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What’s For Dinner Templates?

8 Oct

Here are some templates for print at home weekly menu sheets. You can either print a new one each week and post it on the frig, or print your favorite, trim it to fit in an 8×10 frame, and use a dry erase marker to write your weekly menu on the glass!







Recipe! Breakfast Burrito Casserole

1 Oct

You can prepare this ahead of time (night before) and refrigerate until ready to cook.


Three Medium Tortillas

Half a can of refried beans

Half a jar of salsa

Half a bag of precooked turkey sausage crumbles

Half a cup of Hormel real bacon bits (or 6 crumbled bacon strips)

6 -8 eggs, beaten (depends on how ‘high’ you want it and how many folks you want to feed)

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or Mexican blend)

20 cooked tater tots or hash browns, finely chopped (you can do this with your hands). You can microwave them (they’ll crisp up when you bake), or you can just save out some next time you make tots!


Heat oven to 350

Spray a 13×9 casserole dish with Pam

Spread three tortillas with refried beans

Place bean-covered tortillas on bottom of dish (you could place them and then spread the beans on, whichever is easier. Just try to cover the entire bottom of the dish. You can tear them to puzzle it together)

Spread salsa evenly over beans

Sprinkle sausage and bacon evenly over salsa

Pour beaten eggs evenly over meat

Sprinkle 1 ½ cups of shredded cheese over eggs

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes

At 30 minute mark, take casserole out, sprinkle potatoes over top of casserole. Then sprinkle remaining  cheese on top of that.

Bake 5 more minutes (or under the broiler if you’d like the top crispy)

Serve alone or with salsa, avocado, sour cream, etc.

Makes 10 servings (large servings)

Sit Down For Dinner, folks!

11 Oct
McFamily at JRDN in Pacific Beach (San Diego)

A quick iPhone pic taken by Rachel before a fancy dinner out.

Bite-sized Portions for My Maidens

McTopics: Family Meal Time – You can do it!

My 15-year-old son recently wrote an essay about the positive influences that have shaped his life. The assignment required that he write a paragraph each about a significant person, place and event/experience.

He asked me to proofread it (“for spelling only,” he reminded me, of former editor of red-pen fame).

I was blessed to the point of tears. He chose to write about his brother, (a freshman in college this year) as his “Who;” playing hockey and attending an annual week-long Christian summer camp as his experiences; and our dining room table as The Place. It was the kind of essay that makes you so proud you want to tell everyone about it (and I guess that’s what I’m doing, right?).

Then, a week after the heart-swelling essay, a study from Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse concluded that teens who regularly eat with the family are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and more likely to fare better in the adolescent years and beyond. An excerpt from the report:

“This year’s study reinforces the importance of frequent family dinners,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA Columbia’s Founder and Chairman and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. “Ninety percent of Americans who meet the medical criteria for addiction started smoking, drinking, or using other drugs before age 18. Parental engagement in children’s lives is key to raising healthy, drug-free kids and one of the simplest acts of parental engagement is sitting down to the family dinner. Seventeen years of surveying teens has taught us that the more often children have dinner with their families the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs.”

For the full report:

There are many times in the parenting journey where we wonder if the things we do make a difference. It seems that the family dinners have.

In our community, we are among a large percentage of people who are involved, educated and dedicated to raising their children to be successful. There’s nothing unique about that. Apparently, however, our regular old family meals together are one of the things that do set us apart from about half of the other families in our country. Life is busy, kids and parents are going in several directions, and eating is often done alone, in front of the TV, in the car or with teen friends rather than family members.

Family dinner is sacred in our house. We are not legalistic about it, but we are dedicated to making it happen on a regular basis.

We both grew up having family dinners, even if they weren’t what you might imagine. My husband’s family rarely ate before 8 pm and those dinners were spirited. My dad worked for a professional baseball team, so sometimes our “family dinner” consisted of him coming down from the Press Box to our seats behind the visiting dugout, enjoying a hot dog or a hot chocolate, and asking us about our day, schoolwork, etc. Thus, it’s probably not surprising that we wanted to make this a goal also.

Family of Two: Our family meal tradition was purposeful. And it wasn’t always easy. But from the beginning, even when it was just the two of us, both working full time, we’d sit down to eat at our dining room table – foregoing the TV trays we received as a wedding gift (although those were great for football-watching parties!) TV was off. Phone went to the machine.

Party of 3 and then 4: Once the kiddos arrived, we still made the effort, although sometimes it would mean that we’d pull the baby swing up to the table so bambino could be a part of the dinner, even if it meant constant winding that swing to keep said infant from getting fussy.

Somewhere down the line, when both the boys were of talking age, we added in the conversation starter, “What was the best part of your day?” and made our way around the table, including any guests in our query as well.

