Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Extended family dinners

Welcome to the November 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Feeding Your Family

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared recipes, stories, and advice about food and eating. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Davis' favorite seat
I always had the intention to have a family dinner night. Somehow it was easy when we were first married, and Walker worked late hours to not do it. We would usually eat together, we just did so in front of the TV. After Moira was born, we would make stabs at eating together, but more often than not, I would take my food somewhere quiet and leave Walker and Moira in the kitchen. We were getting the hang of it, sort of. Most nights we were together for a little at the table, with food of some sort to eat.
Then we moved into a new house with my parents, and then a little later, a couple of friends moved in. I now have a family dinner for 8 people most nights. The kids are gluten free, one of my friends has a number of food allergies, my Dad can't eat hooved animals. The kids are picky, my Dad likes to have a varied diet, I want to not spend hours cooking.
What surprised me is that adding all these spinning plates to the idea of dinner has made it easier instead of harder. We share the work: my Mom makes a salad and appetizer every day, my roommates take turns cooking, Walker and my Dad clean up. I've noticed that Moira is talking more about the food, even when she won't try it, and there's too much conversation all around for her to spend a lot of time complaining when there's something she really doesn't like. You are almost certain to have someone who likes what you made (we've decided a successful meal is one that 4 or more people like). And it's easier to make multiple dishes when you are cooking in bulk, thereby insuring that there is something for everyone even if they don't like the main course.
It's not a perfect system of course. There are still nights I make everyone fend for themselves, or that we eat take out. Making the meal plan every week has an added difficulty level as I attempt to figure out who will be home each night, when someone will need to eat early, or if there are extra attendees. But it seems to be working well for us.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon November 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • Nut Free Desserts for the Holidays — Becky at Crafty Garden Mama will be talking about navigating the holidays with peanut allergies in the family.
  • Making Peace with My Picky Eater — Once upon a time, there was a boy who would try anything. And then he turned 3. Thus began the dinner chronicles at Dionna at Code Name: Mama's house.
  • Foodie Morphed by Motherhood — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis reflects on the changes of her family's food culture since becoming a mother, and shares a snapshot of their current food rhythm.
  • Introducing First Foods — Wondering what your little one should take a bite of first? That Mama Gretchen explains baby-led weaning/baby self-feeding and answers a number of questions that may come to mind!
  • Feeding Your Family — Coconut Oil!!! — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama is a coconut oil devotee. In this post, she shares her favorite ways to include coconut oil in her family's diet as well as why she feels it is important to do so.
  • We Thank the Earth for its Food! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle spends hours in the kitchen each day trying to make medicine in the form of food.
  • Focusing on Healthy, Gluten-Free Foods for My Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares what her family is doing to eat healthily along with her recipe for gluten-free peanut butter oat bran muffins.
  • Intolerancesustainablemum laments the misunderstanding surrounding food intolerances.
  • Don't Let Food Sensitivities Ruin Your Holidays! — Rachel, the Titus 2 Homemaker, talks about ways to enjoy the holidays even if you wrestle with food sensitivities.
  • Losing grains, keeping empathy: Paleo and fat acceptance — Lauren at Hobo Mama vlogs about her family's decision to cut grains to improve health — and hopes she can retain her position as a proponent of size acceptance even as she loses weight.
  • Easy Homemade Crockpot Mac & Cheese — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work, shakes off the blue-box blues with an easy crockpot mac-and-cheese recipe with no artificial dyes or excessive preservatives … just creamy, delicious, comfort-food goodness.
  • Extended Family Dinners — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about sharing family dinners with housemates and why it works for her.
  • Five Suggestions for Eating Healthy During the Holidays — No need to feel powerless when it comes to our highly sugared/processed food culture during the holidays &emdash; Andrea at It Takes Time offers tips to stay on track.
  • How to feed your family — no food required! — Jessica at JessicaCary.com is kind of obsessed with food. But, lately she's realized there's more to nourishment than what she cooks up in the kitchen.
  • Food as family medicine: living gluten-free and beyond — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama sticks to her gluten-free guns but sees room for improvement in her pursuit of a real-food family table.
  • Feeding My Family — Challenges and Growth — Susan at Together Walking shares what has been most challenging about feeding her two kids and how she has grown in the kitchen since becoming a mother.
  • How I Lost 75 Lbs — What I Eat & My Top 5 Tips — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares how she and her family became healthy, happy and active.
  • The Weight of Motherhood — Revolution Momma at Raising a Revolution rethinks her relationship with food after struggling with post-pregnancy weight gain.
  • Geek Food: Pumpkin Pasties — While Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy and family might have food sensitivities, their geekery knows no limits. So, when faced with a desire to recreate Pumpkin Pasties from Harry Potter, they do not shy away!
  • Pumpkin Harvest Muffins — This summer Mama is Inspired and family grew pumpkins, and this autumn they are baking scrumptious, healthy muffins out of those pumpkins.
  • Reintroducing Meat to the Vegetarian Tummy — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares some of the considerations she explored before transitioning from a vegetarian diet to reintroducing meat as a protein source and a few tips on making it an easy one.
  • Thanksgiving Meal, Thankful? — Jorje of Momma Jorje has never felt terribly thankful for Thanksgiving itself. Perhaps that could change if she's a little more invested?
  • 5 Ways to Use Healing Bone Broth — It's that time of year again, when unpleasant little bugs make their way into our homes. For Megan of The Boho Mama, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, homemade stock or bone broth is a natural remedy.


