The B4FD Project features blog posts from guest writers that explore the far-reaching benefits of family dinner.

Family Dinner Month 2012: Sept 17 -- Oct 29, 2012


B4FD Reflections: Family Dinner and Health

by Grace R. Freedman

This month, Blog for Family Dinner founders will reflect back on some lessons learned from our B4FD guest bloggers over the past year.

Family dinner is a wonderful way for kids and families to stay connected; that’s something we at B4FD talk about all the time. I believe that family dinner also has the potential to improve the broad health of society. Family dinner has been shown to be effective in addressing many health challenges ranging from childhood obesity to risky behaviors in teens to self-esteem issues to adolescent depression. Coming from a background in public health, that’s one reason family dinner resonates with me. A positive health intervention that can change the lives of millions for little to no cost? Something that, once your family gets into the routine of it, can be fun, rewarding and good-for-you? Family dinner is the opposite of medicine, but it has the potential to bolster the health of our nation, especially our children. Yes, it’s that important.

So, my B4FD reflection centers on Elizabeth Brotherton’s (PreventObesity.net) post, Keeping Kids Healthy, One Meal at a Time. Her post captures the “touch-feely” reasons for embracing family dinner as well as citing the scientific research that backs this “gut” feeling many of us have. She writes

…it’s often those memories of time at the table with my own family that keeps me motivated. In my gut, I know that people are more likely to have a healthier relationship with food if they spend time with it —preparing it, serving it, taking time to eat it (rather than just shoving it down from the drive thru).

As it turns out, my instincts are backed by scientific research. A growing body of evidence shows that children who regularly eat meals with their family are less likely to be obese.

In one major national study, 4-year-old children who ate dinner with their family six or seven days a week had a 25 percent lower risk of obesity compared to kids who ate dinner with their family less frequently. Other studies also have found that adolescents who regularly eat family meals are less likely to be obese.

Read Elizabeth’s full post here:  Keeping Kids Healthy, One Meal at a Time 

Today, Monday September 24, 2012 is also CASA’s Family Day, established over a decade ago as a way to remind parents that family dinner was an effective way to stay connected with their kids. CASA research has shown many times over that frequent family dinners reduce the likelihood that teens will engage in risky behaviors, as well as improving family relationships and performance at school. CASA’s Family Day is an important campaign we champion at B4FD, though we know reducing illegal drug and alcohol use among teens is just one of the important benefits of family dinner. Family meals can mean happier, healthier families and a healthier society as well, and that’s something to celebrate!




Celebrate Family Day on this Monday, September 24, 2012

by CASAColumbia

Some of the best ingredients for family dinners aren’t items that can be found in a cupboard or pantry.  Instead they are found in the laughs, love and conversation that’s served up around the dinner table!

During the time that you spend with your kids at dinner, you are nurturing your relationship, keeping the lines of communication open and connecting with them in ways that will have long lasting effects.

Did you know that research by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbiaTM) has consistently found that the more often kids eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use drugs?

Our most recent The Importance of Family Dinners VII report found that compared to teens who have frequent family dinners (five to seven per week), those who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) are:

  • Almost four times likelier to use tobacco;
  • More than twice as likely to use alcohol;
  • Two-and-a-half times likelier to use marijuana; and
  • Almost four times likelier to say they expect to try drugs in the future.

Our report also found that teens who have frequent family dinners are likelier to get better grades in school and to say they have an excellent relationship with their parents.

In response to our findings, we launched Family Day – A Day to Eat Dinner with your Children in 2001 as a national initiative that reminds moms and dads that the parental engagement fostered during frequent family dinners is a simple, yet effective way to help keep kids substance free.

Family Day will be celebrated nationwide on Monday, September 24th this year.

Families, faith-based organizations, elected officials, Major League Baseball teams, corporations and landmarks such as the Empire State Building are gearing up to celebrate this year’s Family Day. Mom blogger Amy Roskelley of Super Healthy Kids and dad blogger Eric Payne of Makes Me Wanna Holler are back on board, to share their perspectives of how every day, hardworking parents are able to make time for their families (and keep it fun!)

And we try to keep things fun on our end too! Be sure to check out our Parent Toolkit and our Family Dinner Kit, which includes word games for kids to do while parents are cooking, color-me-in place mats, recipes and games you can play with your kids after dinner too.

Looking for ways to show your support of Family Day?

We invite you to celebrate Family Day, not just on September 24 but all year round. Any day you can get your family around the dinner table is Family Day! As you plan your Family Day celebrations, make sure to let us know via our Facebook and Twitter pages or e-mail us at FamilyDay@casacolumbia.org.

