Fredericksburg Parent

Winter 2020

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10 Fredericksburg Parent and Family • Winter 2020 WRITTEN BY DEBRA CAFFREY practical pantry practical pantry Just because I love cooking doesn't mean I always enjoy meal planning. Even though I've managed to cultivate lots of habits to make the process of planning meals for my family easier, it can be a tedious task to complete, especially since it's never-ending! I don't mean to complain about planning meals. It's probably the number one thing you can do to save money at the grocery store and stay organized in the kitchen. But some- times we can all get into dinner ruts no matter how creative and diverse we aim to be. It's challenging to come up with a different meal every night while also dealing with schedules and various dietary needs and preferences within the family. And while it's important not to become a short order cook in your own home, nor indulge picky eat- ers, I think it's respectful to honor certain needs and choices within reason. So what's a meal-planning mom to do? May I introduce my absolute favorite way to take the pressure off of planning dinner for everyone? Enter the Dinner Grazing Table! The grazing table is a down-to-earth, relaxed, large spread of various food items that offers enough choices to appeal to and feed everyone. (Think: buffet table on a smaller and more casual scale.) Grazing tables have become a trendy concept for catering, par- ties and other foodie-friendly entertainment experiences, but why should all the fun be reserved for formal events? I've recently started smaller grazing tables for dinner at home and let me tell you … it's a game changer! So what makes this concept so awesome? In order to ease the pressure of meal plan- ning, first you need to loosen up your idea of what constitutes a meal to serve your family. I used to struggle with this as I continued to meal plan a protein, vegetable and starch to serve traditionally on dinner plates for my family members. There's nothing How to Make an Easy Family Grazing Table wrong with that, but it doesn't have to be so exact every night. Nowadays, families are reap- ing the relaxed benefits of make-your-own Taco Tuesdays and similar construct yourself type dishes. A family grazing table is similar. Prepare a bunch of diverse, yet simple, items. Then arrange and spread them out in the kitchen, hand out some plates, and let your family go to town! You can display your spread buffet style on the coun- tertop or leave everything right in the middle of the table for everyone. When you keep the ingredients simple, it takes the pressure off of you; most of the spread can be more assembly than cooking or technique! A sharable spread for dinner gives picky eaters the freedom to select more independently and takes away the chore of checking what everyone's eating. Kids love choices, right? A grazing table slashes time and expedites the clean-up process, and it also wel- comes a more relaxed atmosphere where con- versation and family bonding can be paramount. Here are a few "themed" grazing table ideas to get you started. Be creative, but also remember that this kind of weekday dinner is supposed to be easy, relaxed and free of lots of technique and pressure. Play around with the idea and I hope you find it as much of a dinner game changer as I have! Dinner? Done!

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