Showing posts with label family dinners. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family dinners. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Seasoned Baked Potato Fries

Make your own seasoned fries at home, without the frying!

Cut up 3-4 potatoes into short thin strips.

In a bowl, coat the potatoes in a little oil and seasoning salt. I like to use Lawry's Seasoning Salt.

Line a baking pan with foil. Place potatoes onto foil in a single layer. 
(I did half seasoned potatoes and half just salted.)

Adjust oven rack to highest position and broil on HIGH for about 20 minutes, flipping potatoes every so often so each side is golden and crispy. I like mine a little darker. MMmmm.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back to School: How to Support Your Student

The new school year is approaching quickly, or has already begun for some. Make this school year a great one by supporting your child/student. There is nothing more important than giving your child(ren) time. Here are some ways that you can support your student(s) this year.

*Make sure your child eats breakfast. If you have to, wake him/her up early enough to grab a healthy bite to eat before school. Stock the kitchen with healthy options. Here are some ideas:

fruit (apples, bananas, grapes, pears, peaches, etc.) 
cereal (no sugar cereal!)
applesauce and toast
peanut butter and toast
bran muffins
yogurt, granola and fruit

NO: waffles, french toast, pancakes, Pop Tarts, sugar cereal, chocolate milk. They may be convenient for you but will make your child tired and will hinder their ability to focus.

*Make sure they eat a healthy lunch. If you can't see what your child is buying at school, consider packing a lunch. Don't give your child money if you pack a lunch, but include something your child will like. Here are some healthy ideas:

fruit (apples, pears, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, orange, grapes, fruit cup, etc.)
raisins, Craisins, dried fruit, fruit leather
veggies (carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, etc.)
cheese (string cheese or mini Babybel cheese)
ham/turkey sandwich, tortilla wraps, ham or turkey roll-ups
pasta salad
chicken nuggets
meat/cheese/cherry tomato skewers
crackers, pretzels, popcorn, granola bar
treat (yes, give them a treat): oatmeal cookie, homemade cookie, pudding, fruit snack, etc.

*Include a love note or surprise (not money) in their lunch. 

*Sit down with your child and help him/her with homework.
  • If your child can do homework on his/her own, check his/her completed work. 
  • Test prep: Quiz your child, or have your child teach you. If your child can teach you without any hesitation and can answer your questions, that is a good sign that he/she knows the material. 
  • Create a homework space, free from TV and other distractions. Make sure there is plenty of light. Natural lighting is best if possible.

*Read with your child. Weather it be for homework or just for leisure, read with your child. It can be a great time to bond.

*Talk about "highs & lows" of the day at dinner. What was the best (high) part of your day? What was the worst (low) part of you day? You can usually assess what kind of day your child had with these two simple questions. 

*Have family dinner! Click HERE to see why family dinner is so important. 

*Help your student get enough sleep. The majority of our students run on very little sleep. Homework and extra curricular activities don't help but, there are other distractions that really cause the lack of sleep- cell phones/texting, Facebook, TV, video games, etc. As a parent, you can help your student by limiting access to these distractions.
  • When your child sits down to do homework, make him/her turn off his/her cell phone and give it to you. He/She can have it back once homework is finished. 
  • Make sure your child doesn't have a TV, video games, or computer in his/her room. If he/she wants to spend time on these devices, they should be in common areas of the house, such as family room or den. This will limit time spent on these activities around bedtime.
  • Set a curfew or "lights out" time, if possible. Sometimes homework and projects run quite late. Help your child finish it if necessary. Don't take away from your child's learning experience but do what you can to help.

*Be nice to your child. Let your child relax and have some fun. 

Let me put something in perspective. Our children go to school for about 7 hours a day. During those 7 hours their brains are being crammed with new information, each teacher thinking that his/her students understood every word and will retain everything that has been taught. After school, our children are headed to soccer practice and/or piano lessons, or whatever extra curricular activities they may be involved in. Those activities can take up another 2 or 3 hours in the day, maybe more if it is game day. Some of our youth work after school. Once our tired children are allowed to go home, it is homework time. Homework shouldn't last more than 2 hours but it normally goes longer because every teacher thinks that his/her class is the most important, so let's say it goes for 4 hours on a good night- no tests or projects to finish up. Let's look at this schedule without breaks.