To learn more about Family Day, visit www.CASAFamilyDay.org.

CASAColumbia is a science-based, multidisciplinary organization focused on transforming society’s understanding of and responses to substance use and the disease of addiction. To learn more about CASAColumbia, visit www.casacolumbia.org.

Here’s to B4FD Month of Family Dinner, 2012 edition

Blog for Family Dinner is excited to be back celebrating family dinner! This time, we are highlighting 3 landmark events in the family dinner movement that are all happening within the next 6 weeks: CASA’s Family Day on Monday, September 24, Cozi’s America Makes Dinner on Wednesday, October 17th, and CSPI’s Food Day on Wednesday, October 24, 2012. Each of these organizations will be sharing guest posts a few days before their event and you can learn more about their efforts to promote family dinner and healthy food for all. We love that so much energy and attention is gathering around promoting family dinner and good food for families. We are thrilled to be part of it and spreading the word about these national events to the B4FD community.

Since we launched this blog in Fall 2011, we have published nearly 100 stories from bloggers all over the US, Canada and the UK, presenting many diverse voices about the benefits and the challenges of family dinner. Moms, Dads, educators, nutritionists, public health researchers, gardeners, and many more have lent their expertise, advice, recipes, and insights on how family dinner can make a difference. As founders of Blog for Family Dinner, Kathleen, Billy and I have learned so much from the individual perspectives of all our B4FD bloggers. So, over the next 6 weeks, we will share our reflections about the past year. Each of us will highlight and discuss a few posts that we feel capture an important lesson or theme. We hope you’ll join us in re-visiting these posts and all the other great ones from the past year. Perhaps you’ll share your favorite with us?  We would love to hear from you!

The B4FD 2012 Month of Family Dinner will be from today September 17 to Monday October 29, 2012, publishing twice a week. Please join us and share your own thoughts and creative ideas about family dinner. Comment on the blog, share your own blog URL for our resources page, and “Like” us on Facebook to join the B4FD community.  Let’s continue the conversation about the importance of family dinner and keep sharing practical tips for making it happen!

The Blog for Family Dinner Facebook community can be found here or follow us on Twitter @blog4famdinner


From the Blog for Family Dinner Founders:

Grace R. Freedman, Eatdinner.orgFacebook,  Twitter @eatdinner

Billy Mawhiney, Time at the TableFacebook, Twitter @timeatthetable

Kathleen Cuneo, Dinner TogetherFacebook, Twitter @dinnertogether


Celebrate Family Dinner with B4FD!

Celebrate family dinner with the Blog for Family Dinner community, with posts starting next week, Monday September 17, 2012. Over the next 6 weeks, there are several national initiatives to highlight and promote family dinner, including CASA’s Family Day on Monday, September 24, Cozi’s America Makes Dinner on Wednesday, October 17th, and CSPI’s Food Day on Wednesday, October 24, 2012. Blog for Family Dinner is thrilled to be working with these organizations to celebrate family dinner and healthy food for all.  Check in next week for more details and all-new posts.

Are you or your organization celebrating family dinner this fall? Let us know about your ideas and plans so we can share the news with the B4FD community!

The Blog for Family Dinner Facebook community can be found here or follow us on Twitter @blog4famdinner


From the Blog for Family Dinner Founders:

Grace R. Freedman, Eatdinner.org, Facebook,  Twitter @eatdinner

Billy Mawhiney, Time at the Table, Facebook, Twitter @timeatthetable

Kathleen Cuneo, Dinner Together, Facebook, Twitter @dinnertogether






Enjoy the Summer from B4FD!

Thanks for tuning in to Blog for Family Dinner for almost a year’s worth of posts on family dinner. We have been honored to host over 50 bloggers sharing personal stories, tips and recipes since we launched in September 2011. We are taking a short break this summer and will resume posting in the Fall of 2012.

Thanks so much for your support and be sure to follow each of us individually to keep up with more news and advice on family meals. Enjoy your summer!

The Blog for Family Dinner Team

Grace R. Freedman, Ph.D, EatDinner.org, on Twitter: @eatdinner and Facebook

Billy Mawhiney, Time at the Table, on Twitter: @timeatthetable and Facebook

Kathleen Cuneo, Ph.D., Dinner Together, on Twitter: @dinnertogether and Facebook

100 Cars for Good



Time at the Table, one of Blog for Family Dinner co-founders, has the opportunity to win a new car to expand its mission and you can help us.

