Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Fan Club: Great Blogs for Family Dinner Recipes

For some people, the hardest part of family dinner is the dinner part. Knowing what to cook and having the confidence to prepare a meal can be a huge stumbling block. I'm preparing for several workshops on healthy eating this spring, and I want to collect the best resources to share with families to promote family dinner. One thing I'm creating is a list of some of my favorites food blogs that focus on family-friendly meals. By "family-friendly," I don't mean bland and boring, I mean "done in 30 minutes and on the table"!  I also mean, realistic for food budgets, cooking skills, nutrition and tastes, but still featuring real food that home cooks can accomplish on a daily basis. All these blogs fit the bill with inspiring recipes and tips that are do-able for time-strapped parents. As far as I know, all of these blogs are written by real parents who cook for their families. You can do it too!

Great Blogs for Family Dinner Recipes:
The Family Dinner Book. By Laurie David. This website, based on her book, has lots of resources, recipes and links to keep family dinner and the conversations with your kids flowing. I am honored to occasionally guest blog for the site.  byAviva Goldfarb, author of The Six O'Clock Scramble and other great cookbooks
Dinner: A Love Story: Great Stories, Great Recipes
One Hungry Mama: Recipes for Kids and their Food-loving Parents, Babies, Toddlers, and up.
What's Cooking with Kids: More than recipes, a lot of great info and insight on cooking with your kids and making a difference
Simple Bites: Articles, Recipes, and Fun Tips on Healthy Eating
The Jolly Tomato Family Food News and Recipes
In Jennie's Kitchen and Simple Scratch Cooking Recipes may be a bit more intensive than some, but real cooking is worth it!
The Naptime Chef This mom has accomplished a lot during naptime! Great recipes and inspiration.

I'd love to feature more blogs that can help with family dinner.  Let me know if you have a blog to share (even your own!) and I'll consider adding it to the list. (And, if you like any of these blogs, send the author some love via the comments section! Bloggers love that, really!)

More Blog additions:
Take Back Your Table
Food for my Family
Feed our Families
Little Locavores, by Melissa Graham, Founder of Purple Asparagus

Monday, January 24, 2011

Do Tiger Moms Eat Dinner with their Cubs?

When I first read about Amy Chua's "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" book in the Wall Street Journal, I had to laugh. I know many "Western" parents were outraged and incensed by her parenting philosophy, but it rang very true to me. I know families like this (my son goes to Brooklyn Tech, a specialized math and science school, where over half the kids are Asian) and they do get "results." My son has told me many shocked stories of how strict the Asian parents can be. (There is a funny parody on YouTube: No Shoes in Asian Homes which tells it all.) He is newly grateful that we are more balanced. (We used to be considered one of the stricter families while he was at a small progressive school). Now he knows better.

For all the sensation over Tiger Mom's strict parenting, the one question on my mind was: do they eat dinner together?

I think the answer has to be YES. Otherwise, it would not work. The genuine love and respect her daughters show their mom, even after the berating and arguments, demonstrate that they have a foundation as a family. The day-to-day touchstone of sharing a meal together is the bottom line "love" that makes the rest of the crazy strict rules work. For more liberal parents, the family meal is the structure and time to talk that allows you to discuss rules and expectations in a non-threatening way. Research shows that the middle way of "authoritative" parenting is actually best. This parenting style means that you have rules and expectations, but are also open to discussion and dialogue with your child. Rather than always taking the upper hand, authoritative parents are respectful to the child and are flexible as the need should arise. For any family, eating dinner together gives you a chance to enjoy each other and learn about one another apart from work or school demands and expectations.

I am not a Tiger Mom, although my husband says I do a good impersonation of a Jewish mom. To run with the stereotype, I'd say that "Jewish moms" just have high expectations and there is guilt and disappointment should you not meet them.  Plus, as a "Jewish" mom, I always make sure there's a lot of food on the table!

Great round-up and post on Amy Chua's book on Thrive by Five by Paul Nyhan, 1.20.11

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Just Cook: Easy Fried Rice

Part of cooking regularly is figuring out a way to effectively deal with leftovers. Some meals lend themselves well to just being re-heated and re-served.  But often, leftovers, at least in our house, are scraps of this and that, nothing big enough to count as another full meal, but a bit too much to just toss.

My DH, our resident stir-fry champ, feels like fried rice is the ultimate leftover tool. You mix lots of little bits together to create a whole new delicious and healthy meal. It is basically free, all you need are some leftovers and cold rice. (In this video, he uses freshly cooked chicken, but normally he would just use leftovers.) Here's his version of fried rice, thanks to YouBChef.

Easy Fried Rice
1 1/2 - 2 cups of cold leftover rice
Leftover meat and/or vegetable*, chopped small. (You can freshly cook 1/2 lb of boneless chicken or pork with a little ginger or garlic, as shown here, if you are out of leftovers.)
1-2 eggs
XO sauce (secret ingredient)
Chopped scallions (optional)
Soy sauce, optional, to taste
Canola oil

Prep leftover ingredients and egg first. Chop leftovers into small pieces. Scramble 1-2 eggs (depends how much you like egg and how much rice you are using) and cook omelet-style in wok. Chop egg into strips.

Add 1-2 Tbs of Canola oil to wok and heat on high. When wok and oil are hot, add cold rice and stir-fry in pan, breaking up with metal spatula. Rice is to be coated in oil. Once rice is coated, starting adding the cooled, chopped ingredients in any order: leftover meat, leftover veggies, cooked eggs. Keep tossing a heating until everything is hot. This should take 5 min or less, depending on how much rice you have. Near end of cooking, add 1/2 teaspoon of XO sauce, fresh scallions, and a bit of soy sauce to taste. (Soy sauce may not be needed, depending on whether leftovers have soy sauce or not.)

*Note: Any leftovers will work except those cooked with dairy.
Leftovers can get a bad rap, but creative re-use can instantly become new family favorites. Fried rice is one way to re-purpose perfectly good food into a new meal and a great way to whip up a weeknight dinner with no thought required! It is a big family favorite in our house for weekend lunches too, as seen here where the fried rices feeds 3 adults, 2 teens, 2 tweens and a five year old!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Q: New Year's Resolutions? A: Eat Dinner

New Years Resolutions for 2011:

1. Lose dinner.
2. Eat More Fruits and dinner
3. Help Support Kids to do better in dinner
4. Help Kids Make Healthy Choices (avoid obesity, smoking and drugs) dinner
5. Make time for family and improve relationship with your dinner.

Eating dinner with your family is the answer to many common New Year's resolutions. Family dinner takes a committment (what better time to make one?), but the time and effort it takes is more than paid back in the benefits to you and your family. 

Mark Bittman recently wrote about how cooking at home is the key to a more healthy and sustainable life. One Department of Agriculture statistic estimated that normal weight Americans spent just 6.8 more minutes per day, on average, shopping and preparing meals than overweight Americans. In light of the fact that Americans spend 35 hours a week watching television, this is not a lot of time.

I'd add that the routine of family dinner, with its daily connection and conversations, can improve emotional health and relationships as well. If you add a walk after dinner or count schlepping groceries, you might just add one more resolution to the list: "Get More Exercise." 

Consider making family dinners (3 or more nights a week) the centerpiece of your efforts to have a happy, healthy new year for you and your family. Happy 2011!

Articles and Resources:
Chop, Fry, Boil: Eating for One, or 6 Billion, Mark Bittman NYT 12.31.10
Back to Basics for Healthy Weight Loss, American Dietetic Association,
CASA 2010 Report: The Importance of Family Dinner Posts from 2010 with more tips on making family dinner work