.

It’s time for a new year… time to start your family eating healthy! A few small changes now can make a big difference in the years ahead!

If you are like most people, after the holidays are over, you start to rethink your diet and exercise (or lack thereof).  It is harder than ever to keep your children eating healthy. Many foods marketed for children are high in sugar and fat and low in fiber and protein. Even many choices for kids at restaurants and schools fit into this category.  The worst culprit is processed foods.  These foods tend to be high in fat, sodium, and calories.  But, how can you get your family eating better?  Try to have more home-cooked meals.  Easier said than done, but you have many options now.

There are many meal preparation businesses, like Dream Dinners, that are out there to help you do just that.  You can help your kids make good snacking choices by having cut vegetables and fruit available on the counter.  Make these choices easily accessible and convenient to them.  Go ahead and add peanut butter or cream cheese to the celery.  Put broccoli in the food processor, and add the finely chopped broccoli to food items like meatloaf or hamburgers.  Most children won’t even notice.  Other “sneaky” add-ins are wheat germ (for fiber and protein), powdered milk (for added calcium), and tofu.  These products can all be added fairly easily to a variety of foods, and they are not easily detected.

Eating healthy is really a lifelong process, not just something you do overnight.  Begin to slowly implement products like breads and pastas with whole grains into your family’s diet.   Any healthy diet change you can bring to your family will be beneficial!

Stacey Seybold Hiller has practiced pediatric speech pathology for more than 18 years.  Both she and her husband felt they were ready for a career change, so they recently opened Dream Dinners in Indianapolis with a partner.  Now she can further her passion for healthy family meals around the table at home!

How to Enjoy Dinner with the Young Kids

Whether you’ve just popped a Dream Dinners entrée into the oven or spent an hour or more cooking a meal from scratch, you want your family to enjoy their time together while eating.

Yet nothing’s more frustrating than having kids gulp down food in mere minutes, fuss through a meal or otherwise be uncooperative during dinnertime. It can be especially tough with babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Their hunger comes on its own schedule, not often in sync with the family meal. Juggling your own cooking tasks with their demanding needs can turn a daily event from calm to chaotic.

What’s a busy mom to do? Put a few strategies in place! We discovered a terrific article with ideas from moms all over the country at Parents.com. Written by Tricia O’Brien, it affirms everything we at Dream Dinners believe – that creating quality time around the table is one of the most important things you can do for your family.

The Family Dinner
How to make supper last more than 5 minutes.

For most moms, getting the clan to the table (and keeping them there) takes some wrangling. Chances are, once the kids are belted into their high chair or booster seat, food flies, the baby cries, and the dinnertime din sends stress levels soaring. We asked moms for their secrets — the little tricks they use to get their tykes to stay put, eat something other than chicken fingers and mac ‘n’ cheese, and begin to grasp the value of sharing meals together. Here’s how moms serve up some sanity at dinnertime.

Read full article here.


So we are all at the Table Together; Now What?

Stacey Seybold Hiller, M.S., CCC-SLP is an industry expert in speech, language and feeding skills in children.

Teens dinner tableMy husband and I started making our children sit at the table throughout the meal by the time they were 2 ½.  Even if they weren’t eating, our children knew they had to sit at the table until most (if not all of us) were done.  But as our family grew to 6, we started realizing that even though we were all at the table together, it wasn’t always this blissful, happy family time we were hoping to have. We needed help encouraging positive conversation, instead of feeling like the “manners police”.

Then, years ago, we read an idea in a parenting magazine that we adapted into a great way for us to have (mostly) positive family dinners.  We bought an inexpensive “special” plate (ours is blue).  That plate is passed through the family in order of age at each family meal.  Whichever member of our family has the “blue plate” for that meal is in charge of saying the meal blessing.  Then, as the meal begins, the rest of us take turns telling at least one thing that we appreciate about the blue plate user.  It not only starts good conversation, but we have found is that it encourages praise between siblings (not always naturally occurring at other times), and it gives our children practice receiving praise gracefully.  Then there is the obvious boost to the blue plate holder’s self-esteem.  It amazed us how quickly our youngest, then 2 years old, caught on to this practice.  It has made for many precious (however fleeting) family dinner moments.