Starting May 14 through August 21, it’s the voters’ turn to do their own good deed by voting for their favorite organizations and causes. All voters have to do is log in to their Facebook profile and use the 100 Cars for Good app to vote on one of that day’s five nonprofit organizations. Each afternoon, the previous day’s winner is announced and a fresh batch of five finalist organizations will be ready to compete for votes. Vote once a day because each vote counts and each day brings another new car to another deserving organization.

Time at the Table was chosen as one of the finalists and today is our day!

So why would you vote for Time at the Table? By the end of 2012, we plan to travel providing on-the-spot workshops for families throughout the state of South Dakota. A fuel-efficient vehicle would not only drive costs down, but further our mission to be more self-sustainable. We don’t just want to preach about sustainability and reconnecting to today’s busy and modern family, we want to lead by example. In addition to our direct services, we have taken on the mission that by the summer of 2013, groups and churches will be planting food pantry gardens to expand access to fresh foods for everyone regardless of income level. Check out this awesome video that tells you more.

Only one vote per facebook account, but you can sure share this with friends and family! Thank you!


My Dad’s Filet Mignon

by Kathleen Cuneo, Ph.D.

Most of the time I attribute my love of food and cooking to growing up with a mom and maternal grandmother who passed on their passion for food and their skill for preparing it to me. This past Mother’s Day, however, I found myself thinking of my Dad and his influence on food in my life as I was preparing a special dinner of grilled filet mignon for the mothers and grandmothers celebrating the day with my family. Certain foods have warm and affectionate associations with certain people in my life. Filet mignon is definitely associated with my father in my heart and head.

My Dad has passed on his love of and skill for grilling to me, and I am the unofficial grillmaster in my house, contrary to the stereotype of the “man of the house” as chief griller. In fact, a few years ago, I got a new grill for Mother’s Day. A few years ago I also saw a Father’s Day card that was perfect for me to give to my Dad. It has a drawing of a large grill and a small grill on the front and says, “Happy Father’s Day from your little grill.” I think I’ve sent it to him more than once ~ but that’s likely due to my middle-aged brain forgetting that I already sent it to him!

Since we only have filet mignon once or twice a year, I really want to make sure it turns out as close to perfect as possible so that we can truly savor it. I still refer to my handwritten notes taken during a phone conversation with my father the first time I made filet mignon on our first Weber grill fifteen years ago. My Dad has since moved on to a Big Green Egg, but I am happy with my Weber. I’m sure his directions could be adapted to whichever grill you use.

Here are his instructions:

  • Select steaks that are 2” to 2 ½ “ thick.
  • Marinate them overnight (recipe for marinade follows) or at least several hours. Be sure to turn the steaks in the marinade once after at least a couple of hours.
  • Preheat the grill to maximum heat.
  • Spray your steaks with cooking spray before putting them on the grill to prevent sticking.
  • Place the steaks in the center of the grill and close the lid.
  • Cook on high heat for 2 minutes.
  • After two minutes, turn the center burner off and lower the other two burners (assuming you have a 3 burner grill) to medium. DO NOT OPEN the grill cover!
  • Cook for 4 minutes more.
  • Then turn the steaks over and cook for 4 more minutes (for medium-rare; longer for more well done).

This formula always worked perfectly for me, but when I did get a new grill I had to make some burner and time adjustments. The principles remain the same though.

Steak Marinade

Adapted from Weber grill cookbook

½ cup olive oil

1/3 cup soy sauce

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 Tbs lemon juice

1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp dry mustard

1 clove pressed garlic

¼ tsp pepper

Combine ingredients in a bowl. Place steaks in the marinade in a shallow nonmetal container. (I usually use a large baking dish). Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Then cook as listed above.


Kathleen Cuneo, Ph.D. is a psychologist, parent coach, and mom. Her mission is to help parents raise happy and healthy kids – without making themselves or their kids crazy! She provides education and support to parents through her websites www.dinnertogether.com, www.drcuneo.com, and www.kitchentableparents.com.

Rhubarb Strawberry Slump – A Tribute to My Dad

by Deanna Segrave-Daly

I was introduced to rhubarb via desserts at a young age. My father, like his immediate family, has a huge sweet tooth and a special love for any type of homemade baked goodie. (As the oldest of five kids, he was notorious for quickly eating his dessert and then helping himself to the portion of the sibling who had the misfortune of sitting next to him at dinner.) He grew up on and surrounded by farmland in northwestern Pennsylvania where rhubarb abundantly resurfaced every year in the family garden. He remembers his mom simply stewing rhubarb stalks in sugar until they turned into soft, runny, sweet tart goodness.

