I grew up with family dinners pretty much every night. I’m not sure how old I was when it started, but the memory is a strong and happy one. Some days I feel awful that I can’t figure out how to make this happen with my own family. My kids eat dinner at 5:30, and most nights, my husband isn’t home that early. Perhaps family dinner will come at some point for us, but it’ll have to be when the kids go to bed later, and I don’t see that happening for a while.
There are days I feel terrible about this. I’ve read article after article about the benefits of daily family dinners. Somehow though, we can only make it work on weekends. And even then, sometimes it’s only on Sundays. I guess it’s better than nothing. Most nights, I serve my kids dinner and sit with them while they eat. Sometimes I eat dinner with them, and sometimes I wait until later.
What I’ve noticed over the years is that regardless of the number of parents at the table, a fun, interactive dinner vibe makes the rest of the evening flow more smoothly. Most nights, we play a game called ‘Petals and Thorns’ where we go around the table and talk about the best part of our day (the petal) and the worst part of our day (the thorn) to get the conversation going. Beyond that, food that gets the kids talking makes the evening more fun. Enter: DIY meals.
Here are some of our favorites lately:
DIY Sweet Potato Bar
Sweet potatoes are fabulous all year ‘round, and this dinner hits all the high notes with me and my crew. You can make it hearty with bacon and cheese; it’s a great way to add veggies with broccoli, peppers, onions or radishes; it can be sweetened with cinnamon; it can be spicy and sharp with salsa and scallions.
Here we’ve got bell peppers, scallions, caramelized onions, salsa, cheese, radishes, sour cream, avocado, broccoli, cinnamon, bacon and pea shoots. Something for everyone! You can also add black beans, leftover chicken… the sky’s the limit!
Raise your hand if your family loves tacos! My family loves them, but they each have different opinions about what should be included. Having the ability to customize makes everyone happy. And here’s my favorite part about this meal: leftovers are absolutely divine. Here we’ve got grilled chicken, guacamole, red onion, avocado, cilantro, lettuce, radish, beans, tomato and cheese. There’s salad and brussels sprouts on the side, but this dinner has no rules… those are welcome to go in too!
DIY Toast Bar
Breakfast for dinner is always a hit here, and lately we’ve been all about banana toast. Offer some various breads, nut butters, jams and fresh or dried fruit and you’ve got something magical. The best part here is that you can go sweet or savory. Add smashed chick peas or hummus, leftover chicken, avocado, and it’s a whole new angle!
My favorite thing about DIY Toast is that you’ve got options to keep it simple or make it more complex. Either way, make sure to start with some really amazing bread!
If you’re into the DIY Toast idea, you are definitely going to love my DIY Waffle Bar. It starts with homemade savory waffles (recipe here) and grows from there. This can be wonderful for any meal, not just breakfast.
Bonus points for serving a rainbow of colors. :)
Our family favorites include cheese, bacon, jam and avocado. Here we also have berries, cream cheese, radish and tomato.
Do you have DIY meal favorites? I’d love to hear about it! Shoot me an email or let me know on Instagram or Facebook. If you make one of these meals and post it, be sure to tag @lalalunchbox #lalalunchbox!