The other day there was a news story about how the stress of cooking “home-cooked” meals may outweigh their benefits. Headlines asked, “Is this the End of the Family Dinner?” In the study the women were comparing themselves to their ideal of what a home-cooked meal should be according to magazines, nutritionists and societal norms. There are no perfect meals. There are the fantasies that we are fed in magazines, movies and television cooking shows of beautifully set tables with the good crystal and china for every meal. Perfectly dressed little children who use perfect table manners and eat the four course meal set before without complaints are not real. They are what we have been told and shown are what we should strive for, but they are not real.
I do believe, for my family, home-cooked meals are better for them than take-out meals from any fast food joint. I can control what goes in them but at the same time I don’t fuss over details of garnishes, getting out the good china or are my fruits and vegetables organic. I try to get a few fruits and vegetables in my kids at each meal. Sometimes at the end of the day I am handing them a pear or apple because I realize we are light on the “healthy” stuff. But, I try. We all try to do our best. That is all we can do. To compare our meals to some fantasy of the perfect meal is futile. Will it ever really be good enough?
For me the most important thing about our dinner time is eating together. Sometimes that means using our “To-Go”dishes and eating in the car on the way to activities, sometimes we are at the table and sometimes we are at TV trays watching a family movie. For us, we use this time to talk, laugh and share our stories. We reminisce about trips we have taken, plan fantasy trips that we will probably never take and discuss how we would solve the world’s problems if only they would ask us. It draws us closer together as a family.
Every day I see on Facebook pictures of little boys and girls, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas asking for prayers. Prayers to cure some disease that is taking the life of their loved ones far too soon or for strength to get through the days after a lost job, death of a loved one or some tragedy that befalls them. In the end, will it be a perfectly roasted chicken and roasted vegetables at every meal that everyone remembers or will it be the time we spent together laughing, telling stories and loving each other.
If the food is home-cooked from scratch, partially cooked at home or take-out from a drive-thru it really doesn’t matter what matters to me is the experiences we share together.
So, in response to “Is This the End of the Family Dinner?” No. It may be changing to fit our lives and families but isn’t that what life is about? Evolution? As long as we sit down together somewhere and eat it is a family dinner.
So, here is another comfort food meal that I made in the slow cooker. It cooked during the day while I was out and I finished it when I got home. I try not use cream of anything soups when I can help it and this recipe was good without them.
It was a hit! The kids thought it was like thick chicken soup with biscuits. To me it was delicious. There was enough for one serving of lunch the next day.
I served this with a plate of cut up cucumbers, red peppers and tomatoes as a side.
- 1 1/2 lbs. chicken breasts, cut into 1″ pieces
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, sliced
- 1 lb. baby carrots, cut in half if you like
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tsp Morton’s Season Salt
- black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 TBSP canola oil
- 3/4 cup fat-free half and half
- Add chicken, chicken, stock, onion, celery, carrots, bay leaves, season salt, black pepper and garlic to the slow cooker, stir to combine.
- Cook on low for at least 5 hours. About 1 hour before you are ready to serve dinner turn the slow cooker to high and remove bay leaves.
- Combine the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of cold water. Stir well to remove any lumps. Pour the mixture slowly into the slow cooker and stir.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt, whisk to combine. Pour the oil into the bowl and cut into the flour mixture with a fork. And half and half and stir with a large spoon just until flour is moist.
- Make sure the broth is boiling slightly around the edges before adding the dumplings to the slow cooker. Using a tablespoon, drop dumplings on top of stew mixture.
- After adding dumplings, cook for 1 hour on high, or until dumplings are cooked through.