Over the years as I dabbled in the kitchen, any recipe that featured rhubarb was an automatic rip-out from a magazine or dog-eared in a cookbook to try out on my dad. Being from a large family, he’d eat it all – whether it was perfected or not. A rhubarb slump recipe became a favorite over 15 years ago – torn from a Cooking Light issue – long before websites, recipe apps or blogs were in fashion.

Upon seeing the red stalk beauties at a Lancaster County farm stand this weekend, I knew it was time for another round of rhubarb slump for my dad, just in time for Father’s Day.

So, here’s to my dad, for giving me a love of the land and for those who work tirelessly on it. And for always eating everything I’ve ever cooked for him with gusto and appreciation. xxxoo

Rhubarb Slump

(Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine circa 1990s)

A slump is similar to a grunt – a fruit concoction with biscuit-like dough dropped into the sauce and cooked stovetop. Depending on how much rhubarb I have, I use more or less strawberries – aiming for about 6 total cups in cut fruit and vegetable (yep, rhubarb is a veggie.)

Makes 6 – 8 servings

1 cup flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

4 tablespoons butter, chilled

1/3 cup buttermilk

4 cups rhubarb, chopped

2 cups strawberries, cut in half

½ cup sugar

½ cup water

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Combine flour through baking soda in a large bowl. Cut butter into mixture with pastry knife. Slowly add buttermilk until dough is formed.

In a large ovenproof skillet, add rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and ¼ cup water.

Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stir occasionally. Combine remaining ¼ cup water and cornstarch. Pour into rhubarb mix; bring to a boil and cook for 30 seconds. Turn heat to low and drop dough by the tablespoon into rhubarb sauce.

Cover and cook 10 – 15 minutes until dumplings are baked through. If desired, brown under broiler for 2 – 3 minutes. Serve with heavy cream or ice cream.

Deanna is a “food loving” registered dietitian. She specializes in writing for food/health websites, communicating through social/traditional media outlets and developing healthy, flavorful recipes. She blogs at TeaspoonofSpice.com and her young daughter keeps her inspired to create appealing, good-for-you family cuisine.

It’s Always Family Dinner Time

by John Donohue

In my childhood home, there was a square yellow clock on the wall of the kitchen, where we ate our meals, and I will never forget its face. In particular, I will always remember its thick and thin black hands pointing to 7:20. That was the time in the morning that I had to leave for the school bus, and, for some reason, it always seemed that exactly twelve-hours later, I was sitting at the same table, holding the same fork, staring at the same hands on the same clock.

I don’t remember much of what was said at those meals. At the start of the day, everyone wielded the broad pages of the New York Times like shields. In the evening there were no newspapers to hide behind, but what we discussed eludes me. There were moments of laughter—my father, who was unaware of his blood-sugar issues would be stern at the start of the meal, but could be hilarious by the end, teaching us (without alcohol) the table-banging drinking games he played in college—and there were arguments—over state universities versus private schools.

I do remember the food, which was fresh and healthy, and always prepared by my mother. There was fish on Fridays and we always had a green vegetable—romaine lettuce and not iceberg. Thirty-five years later, I’ve taken on the role of my mother as I do most of the cooking for my own family, and I’ve followed her down the same garden path. I don’t serve fried foods, and make sure there’s a green vegetable with every meal. We have fish every weekend.

But times have changed over the past three decades, and just as it takes two incomes to keep a family afloat, it takes two parents to get the meal on the table. I do most of the behind-the-scenes work, but my wife, who is self-employed and has more flexible hours, does most of the labor when it comes to feeding time. For example, I may spend a Sunday making a three-hour Bolognese that freezes well, but she’ll spend the forty-minutes heating it up, cooking the pasta, plating it, and washing up afterwards. Most nights I don’t get home until after the kids have eaten, though I do try to get home at least one night a week to be at the table with them.

In the end everyone is working more, but I hope we’re also getting more out of it. Eating together as a family is a worthy goal, and the benefits of it are well known, but I have to add one point. As much as the meal is about the food—and my blog Stay at Stove Dad and my book, “Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers who Cook for their Families,” are both about delicious, healthy, and home-cooked food—the meal is also about the family.

The real benefits of a family dinner depend on how the parents talk to the children and how they listen to them. As my co-Blog For Family Dinner contributor Amy Kover, put it so well the other day, “Cooking Does Not a Great Parent Make.”  What she says below about moms is equally true for dads:

Personally, I think the hardest part of being a Mom isn’t feeding your kids, but getting to know them as they constantly change and learn about the world.