Stacey Seybold Hiller has practiced pediatric speech pathology for more than 18 years.  Both she and her husband felt they were ready for a career change, so they recently opened Dream Dinners in Indianapolis with a partner.  Now she can further her passion for healthy family meals around the table at home!

Practice makes Perfect!

From Stacey Seybold Hiller, M.S.,CCC-SLP, Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist and Owner, Dream Dinners of Indianapolis, IN.

Sometimes, once our children learn to eat independently with silverware, chew (mostly) with their mouth closed, and not pass rolls by throwing them, we tend to think that our job around the table is completed.  But really, it is has just begun.  As our children get older, they are exposed to a variety of eating situations.  Occasions such as going out to a nice meal with a friend to celebrate a birthday, a wedding reception, a confirmation, bar mitzvah, or Thanksgiving at Great Aunt Karen’s all present unique challenges.  Our job is to help them learn how to deal with these more “adult” eating situations.  For example, what if you are served something you want to spit out?  How do you politely refuse Mrs. Smith’s overcooked steak?  When do you use that second fork?  Where do you put your napkin when the meal is over?

The best way to help our kids get ready for the “real” world of business and social luncheons is to practice in the safety of their own homes.  Try to make one or two meals a month more formal at home.  Eat in the dining room, use the china and real silver.  Not only will it allow you to practice and role play some of these situations, but it also makes family meal time feel even more special.  Besides, who is more worthy of your fine china?  The friends/family you only see once a year, or the people you love most in the world?

Stacey Seybold Hiller has practiced pediatric speech pathology for more than 18 years.  Both she and her husband felt they were ready for a career change, so they opened Dream Dinners in Indianapolis with a partner.  Now she can further her passion for healthy family meals around the table at home!

The Other Benefits of Eating Dinner Together as a Family

From Stacey Seybold Hiller, M.S.,CCC-SLP, Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist and 0wner, Dream Dinners of Indianapolis, IN

Over the years, there has been extensive research completed on the benefits of families eating together.  For example, Research by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA)* at Columbia University consistently finds that the more often children eat dinner with their family, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs.  Specifically, teens who ate dinner with their families 5 nights a week were:

  • 42% less likely to drink alcohol
  • 59% less likely to smoke cigarettes
  • 66% less likely to try marijuana.

Mom helping with homework and cookingThose teens that ate dinner with their parents less than 3 times a week were much more likely to be involved in drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana.  But that is only the tip of the family meal iceberg. That daily meal together benefits us in other ways, too.  The teens who ate with their families regularly also reported:

  • higher grades in school
  • stronger friendships, and
  • better relationships with their parents.

A earlier study at Harvard found that dinner time was the single most important event in a family that contributes to [younger] children’s language development.  Miriam Weinstein, a filmmaker and a journalist, wrote a book The Surprising Power of Family Meals (Steer Forth Press, 2005).  She collected a significant body of research explaining the vital importance of the family meal.

So it looks like we, as a society may need to worry a bit less about “what’s for dinner?” and a bit more about how we can enjoy our meal times TOGETHER.

Stacey Seybold Hiller has practiced pediatric speech pathology for more than 18 years.  Both she and her husband felt they were ready for a career change, so they opened Dream Dinners in Indianapolis with a partner.  Now she can further her passion for healthy family meals around the table at home!

Family Day is September 28th.  Visit casafamilyday.org for more information.

