Project Family Dinner: Week Two Update, the bye week

The Menu(ish)

1. Leftovers

2. Box Mac & Cheese

3. Scrambled Eggs

4. Taco Truck

5. Thai Delivery

so this is what failure feels like

so this is what failure feels like

The Highlights

We found a new Thai place in our neighborhood that we kind of like. 

The Missteps

We meal-planned on Sunday, but then the day got away from us. We ended up not making it to the grocery store. We foraged through the fridge and cupboard and made our way through Monday and Tuesday, and by the time we got to Wednesday it just felt futile, so we threw up our hands and took a bye week. 

The Takeaway 

Week two was a step backwards. Somewhere in the middle of it all O even mentioned that she  missed the dinners from the week before. It was nice for her to notice the difference, and for me it was nice to have the contrast. It made it very clear why this project is so important for our family. The whole week felt more chaotic and haphazard without our coming together in the evening for that shared meal. 

Clearly, the Sunday shop and some of the advance meal prep is essential. If we miss the window, the week starts off at 100mph and it is too hard to catch up.

But man, that curry was good. No regrets. On to the next.

Check in soon for Project Family Dinner: Week Three Update, back on the wagon!

Project Family Dinner: Week One Update

O: (Announcing at the dinner table) Everyone, every time I help cook, my nose gets itchy so I get a little bit of germs in your food. Just so you are aware. 

The Menu

1. Shrimp Rolls and Avocado Boats

We wanted to start with a guaranteed win. Both girls love shrimp and serve anything on a brioche roll and you've won their hearts and tummies forever. Plus, it felt like a fitting farewell to summer (and I had a half a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer.)

bear with me while I learn to take better pictures of food

bear with me while I learn to take better pictures of food

2. Roasted Salmon and Lentils

3. Black Bean Soup and Avocado and Tomato Salad

We made this ahead on the weekend and had it ready to go for one of our late evening swim lesson nights. I get home with the girls around 6:45 so Jim gets dinner on the table in the 15 minute window he has before we get home. 

Photo and yummy salad credit: J. Felton

Photo and yummy salad credit: J. Felton

4. Spagetti with Red Sauce and Green Salad

Another solution to our swim lesson night problem. Plus, it used a jar of sauce that had been lurking in the cabinet. 

5. Pan-Fried Whole Wheat Pizzas with Ham and Leeks

If you haven't pan fried a pizza yet, I'm here to tell ya, I might never turn my oven on again.

The Highlights

Everyone ate! Everyone helped! We had five very tasty and very pleasant meals together. O and P loved the salmon and shrimp, but hated the lentils. The pizza was a huge hit with Jim, not usually a pizza guy, and I had leftovers for lunch all week. 

The Missteps 

The trip to the grocery store en masse was chaos. We only had one master list so Jim had to keep wrangling P back to the cart to receive his next mission for retrieval. I was so distracted trying to manage the list and the cart that O managed to sneak a couple of items of contraband into the cart. 

The Takeaway 

Next time, two lists, two carts, we'll split up to cover sections of the store. Jim takes produce, dairy, and P and I'll take meat and fish, dry goods, and O. 

We did a lot of prep on the weekend and every morning. Anything that could be done ahead, I did. I'm a lot more ambitious at 10:00am after my coffee than I am 5:00pm. It was interesting how just having chopped or prepped a few things in the morning made the planned dinner feel somehow inevitable. 

Project Family Dinner: The How

The Plan

We have embarked on a new mission, eating the same thing, together, five meals a week, for at least a month. 

We started Project   Family Dinner with a deep kitchen clean. We wanted to try to use everything we had stored in the cupboard. 

We started Project Family Dinner with a deep kitchen clean. We wanted to try to use everything we had stored in the cupboard. 

The Rules

1. Sunday Morning Meal Planning Meeting

After an inventory of the the fridge, freezer, and cupboard, we will sit down on Sunday morning to discuss the menu for the week. The hope is that if O and P have a say and a voice in the dinner choices, they might be more inclined to be adventurous when that dinner appears in front of them.

2. Everybody Shops

We will take a once-a-week, family trip to the market. Again, the thought being, maybe you'll be more likely to try the tomato if you picked it. Jim and I have agreed to divide and conquer though, one kid and one side of the market apiece. 

3. Everybody cooks

For Jim, that might mean cleaning kale for tomorrow's dinner after we finish dishes or making a big batch of soup on the weekend.  For O, that might mean tearing lettuce for the salad or helping me stir something on the stove. For P, that might mean shaking the jar of salad dressing. For me, that just means cooking, something I used to really enjoy. But everybody cooks.  

4. One "no thank you" bite of everything on your plate.

The Tools

1. Dinner: The Playbook

This book is wonderful. It is full of tasty, low pressure recipes, good tips on dealing with tiny palates, and a healthy dose of uplifting you-can-do-it inspiration to put you on the right track. I bought it Saturday afternoon, read it cover to cover after bedtime, and implemented my Project Family Dinner the next day. 

2. These guys, and their grumbly tumblies

Check in tomorrow for our Week One Update!

Project Family Dinner: The Who

The Who

Code Name: Tiny P

Special Skills: Will try anything once. Will spit out anything that she tries and doesn't like. 

Code Name: O

Special Skills: World class table setter. Vigilant against all things green and leafy. 

Code Name: Momma

Special Skills: Makes people. Makes dinner. Makes those people eat dinner. 

Code Name: Dadda

Special Skills: Everyone's favorite sous chef.  Always home when he says he'll be, especially when there is food on the table. 

Code Name: Big Brown Dog

Special Skills: Floor clean-up. 


The team is assembled. Stay tuned for Project Family Dinner: The Howcoming soon.

Project Family Dinner: The Why

We haven't been eating together. With evening swim lessons, school starting back up, and shooting for early bedtimes, we have devolved into a strange haphazard meal-time routine that consists of me throwing some "kid-friendly" food in direction of the tiny people, grabbing forkfuls of mac and cheese for myself in between bath and story, and Jim rummaging on his own for some semblance of leftovers and lunch meat, before we collapse into a heap on the couch at 9:30 with some chips and a glass of wine. It has been chaotic, stressful, oddly expensive, and generally, no fun.

This is how I feel after our evening routine too, only my wardrobe is never this fantastic.

This is how I feel after our evening routine too, only my wardrobe is never this fantastic.

So, we decided we needed a change. We decided that our family needs some sacred space, and we decided to start with dinner, a dinner where we all sit, around the same table, sharing the same meal, at least five nights a week, for month. What we eat is far less important than how we eat it: together. 

We have decided to focus on home-cooked meals, mostly because I remember a time when I loved to cook and I am trying to find a way to fall back in love with cooking again. This gives me a chance to be creative and expose these tiny palates to some flavors other than white (pasta, bread, rice, tortilla) and orange (cheese, carrots). Already this week O and P have had shrimp (thumbs up), sockeye salmon (thumbs up), and lentils (thumbs down).

Check back tomorrow for Project Family Dinner: The How for more details on our plan and a progress report halfway through our first week.


Our New Project: An Announcement

I can't wait to share the details of our next family project. Inspired by Jenny Rosenstrach at Dinner: a Love Story, and her new book Dinner: the Playbook, we are embarking on 30 days of home-cooked family dinners. I'll fill you in on all of the whys, hows, and whatnots in future posts, but for now, know that last night's dinner was wonderful and I'm looking forward to telling you all about it.