School may be out…but Dinner is ON!

Are your Dinner’s Ready calls being met with gasps of boredom rather than joyful Yahoos!!???

Oh the endless joys of summertime!  I mean really, on top of all the things a mother has to get done in a day, I’ve got to beg you to eat a cooked meal!  As far as I’m concerned I think getting dinner on the table should be met with applause and a crown and I don’t think I’m alone here!

But I’ve got to admit – they have a point – I mean there isn’t much anyone can do to a chicken casserole that can compete with a slip n slide?

Or perhaps you’re familiar with this scene?  Oh you made a lovely beef stew, Mom?  I would say thanks but my mouth is too full of snowconey (I see that this is in red but is a fun made up word and it makes sense) goodness to care.

Well, guess what kiddies and hubbies??  You have underestimated your Mamas yet again because we are going to make the call to dinner more exciting than a ticket to Six Flags…I’ve come up with 11 ways to get booties in chairs, food in tummies and on good days laughter and priceless memories.

1. Family Bar Night!

Now before you start to think that I am suggesting an open bar as a way to entice your loved ones to the table let me give you a little set up. The other day on the playground I heard a mother say that she was a ‘Bar Mom’ and just before I speed dialed child protective services I did some investigating (eavesdropping).  Turns out ‘Bar Night’ is the hottest trend in the ‘Moms Who Can’t Cook’ category in which they set up a buffet style ‘bar’ for dinner focusing on one basic food.

Here is how you rock this newest trend:

  1. Pick a ‘Bar” – Taco, Omelet, Salad, Pizza, Pasta, Pancakes….you get the gist.
  2. Cook the base ingredient – Meat, Eggs, Pasta, whatever and throw it in a Big Ol’ Bowl
  3. Grab a multitude of fun containers for all the add-ins – I like things that are unexpected like:
    1. Ice cube trays for keeping toppings separated.
    2. Sombreros turned upside down and filled with tortilla chips for nacho night.
    3. Chinese food containers filled with salad bar ingredients and using lettuce cups instead of tradition salad.
    4. Freezer bags filled with sauces and cut at the very tip are a great way for little kids to put the sauce on their pizza or pasta.
    5. Breakfast containers like cereal box stands, orange juice containers and coffee cups for pancake bar.
  1. Lay your Bar out on the table let everyone make their own concoction!
  2. The only rule at my house is your little Top Chefs must use at least one green food in their meal.
  3. If you really want to go the extra mile set up a drink bar in the fashion:
    1. Make your milk – vanilla, chocolate, we really like coconut in my house.
    2. Sip your own soda – seltzer water and a myriad of fruits and masher for a healthy fun version of bubbly goodness.
    3. The squeeze (my favorite) – a bar lined up with fruits that the kids can squeeze into water using a juicer (not an electric one) and then flavor with simple syrup.

2. Electric Eatery! 

We all know that electronics are not a great idea at the dinner table however much like the force; they can occasionally be used for good!  Here are some examples of what you can do when you turn off the television, the phone, email, Facebook, twitter, etc and use your electronics as conversations starters.

  1. Let everyone take turns being the D.J.  on your I-Pod/music player.
  2. Use a learning app on your smart phone or tablet to play trivia.
  3. Learn the names of what’s on your table in another language.
  4. Play words with friends (the digital version of scrabble) with everyone at the table.
  5. Look through virtual cook books and let everyone at the table pick a recipe to try for the next family dinner
  6. Play Stumble upon together with evertone in the family loading up their likes onto your computer or I-pad and then passing it around the table for each person to hit the stumble upon button and see what comes up!

3.  Location, location, location

Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery.  Pick a different space every night of the week to eat together….the basement, the roof, the backyard, picnic in the living room. The weirder the better in my book!

4.  Game Show Grub

Are You Not Entertained?  Are You Not Entertained?  Ok I am being a bit melodramatic by quoting Gladiator, but we are competing with Russell Crowe here so we have to step UP our game.

Dinnertime games will keep your kids at the table – a key component to having a family dinner!

