Kids benefit from family dinner
BY COLLEEN ALMEIDA SMITH World Associate Editor
Monday, November 19, 2012
11/19/12 at 7:05 AM
Because I Said So is a blog written by six parents and one grandparent.
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When the house rule is that food is not allowed out of the kitchen, it is easy to see why my family dinners growing up were spent together at the table.
Although my dad was known to break the rule and eat (alone) in front of the television, it wasn't a common occurrence.
My mom prepared dinner every night, and as long as extracurricular activities didn't interfere, we would all gather to talk about our day, our friends and our plans.
This month Global Gardens, along with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and the Tulsa City-County Library, is encouraging families to sit down together for dinner at least four nights a week with a program called Set the Table Tulsa. One of the many benefits that studies have found is that children who spend dinner time talking and eating with their families are less likely to drink and do drugs. Read Sara Plummer's Tulsa World story at tulsaworld.com/eattogether
Eileen Bradshaw, executive director of the food bank, is on board with the effort.
"I have a family and know how difficult this is to accomplish. It's a tough challenge," she says in the story. "It's complicated. There may be a parent who works an alternate shift. Kids are participating in sports or the arts. It's not easy to achieve, but it's worth it."
Family dinners in my household are a relatively new thing. For most of my daughters' lives, I worked second shift - 4 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. As a copy editor and then night editor, my job required me to be in the newsroom when the paper hit the press, or was "put to bed."
That left my daytime hours for household chores, errands, grocery shopping and cooking. I made a lot of meals that my husband could easily reheat or dinners in the slow-cooker that would be ready to serve when he got home from work. He and the girls spent a lot of time eating in front of the television.
These days I work a more "normal" schedule and am usually home around 6 p.m. I have come to value the recipes that help me get dinner on the table quickly, and my slow-cooker is still my best friend.
I enjoy eating at the table with my husband and children. Whether we talk about our day or just joke around, it's a bonding experience.
The girls are responsible for setting the table and getting the drinks poured while I plate up dinner. And I've found it's much easier to get them to help clean up after dinner if we are all still in the kitchen.
When I'm tired and don't want to cook from a recipe, my go-to meals include pasta with lots of vegetables in the sauce and make-your-own burritos. King Ranch Chicken Casserole is a favorite in my house, and today I have Chicken Fajita Soup in my slow-cooker. (From Tiffany Poe's recipe that recently appeared in the Tulsa World at tulsaworld.com/thebusykitchen.)
Cooking Light's Chicken and Orzo Skillet Dinner was a hit at my house recently.
CHICKEN AND ORZO SKILLET DINNER
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-sized pieces
8 cups water
12 ounces uncooked orzo
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (or about 2 medium chopped if using fresh)
2 teaspoons no-salt-added tomato paste
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
3 cups baby spinach leaves
3 ounces feta cheese with lemon and oregano, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
1. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken. Sauté 6 minutes, turning to brown all sides. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.
2. Bring 8 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add orzo; cook 8 minutes or until orzo is al dente. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.
3. Add reserved cooking liquid, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and lemon pepper to skillet; cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add chicken, pasta and spinach, stirring until spinach wilts and chicken has finished cooking. Remove from heat; sprinkle with cheese.
Colleen Almeida Smith 918-581-8481
Hailea (right) and Kynlee Thiel prepare the dinner table at their home in Tulsa. The family is participating in Set The Table Tulsa, an effort to encourage families to eat together. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World