Grilling Tips from Dream Dinners

Great Grilling Tips from our Dream Dinners Mar Vista store

Dream Dinners Mar Vista, CA Store

Dream Dinners Mar Vista, CA Store

Justin’s secrets for summertime grilling. One of our guests recently asked why her steak turned out too dry, so I gave her my secret tips for perfect grilling. She wrote back, saying, “I made the dish Monday and it was great. I am keeping these tips forever and passing it onto my grandchildren.” That made me realize I should share these tips with everyone, just in time for the summer. Here’s how to insure your meat comes off the grill tasting juicy and delicious:

1. Don’t overheat! If the heat is too high or if you have the meat too close to the heat (if broiling), then the meat will dry out. It’s very important, however, to pre-heat the grill for 5-10 minutes. Then, I cook the meat over medium heat – 5 minutes or so per side.

2. Don’t flip out! Flip the meat over only once. Repeatedly turning it over causes you to lose more and more juice. Instead, time how long you cook it on each side and try to flip it only once.

3. Don’t smash it! Sure, it’s fun to use your spatula to make the steak sizzle, the flames flare, and to “force” the meat to cook. In reality, this dries out the meat. That’s why burgers at cookouts often turn out dry because the person grilling is having fun looking impressive in front of the flames. Pressing the meat down against the grill will dry it out because it forces more juice out of the meat.

4. Give it a rest! After you remove it from the grill, set the meat on a plate and cover it with aluminum foil for 5-10 minutes. If you cut into it right away, it will drain and dry out. This is especially true if you cut into it while it’s on the grill to check to see if it’s done. If you cut into it at all at anytime before you are ready to actually eat it, you will drain the juices. This is often one of the biggest culprits since you can literally watch all of the juice flow out of the beef if you cut in to check to see if it’s cooked.

How do you know when it’s done? To check “doneness”, use the fleshy part of your hand – between forefinger and thumb – as a guide instead of cutting into the meat. The firm part near your finger bones is “well-done”, the mushy webbing feels like “rare” meat, and the muscles right in the middle is “medium”. You can gently press on the meat to gauge how “cooked” it is. The firmer it is when you press on it, the more “done” it will be – and potentially drier. (Remember: Don’t press too hard, too often, or too long; just once with your finger or some tongs to gauge it – see number 3 above). Follow these tips, and you’ll be a celebrated grill master at your next cookout. Check out our summer menus – starting this month with our June selections – and you’ll find plenty of things to throw on the grill that will make you look like a true professional!

Camping Tip: Bring Dream Dinners

Bringing Dream Dinners meals on your camping trip can be a delicious way to eat while enjoying the great outdoors. But don’t just take it from us – check out the advice of experienced camper Steve Bradt.

From the The Telegraph:

As for camper Steve Bradt, of Nashua, he too likes to keep the dishes to a minimum and does so with the help of homemade dinners he puts together through companies such as Dream Dinners, one of which is located in Bedford. Bradt said he goes to one of the Dream Dinners centers and assembles pre-cut ingredients into bags. This usually includes different meats, sauces and veggies. After that, he just brings them home and freezes them, which provides a twofer for this camper: The frozen food keeps the rest of his cooler cold without having to take up space with ice or ice packs. Don’t get him wrong: Bradt is a seasoned camper who likes to rough it.

But with the right preparation, roughing it can include gourmet meals like Buffalo Ranch Chicken, Grilled Chicken Mediterranean with Polenta, Grilled Chicken with Sesame Honey Butter or Hawaiian Chicken with Jasmine Rice, he said.

He admits his camping cuisine was not always so fancy, and daytime hiking usually entails the requisite peanut butter and jelly sandwich and granola bars. In fact, one of the recipes he still uses from his pre-Dream days is one for corn pancakes. With this culinary delight, he uses Jiffy corn muffin mix, then adds water and an egg, to make flapjacks on his portable griddle.

“It’s really easy to make, and it’s a really hearty meal to start the day,” he said.

When you pack Dream Dinners you won’t have to eat like Bear Grylls from Man vs Wild. You can have hearty meals that will give you the energy to do some fun activities in the wilderness.