These days, we rarely even prompt doing the “best part” query – the conversation just seems to flow around so that everyone reports something significant from the day – be it hilarious, bizarre, frustrating or amazing. The boys linger at the table, dipping community carrot sticks in community Ranch long after the main meal is done. As they’ve gotten older, the conversation occasionally gets a little too “salty,” and so we’ve added the admonition: Civility! Lots of laughs and hilarity ensue, and the boys have been known to arrange their evening plans around dinner so as not to miss it.

But we didn’t get here easily. Sometimes the family dinner (we aim for Sunday-Thursday at home and one family dinner out on the weekend) just isn’t doable because of extra-curriculars, work, meetings, etc. But that’s the exception, rather than the norm. If we have to eat at 5:30 to make it work, so be it. If we have to push it til 8, we’ll do a heavy after-school snack. If one of us (mom or dad) can’t be there, the other makes the dinner sit-down happen. Even if it ends up being a meal out – fancy restaurant or fast food – we still eat it together and we talk to each other. One spring, we had baseball games almost every night of the week between the two boys. The snack stand diet put a temporary kibosh on the home dinners. But the season passed, and we got back to it.

A couple of times last year, when we’d all be going out on a Friday night – the boys to a football game or social event and my husband and I to a movie or dinner – we’d have a family Happy Hour, with appetizers, lemonade slushies for the boys and cocktails for the grownups. And we’d talk about the week behind and the weekend ahead.

A friend once commented (before she knew us well) that it seemed like we really enjoyed our teens. She was right. We really know them, know what’s going on in their lives and the lives of their friends, and they ours.  And maybe that stems from these dinners.

So, if you’re not regularly doing a family meal together, here are a few tips if you would like help starting up your own Family Meal Tradition:

Any Meal Time Will Do: Dinnertime has worked for us in general because my husband’s office is nearby and he sets his own schedule, but I know sometimes career, commutes and kids’ ages preclude delaying dinner until a working parent gets home. There’s always breakfast, or even the option of sitting at the table with the late-arriving family member and chatting while they eat. And remember, as kids get older, they can stay up a bit later, so just because it’s not dinner now, someday, it might be. You can also consider setting up a video chat session for a portion of the dinner so that the missing parent can hear about the family’s day. And there’s always the Milk and Cookies sit down if your kids can handle the sugar and later bedtime.

Any loving adult will do: Whether you are a single-parent home, a sometimes-single-parent home (spouse traveling a lot), a home with grandparents, aunt, uncles — the key is that the family meal includes a loving, caring adult family member who can steer the conversation, listen to the kids, and provide the sympathetic ear. Don’t cancel the meal because there are just two of you!

Any Food Will Do: Extravagant or simple, organic or fast food, the purpose of this sit-down is family connection.  It doesn’t matter who made it or where you eat it, as long as everyone can sit down at the same time and enjoy it, and each other, in community.

No Media: Turn off the TV and either turn off or agree to ignore all phones. Once in awhile we’ll break this rule if there’s a big playoff game on TV – but we still pause it while we pray together and for the first 10 minutes or so of dinner, just to check in with each other. Often there’s the temptation to look something up online or on the iPhone when the discussion hits a question (Sometimes we resist the urge, but sometimes we don’t) We’ve often said we need to make a list of things to look up later!

Conversation Starters: As I mentioned, we always did “best part of the day” highlights, but I know some people do best and worst, Roses and Thorns recaps. Here’s my caution: if you are content to “just listen” to the worst part, without turning it in to an intervention where everyone tells the person what they should have done, go for it. But along with “worst parts,” are often parenting questions, admonitions, and accusations. I’d advise you to keep it zipped when Tommy tells you that the Bully of the school tripped him, other than to say, “Wow, that really stinks.” Later that night, when it’s private and appropriate, bring it up again and go to town on making sure that the Bully got his just desserts! You could also do a “What was weird or wacky,” roundtable, or pick up a book of conversation starter topics. (Go ye to Google, my friend!) Let your kids take turns with the conversation starters.

Where to begin: If you’re not regularly having meals as a family, start with one night a week (or one weekend daytime meal) that is usually predictable. Sunday evening works for many, and it’s a great time to review and preview.  Look at your calendar and see if you can identify several dates in the future and commit to them. Your tradition will be unique, but the earlier in your kids’ life you begin, the better the chance you have of making it a permanent, significant part of their sense of family when they are teenagers – and it they are already teenagers, you can still work it out. You will be giving them a several-times-a-week reminder that they belong, that they are part of a something, that come Bullies or drama queens, they will be able to sit amongst loved ones later in the day, share a meal and a story, and know that they are loved.

Musings over meatballs

2 Jan

Musings over Meatballs….

Dec 12, 2010 — Today’s pre-Christmas task: prepare the labor-intensive, paw-licking delicious Sweet N Sour Meatballs that surreptitiously (it was stolen) entered our Family Recipe Book around 1973.