  1. I think it would be so much fun/useful/functional to have more people in the house, but these kind of details might make me crazy ;)

    1. I've always liked the puzzle of figuring out what to feed people. Having picky eaters and allergies just makes it a slightly more difficult puzzle, so it's still fun for me.

  2. As the "friend with the allergies", I too was trepidatious at first. But the amazing thing is: it really WORKS. We all are more invested in the meal because we know there are so many other folks involved. Since my daughter and I each make the big dinner once a week, I don't feel guilty eating what Shannon makes on the other days. When I don't like something, it's easy to remember there is other food, and that somebody didn't like what I last made. It feels "fair" in so many ways.

    Also: it was a QUICK way for me to feel welcome and part of the household. I got to talk to and work with everyone right away.

  3. This makes cooking for my allergy-prone three-person family seem easy! I love the idea of such a big family gathering every night. It sounds like you've found a way to really make it come together - in a non-stressful, everybody's-taken-care-of kind of way. Impressive!

    One thing I've tried when we have a bigger group is to take the Salad Bar approach: we'll have the same "base meal" for everyone - veg / meat / grain - with bowls of extra add-ons (veggies, cheese, nuts, raisins, etc) or condiments that family and friends can add to suit their taste (soy sauce, hot sauce, sesame salt). It helps cut down on the dishes to cook and everyone gets a dish that tastes the way they want! :)

  4. This sounds lovely! I wish we'd ever figured out a way to make family dinners the "traditional" way work for our family, but I've made peace with the fact that we're oddballs. ;)

    I do like the idea of having such a big group, because you could afford to have more dishes and therefore variety. It seems dumb to make more than one dish for us two adults or the two kids to share (since we haven't successfully found anything all four of us will eat!).

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  6. We have lots of people around our dinner table too. I relate to the nights when you have people fend for themselves. My kids call it foraging. Which is exactly what they have to do. Thanks for sharing.

  7. When we visited you on our way to Alaska from Maine (thank you again for having us!) we really loved the way that your parents join you guys for dinner every night. It is really refreshing to see more of a healthy, intimate, and respectful connection with family. So many families are full of bitterness when it comes to in-laws, etc.

  8. Family dinners were a big part of my life when growing up. We sit and eat together every night in our house, I am lucky that my children will eat whatever I put in front if them so I am only making one meal :)