I’d like to think Jeanne [her mom] taught me this lesson particularly well. Aside from serving as an amazing role model during those difficult days, my mom kept one thing constant: She talked to us about everything. She never tired of hearing about the most recent social drama in my life, nor did she hold back from sharing her unvarnished opinions (which normally annoyed the crap out of me). My mom always knew me.


My advice about family dinner is twofold. Cook great food, but listen more. Whenever we gather as a family, I make a point to pay attention to my wife and children. There are no clocks in our dining room.

John Donohue is the editor of the best-selling anthology “Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers who Cook for their Families,” a collection featuring essays and recipes from Mario Batali, Mark Bittman, Mark Kurlansky, Jim Harrison, Stephen King, and many others. He is the father of two young children and he does most of the cooking for his family. He blogs about his time in the kitchen at www.stayatstovedad.com.

Family Dinner Recipe: Coconut Rice with Black Beans, Plantains and Mango Salsa

by Michael Natkin

We are thrilled to have Michael Natkin lend a post and great recipe as we kick-off Celebrating Dads and Influential Men month on Blog for Family Dinner. Today he shares an easy, quick, kid-friendly and delicious recipe that can be thrown together on a weeknight and is still interesting for adults! You have a chance to win his new book Herbivoracious this month with a comment or sign-up to our mailing list.–Eds.

Coconut Rice with Black Beans, Plantains, and Mango Salsa

At my house, we eat food in styles from all over the world, but rice is far and away our most popular substrate. I’m always experimenting with new ways to cook rice as well as new things to serve with it.

Today’s dish is Caribbean inspired, with coconut milk-scented rice, black beans, plantains, avocado, mango, and a mango salsa. It is especially good for serving to kids, because they can easily pick and choose the ingredients they enjoy. The mango salsa is moderately spicy, adding some extra interest for adults. (And that same salsa could be applied to a wide variety of other meals, ranging from Mexican to southeast Asian).

The coconut rice reheats really well, so you can easily make it the day before and just warm it up in the microwave or rice cooker at dinner time, making this whole meal something that can be thrown together in 20 minutes for a weeknight supper.

Plantains, of course, are in the banana family but are less sweet and more starchy. They are popular in much of the Caribbean and West Africa, as well as Guatemala. In this recipe I simply pan fry them to produce a delicious, slightly caramelized surface and a tender, creamy interior.

Coconut Rice with Black Beans, Plantains, and Mango Salsa
Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free

For the rice:

  • 2 1/4 cups basmati rice (3 standard rice-cooker cups)
  • 1 thirteen-ounce can coconut milk

For the sauce:

  • 1 ripe mango, cubed
  • 1 to 2 jalapeno or serrano pepper (or if you are insane, some part of a habanero), seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

For the dish:

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 ripe plantains, peeled and sliced into generous 1/4″ thick coins
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cups cooked black beans, heated, seasoned with salt (or if you like, with garlic, onions, epazote, etc. as you please)
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 mango, cubed
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • flaky sea salt
  • 1 lime cut into quarters
  1. For the rice: Cook the rice in your usual way, on the stovetop or in a rice cooker, but replace one can’s worth of water with the coconut milk, then add in an extra quarter-cup of water.
  2. For the sauce: Roughly puree all ingredients in a mini food processor. Just 10 seconds or so should be sufficient, as you want to retain some texture. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  3. To complete the dish: Warm your serving bowls or plates. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it is shimmering, add the plantains in a single layer. Fry, until brown on one side, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until browned and tender, about two more minutes. Sprinkle with Kosher salt.
  4. To serve, you may either divide the rice among four bowls and top with the plantains, beans, avocado, mango, cilantro and sauce, or serve all of the ingredients separately and let diners make their own. Pass the lime quarters to squeeze over the finished plate as desired.
Michael Natkin is the author of Herbivoracious.com, one of the top vegetarian recipe blogs on the web, and the cookbook of the same name. He doesn’t care whether you are vegetarian, vegan, carnivore or flexitarian – he just wants to make sure that if you eat a meatless meal tonight, it is hearty and delicious. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter (@michaelnatkin).
* * * * * *

Win Michael Natkin’s Cookbook!

We are thrilled that Michael has offered a copy of his book to Blog for Family Dinner for giveawayJust comment on any post in June or join the Blog for Family Dinner mailing list this month!

We will draw the random winner on Friday June 15th, 7pm EST.

“With plenty of healthy choices and few truly hard-to-find ingredients, this memorable debut will thrill vegetarians and omnivores with worldly tastes.”
– Library Journal


Hardcover, 368 pages
150 recipes, 80 color photos
Harvard Common Press

More about Herbivoracious!

Be sure to entry to win this wonderful book with a comment or easy subscription to our mailing list!