We made these Meatballs, my mother, sister and I, many a December in preparation for our annual Christmas Eve open house. We’d relish the cooking and baking …and sampling ….in the kitchen with my mom.  Today, as I fried up meatballs solo with just the dog to help out with anything dropped (it’s a little different in a house full of men, just saying), and I created the meatballs for my own Christmas Eve Neighborhood Open House, I began thinking about meatballs and life lessons. It’s not exactly Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but stay with me here.

First of all, you need to let the raw meat reach almost room temperature or else you’ll feel like you have arthritis while you squish around in there. Bone chilling ache in the fingers makes for painful work. Many times we’d zealously rush to the task and end up miserable. Life lesson #1: Some things cannot be rushed and are much more pleasurable when nature is allowed to take its course.

My sis and I would always begin the meatball formation with glee, shaping the spheres with care to match the size of the perfect sample Mom made. Right around meatball number 50, however, and a glance at the still gigantic mound of raw ground beef with chopped water chestnuts, onions and spices, we’d gradually begin making the meatballs bigger. The bigger the meatball, the fewer we’d have to form. Right? Wrong. Quality Control (QC, aka Mom) sent them back and we’d have to pinch off the excess and form new ones.  Life lesson #2 – Do it right the first time, even if it is more difficult, more time consuming or not as much fun. It is worth it and will save you regret and do-overs in the future.

We loved these Sweet N Sour meatballs. LOVED them. We would snarf a few that Mom would offer as part of QC. Then, before the guests arrived, we’d power a few more. So yummy. Then, of course, a morsel or two (or 10) during the party. Well, more than a few times, I experienced meatball remorse — or reflux more accurately. Ugh. Life Lesson #3 – Too much of anything isn’t good for ya. Moderation in all things – even those things that you just love love love.

Frying the meatballs is not pleasant. Grease splatters and hair that smells like fried fat are part of the deal. But trying to determine if they are done is daunting me. I roll them around – squish them a little to see if the juice runs clear. But sometimes, you’ve just gotta open one up to check and be sure. Even the crispiest exterior can mask a raw middle. Life lesson #4: You can’t judge anyone or anything by outward appearances.

Several years after I’d left home, my Fightin’ Irish-loving hubby and I came to my folks for a visit in honor of the Stanford v. Notre Dame football game. My mom and I decided to make the Meatballs for the tailgate party, for which we’d rented a motor home. Departure time for Palo Alto rolled around, and we finally finished bringing out a week’s worth of food for the afternoon. It was difficult to find places to stash everything, and rather than have someone hold the Pyrex dish full of meatballs in their lap the entire ride across the SF Bay, one of us (we’re not sure who and let’s just leave it at that) decided that putting them in the RV’s microwave would be a good storage spot. Never mind that there was a sign (we discovered later) that said, among other admonitions “Warning: Do not use microwave as storage while motor home is in motion.”

So, as we backed the behemoth down the slanted driveway and reached level ground, a shift occurred in said microwave, and that Pyrex dish banged it’s way out, crashing to the floor of the RV (there goes the cleaning deposit) and worse, shattering a million Pyrex shards into those precious meatballs, which I can honestly say, were it not for the glass, would have been consumed by any number of people despite having been on the floor of a rented RV. Life Lesson #5 — Read and follow directions, especially those that begin with the word “Warning.”

We still had fun at that game, and I don’t even remember who won.  We had plenty to eat and drink. We have had many laughs about the meatball explosion – it is a family story now that must be told whenever meatballs are served. Life Lesson #6 — Often it’s the things that go wrong that make life richer and bond us together through shared experience and how we react to trouble.

Long gone are the who-put-it-there debates and the was-it-driver-error-that-caused-it ponderances. It doesn’t matter. Despite our hard work and our care to attention and detail in our preparation, something went wrong. Life lesson #7 — Bad stuff happens sometimes and it’s no one’s fault in particular. And even if it can be blamed on someone, if it’s done, and can’t be undone, and people are sorry and learned a lesson, forgive them and let it go. Clean up the meatballs and glass, and go have a good time at the football game.

So all this deep thinking in the time it took to fry up three pounds of meatballs. Funny, how much our family has gained through this stolen recipe. Which brings me to Life Lesson #8 – Share your dang recipes, people, so no one has to steal them! And, I promise to share this recipe with you – as soon as I can find the meatball portion of it! Had to wing it today – basic meatballs, but you add dried oatmeal, water chestnuts and Worchestershire sauce. They turned out okay, but I’ll have to tweak the exact measurements. But here’s the recipe for the sweet n sour sauce.)

Sweet & Sour Meatballs Sauce

Bring to boil the followiing:

-2 cups sugar

– 1-1/2 cups vinegar

-1-1/2 cups water

-2 tsp paprika

-4 tsp salt (3 may be better)

-4 Tb cornstarch in T water.

After sauce thickens add 1/4 cup Soy Sauce and 1 tspn ginger. Stir.

Pour drained meatballs into sauce and EAT!

God bless you and Merry Christmas.