Dinners at our house are typically a pretty casual affair, though we do sit down to eat together each night. Our menu varies with my mood, the number of activities we have going on, and what food we have available. Sometimes I enjoy preparing a more elaborate meal and sometimes quick and easy is an absolute necessity. I don’t prepare separate meals for the kids and they’ve learned to try a wide variety of foods. Teaching my girls to eat well-balanced meals and develop healthy eating habits has been a focus of mine since they were born. Over time, I’ve found a few tricks that seem to work well with my family.
1. When children are involved in food preparation, they are more likely to try new foods and participate more fully in mealtime. There is always a task that a child can do, regardless of their age – washing vegetables, filling a pot with water, shaking herbs and spices from their jars, counting utensils…
2. Children get really excited about food that they can see growing in the garden. If they’ve helped to plant, water, and/or harvest the food, they will almost always eat it.
3. Choices, choices, choices. Kids want control, so I give it to them as much as I can. Sometimes they choose one part of dinner, sometimes the whole meal. Toppings make any meal a dream – it’s like choose-your-own-adventure with food. Also, my kids decide when they’re done eating rather than me harping on them to eat x number of bites or all of their broccoli (I do decide if they’ve eaten enough to have dessert though, wink!).
4. There’s something to be said for setting out the fine china. My girls loooooove fancy dishes!
Monterey Gourmet Foods recently sent me a sampling of some of their internationally inspired, fresh pasta dishes to try with my family; the girls and I had a fun time making an event out of a weeknight dinner. Everyone had a job and although we made quite an impressive spread of food, the entire preparation didn’t take more than an hour. One of the girls mixed up a few ingredients for a quick marinara sauce, one of them spread softened butter and garlic onto bread, and one of them made a salad.
I got down the china and they set the table and filled ramekins with various toppings such as parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes, and dipping sauces. Everyone was interested in trying different dishes, so we made several – the Italian-inspired five cheese raviolis and fresh spinach and cheese raviolis, and the Korean-inspired chicken mandu dumplings. Since the all-natural pastas are fresh, they only need a few minutes in a pot of boiling water to cook. Once the sauces, bread, and salad were prepared, I was able to cook the pastas in just a few minutes (then quickly pan-fry the dumplings) and get them all on the table simultaneously while they were still hot. I made the meal into a “pasta bar” of sorts, with the pasta served plain, alongside marinara sauce, browned butter, parmesan cheese, and a soy-based dipping sauce. My family loved sampling a little of everything and “making” their own dinner combinations right on their plates.
For more recipes and offers, visit Monterey Gourmet Foods on Facebook or follow them on their website. “At Monterey Gourmet Foods we bring the world to your table. Try our internationally inspired pasta dishes.”
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