By KATIE WORKMAN
The challenge working parents face in maintaining work-life balance is often compared to a juggling act. Finding time together, especially on weeknights when family schedules tend to be hectic, is no small task. But finding time together, particularly at the dinner table, can pay a host of dividends. Studies have linked regular family dinners with higher grade-point averages and self-esteem in children, as well as lower rates of obesity and eating disorders in both children and adolescents. Cook, writer, activist and mother of two, Katie Workman, knows full well how difficult it can be to make nightly dinners together part of a family’s routine. But Workman, whose book “Dinner Solved!” (Workman Publishing) provides 100 family-friendly recipes and variations to ensure that everyone at the table is happy, relishes the opportunity to help others make family dinners a fun part of their nightly routines.
“Many of us put so much pressure on ourselves when it comes to family meals,” says Workman. “But when we ease up on that pressure, dinner actually seems to happen more often, and the meals are a lot more fun.”
To help even the busiest moms and dads find time for family dinners, Workman offers the following tips so parents can produce weeknight meals the whole family can enjoy.
1. Less is more.
Don’t make yourself crazy trying to master a recipe with an endless ingredient list on a Wednesday night. Weeknight meals don’t have to be perfect or exotic. Even the simplest recipes can make for delicious meals.
2. Change it up
Skip those time-consuming, last-minute trips to the grocery store for missing ingredients by replacing them with something similar that you already have on hand.
3. Get a head start on prep work
Whenever possible, reduce the stress of weeknight meals by doing some of your meal prep long before dinnertime. Chop veggies for the week on Sunday nights or take a few minutes each morning to gather ingredients for that night’s meal.
4. Make it a family affair
Make weeknight meals more fun by involving the whole family. Parents can let the kids peel carrots or measure rice or perform other age-appropriate activities.
A midweek meal made easy
Delicious and easy-to-prepare, this recipe for Maple-Barbecue Pork Meatballs from Katie Workman’s “Dinner Solved!” makes the perfect weeknight family meal. Pile them on rice or couscous or quinoa with a few extra spoonfuls of barbecue sauce for an easy and different weeknight dinner.
Maple-Barbecue Pork Meatballs (Serves 6)
- 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, plus more for dipping if you like
- 1/2 cup grated peeled apple
- 1/3 cup minced onion
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- Kosher or coarse salt, to taste
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1-1/2 pounds ground pork
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. Combine the bread crumbs, barbecue sauce, apple, onion, egg, and salt in a large bowl. Add the maple syrup and stir to blend. Add the pork and combine well using your hands, but try not to squeeze the mixture too much. Form 1-inch-round meatballs and place them on the baking sheet. Bake the meatballs until cooked through, 16 to 20 minutes. Serve hot, with extra barbecue sauce on the side.