Five Tips for Sprucing Up the Supper Table
Dana’s Top Ten Table author Dana McCauley has five simple tips for sprucing up the everyday supper table…
Before I began this article, I asked my 10-year-old son, Oliver, for his ideas about how to make dinnertime more interesting. His answers were predictable but also insightful. First he said there should be more candy on the menu. Next he advised that the whole family should be involved in planning and cooking the meal so that it would be fun for everyone. He recommended that the presentation of the food be fun and inviting. “You could use mustard to make happy faces on all the food,” he pointed out. His last suggestion was that parents should make everyone’s favorite foods so that the family would be excited to come to the table.
While I’m not so sure about the candy idea and mustard happy faces on mac and cheese would taste weird, I totally endorse Oliver’s last suggestion. In fact, it’s the premise behind my latest book, Dana’s Top Ten Table, a collection of 200 recipes for the top 10 things that people like to eat. The idea for the book is rooted in research that shows that people have a repertoire of 10 foods that they make over and over again, and that the number one criteria parents use when choosing recipes is acceptance. But Oliver’s final answer to my question about dinnertime illustrates that we all intuitively know how to improve our dinnertime experiences: if you make the foods people like, the meal should be successful. Easier said than done, right?
Presuming that you already know what your family likes but dinnertime is still proving a chore, here are five tips that you can use to make the same old, same old meal, a satisfying experience for the cook and everyone else at the table:
There’s nothing like staring into the cupboard with no ideas and even less time to make you hate cooking. It’s not necessary to have a written menu for the week, but take a few minutes before you grocery shop to think about what kind of meals you’d like for the next few days. Not inspired? Ask the kids for advice. In my experience, they have lots of ideas and love to share them!
Double up on side dish prep
Although you may make a unique main course every night, do yourself a favour by preparing extra potatoes, rice, noodles, or vegetables. That way you can reheat them, add a different seasoning or sauce, and have half the meal prepared in minutes.
Add a twist
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to revitalize dinner. Making old favs seem new again can be as easy as substituting thyme for rosemary in a tried and true chicken recipe.
Try something new but keep it safe
In other words, if you know your family will eat teriyaki chicken, use the same seasoning on something they haven’t tried before like fish or tofu.
Use the freezer
If you make soup, stew or another recipe that can be doubled easily, you can serve half and freeze the rest so that you have a meal in the bank for next week. Sound like a recipe for dull and boring? Add interest by serving the meal differently. For instance, if you serve stew with potatoes this week, next week you can make it seem new by scooping out crusty rolls and serving the stew inside the bread bowls.
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