Make Mealtime Meaningful

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Could lasagna help you improve your relationships? It just might, if it helps get people to the dinner table.

Dinner is a great time for family, friends and couples to catch up with each other, face to face. But when hectic schedules fill up the calendar, it can be hard to find the time to sit down together. Fortunately, with a little planning, some time-saving products and cooperation, even the busiest people can find the time to reconnect over a good, wholesome meal.

Making a weekly meal plan and keeping your pantry and freezer stocked up can save a lot of time and keep you from wondering the age-old question: “What’s for dinner?” So take advantage of time-savers such as Stouffer’s new line of Farmers’ Harvest single-serve and multi-serve entrées. With high-quality ingredients such as sea salt, olive oil and real cheese, and a variety of whole grains and vegetables, you can have good, wholesome food that tastes great.

With the main dish taken care of, try some of these quick side dishes to round out the meal. And with all of that time saved, enjoy spending a little extra with those you love.

Find more quick and easy meal ideas at www.stouffers.com.

make dinnertime more meaningful

Even the busiest of people can enjoy quality time at the dinner table. Try some of these tips to help you make more meaningful connections during mealtime:

  1. Involve everyone in dinner preparation. Ask each person to be responsible for some aspect of dinner, whether it’s tossing the salad, setting the table or pouring milk. These jobs, when age appropriate, teach valuable skills, help everyone feel like an important member of a group, and foster self-esteem and independence. Download a handy Dinner Job Wheel at www.letsfixdinner.com.

  2. Ask specific questions rather than the usual, generic questions like “How was your day?” Specific, detailed questions show you are both aware of and interested in what’s important in your family and friends’ lives. Download colorful Conversation Starter Placemats for kids at www.letsfixdinner.com to help get them excited.

  3. During mealtime, get — and stay — unplugged. Turn off the TV, and only answer emergency phone calls. No texting, playing handheld games or listening to headphones. Tuning in to each other will pay off for everyone.

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Photo courtesy of Getty Images through Family Features

Raw vegetables for chopped salad

Chopped Salad

1 large head of romaine lettuce

2 large tomatoes

2 cups string beans

1 cup canned garbanzo beans

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

Salt, pepper and sugar

Rough chop lettuce and place in large salad bowl. Small dice tomatoes, about half inch thick. Drain and rinse garbanzo beans and add to salad mixture. Cut raw string beans 1/4 inch and add to salad mixture.

Dressing: in a small mixing bowl, add lemon juice, Dijon mustard and garlic. Slowly stream in olive oil and season with salt/pepper/sugar to taste. Pour dressing over greens and toss together.

photo

Photo courtesy of Getty Images through Family Features

Whole wheat garlic bread

Whole Wheat Garlic Bread

1 cup butter

3 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 teaspoon paprika

2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese, grated

1teaspoon chopped parsley

1 large whole wheat baguette

Soften butter and mix with garlic, paprika, Parmesan and parsley. Cut baguette in half lengthwise and spread butter mixture across generously. Put under the broiler until golden brown and bubbly.

Avocado and Bean Salad

2 ripe avocados diced into 1/2-inch cubes

1 tomato diced into 1-inch cubes

1/4 cup sliced red onion

2 cups canned kidney or white beans

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons finishing oil (such as walnut oil or a fruity light olive oil)

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped rosemary and thyme

Mix all ingredients together and serve.

Asparagus Gratin

2 heads of asparagus, white or green

1 cup Parmesan cheese

2 cups bread crumbs (seasoned)

Salt and pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Bring a sauce pot with 8 cups of water to a boil and season with salt. Trim asparagus (peeling may be necessary depending on the skin). Place all asparagus in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Strain and place in an ice bath to stop the immediate cooking process.

Dry asparagus and place on a flat baking sheet with all the tips facing the same way.

Mix Parmesan and bread crumbs together and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture on the base of the asparagus, leaving the tips exposed. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and place under the broiler until golden brown.

Source: Stouffer’s

From Family Features

Pineapple pudding is quick and easy

This quick microwave dessert tastes like you’re basking in the sun in the Hawaiian Islands.

Pineapple Cream Pudding

1 (4-serving) package sugar-free vanilla cook-and-serve pudding mix

2/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder

1 1/2 cups water

1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, packed in fruit juice, undrained

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

3 tablespoons purchased graham cracker crumbs

1 tablespoon chopped pecans

1 tablespoon flaked coconut

  1. In an 8-cup glass measuring bowl, combine dry pudding mix, dry milk powder, water and undrained pineapple. Microwave on HIGH (100 percent power) for 5 to 6 minutes or until mixture starts to bubble, stirring after 4 minutes. Stir in coconut extract. Evenly spoon hot mixture into 4 dessert dishes.

  2. In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, pecans and coconut. Evenly sprinkle a full tablespoon of crumb mixture over top of each. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serves four.

• Each serving equals: About 142 calories, 2g fat, 5g protein, 26g carb., 214mg sodium, 1g fiber; Diabetic Exchanges: 1 Starch, 1/2 Skim Milk, 1/2 Fruit.

© 2011 King Features Synd. Inc.

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