Glass panels in the antique door rattle announcing the kids, and their boisterous entourage, have arrived home. Book bags hit the floor, and shoes are kicked off as stress from a hard day at school is discarded as well.
Tashi, and Mushu…lovingly called Moo Moo, leap around while barking like crazed hyenas, even though they are tiny dogs unaware the plump squirrels in the backyard are more ferocious.
“Um, what smells good? Is dinner ready? We’re starving!” say the hungry gang of teens hustling into the kitchen.
Starving, indeed…but it is not only food they desire because that simply satisfies the emptiness in their stomachs. It’s the delicious combo of dinner and decompression that makes coming home so inviting.
Just as a deep sea diver must decompress for safety reasons, people need to decompress as well, and kids need it more than ever. With college entrance exams, like the ACT and SAT, state exams, final exams, weekly homework, learning to drive, peer pressure, and deciding what they will do for the rest of their lives…kids absolutely know the definition of stress.
One of the easiest, most scrumptious ways to tempt your kids to venture home after school, or work, is with good food heavily spiced with a pleasant atmosphere. My kids always look forward to tortellini with meat sauce. If meatballs are simmering on the stove, all the better, and if I’m really in a super mood, then garlic bread just might be toasting in the oven.
Now, on to some menu suggestions, and tips, so dinnertime will be simple, satisfying, and provoke lively conversation to enable everyone to unwind. Be sure to use the Internet to your advantage for new recipes. Visit allrecipes, Cooks.com, Southern Living, Taste of Home, and healthy living budget recipes at Kraft Recipes.
Rules at the Round Table:
Same rules apply if your table is square, rectangular, or octagon, but establishing family rules for dinnertime is essential for everyone to feel at ease.
- Unless an emergency situation is looming, like a parent having surgery, or a baby is about to be born…cell phones, laptops, iPads, televisions, etc., should not be invited to dinner. This is important because rather than technology controlling the atmosphere, people actually speak to each other.
- Dinnertime is not the time to reprimand kids. It would be impossible for me to enjoy my dinner, if I was being reminded, even in a polite way…that I screwed up something. Better to tell Johnny he forgot it was garbage day, and he got an attendance notice from school after dinner.
- Model the behavior of using an “inside” voice, good manners, and ask questions to get the conversation going. At my home, we usually have six to ten people eating, so “outside” voices are too much for us all. Kids love to tell you about the best, and worst, parts of their day. I also like to ask my kids what they did to make someone’s life a little better. The best part of my day is hearing they made a difference.
- Cleanup is for everyone! (This one is my favorite.)
- Spaghetti Sauce- If you barely have time to breathe like me…use these shortcuts to make sauce that tastes like homemade. I combine two different brands of ready-made sauce, such as Hunts and Ragu, and then I add a splash of olive oil, a tablespoon of minced garlic, parsley, salt/pepper, and approximately three tablespoons of brown sugar. White sugar can also be used, and it really tames the acidic taste of store bought sauce. Add a jar of pizza sauce and pepperoni to any store bought sauce, and then sprinkle each serving with mozzarella cheese. It’s so good!
- Chili is a delicious meal that’s made better if warm cornbread is by its side. Any type of roll, or toast, adds that something special to a family dinner.
- Cook ahead of time! This is one way to stay fairly sane while trying to provide meals for your family. While cleaning up the kitchen, go ahead and cook the ground beef, and get the sauce ready for the next day. Coming home is less stressful when the cooking is done. Spaghetti sauce, lasagna, taco meat, crepes, soups, Sloppy Joe meat, and various chicken recipes are candidates for “night before preparation.”
- If your kids get home before you, having visible snacks, like a fruit bowl filled with apples, oranges, nectarines, and bananas, will encourage healthy snack habits. A particular hot spot for other light snacks helps with that after school hunger, and there are lots of choices with yogurt to satisfy your kids as well.
- Chef Boyardee Pizza: Love it! Try making one pizza using both of the packets, versus two thin pizzas. Add green peppers, onions, mushrooms, sausage and extra cheese and you’ll have a tasty pizza to please the crowd.
As you can see, dinnertime can be that part of a day where family and friends come together to be thankful for all their blessings, especially each other. What suggestions, or recipes, do you have to make dining together more enjoyable?
Thanks for visiting!