Easing Into Back-to-School Dinners — Simple Scratch Suppers

by in Family, How-to, August 16th, 2011

back to school
When I first wrote up my outline for this blog, back to school dinners seemed a sensible choice given school starts this week for many families around the country. Nowadays, we all seem to be running short on time. People rely on meals out of boxes and bags, thinking there’s not enough time to cook. I wanted to offer you tips and ideas for making weeknight cooking easier.

Then something happened to change my perspective and outlook.

My husband died suddenly.

When I say suddenly, I mean just that. He was helping our daughter ride her bike, told her he needed to sit for a moment, then keeled over from a massive heart attack. Some of you, perhaps many, probably know about this already given the amazing show of support and love that has filled the food community.

So, why am I here talking to you all about back-to-school dinner ideas?

There are two little girls depending on me for love, support and hot meals daily. The team here at Food Network has been amazing. Honestly, I wish I could be standing over their shoulder as they open this email and wonder if I’ve lost my mind, handing in copy for an article just eight days after my husband, the love of my life and father to my children, was ripped right out of life.

As I try to learn a new kind of normal, there will be one constant to keep me going: food. The simple act of slicing some peaches two days after Mikey died gave me a sense of control when my world was lacking it. This is what food and cooking has the power to do.

This is why family dinners are important, and should be something we all strive to make part of our regular routines. It doesn’t require an elaborate or time-intensive meal. All it means is real food, made with real ingredients. Choose a recipe that fits your time frame. Pull out the crock pot if that’s your thing. Make a pot of soup as the nights inevitably grow colder, and you’ll have dinner for at least two meals the coming week. Instead of looking at dinnertime as yet another chore, seize it for the gift it really is — a time to come together as a family and talk about your day, say grace or clink glasses and cherish the moment with each bite.

Jennifer Perillo is a recipe developer and food writer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her recipes and tips for feeding families homemade meals are a regular feature in Working Mother magazine, where she’s the consulting food editor, as well Relish Magazine, Parenting, Kiwi and her blog, In Jennie’s Kitchen.

[Photo: Stockbyte]

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Comments (58)

  1. You're amazing Jen! Thank you for reminding us how precious the act of having a simple family meal together is!

  2. You're amazing Jen! Thanks for reminding us how precious the simple act of having a family meal together is!

  3. Clio says:

    Thank you for your bravery and generosity. I don't know if it feels that way to you right now, but I hope that someday it will. This truly brings perspective to what is important.

  4. Kelle says:

    Amazing Grace. How lucky your little girls are to have you as their mommy.

  5. JennyF says:

    Jennie, I am so truly sorry for your loss. Family dinners are important. My sisters and I were just joking with our parents at dinner on Saturday at all of the parental things they used to say to us at dinner growing up. I am lucky, I know, as we have these extended family gatherings almost weekly. There is catharsis in cooking and control. There is joy to be had in sharing a meal together. There is healing in the memories of those foods, recipes and shared experiences.

  6. IlinaP says:

    Preach it, sister! I'm making your milk braised zucchini for dinner tonight!

  7. arfoodie says:

    You go girl. You are an encouragement to all of us. It is so true; food has a sort of calming, centering effect on us, even when the world is crazy.

    Prayers for you and your girls.

  8. Jeanette says:

    Jennie, what a touching post. I am so sorry for your lost, something so difficult to understand. You are an amazing woman, a strong mother, and have sent a wave of reflection across the blogging community and internet that we should all cherish every moment with our loved ones and not take any minute for granted. May God bless you and your family during this difficult time.

  9. ilana levine says:

    i was not someone who spent a lot of time thinking about food or what to cook for my family. thank you for showing me a new way to think and love.

  10. P sullivan says:

    when my father died nine years ago I was certain that my mother had lost her mind when she suddenly stopped cooking and we started eating out of paper bags for the next six months. It was only when she returned to her own kitchen that I knew that she had begun to heal.

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