So make yourselves a cup of gingerbread tea from the depths of your desk drawer (or something that equally smells better than it tastes) and grab a piece of dark chocolate. You'll want refreshments for this.
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Dinner time was never anything special in my house. I say that not because my mom didn't go to the effort but because it was the time before food television and blogging and when people wrote down recipes while watching "Regis & Kathie Lee." With a pen and paper. Getting creative for my mom was opening the Betty Crocker cookbook and making something that required a) more than five ingredients; b) more than 30 minutes; and c) a trip to the big grocery store. Read: Chicken Cacciatore.
But this story isn't really about Chicken Cacciatore though my mom did make it once, and we all used the same facial expressions as we did in the story about why I ate lemon meringue pie off the dining room floor.
Dinners, basic though they were, were always served and, save for the stretches when my mom worked two jobs or my dad was on second, they were served as a family. We would eat the meal at our table in the solarium, a glorious room that had three walls of windows and was the only space to feature hardwood floors. My mom tried to make balance meals, especially after my stick-thin dad was diagnosed with high cholesterol. There was meat (half ground turkey-half beef), a starch and a vegetable (from a can, with butter). And let me tell you, canned green beans with 2 tablespoons of butter are the jam.
The one thing we never had was dessert. You know, because Dad had high cholesterol. Sucker. Not so much because he was the reason I was deprived of baked goods (which I really wasn't, as evidenced by my size 14 eighth-grade graduation dress) but because he made the mistake of telling (read: whining to) my mom that we never had dessert.
So one weekend, after she had cleared the plates from the table, she came back into the solarium. Carrying a lemon meringue pie. Rather than be grateful, my dad made a joke. Or at least that's what we'll call it, as my mom didn't think it was that funny. And so she threw the pie. At my dad. Good or bad, she missed and it hit the floor. Mom and Dad went to the kitchen to fight, and my brother and I, sitting on the floor, ate the pie.
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There are two lessons to be learned from this story: Lemon meringue pie tastes good, even off the floor, and even the most volatile of families can eat together.
And eating together is important.
Three or more family meals together has myriad benefits, including: improved language skills for preschoolers, thinking skills and linguistic development and school performance/better grades; decreased chances of children being overweight, eating unhealthy foods and drinking soda; and lower rates of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use.
As a parent, I'm obviously not worried about the last part but I do strive to make family dinners at the table (not TV trays) a regular part of our week. Not only do Mark and I get the chance to model healthy eating but it gives us a chance to connect as a couple. It can sometimes be a pain during the week but the one time I like to really go to the effort is Sundays.
To me, there's just nothing that beats a Sunday night dinner.
It's the one meal that I have a bit more time to cook (45 minutes rather than 30), and it's a chance to do something heartier, especially on these cold winter days. Dare I say, Sunday night dinners are the chance to do something fancy.
And nothing says fancy to me like steak. I picked up a Laura's Lean Beef sirloin on a visit to the fancy Kroger (the big store, just like my mom did) and decided to try the company's recipe for Filet with Balsamic Onions and Gorgonzola. Obviously, I used the sirloin instead of filets.
I served it with homemmade sweet potato hashbrowns and broccoli, from the freezer and without butter, for a heart-healthy meal to do February proud. The steak was tender and delicious, and Mark and I loved the combination of the onions and blue cheese.
The best part, though, was sitting down as a family and enjoying a meal together. Or the five minutes we had together before Miles decided he wanted to play on the potty and throw steak to Denali.
And, according to Denali, steak tastes just fine off the floor.
Do you eat dinner with your family? Any tips to get through toddlerhood?
Disclosure: Laura's Lean Beef provided me with product vouchers but all opinions are my own. To learn more about the company, visit its website.