Wake up: 6:30-7:00am
Breakfast, get ready, go to school: 7:00-7:45
School 8:00am-3:00pm
Sports, lessons, etc. 3:00-5:00pm 
Homework 5:00-9:00pm

Where's the time to have dinner? Time to be with family? Time to unwind and relax? Time to get good sleep? There's got to be some balance. 

*Please be patient and kind to your children when they are going through puberty. Their bodies are changing and growing so quickly. They need extra rest and and proper nutrition. Sometimes the body can become overworked during rapid growth and changes which in turn can cause stress and weaken the body's immune system. Puberty is already an awkward stage for children. Don't make it worse. Support them by helping them get the rest that they need and make sure they are eating well. 

*Limit the extra-curricular activities. Don't overwhelm your child (or yourself) with too many extra-curricular activities. I know so many parents that spend their whole afternoons running their children to so many lessons and practices. What happens? We stop making dinner and eat out because it's convenient. We don't sit down for dinner because we ate it in the car. We don't talk with our children because they're gone and dinnertime is over. Our most valuable time to connect with our children is gone. 

*Don't worry. Your child will get into college. I've had so many experiences with parents stressing about their child getting into college that it cracks me up. Their child "has to take such-and-such test prep class on Saturdays so they can pass the SAT and ACT tests." Their child "has to get straight A's to qualify for such-and-such college." Their child "has to take AP classes and AP tests." Their child "has to do so many sports and activities to show how well-rounded their child is on a college application." So many times I just wanted to say, "Chill out! Your kid will get into college." It's true. Your child WILL get into college one way or another. He/She might go to a junior college first. Sweet! Save some money and enjoy another year or two with your child. 

I hope you ALL enjoy your school year this year!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Black Bean and Salad Pizza

I've been trying to eat less meat and stay a little more fit. Every week I plan meals for my family. It has been tricky to find delicious dinners with little or no meat. But, they are out there.

My sister makes a great black bean pizza topped with green salad tossed in ranch dressing. I love it! I love ranch with my pizza and this combines salad, ranch and pizza.

Trader Joe's has already made pizza dough in their refrigerated section that is fantastic! Roll it out, place it on a lightly greased cookie sheet, and top it with a can of drained black beans. Sprinkle some cheese on top and bake it in the oven for about 10 minutes.

When the cheese is nicely melted and the crust is golden brown, take the pizza out of the oven. Top your pizza with salad and enjoy!

I hope you'll give it a try sometime.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Chalkboard Placemats

I've been wanting to make chalkboard placemats for months now. I finally did it. I decided that I would follow the directions from Sew 4 Home. However, I wanted to have waterproof fabric on the back instead of regular fabric so I grabbed some oil cloth. When it came time to put the placemat together, I couldn't press anything with an iron or use too many pins. I didn't want to melt my fabric and once the fabric is punctured with pins, the hole stays there.

I decided to do this thing a super basic way using bias tape.

What you'll need:

  • Chalkboard cloth (found in the "utility fabric" section of your fabric store)

  • Oil cloth (also a "utility fabric")

  • Bias tape (extra wide, double fold bias tape- 3 yd. Plan on one package per placemat just in case)

  • Jean needle (strong needle to sew your fabrics)

  • Scissors

  • Sewing machine (with jean needle)

What you'll do:

1) Cut one piece of chalkboard fabric and one piece of oil cloth the same size. Cut it to the size you'd like your placemat to be.

2) With wrong sides together, line up your bias tape on one edge of the chalkboard side! This is important! I found that the chalkboard fabric is quite slick and thick and doesn't grab onto the feed dogs well. So, having the oil cloth on the bottom allows for easier and nicer sewing.

3) Sew your bias tape on. See the following tutorial.

I already finished 2 edges. I'm going to show you the top edge. (Pretend this is your first edge.)

Here's one side of the placemat.

Here's the other side of the placemat.

Here's where the bias tape comes in. For super clear instructions on using bias tape without swearing, watch this video.

I followed the instructions in the video almost exactly. The only change I made was that I lined up the edge of my bias tape with the edge of my fabric. The woman in the video, Amy, lines up her bias tape a little below the edge of the fabric but, don't do it! You need that space when you're using the thicker fabrics.

So, unfold your bias tape, with the thinner edge up. Sew along that first fold. I tucked in my sides like Amy did too.

