Back-to-School is like New Year’s Day. It is a time for a fresh start. Make it a priority this school year to eat together as a family most nights of the week because the secret to a healthy family is gathering around the family table. Avoiding the following mistakes will make it easier to have time to eat together as a family.
Not Planning the Week’s Menu: It is as easy as making a list! Try sitting down on Sunday and listing 4 meats, 8 side dishes, and 2 left-overs using 2 of the meats. (I’ve included an example below.) This takes just a few minutes but will give you a plan and a grocery list for the week. You can assign a meal for each night if you like or make a decision day by day depending on the time you have. Try making 3 different plans that you can rotate through. Need some meal ideas? Click HERE
Not Using the Curbside and Delivery Services Grocery Stores Offer: Using these services can be life changing. They even save previous orders you have made so you can just re-order with one click!
Not Having a Set Meal Time: This is very important. If you work outside the home and don’t get home until later try setting a 7:30 or 8:00 meal time. Your kids can do homework and snack on an apple or carrots or even bathe while you make dinner. It is all about creating a routine that works for your family and sticking to it.
Over-Scheduling Your Kids: This one might be a bit controversial. Try putting each child in only one extra curricular activity each semester. Children get tired and need down time. Many times kids are expected to go for 12+ hours a day with school, sports, music, drama, homework. Some kids are putting in longer days than many adults. Having your children in every single extra curricular activity does not make you a good parent, it just makes you a tired one! “The Race to Nowhere” is a wonderful film and resource. Click Here to learn more.
Not Talking to Your Family About Making Gathering Around the Table a Priority: You must get your family to buy in so they are making it a priority too. They need to understand the importance of family meal time and have some input in it so everyone has ownership in the plan. Try creating an evening plan together. Write it down on a piece of paper. Have everyone sign it. Explain that the plan can always be altered when needed to accommodate changes. (Congratulations! You’ve just taken the first step toward a healthier family.)
Pick 4 Proteins/Meats for the Week
pork tenderloin (Cook enough for left-over sandwiches for one meal.)
chicken breasts (2 per person for left-over menu.)
ground meat for hamburger patties (1/2 lb. per person)
salmon (one piece per person)
Left Over Plan (Plan for 2 meals using protein/meat left overs.)
tenderloin and grilled cheese sandwiches (NEED: bread and sliced cheese)
Use left over chicken in tortilla soup, casserole or on a pizza (tortilla soup…NEED: chicken stock, onions, peppers, monterrey jack cheese, diced tomatoes, beans, tortilla strips)
8 Side Dishes
roasted vegetables (NEED: broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots)
green salad (NEED: romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, hearts of palm, olives)
Spanish Cauliflower Rice (NEED: cauliflower bits, diced tomatoes, orange bell pepper, black beans)
It is summertime so fire up that grill on Sunday afternoon. If you will cook the meat for more than one meal on Sunday, it will save you time during the week so you have more time to relax and gather around your table spending quality time with family. Try grilling 3 packages of boneless, skinless chicken thighs to use in 3 meals including everyone’s favorite… pizza. These meals ideas are heavy on the vegetables so gather around and enjoy!
Grilled chicken thighs
Mashed cauliflower and butternut squash (great alternative to mashed potatoes)
Mashed Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Recipe (You will fool your family with this recipe. They will think it is potatoes.)
Steam cauliflower florets and butternut squash cubes until tender. This usually takes 15 minutes.
Mash cauliflower and squash just like you would for potatoes.
Add 2 tablespoons butter, 4 ounces cream cheese and 2 cups of grated cheese to warm vegetable mixture.
Finish blending mixture using an immersion blender to get a creamier consistency.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Pea Salad Recipe
Saute a chopped onion until it caramelizes in olive oil.
Defrost a 1 lb. package of frozen peas.
Mix onions into peas.
Add 1 cup of cubed cheddar cheese (small cubes) to the peas.
Add dressing to salad and mix.
Pea Salad Dressing Recipe
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup mustard
Grilled chicken thighs cubed served over sauteed peppers and onions
Canned green beans with chick peas (alternative to potatoes) Yes, canned green beans and chick peas. Heat the green beans (don’t drain) and chick peas (rinse and drain). Add 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce, 2 tablespoons of butter and salt to taste.
Sauteed Peppers and Onions Recipe (You can serve the peppers and onions over rice if you’d like a heartier meal.)
Cut 4 orange or red bell peppers and 2 large onions into strips.
Saute onions until they begin to caramelize.
Add the peppers to the onions.
Add 1 package of Lipton Onion Soup Mix to 1 1/2 cups of water and stir together.
Add soup mix to the onions and peppers.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the liquid cook down to thicken. This will take 12-15 minutes.
Bar-b-que chicken/coleslaw pizza with almond flour crust (use regular crust if you prefer) Use both pizza sauce and bar-b-que sauce on this pizza. Add shredded chicken and cheese. Broil for 2-3 minutes to melt the cheese and then top with coleslaw.
This spaghetti sauce is full of colorful vegetables. It is simple and full of vitamins and is a great option on a busy night instead of take-out.
