Tuesday, October 12, 2010

more about family dinner

{the little flower fairy is still holding that less-than-beautiful leaf Dieter chose for the fall tea!}
I've been thinking a lot about family dinner lately. Not just about how it's important (I think we've all read those studies about how children benefit when the family sits down to dinner regularly), but also how family dinner has sort of fallen by the wayside in our culture. People do still have it, but I think a lot of families don't all sit down together and I think a lot of them are not cooking from scratch. I totally understand why. It always feels like a very big deal and a grand accomplishment every time I cook. I feel so happy about it when I do. Recently I checked out this book from the library (had to sadly return it way too soon), and in it, Jamie Oliver makes it his mission to teach everyday ordinary people how to cook real food from scratch at home. Homey food. Not food that is aspiring to be gourmet, or restaurant-like, or impressive. Just home food. That really really appeals to me. The more I think about it the more I want to be cooking family favorites, from scratch, that we all like, and have nothing to do with food trends. I'm super inspired by this blog lately too, for the same reasons. She is on a mission to get families to cook more and totally acknowledges that it's hard and won't even necessarily happen every night, but it is oh so worth it. The recipes she is posting are so family oriented--I love it!
So here are a few dinners I want to share with you. Saturday I ended up serving dinner at 1pm! Dieter had a birthday party that afternoon/early evening and I knew I wouldn't want to cook after getting home (I was right--I didn't). So we ate super early. It was really fun. I have a lot more energy earlier in the day. This is the Mexican Lasagna from Teens Cook. It was a super simple and easy version of Mexican casserole and I really liked it. I served it with sour cream, chips, guacamole, fresh fruit, and a salad.
This meal was so yummy. This was from the previous Saturday, which is "chicken/or casserole" night. I got it from the Dinner: A Love Story blog I mentioned above. It's chicken with a panko crust served over arugula with tomatoes and a dressing of lemon juice and oil. We all loved this. (The boys had their chicken without the salad, though). There is something so festive about fried food!
Love this rustic lentil soup I've blogged about before. I also made up a huge batch of refrigerator bran muffins (from this muffin book to end all muffin books--it's a fun one). This is what a typical Wednesday night dinner looks like here. Again, so rustic and plain, which is so what I'm into right now.

I'm always looking to healthy-up our routine. Pizza night, Subway night, and burrito night are all take-out or eat-out at this point. I feel guilty about it, but we have a lovely weekly rhythm, lots of family togetherness, and certain nights for more being together (and less work), so I have to say I'm truly happy and blessed with the way things are.


Fiona said...

You mention that you had dinner at lunchtime on Saturday. I think this way of eating (main meal in the middle of the day) really works for me. Not only because you've more energy to prepare in the mornings, but for my body it seems more natural. Usually I end up having quite a big portion at lunchtime and am'nt able to finish my dinner sometimes. I'm interested to know your thoughts on this, whether you were ready for dinner at 1, or if anyone else has similar feelings.
Take care,

julie said...

I think you're doing a great job of thinking about it, planning and preparing it, no need to feel guilty about take out a couple of times when you have a family and a full time job!

I prefer rustic, home food to restaurant food too, especially, well, at home with the children. What's not to love about a good soup or some chicken with salad :)

Andrea said...

Thanks for the blog link and cookbook ideas...I'll have to check those out. We do sit down to a family meal every night (I grew up eating in front of the TV and don't want that for my family!) and cook most food from scratch (except when we get pizza or go out to eat, which seems to happen too often), but I get so tired of figuring out what to cook! I'm on a mission to assemble enough healthful, simple recipes that everyone will eat, using fresh seasonal ingredients and that I won't get tired of cooking!

PatsyAnne said...