Start folding your bias tape over to the other side of the placemat.

Now it should look like this on the reverse side.

Sew the edge down. The chalkboard side will be facing down but since you now have the bias tape on the bottom, the feed dogs will grab onto the bias tape nicely and you won't have problems.

Repeat with the remaining sides.

You're done!

Prep your chalkboard by rubbing the edge of your chalk all over the board. Wipe it clean with a clean cloth. You're ready! You can also use liquid chalk which I'd like to try out sometime. It looks a lot cleaner and brighter.

This post was part of The Shady Porch's Rock 'N' Share! Visit The Shady Porch for other great ideas across the blogosphere.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chinese Vegetable and Chicken Dish

The past 2 days I've shared a breakfast and lunch loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables. Today I'm sharing a dinner loaded with fresh vegetables. It feels like the right thing to do.

If you like Chinese food, this meal will not disappoint. My 1-year old and 3-year old like this meal too. I love recipes that the whole family enjoys.

This recipe is a little long but it's pretty simple. You can also make most of this ahead of time and throw it together last minute for ultimate freshness.

Ok, let's do this!

Here is what you will need:

Chicken Marinade:
2 breasts of chicken
2 Tbsp. oil
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. corn starch
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
3 drops sesame oil
Tabasco or hot sauce (optional)

1 clove garlic (chopped)
1-2 Tbsp. oil

Vegetables of choice:
snow peas
water chestnuts
red peppers
bok choy
bean sprouts

Vegetable Sauce: (double this if you have A LOT of veggies)
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2/3 cup water
1 tsp. chicken broth bouillon granules (or 1 mashed bouillon cube)
2 tsp. oyster sauce


1) Prepare marinade in a small bowl.

2) Cut up chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to marinade. (This can be done ahead of time or last minute. The chicken does not need to marinade long. I like to have it marinade for a couple of hours just because I like the flavors to soak a little bit).

3) Cut up your veggies of choice into bite-sized pieces. I used mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, bok choy, red pepper, and water chestnuts this time. I like A LOT of veggies.

4) Prepare vegetable sauce in a small bowl. (I doubled the recipe because I had A LOT of veggies AND I like to have some extra sauce for my rice.)

It will look like this. Not everything will dissolve and that's okay. I used a mashed bouillon cube since I didn't have the granules on hand.

5) Heat 1-2 Tbsp. of vegetable oil and chopped clove of garlic in a skillet. Do not burn the garlic. Once heated, add the chicken and cook all the way through. Remove cooked chicken and set aside.

6) Pour all your vegetables into the hot skillet. Add about 3 tablespoons of water and cover with a lid to steam your veggies. Steam until tender.

7) Pour your prepared vegetable sauce over your veggies. Add chicken back into the pan. Cook until sauce is thickened.

8) Serve over rice and ENJOY!

**As a side note, Trader Joe's Orange Chicken makes a delicious side dish.

This post is part of The Shady Porch Rock 'N' Share. To see more fun projects from the blogosphere, visit The Shady Porch!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Delightful Dining: Halloween Week

It has been a while since I did a post for family dinners.

This week make your family dinners fun and interesting with these ideas:

  • Come to dinner dressed up in your Halloween costume.
  • Make a dish or dessert that includes pumpkin as a main ingredient (pumpkin stew, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, etc.)
  • Serve gruesome dishes. (Brains and blood = spaghetti, mummies = hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls, make homemade pizzas and create monster faces with toppings, etc.)
  • Have dinner in the dark. Cover the table in a white table cloth and turn on a black light, or eat by candle light.
  • Have a murder mystery dinner. Invite some other families over for some extra fun. HERE's a great site for CLEAN games on sale now!

  • What do you want to dress up as for Halloween?
  • If your whole family had to dress up together for Halloween, what would you dress up as? (Scooby Doo and his friends? The Simpsons? A bunch of cowboys and cowgirls?)
  • What is your favorite part about the fall?