1 pound of lean ground beef
3 yellow or orange bell peppers diced
24 ounce jar of spaghetti sauce of your choosing
1 package of zucchini noodles
1 package of cherry tomatoes
First, brown the ground beef and season with Uncle Chris’ Gourmet Steak Seasoning. Add bell peppers and tomatoes to ground beef and saute for 5 minutes or until vegetables have softened. Next add spaghetti sauce and zucchini noodles and cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Last top with mozzarella cheese and serve over spaghetti noodles or zucchini noodles.
A pretty table should not just be for holidays and special occasions. Imagine that it is the end of an ordinary, busy day and you are talking and laughing with your family around a pretty table. Sounds great but is it realistic? Yes it really is! Many of us have good intentions to sit at the dining table as a family but life takes over and it just doesn’t happen. I’m going to help you get started creating a pretty table to gather around because I believe that gathering around the table is the secret to a healthy family.
The nice thing about creating a tablescape is there is no right or wrong. The end result just has to make you happy and create a welcoming dining table for gathering that you will actually use regularly. I like to think of my tablescape in layers. Thinking in these layers will help you build your tablescape without becoming overwhelmed. You probably already have items for each layer so try pulling what you already have out and taking inventory of it. Then you will know which layer you need to buy for to create a welcoming table for friends and family to gather around.
Layer #1: The bottom layer is made up of table cloths, place mats and/or chargers. You can use one of these or all three. I leave place mats and chargers on my table all the time. That way even on busy nights my family knows there is a spot saved for them at the table. The charger is just waiting for a plate to be set on it. After the meal we leave the chargers on the table and I wipe them down with a Clorox wipe so they will be ready for the next meal.
If you don’t like to iron choose woven or natural fiber placemats.
A table runner is great because you can leave it on the table all the time without it looking too formal.
Table cloths do not need to cover the entire table. You can scrunch or gather your table cloths on the center of your table to create a casual look.
Choose solid colored table cloths. Add pattern with your napkins.
Gold chargers are a good beginning choice. They go with everything and can be dressed up or down.
Here is a list of basic items to help you begin to build your inventory for Layer #1.
Layer #3: In this layer you need to think about how you want to branch off the main centerpiece. Layer #3 depends on the size of your table and how much space you have to work with. Do you want candles of varying heights, a runner of greenery, or smaller containers filled with flowers or fruit?
Use small mirrors under items in this layer to add sparkle to your table.
Quality artificial greenery such as magnolia leaves and penny eucalyptus can add a lot to this layer.
Glass votives work well in this layer.
Fill small glass containers with clear glass gems and top with a small candle.
Here is a list of basic items to help you begin to build your inventory for Layer #3.
Have you ever walked past your dining table and noticed that your tablescape or table centerpiece is looking dull and boring. You want to freshen it up a bit but don’t have a lot of time. The solution: You need to buy some lemons! Lemons are inexpensive, bright, and easy to find in all grocery stores so why not add them to your tablescape? I even mix artificial lemons with real lemons in my arrangements because it creates a variation in the size of the lemons which creates a more realistic look.
Place a clear jar on a cake stand and fill the jar with lemons. Next, add greenery and more lemons around the outside of the jar. This centerpiece will brighten any table. To shop this look just click on the highlighted words.
First place eucalyptus greenery and branches in skinny vase. Next put the skinny vase inside a large white wide mouthed pitcher or vase. By putting the vase inside the pitcher your greenery and branches will stand up stronger and straighter. If you are using a white vase instead of the wide mouthed pitcher you probably won’t need the skinny vase inside. Now put lemons into greenery, around mouth of pitcher and around base of pitcher. To shop this look just click on the highlighted words.
First place a white focal point such as a bird cage in the center of a table runner. Next add white candlesticks of varying heights along the table runner. (I like using white or glass objects because it helps the lemons’ yellow color pop.) Now wind green garland around the candlesticks. Last add lemons in groups of 3 along the greenery. To shop this look just click on the highlighted words.
This one is super simple yet it makes a happy and fresh impact! Just put lemons and greenery in basket. To shop this look just click on the highlighted words.
Creating an inviting table is the first step in actually using your dining table on a regular basis. Tablescapes do not have to be complicated or expensive. Start by collecting basic table props that can be used for multiple seasons and holidays. I have a great starter list in my “47 Must Haves on Your Wedding Registry” post. Click the highlighted link to go to the printable list.
This quick and healthy Cauliflower Spanish Rice is a great side dish! It goes with Mexican food or just chicken. On those nights you don’t have much time just pick up a rotisserie chicken and add it into the dish. All of the ingredients, except for the bell peppers, are either pantry items or freezer items.
1 bag of cauliflower bits (Buy a couple of bags and toss them in your freezer. They freeze beautifully and are a staple at my house.)
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 orange bell pepper
1 can black beans (drained)
Saute cauliflower bits and bell pepper in olive oil until cauliflower bits start turning brown. Add tomatoes and black beans. Season dish with Uncle Chris’ Gourmet Steak Seasoning, ground cumin, and garlic powder to taste. Uncle Chris’ Gourmet Steak Seasoning is my favorite spice mixture because it is easy and adds wonderful flavor. It can be used on all meats and vegetables. If you have an avocado try dicing the avocado up and adding it to the top of the Cauliflower Spanish Rice.
To try Uncle Chris’ Gourmet Steak Seasoning click HERE.