During this busy time of year, few aspects of life give you the chance to slow down and take a deep breath. In the midst of school starting back, a new football season on the rise, and still managing to juggle work with family, finding the time to sit back and relax can be a challenge. Although you may get a few chances to crash on the couch and browse some new Netflix recommendations, it can be hard to find those small moments of happiness and connection with those you love most. A simple solution to find these small moments is food.
When it comes down to it, every day we ask the same question: “What’s for dinner?” Whether you decide to make a home-cooked meal, take the family out, or order in from your favorite local restaurant, doing so creates space for quality time you get to spend with yourself and those you love. Food gives us the opportunity to connect with one another while also simply enjoying our favorite meals, making long and stressful days that much more worth it by ending them on a high note.
Cooking a home-cooked meal with your family can be such a great bonding experience. Nothing beats picking out your favorite family recipe and involving the entire family in the cooking process. Maybe your eldest can help with cutting the veggies while you deal with the oven and stoves, and a younger child can help measure ingredients (probably while trying to sneak a snack before it is finished). And even though this could be a messy endeavor, the memories you make will cancel out any stress or mess.
Even if you decide to skip the chaos and extra work that comes with cooking a meal at home, you can venture out with your family and find a fun local restaurant to enjoy, still getting that quality family time while supporting your local businesses in the process.
Another perk to eating locally is that you support not only the restaurant and staff, but also the local farmers and others those restaurants support in turn. Try something new, and maybe even consider making it a family tradition—start your own version of “Taco Tuesday” and take a trip to Baja Grill in Downtown Benton or have a family pizza night at Valhalla.
Regardless of where you choose to spend your dinnertime, whether that is in your kitchen or at a local restaurant, take these moments to cherish the time you have with your loved ones. Go around the table, sharing the highs and lows of your day. Disconnect with your phone and reconnect with your family and loved ones. You can even decide as a family something new to try, whether a new entree off the menu or a new recipe to cook at home. Either way, cultivate those opportunities to spend with your family during this busy time of year.
Food may be a necessity in life, but that does not mean it has to be boring and predictable. Turn it into an experience for the whole family: try that new recipe, go to that new restaurant, and let your kids make a mess in your kitchen. You may not think much of these small moments right away, but over time you will see how these small moments add up to bring much joy to your life and the lives of those around you.
Chicken & Brussel Sprouts (one-dish meal)
1/4 cup + 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp. freshly chopped rosemary
Freshly ground black pepper
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
10 whole peeled garlic cloves, ends trimmed
1 lb. brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and halved or quartered, if large
2 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
Preheat oven to 425°. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup oil, balsamic, thyme, and rosemary and season generously with salt and pepper. Add chicken thighs and toss to coat.
Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and sear chicken thighs skin-side down until crispy, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate. Wipe out skillet, if desired.
To skillet add remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add whole garlic cloves and brussels sprouts and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until fragrant and deeply golden, about 10 minutes.
Return chicken to skillet and nestle in brussels sprouts. Bake until chicken is cooked through and brussels sprouts are tender, 15 minutes.
Garnish with Parmesan before serving.