This is a homemade recipe for mac & cheese that tastes good and that your kids will eat! I love it too. It's made with real ingredients and the "cheese sauce" is creamy! (I used ditalini pasta noodles so both my toddler and 1-year old could eat it without problems)

6 oz. pasta noodles (about 1/3 of 16 oz. box)
1 egg
1/2 c. evaporated milk
cheese, shredded (to liking)

Cook your pasta, drain it, and return it to cooking pot. In a separate bowl whisk together egg, milk and a couple pinches of salt. Pour mixture over noodles. Stir in shredded cheese. Add more salt to taste if needed. If you'd like it extra creamy, add more milk. If you add too much cheese it will dry out quicker. You can't really ruin this recipe. It's very adjustable to your liking.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Family Dinners: Back to School


Each member of the family packs an item in a backpack, or tote, or other "school" bag. Be prepared to share the history or a story about that item to the other family members at the table. It can be a picture, an heirloom, book, toy, etc. Take turns sharing.

  • Do you know anyone who can speak a second language? If you could speak a second language (or a third), which language would you like to speak? Why?
  • What was your very favorite part of summer? What are you looking forward to when school starts?
  • What do you hope to learn this year in school?

FLAVORFUL FAVORITES: Easy Chicken Lettuce Wraps

These are so delicious and perfect for busy weeknights. These won't disappoint. I love P.F. Chang's Lettuce Wraps but they're expensive and I rarely eat out. I love making my own version at home.


1 can water chestnuts, diced
3 green onions, diced
1/2 pkg. fresh mushrooms, diced
1 chicken breast, cooked and diced
Trader Joe's Soyaki teriyaki sauce (add to liking)
1 head butter lettuce, washed


In a skillet, combine water chestnuts, green onions, mushrooms, chicken and Soyaki. Cook until hot and mushrooms are cooked through.

Serve with washed butter lettuce leaves.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Making Family Dinners Fun

This week...

DELIGHTFUL DINING: More moon pebbles, please!

Use silly names for the foods you eat. Corn isn't "corn" but rather "moon pebbles." Spaghetti is "monkey brains," and salad is "the chewsen one." Make up funny and even some gross names. Kids will love naming and eating their "exotic" foods.

TABLE TOPICS: Never A Dull Moment
  • If you could re-name your family members, what would you name them? What name would you choose for yourself?
  • What should we do more of as a family?
  • If you could go somewhere with just mom (or just dad), where would you go?


Moroccan Chicken


1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)

8 oz. baby carrots

1/2 cup pitted dried plums (prunes)

1 14 oz. can reduced sodium chicken broth

8 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned

1 1/4 tsp. curry powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon


  1. In a 4-5 quart slow cooker combine onions and carrots. Add plums and broth. Top with chicken. In a small bowl combine curry powder, salt and cinnamon. Sprinkle over chicken.
  2. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8-10 hours or on high setting for 4-5 hours. Remove chicken and vegetables from cooker with a slotted spoon. Spoon some of the cooking juices on each serving.

I served this over rice. It was delicious.

Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Family Dinners


Choose a book of interest to kids of varied ages or maybe a book that a child is required to read for school. Read for just 10 minutes as children are finishing eating. Pick up where you left off tomorrow night.

  • If you could re-do your own bedroom (or house) what would it MUST have?
  • Name a time in your life that made you feel proud about yourself.
  • Name one thing that you would still like to do this summer.

FLAVORFUL FAVORITES: Heidi's Potato Dinner Rolls

You can half this recipe and it still makes plenty!


3 c. milk
1/2 butter (1 stick)
1/4 c. crisco
1 c. potato flakes (or instant potatoes)
3/4 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1-1/2 Tbsp. yeast
1/3 c. water
pinch sugar
4 eggs
8 c. flour
1/4 c. butter, softened
extra flour to flour surface


  1. Heat 3 cups milk in microwave for 5 minutes on high
  2. Add 1 stick butter, 1/4 c. crisco, 1 c. potato flakes or instant potatoes, 3/4 c. sugar and 1 tablespoon salt. Beat until lukewarm.
  3. In the meantime, soften 1-1/2 tablespoons yeast in 1/3 cup lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar.
  4. Beat 4 eggs, then add milk mixture, yeast and 4 cups flour and beat until smooth. Add 4 more cups of flour one at a time. (Makes a soft dough) Mix for a few minutes. I just mix it in my Kitchen Aid mixer. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
  5. Take out half of the dough and roll out in large rectangle. Spread 1/4 c. of softened butter over dough. Fold in thirds. Fold long side bottom of rectangle up and then the long side of rectangle top down over it. Starting from end cut small slices off and twist into a tie or knot folding ends under. When pan is full, cover with plastic wrap and let rise 2 hours. Repeat for other half of dough. Bake at 375 degrees for 11 minutes.

