Photo Credit: Jennifer Causey/Dinner a Love Story
In a perfect world, dinner would be more than just a meal thrown together at the end of the day. It would be nourishing and delicious, a chance to connect with family, a ritual everyone enjoyed. And of course, there would be clean plates all around. In theory, this may sound complicated. But after reading Jenny Rosenstrach’s new book Dinner: A Love Story (based on her popular blog of the same title, which you should bookmark!), the nightly family dinner seems totally doable – fun, even. Here, Rosenstrach shares her five favorite go-to meals from her blog and the book. --Lisa Cericola, iVillage senior food editor
It's not that pancakes are so special to me – though we do have them at least five times a week for breakfast. The idea behind this photograph is that feeding kids is not so much cooking for them as it is marketing to them. They love their own names (which is why they each get a little pastry monogram on their mini potpies) and they love messages like this one on their breakfast plate. This is not rocket science, but with kids, whenever I have the opportunity to make something fun, I go for it. Increases chance of consumption by at least 300 percent.
Baked Potato Bar
This was one of the first dinners we had as a family that elicited actual cheers from my children, and, even better, a meal my kids could actually help me get started while I was still on the 5:39 commuting home from Manhattan. I taught my 8-year-old to turn on the oven to 450° and place four baking potatoes on the top rack right away (so it wasn't hot). When I walked in a half hour later, all I had to do was work on the toppings: bacon, cheese, broccoli, onions, sour cream, basically any leftovers you've got in the fridge.
Shrimp and Grits and Then Some
For a lot of people (especially Southerners) this meal is probably as quotidian sounding as spaghetti with marinara sauce. For me, though, if shrimp and grits is on the menu it means that we are in South Carolina. Furthermore, it means that we are in South Carolina on vacation. And as we all know, it's just a fact that food made on vacation tastes a whole lot better than food prepared anywhere else. When we are down South, my daughters pop shrimp into their mouths like baby carrots. It's always in the fridge and always delicious.
Spaghetti with Clams and Extras
This is best eaten outside with an ocean view. If you can’t swing that, then at least try to secure the freshest clams possible. We often forego the pasta and just have the clams, soaking up the briny broth with crusty bread. In the book I have a chapter called "You Make it, You Own it," and it's about the system that has always been in place in our house. It goes like this: If one of us (meaning me or my husband) discovers a recipe, prepares it for the family, and it's a hit, it is that person's responsibility to cook that recipe for the family forevermore. So that's why I love this one so much -- whenever it's on the line-up, he's in charge of doing the whole thing. Which means I can have a glass of wine and chill out.
I love this recipe (which incorporates leftover spaghetti and which we learned from our friend Adam) but more I love what my husband (fellow Dinner: A Love Story blogger) wrote about it. I laugh my head off every time he explains my family's history with leftovers. Like what he says about my Mom who saves every single scrap of uneaten food from the dinner table: "And whatever was leftover, no matter how small, was not ever swept into the sink. 'Don't throw that away!' Jenny's mom would say, as I tipped a plate containing a lone baby carrot toward the garbage pail. 'that's perfectly good!'" Also perfectly great: the spaghetti omelet which takes about 10 minutes to make and requires a few simple ingredients (Parm, eggs, parsley) that you probably have in your fridge right now. Serve with a salad and a glass of wine and you are set.