I have to tell you, when I walk in the office and turn on my computer the first thing I do (after taking a long drink of steamy hot vanilla coffee) is go to your blog. I've learned and gleaned so much from it - the food - can't wait to try the mexican lasagna - the toys I've discovered for my granddaughter - AND the book basket... yesterday I enlarged the picture of the pile of books, signed on to AMAZON.COM and ordered Ellie 5 autumn books... she's only 15 months old but loves books and being read to. I've explained what I will be doing, new books every change of season and for special holidays... Tasha Tudor being an old friend, of course was on my list, then "Ouch", "Angelina's Halloween", "Ten Apples Up On Top" and "When The Leaf Blew In" (a silly book about when an autumn leaf blew into a barn and the silly consequences)... Can't wait for your next pile of books for good reads...

Mary Beth said...

Fiona--I really liked dinner at one, and no one really complained. Dinner at the usual time has its benefits, though (because it works better in our schedule overall).

Patsy Anne--you are so sweet! Thank you! Your grandaughter is a lucky girl!

Family of 4.... said...


Thank you for posting the blogs you read and come across. I have more favorites saved from the ones you have posted. I like the new one here you have posted.

I am not working at the moment, so I am home to cook every night. We were eating out a bit, so I have been trying to cook 5 days a week. It's just hard to decide what to cook. I need meals that we can come back to each week (as you mentioned in a previous post). I'm hoping to try more soups this winter, easy meals that I can cook quickly and get on the table so there is more family reading time afterwards.

I think the important thing is that you are all together, and I feel comforted that our family sits down to dinner (the girls are still young though, 6 & 8) each morning for breakfast and each night for dinner. We never eat anywhere other than the kitchen table. I know when they are older this will be hard to do, but I am enjoying the time now.

Thanks for sharing your cookbooks and recipes that you find as well.


maya said...

Wow, Mary Beth, you send so many oodles of readers from that little lentil soup recipe, you'd think it was one of the full-out tutorials. I always appreciate the love. I guess it's just that soup - we had it for dinner last night! wishing your family warm meals.

Denise C. said...

When I make taco soup or chili, we always eat early. It's something that usually gets munched on throughout the day. As long as my family has full, happy tummies that is all the matters to me.

I love how you serve fruit with your meals. Until I began reading your blog ( a long time now!) I never even thought to do that. My family loves it!

Rustic, homey food is what I strive for too. :)

Denise C. said...

I forgot to add this, I am striving to have a sit down family dinner every night, while that is not always possible I make it a goal to have at least 3-5 a week. My kids usually finish first & my husband & I ask them to stay at the table with us.

Karen said...

Family Dinner is our favourite time of the day!!! In Germany it is common to cook in the middle of the day, but that does not work for us because we want to be together all five - which is only possible in the evening. Even if my husband is on call he tries to come home for an hour to have dinner with us.
I cook almost every night, the children join me in the kitchen and they love to help (they are 9,7 and 5). I plan our meals one week ahead and we try to buy local food and seasonal fruits and vegetables.
I think it is so important for our children to be togehter for dinner, to have time to talk, time to laugh. We are family!!!

But I have to admit that more and more families in Germany don't have
family meals. Eating in front of the TV is more and more common... I think those families miss so much...

Greetings from Germany,

Redbeet Mama said...

Thank you for writing this post - it put a lot thought in my mind and I plan on checking out Jamie's book.

Made yummy porridge for dinner tonight!

Namaste, Nicole

Aly in Va said...

Okay, so I'm a fellow teacher and I'm thinking we probably get home around the same time (3:30ish)- what do your kids do while you cook? I can't get mine to leave me along long enough to concentrate on making anything from scratch. Suggestions?

Mary Beth said...

Aly in VA--I don't have an easy solution for this. They either go outside with their daddy or hang out in the kitchen or play with toys in the living room. It doesn't always go smoothly though and they definitely want my attention. I think that is why I love the non-cook nights so much and they really tend to lend some balance to the whole thing. I have a commute so I don't get home until 4:30. It's really stressful at times.

Sara said...

This is such a great post! We often eat our big meal midday because Jerry often works at night. That is how we still have at least one meal with everybody. I actually prefer eating the heavy meal early and then have tapas for dinner. Plus, it is easier when I have to do bedtime with four kids by myself.

Oh and since Arlo was born we have had Chipotle takeout on many a taco night. Sometimes, no clean-up is what is needed. :) :)