Guest Blog: Why It’s Worth Fitting Family Cooking into Your Back-to-School Schedule, No Matter How Different It Looks these Days

This fall, whether your children are attending school in person, online or anywhere in between, your school day routine is likely to look a little different from years past. Despite these changes, going back to school is still a busy time, meaning that it may be hard to set aside time for cooking and eating healthy meals together.

Although it can be challenging to find the time, it’s worth fitting family cooking and meals into your busy schedule. Research shows that when families cook and eat together, children (and parents!) enjoy numerous benefits. Benefits range from healthier eating to improving academic skills—cooking can reinforce what your children are learning in school, such as skills in math, reading, teamwork and following directions.

While cooking together, you have the opportunity to discuss nutrition and the impact that food choices have on the environment. The more educated children are about food, the more likely they are to choose to eat nutritious foods. Plus, preparing meals and dining together is a great opportunity to spend quality time together as a family!

Monday is a great day to begin this weekly tradition. Why Monday? Monday has a cultural significance as the beginning of the week, which can influence our mood and health outcomes. In simpler terms, if you plan to do something on a Monday, not only are you more likely to do it, you are also more likely to stick to it. Research shows that Monday is the day that people are looking to start new healthy behaviors, such as exercising or meditating to relieve stress. Once you introduce Monday family dinners into your schedule, the good news is that if you prepare a healthy meal together as a family, leftovers can be turned into a tasty lunch the next day. Leftovers can be enjoyed at home in between online classes or packed and brought to school.

With a few easy steps, family dinner leftovers can be repurposed into a new meal, convenient to be quickly reheated at home or for your child to bring to school for lunch.

Try it with this kid-friendly recipe for Black Bean Meatless Balls.

Potato, Black Bean and Swiss Chard Hash

This quick meal brings together protein-packed beans, hearty potatoes, and nutritious, seasonal leafy greens. This recipe comes to us from our friends at Potato Goodness.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bunch of Swiss chard, sliced into thin ribbons and thick stems diced
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Generous pinch of kosher salt
  • Black pepper

Directions for Dinner

  • Adult: Place the olive oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.Add the potatoes and a generous pinch of kosher salt, toss well to coat.
  • Adult: Cover the skillet with a tight fitting lid and cook for 7-9 minutes, tossing or flipping occasionally to ensure that all sides of the potatoes are browning and getting crisp.
  • Together: Add the onions and Swiss chard stems to the skillet and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until softened.
  • Together: Add the black beans to the skillet and mix well; gently arrange into a single layer in the pan.
  • Adult: Leave to cook for 2-3 minutes, flipping once or twice, to ensure that the beans are heated through and getting crisp.
  • Together: Add the ribbons of Swiss chard and cook briefly until it wilts slightly.
  • Adult: Remove from the heat.
  • Kid: Sprinkle in the spices, black pepper, and additional salt to taste.
  • Together: Serve immediately.

Cooking Tip of the Week: You don’t have to peel potatoes (unless you really want to!) The skins contain lots of nutrition, too, like fiber, protein and vitamin C.

Food For Thought: “Dice” may be fun to play with, but it’s also a cooking term! To dice a vegetable (like the potatoes and chard stems in this recipe) means to cut it into pieces about half an inch long on each side, or about the size of the dice you use in a game! Other cooking terms for cutting sizes are “chop” (about an inch on each side) and “mince” (about one quarter inch on each side).

Directions for a Leftover Makeover

  • Adult: For lunch the next day, add cold leftover hash to your favorite salad, or serve over your favorite grain. Top with your favorite dressing!