This is my Coliseum worthy collection of games

  1. Guess the secret ingredient!
  2. Roses and Thorns – the best and worst thing that happened to you that day.
  3. Guess Who? – Everyone has to Guess Who someone is by only asking yes or no questions.
  4. Table topics – pick a topic and go around the table to hear everyone’s opinion on the subject.
  5. The Alphabet Game – I say apple next person says apple and buffalo, apple buffalo and cake…you get it.

Loser does the dishes, which seems far more far than what happens in good old Gladiator.

5.  Cook Off

Mom runs one team and Dad runs the other.  Each parent (or adult) cooks the same thing and the kids get judge whose chili, burger, steak, etc is the best.  Losing parent does the dishes!

6.Backwards night

Once in a blue moon you should eat dessert first!  Serve everyone a healthy dessert first, then dinner and end with an appetizer (something unusual like cucumber lime popsicles mimic a salad or cinnamon sugar tortilla chips with fruit salsa so that the sweet factor is still there and have everyone wear their clothes backwards!

7. Happy Un-birthday

 Birthdays coming once a year seems incredibly stingy to me so once in awhile I like to surprise my family and friends with a ‘Happy Un-birthday’ dinner…when it is absolutely not even close to anyone’s birthday! We’re talking balloons, small silly gifts and each person’s favorite dish.  There will be multiple renditions of happy birthday to each member of la familia! I believe piñatas are the perfect ‘Happy Un-birthday’ family activity…and quite honestly believe that a families happiness can be measured in their unadulterated use of piñatas!

8. Fondues for You

Let’s just be honest…dipping things in cheese is only trumped by dipping things in chocolate.  Fondue pots are available at every major home goods store for less than the price of ordering a pizza.

Use it to make:

  1. Tex-Mex – make a fondue using salsa, Velveeta and black beans and skewer chicken, beef, pork, veggies accompany with rolled up tortillas.
  2. A classic fondue – Bear, Gruyere, and Emmenthaler along with all the classic accouterment like bread, apples, pears, and sausage or
  3. Even a pizza fondue with marinara, ricotta, and mozzarella and let dip slices of pizza dough, pepperoni and veggie skewers in to the pot.

9. Camp 

I have never really used my archery skills that I acquired at Girl Scout camp, but tin foil meals have proven to be the best badge that never existed.

A tin foil meal is usually reserved for camping and it consists of taking a large piece of foil placing any piece of protein you like in the middle of said tin foil and then using whatever you have on hand at the camp site-bbq sauce, canned veggies, etc and putting them in the tin foil on top of your protein and folding the whole piece of foil into a tightly closed packet and then throwing it on the campfire. However you can get the same vibe at home by giving each member of your family a large piece of tinfoil and use everything in your kitchen that hasn’t found a home…canned corn, last nights chicken, ready to toss produce, left over tortilla chips, the last shreds of your Colby jack.  Anything short of the ‘best consumed before tomorrow’ and then you can write everyone names on their foil packet and throw them on the grill. Its like a campfire meal …but you get to shower and sleep your bed when the meals over!

10. Happy Meal 

I love a fast food happy meal in way that only a person who has never heard of cholesterol could. But what is a happy meal really…its sack full of cheap burgers and fries. Make your own Mc(insert your last name here) meal and the best part…No dishes! Turkey burgers wrapped in wax paper, sweet potato baked fries with stolen packets of ketchup in mini cereal boxes or juice boxes cut in half, and a ‘chocolate shake’ made out of skim milk, ice cubes, low-fat chocolate pudding blended into smoothie goodness and you are officially Ronald McDonald’s doppelganger!

11. Kapas

What? I am allowed to make up words…ok combine words…come on, guys, you totally accepted Brangelina! Kids Tapas or Kapas as I like to call it (copyright pending) is exactly what every child tries to pull off each night, so this summer I say embrace it! Serve small plates of all kinds of bite sized morsels and introduce your kids to the adult version of snacks as a meal…they will think you are the coolest mom ever and you won’t have to get up seventeen times to get ‘just one more thing.’

So there you have it, my top 11 ways to compete with dinner at Johnny’s house this summer!  Every neighborhood has a Johnny…the kid with pool who’s Mom allows them to have ice cream for dinner.  Some days I wonder why I even try to compete with all fun things that summertime has to offer and then I remember why…because I believe it matters that we sit with our families and if I have to compete with a slip slide to make it happen…then bring it on.