**This makes a huge batch. However these freeze really well so you could freeze them too. Don't worry if the dough seems too sticky. That's how it is. Just plop it out on a floured surface and lightly flour and it rolls out and works just fine. I think that is what makes it so good.

Click HERE for a printable version.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Family Dinners

Click HERE to find out why I put an emphasis on family dinner.

DELIGHTFUL DINING: Two Truths and One Lie

Each family member reports on three things about his or her day. Two of those things are true and the other is a lie. The others try to guess which thing is the lie. Kids love to see the reaction of their parents and see if they can stump them too.

  • What is your favorite chore to do in the house? Your least favorite?
  • What is your favorite toy? Why? Where did you get it?
  • What is the silliest face you can make?

EXTRA FLAIR: The Michael's craft store near our house is moving locations which means they have everything for 70% off. MJ found these fun plastic cups. She said she wanted to have "fancy" cups for dinner. I forked out a whopping 60 cents for each. These will be fun for dinnertime this week.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Family Dinners

This week's ideas for successful family dinners:


Let your child choose a center piece for family dinner. It can be a flower, candles, or other object. If you'd like, take turns letting each member of the family choose a different centerpiece for each night of the week.

TABLE TOPICS: Get the conversation rolling with one or all of these questions!
  • If you could be any animal, what would you be and why? What noise does your animal make?
  • What is your favorite weather? Why? How does it make you feel?
  • What is the nicest thing someone has done for you? How did it make you feel?

ON THE MENU: What should I make this week? Just some ideas.

Sunday: Crock Pot Roast and Veggies served with a green salad
Monday: Warm Roasted Vegetable Salad with Baked Potato Wedges
Tuesday: Orange chicken served over rice, and stir-fry vegetables
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Bowtie pasta topped with vegetable cream sauce, served with garlic bread
Friday: BBQ Kabobs and corn on the cob served with fruit salad

**If you'd like any of these easy and yummy recipes, send me a comment. I'd be happy to share!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Super Suppers


Sunday: Polynesian BBQ chicken served with watermelon, rice, and a green salad
Monday: 4th OF JULY!
Tuesday: Taco Salad
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Ooey Gooey Crock pot chicken served over rice with a side of fresh summer fruit
Friday: Picnic in the park (KFC or pizza)

Remember to comment if you'd like any of these recipes. I'd be happy to post them. :)


Get the costume box out or some old clothes and dress up as superheroes. Make up a new superhero name for yourself. Explain your super powers and how you help people.

  • What makes you happy?
  • If you could be a superhero, who would you be and why?
  • Who is the funniest person you know?

Why I do dinner planning: Click HERE.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


ON THE MENU: World Tour

SUNDAY: Crock pot Chicken Tikka Masala (India), served with turmeric rice and peas

MONDAY: Falafel Pitas (Middle East), stuffed with cucumber/tomato/feta salad, hummus, and cilantro & chive yogurt

TUESDAY: Leftovers

WEDNESDAY: Sandwiches (Anyone know this one? Mine is going to be the super American version), build your own

THURSDAY: Seco de Pollo (Ecuador), chicken cooked in a tomato, bell pepper, red onion sauce, seasoned with garlic, cumin, and aji peruano

FRIDAY: Soft Tacos (Mexico), build your own

Please feel free to comment if you would like the recipes to any of these dinner ideas. My recipes are pretty easy, don't take much time, and taste good too! (Believe me- if it doesn't taste good, I don't make it.)

Also, click HERE to see why dinnertime is a big deal around here.

DELIGHTFUL DINING: Mystery Guests (aka Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?)

Each member of the family invites someone over for dinner. Keep the name of the guest a secret from each other until he/she arrives. This will be a fun surprise for everyone. Make sure you ask your mystery guest if he/she has any dietary restrictions and let the person preparing the meal know if there are any. This will be fun and I'm looking forward to it.

TABLE TOPICS: this will be fun with your mystery guests.
  • If you could go on a vacation to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
  • How would you describe yourself to someone who hasn't met you?
  • If you joined the circus, who would you like to be? What act would you do?