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I have read a lot lately about the benefits of family dinners. It would seem sitting down together to eat not only allows the parents to model good manners, but also provides a sense of security and an occasion for dialogue and discussion that prevents destructive behaviors and results in children doing better in school.
Preparing meals at home also gives parents the opportunity to teach children about good eating habits, to provide food that is healthy and nutritious, and maybe even impart some cooking skills.
I definitely love the idea that sitting around the table to a home cooked dinner makes for a happier family, and educates and nurtures, but I know in our family, the content of dinner can occasionally be cause for unhappiness.
Here are some of our more recent family dinners – I’m not sure everyone has relished or even liked the food on their plate, but the conversation and sense of togetherness has definitely been appreciated and enjoyed by all.


3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
3 ounces sliced proscuitto, chopped
1 1/2 onions, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28 ounce can Italian style tomatoes in juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
12 lasagna noodles (I used the oven ready kind)
12 ounces ricotta cheese
2 1/2 cups grated smoked cheese, divided (I used a combination of cheddar, pepper jack and mozzarella – all smoked in house)
1 egg

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sausage, saute until browned, breaking up with a fork, about 6 minutes. Add prosciutto, stir 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a bowl.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in same pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and next 4 ingredients. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Add tomatoes and juice, basil, and sausage mixture. Reduce heat, simmer until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Stir ricotta and 1 1/2 cups smoked cheese in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, mix in egg.
Brush a 13X9 inch baking dish with oil. Spread 1 cup tomato sauce evenly over bottom. Arrange 3 noodles atop sauce. Spread 3/4 cup cheese mixture thinly over noodles. Spoon 1 1/2 cups sauce over. Repeat with noodles, cheese mixture, and sauce 2 more times. Cover with 3 noodles. Sprinkle with remaining 1cup smoked cheese. Cover with foil.
Heat oven to 350F.
Bake lasagna, covered, 40 minutes. Uncover and bake until heated through, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes and serve.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2004
www.epicurious.com › recipes & menus


4 tablespoons butter
1 onion chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 10 ounce package of frozen peas
1/4 pound ham, chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 375F.
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large ovenproof skillet. Add the onion, sweet potatoes and peas and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the ham, flour and thyme and cook, stirring, until combined. Stir in the chicken broth and bring to a boil, then stir in the milk and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet. Add the panko, parsley and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the panko is slightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Scatter over the ham and vegetable mixture, let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from the Food Network Magazine, January/February 2013
www.foodnetwork.com › Recipes › Pork


1 onion, chopped
350 grams chicken, cut into cubes
250 grams cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1 pear, cored and diced
1/2 cup burghul wheat
3/4 cup boiled water
400 gram can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
100 grams baby greens
crusty bread to serve
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon orange juice

Heat a large frying pan, spray with cooking spray.
Saute onion for 2 to 3 minutes until tender. Add chicken. Cook, stirring for 5 to 6 minutes until cooked through.
Stir in tomatoes, red pepper and pear. Saute for 2 to 4 minutes until softened. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
Place burghul wheat in a small bowl. Cover with water. Set aside for about 5 minutes until all water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork to separate grains.
In a jug, whisk together the olive oil, white wine vinegar and orange juice to make the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add chicken mixture, chickpeas and salad greens to burghul with dressing. Toss to combine. Serve warm with the crusty bread.

Recipe adapted from Woman’s Day


3 large russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 pound ground beef
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons beef broth
6 ounce can tomato paste
6 tablespoons parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
grated cheese to serve

Heat oven to 450F.
Prick potatoes several times with a fork and place them directly on oven rack. Bake until tender, 45 minutes to an hour.
While potatoes are baking, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook unit slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the beef, stirring to break it up, and cook about 10 minutes, until browned, add the garlic.
Stir in the worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Cook another 5 minutes.
Remove potatoes from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle. Cut them in half lengthwise. At this point, you could scoop out the flesh, mix with butter and plain yogurt and then fill the shells with the hamburger mixture and potato mixture. I chose to mound the hamburger mixture onto the plain potato and top with the grated cheese, baking until the cheese was melted, about 5 minutes. Either way is delicious.

Recipe adapted from Parenting Magazine, May 2009