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Turn The Tables On School Night Dinners

The kids are back to school and everyone is getting back into the fall swing of things. In some ways, it’s great: there is order and routine and everyone knows the schedule. On the other hand, a new form of chaos emerges, with early morning alarms, homework, and the extracurricular activity shuffle.

The last thing parent needs to worry about is dinner. It’s very easy to fall into a rut or struggle to serve up nutritious meals that everyone at the table can at least tolerate. Here are a few simple ways to jazz things up on those hectic school nights, while keeping smiles on everyone’s faces.

Turn Back Time

Keep your family on their toes by serving breakfast for dinner. It’s simple, it’s quick, and it’s sure to please.

Whip up some bacon and eggs with biscuits…


or bust out the griddle for pancakes or waffles with an assortment of toppings.


Include sides of yogurt and granola parfaits and fresh fruit salads to round out the meal.


Raise The Bar

Our little guy loves having options, which is why serve-yourself “bars” are overwhelming favorites in our home.

On Cereal Bar night, we start with some “plain” cereal (regular Cheerios or Special K for example) and then combine with something a little more fun (like Lucky Charms or Froot Loops). Bowls are garnished with strawberries, blueberries, and sliced bananas. Voila.


For those comfort food nights, Pasta Bar and Mashed Potato Bar are huge hits. Simply cook up the pasta or potatoes, and then lay out all the toppings. Different sauces, cheeses, sautéed peppers and onions or mushrooms, and meatballs or sausage for the pasta; shredded cheese, bacon bits, gravy, corn, sour cream, and chili or pulled pork for the potatoes.


Everyone gets to mix it up however he likes, which means everyone’s happy.


Color Your Selections

Take a second look at the produce department to help you brighten up old standbys.

Purple potatoes can be mashed or roasted for a colorful surprise.


Sliced rainbow carrots are delicious, whether steamed or raw.


And using a spiralizer on fresh zucchini can create colorful noodles. Toss them with any kind of sauce to change up spaghetti night.



Let Them Eat (Cup)Cakes

Who doesn’t love cupcakes? There are so many entrees that can be made in muffin tins. Not only does the change in presentation make boring meatloaf seem new again, but the cupcake-sized servings are perfect for portion control. There are tons of recipes out there for lasagna, chicken pot pie, macaroni and cheese, tacos and meatloaf, all made in cupcake pans. Here’s one that we work into the rotation from time to time, just to mix it up:




What are your tried and true favorites for making those rushed school night dinners a little more fun? We’d love to hear from you!



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