There is much debate regarding family dinnertime and its impact on the family system.

Different studies using different methods can be found suggesting that time spent together during a meal is both beneficial and not relevant. All credible research aside, my own opinion is that family dinner is perhaps a lost art.

I grew up with 5:30pm being dinnertime and Sunday’s were reserved for “gravy”
with extended family. When I was younger sometimes I felt as if I was forced
into a silly routine. I thought about how not all my friends had to eat “so
early.” Now that I am older and so much wiser (clearly joking) my perspective
has changed. I am grateful to have had this experience.  I consider myself truly blessed to have
had that comforting structure and memory of all of us around the table at the
same time.

I now strive to keep the same tradition alive in my own home and participating in
the Sunday Dinner rotation. Sunday just doesn’t feel right if I haven’t had
dinner with my parents and siblings. The tradition has certainly carried on and
contributes to our strong family bond. I am happy to share some ideas that may
help you start a tradition of your own.

Make Ahead Meals

Life is busy, end of story. Not every meal has to be an
elaborate Martha Stewart affair, or appear as if it belongs on a Pinterest
board. Choose meals or parts of a meal that you can make ahead. Saving you both
time and trouble.  For Sunday’s a
lot of the time baked ziti, or lasagna is a hit. These dishes can go beyond the
standard, there many different variations that can please every palate. Try
side dishes like roasted potatoes and vegetables, macaroni and cheese, or
salads. All of which can be made during the week and put in the fridge just
waiting to be put in the oven.

Let People Help!

Everyone always asks what can I bring? At times I say “don’t
worry” and people most likely bring something anyway. At least in an Italian
family no one wants to show up empty handed. Being a guest myself at times I am
always relieved when someone just comes clean and tells me what they could
actually use! It seems it makes people feel as if they are being included or it
is a way of saying “thank you!” I almost always cave and say bring your
favorite dessert. After cooking and spending money on the appetizers, sides, and
main course it is a welcomed break!

Also, when people are at the house I find they repeatedly
ask what they can do to help. If it is immediate family you have over such as
grandparents, siblings, or parents let them help! I will save the plates or
glasses for them to set out.  Maybe
let them dress the salad if I already have the dressing pre-made.

Sample Menu

For me, the best part is simply thinking up a menu. It may
be a challenge to please everyone coming to Sunday dinner but that is half the
fun! I usually have some things to pick on because everyone comes hungry! Then
you have your main event along with your sides. Here are some simple ideas:

Pre-dinner snacks:

Mixed Olives

Bruschetta (tomato/basil ,  or gorgonzola/pear/blue cheese)

Brie and Grapes

 

Main Dishes:

White Wine and Herb Marinated Pork Loin

Lasagna Bolognese

Chicken Parmesan

 

Sides:

Herb Roasted Potatoes

Brussel Sprout and Pomegranate Salad

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Stuffed Marsala Mushrooms

The most important thing to remember is that by having a family dinner you are creating memories and connections. We tend to forget that people just appreciate being together. The meal doesn’t have to perfect, the ambiance does not have to be impressive. The simple intention of having people you care about together is what people will be grateful for.

 

Find these recipes and more at: http://dishitgirl.com/

 

Dina has appeared alongside her family on the E! Networks show “Married to Jonas.” As seen during the show, food is synonymous with family and life events for her. She grew up with Sunday dinner being treated like a weekly holiday. A family dinner, for her is serious business and perhaps a lost art.
Dina’s formal training comes first and foremost from her mother and grandmother. Along the way she has picked up techniques from various cooking classes from the Institute of Culinary Education and the Ninety Acres Culinary Center. She hopes to inspire home cooks to venture out and aspire to create meals that are the centerpieces for family time and traditions.
As evident from her blog Dish It Girl, her versatility allows her to put on some heels and hit up a 5-star restaurant, and then chase down a food truck. If you can dish it, you best believe she can eat it!

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