Posts

Our family table has long played a central role in our home, whether in mealtimes, school work, or neighborly connection and yet, by the end of the Spring, it seemed to be dissolving somehow. Mealtimes were irregular or rushed. We struggled to find time for other people to join us for dinner. My children’s curiosity about food or what was happening in the kitchen seemed to be waning. I found myself shouldering most of the planning, shopping, and prepping meals again. Sometimes when life begins to spin, I become caught in the whirl, tossed by the chaos, when what is needed is for me to stop and rearrange our family life so that genuine connection regains priority. We have many regular family conversations about the collaborative work required to make a home. In short, everyone contributes; everyone’s effort matters.

On that note, last month, after a family conversation where I shared all of this, the kids took responsibility for four dinners a week again. They paired off, taking two nights per pair, rotating who leads the meal making/planning and who is the helper. Each child plans one full meal a week, checks what we already have, and writes down what we need for the grocery list. They do have to submit ideas to me for approval, mostly to make sure there’s diversity to our meals and that they don’t select anything that might be too complex for our schedule that week. I encourage them to flip through recipe books or think back to the meals they’ve enjoyed most. I still help them, of course, but I am an aid to them, available for questions and to help how they might need it, rather than leading the charge. And many times, they enjoy the freedom to direct the kitchen without my help at all. It has been refreshing.

I included a few guidelines for our meal planning below, as well as a few meals they have made. I linked to a few of the recipe resources, too. We have just started discussing meal budgets in meal planning and may in the future add that boundary to the mix. For now, the goal is simply for them to be creative and inspired by the kitchen again, to be reminded of the healing nature of community around the table and the responsibility we each have in cultivating it. I am the check-and-balance, keeping a loose idea of how rare or expensive the ingredients might be or how long a meal might take to create. It is all a part of a conversation in our Sunday meal planning together.

SIMPLE MEAL GUIDELINES

Vegetables are required at every meal. Meat is not.

Pasta only once a week, with veggies.

Limit oven meals in the summer. Use the grill when possible.

Eat seasonally, when possible.


MEALS THE KIDS HAVE MADE

rainbow chard quiche + mixed berry spinach salad

creamy pasta pomodoro + mixed green salad

roasted poblano fish tacos (we make these a variety of ways)

pulled pork sliders + jalapeño coleslaw + caesar salad

grilled herbed salmon + quinoa edamame salad

BLTA subs + sliced watermelon

pasta with zucchini + carrot ribbons + spinach salad

grilled chicken + white wine, mushroom, spinach sauté

gemelli pasta with roasted cherry tomatoes, garden basil, spinach, and fresh parmesan

baked sweet potatoes with various toppings + spinach salad

grilled chicken sandwiches with avocado + sun-dried tomatoes + parmesan truffle potato fries

meal_planning5
I regularly have people ask me how I plan our family meals, and also how I include the kids in the kitchen. I’ve been working on a small upcoming project regarding this topic, which I’ll have more on soon, but for now, I thought I’d share a sample meal plan from our summer table, as it can be helpful for me to peek in on what others are doing when I’m in a rut. As for recipe books, I’ve been mostly using Clean Slate––which I love for the juice/smoothie recipes, educational front matter on clean eating, and detox plans for when for my system feels inflamed (often after summer vacations)––and It’s All Easy––because I am an unabashed GP fan and I love recipes that sound fancier than they are, such as cauliflower tabbouleh, zuni sheet pan chicken, and Bo Bun salad.

Between May and October, our family almost exclusively grills meat, saving the cool air and energy indoors. We still enjoy weekly pancakes on the griddle each Sunday morning and the occasional roasted vegetables with dinner, but more often we eat our veggies raw and varied in these hot months––chopped, spiraled, sliced, minced, or even whole. I find the varied presentation helps disguise their simple nature and also the feeling of redundancy, “carrots for snack again?” Slice or chop them differently, and you may never notice.

Summer produce is my favorite for three reasons: peaches, watermelon, and berries. These fruit naturally end up on our weekly menu in any manner until the season’s end. For simplicity right now, dinner is the only planned meal. Breakfast and lunch are an assortment each family member chooses from at will. We encourage taking only what you’ll finish, and always being considerate of others if you’re about to finish something off. I’m fairly certain years of making morning eggs has burned us out a bit, and no one seems to complain when they are gone for the week. Wink.  Dinner is specifically planned each night, and on the best nights, there’s leftovers to enjoy for lunch the next day. I sometimes shift evening meals around when unexpected things occur in a week (which they almost always do), so it’s nice to have a solid crockpot choice (shredded BBQ chicken for us this week) or an accessible main course for last minute meals. I often have frozen chicken breast or tilapia in the freezer for this reason. One easily grills and the other quickly thaws when I’m in a pinch. For those who are interested, here’s this week’s menu:

 

breakfast

eggs with mixed greens and berries

red or green juice

cereal/oatmeal with berries

fruit + yogurt

lunch

dinner leftovers

lunch meat or hard-boiled eggs

spinach salad with veggies

chips + fresh fruit

• dinner

 grilled pork tenderloin stuffed with fresh spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and mozzarella, served with roasted green beans and asparagus

grilled chicken breast, served with lemon and herb pasta with cherry tomatoes

street tacos, a weekly community meal with friends

shredded BBQ chicken sandwiches, served with jalapeño coleslaw and mixed salad greens

Bo Bun Vietnamese salad with grilled shrimp

grilled salmon, served with cauliflower tabbouleh

one family eat out night