Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Year's Resolution: Revival of the Family Dinner

When I was growing up, somehow my mothers (whether working or not) managed to cook and put a delicious meal on the table most every night. Sitting down at the dinner table together was a nice ritual as much as it was the norm; it just happened. 
Studies show that kids who have family dinners do better in school and are less likely to become obese or suffer from depression. The reason for this could be due to healthy conversations and parent-child exchanges that often take place at the dinner table. Comfortable respectful communication (positive non confrontational) is certainly key.
But it seems that these days, parents and kids are busier than ever. Parents often work two or more jobs, kids juggle a million school commitments, etc. Fragmented schedules run us ragged and make it difficult to put that seemingly simple very important piece in place.
Another mealtime challenge is getting the kids to eat the healthy foods you prepare when they are finally sitting down at the dinner table. Cookbook authors and celebrity chefs across America (e.g., Rachael Ray and Jessica Seinfeld) have addressed this subject and have created recipes and techniques to help with the "food fights." 
Food fights wear us parents down and sometimes it is just easier to give in and pick up chicken nuggets and french fries or pizza and call it a day. 
Now, I am all for that as a quck fix on occasion – but with a little pre planning, we can get  a delicious, healthy, kid-friendly dinner on the table quickly and easily.
One of my family’s favorites is is Cowboy’s Mexican Lasagna. This easy to make main dish is served with a green salad and is super yummy.  You can watch the characters on Doggity’s (PBS Sprout) make it, or just give it a whirl on your own
Cowboy’s Mexican Lasagna
1 pound ground beef or ground turkey
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cans (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes
1 can ( 15 ounce) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed, optional
1 package(11 ounce) traditional size corn tortillas or 12 corn tortillas
1½ cups mild salsa
2 packages ( 8 ounces each) reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese, 4 cups
shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Place ground beef in large skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring
occasionally until browned and cooked through. Place in
colander and rinse with hot water. Place meat back in pan. Stir in chili powder,
tomatoes and beans, if desired.
Spoon 1/4 of the meat mixture over the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan spreading to
cover the bottom. It’s OK if entire bottom is not covered completely, though. This just keeps the tortillas from sticking.
Using 4 tortillas, form a layer on bottom of pan – breaking tortillas if necessary – to
cover most of the meat. Spread another 1/4 of meat mixture on top of tortillas and spoon 1/2 cup of salsa over the meat. Sprinkle with 1 1/3 cup of cheese.
Repeat two times, ending with cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.
Makes 1 13x9 inch pan of Mexican Lasagna

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