Soccer practice. Piano lessons. The school play. Families today are busier than ever.
While we have added an ever-growing list of activities to our plates, we sometimes sacrifice one major opportunity to connect with our children: the family dinner.
Studies have confirmed what we might suspect: there are many benefits of family dinners. Children who eat dinner regularly with their families have better academic performance, higher self-esteem, a greater sense of resilience, lower rates of substance abuse, lower rates of teen pregnancy, a lower likelihood of developing eating disorders and lower rates of obesity.
I recently found out about a book, The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with your Kids, One Meal at a Time, that is full of ideas to bring back this tradition. Not just a cookbook, The Family Dinner has ideas for conversation starters with your kids, time savers, ways to encourage your children to get involved in meal planning and preparation and much more. I immediately started thinking about giving the book as a baby shower gift and spent hours poring through the kid-friendly recipes and anecdotes.
The book is written by Laurie David, who I soon remembered produced the film An Inconvenient Truth. As Laurie explains, “The book came about because of an epiphany I had sitting at my kitchen table. I realized that all of the issues I care about, even global warming, crosses the dinner plate. I’m always very focused on what individuals can do to make a difference and The Family Dinner is a powerful antidote to a lot of the problems we face.” As the mom to two daughters, she knows well how difficult it is to stay connected to your children, and hopes the book will become a well-worn manual used at the kitchen counter and at the family dinner table.
Although the book is brimming with tantalizing photos, advice from experts and startling statistics, The Family Dinner is neither overwhelming nor guilt-inducing, which is remarkable. She encourages us to relax our ideas of what constitutes the “perfect meal” and put the focus on sitting down and talking. And for those of us who may not be able to commit to a family dinner every night of the week, Laurie offers this reminder: “the more you incorporate the ritual of family dinner into your family’s life the more you will get out of it. Your kids will be healthier and happier and you will, too.”
Thanks to Laurie and her collaborator, Kirstin Uhrenholdt, for sharing this recipe and for offering one lucky reader a copy of The Family Dinner! Check out the recipe and enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post.
Crispy crunchy quinoa cakes
These quinoa cakes are crispy crunchy tasty, perfect for Meatless Mondays…and they are very adaptable! Follow this recipe the first time; next time, replace a cup of quinoa with lentils and curry, then call them Indian koftas…or add a bunch of chopped parsley, then stuff them into a pita bread with lettuce and tahini sauce…now you have a healthy quinoa falafel! Hurrah! You now have a whole world of quinoa cake possibilities ahead of you!
¼ c flour (or all purpose gluten-free flour)
3 T tahini, almond butter or peanut butter
1 T Red or white wine vinegar
3 c cooked quinoa (1 cup uncooked, cooked in 2 cups water for 15 minutes)
1/4 cup finely diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c finely grated sweet potato (this is a secret ingredient, it holds the batter together)
1 10-oz pkg. frozen spinach, defrosted and squeeeeezed dry
½ c chopped nuts (pine nuts, walnuts or your very favorite nuts), optional
½ c chopped sun-dried tomatoes
4 oz crumbled feta cheese (optional)
2 T chopped parsley, dill or cilantro
1 t salt
Black pepper, cumin and/or cayenne pepper, to taste
Vegetable or grapeseed oil
Yield: 4-6 servings, with a few leftover for lunch
- First let’s start by washing our hands while singing the Happy Birthday song 3 times.
- Now, in your favorite mixing bowl mix the first 4 ingredients, then add all the other ingredients except the oil.
- Now get your kids in on the action. Let them stir, knead, moosh all the ingredients together, until they are one tight-knit family.
- Let the mixture chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 400º.
- Help each other form the quinoa cakes by placing 3-4 tablespoons of the mixture into wet hands and firmly (loosy goosies will fall apart) forming it into round flat “patties”, then putting them onto a well oiled, or parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
- Bake, flipping halfway through, until lightly-browned and just crisp, about 25 minutes.
- Serve with quick roasted red pepper sauce (see recipe below), tzatziki, chutney or a lovely tomato sauce.
Tangy, quick roasted red pepper sauce
1 ½ c drained fire-roasted red peppers from a jar
½ c toasted almonds (smoked almonds are perfect too)
1 clove garlic
2 t red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Yield: about 2 ½ cups
Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, taste for
- Squeeeeeeze the spinach dry
- Mix, mix, mix
- Patty cake the quinoa cake into shape
- Drain the peppers
- Be the official look out for loosy goosies
To enter to win one copy of The Family Dinner, please fill out the secure form below or leave a comment. The contest will end at midnight CST on Sunday, April 22nd and the winner will be selected by random.org and notified by email. There are no geographic restrictions, although you must be 18 to enter and you can only enter once. Good luck!
Written by: Nicole Basham
This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered and congrats to our winner, Stephanie!