Taking the time to sit down to dinner as a family pays big dividends. According to a Columbia University study, kids who eat dinner with their families several times a week do better in school, are less likely to abuse substances, and are more likely to share their concerns with parents. But with all the family activities, how do you balance a healthy, active lifestyle with taking time for those you love?
You don’t have to cook a five-star meal to make mealtime a success. With products like Perdue’s frozen fully cooked whole grain breaded chicken, simple, home-cooked meals can have a powerfully positive impact.
Creating a plan
Start with putting a meal plan in place using easy-to-prepare items. Consider using prepared chicken nuggets or tenders, quick-cooking grains or frozen vegetables.
Despite what you might think, you don’t have to sacrifice nutritional value for great taste and convenience. Look for breaded items with a whole grain coating to increase fiber intake. Perdue’s frozen chicken products are made with all white meat and the whole grain breaded chicken line features the Whole Grains Council’s stamp indicating that each serving provides at least one half-serving (8 grams) of whole grains.
Also, consider focusing less on what you’re cooking and more on what you’re doing at the dinner table.
• Turn off the television, cell phones and video games so you can focus on conversation during mealtime.
• Serve meals family style; allowing each family member to pass serving dishes makes them feel included and valued as part of family.
• Insert conversation starter cards under each plate. Ask one person to name a favorite family vacation and why; ask another to name a favorite dessert from mom and dad’s childhood; encourage the family to laugh by remembering escapades with your family pet.
• Provide coloring sheets or activity books for fast eaters (or those with short attention spans) to keep everyone seated and engaged at the table.
Remember that reconnecting is really the key to family mealtime. Finding ways to make meal prep easier takes the pressure off the adults and allows them to focus more on what each member of the family is saying.
Meals in minutes
Test out these tasty combinations from Executive Chef Chris Moyer at Perdue Farms, Inc. They use quick-cooking, whole grain breaded chicken as the centerpiece for family mealtime. For more recipes, visit www.perdue.com.
Pressed California Chicken Club — Whole grain chicken tenders, avocados, applewood-smoked bacon, tomatoes, romaine lettuce and mayo on a ciabatta roll.
Chicken Parmesan Wrap — Whole grain chicken strips topped with a savory marinara sauce, grated Parmesan and melted mozzarella in a spinach tortilla.
Fried Chicken Waldorf Salad — Crispy whole grain chicken nuggets tossed with grapes, walnuts, and green apples in a fresh creamy dressing.
Roasted Corn Salad with Whole Grain Chicken Tenders — Sliced chicken tenders over a bed of roasted corn and cherry tomatoes with an herb vinaigrette dressing.
Honey Chipotle Glazed Nuggets — Golden fried chicken nuggets with a sweet and smoky chipotle sauce served over a bed of dirty rice.
Jamaican Jerk Tenders — Whole grain tenders infused with a spicy jerk sauce and served with grilled pineapple rings and a jicama slaw.
Mediterranean Chicken Skewers — Crispy chicken strips, roasted artichokes, eggplant and feta served with a tangy tzatziki dipping sauce.
Save money, eat well
Cooking on a budget doesn’t have to mean eating food you don’t like. With the right approach, it is possible to put great meals on the family dinner table without busting the budget.
After you’ve scoured the weekly grocery ads for sales and coupons, try some of these money-saving strategies and recipes:
• Tossing out leftovers is like tossing out money. Turn last night’s pasta into today’s pasta salad; or combine leftover potatoes, chicken and vegetables for a simple and savory potpie. There are plenty of creative ways you can reinvent leftovers and save money, while providing your family with a tasty meal that will bring everyone together at the dinner table.
• Add flavor and protein with budget-saving ground meat. Ground sausage, chicken, turkey or beef are great to buy in bulk. You can divide your purchase up into one pound portions and freeze them so you can use them as you please.
• Scour your cookbooks and online resources, like www.bobevans.com/recipes, for budget-friendly meals. The company’s Web site has a section called “20 Recipes Under 2 Bucks,” where you’ll find hearty and satisfying recipes that will fit any budget.
For money-saving coupons, visit www.bobevans .com/bemail and sign up for BEmail.
Sausage Cheeseburger Pizza
A quick appetizer than can be made into a meal, this unique recipe combines the flavors of pizza and cheeseburgers.
Preparation time: 15 minutes; cooking time: 12 minutes; makes 10 servings
1 pound Bob Evans Original Recipe Sausage Roll
1, 12-inch prepared pizza shell
1/2 cup yellow mustard
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup chopped onions
15 dill pickle slices
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Crumble and cook sausage in medium skillet until browned; drain well on paper towels. Place pizza dough on lightly greased 12-inch pizza pan or baking sheet. Spread mustard over dough; top with mozzarella cheese, sausage and onions. Place pickle slices evenly on top; sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake 12 minutes or until crust is cooked through and cheese is bubbly. Cut into thin wedges or squares and serve hot. Refrigerate leftovers.
The classic flavors of a Reuben sandwich — corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese — baked in a casserole.
Preparation time: 15 minutes; cooking time: 20 minutes; makes 6 servings
1, 24-ounce package Bob Evans Mashed Potatoes
1/4 cup milk
1/3 pound thickly sliced corned beef cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1, 14-ounce can sauerkraut, drained
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese, divided
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large bowl, stir together potatoes, eggs and milk until well combined. Stir in corned beef, sauerkraut and mustard. Set aside 2 tablespoons cheese. Stir in remaining cheese into potato mixture. Pour into a greased 8-inch-by-8-inch oval baking pan. Top with 2 tablespoons cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes or until top is golden.
Sources: Perdue and Bob Evans Foods