Growing up my family always had sit down, homestyle, everyone gather at the kitchen table family dinners. I always loved this time with my family of 6 as it was full of good food, talking, and laughing. I always knew that I wanted to carry on this tradition with my own family once I was married, so from the time we were newlyweds I would cook a sit down meal and Bob & I would sit at our itty bitty table and eat them. Now that we’ve grown into a family of 4 we continue to have sit down dinners every night–even when our picky 4 year old refuses to eat them. 🙂

Since growing up I’ve heard of a plethora of studies that confirmed what I’ve always believed. From this article on WebMD I found this:

“One of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to be engaged in their teens’ lives is by having frequent family dinners,” says Joseph Califano Jr., chairman and president of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA).
CASA recently reported on a national phone survey of 1,000 teens and 829 parents of teens. Eating dinner as a family helped kids in many ways. It helped them get better grades, and kept them away from cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana, and more.

If that doesn’t encourage you to step away from the TV trays and fast food I’m not sure what will!!!

I will be the first to admit that cooking a home made meal from scratch every single day is tiring and time consuming. But because I love my family I want the very best for all of us and our health-not to mention the things listed above! I do love to “cheat” from time to time though, and this is where meals like Bertolli Frozen Meal Soups come in. Super simply, super fast, and super yummy they give me a great break while still letting me get a great family dinner on the table.

I was challenged to take a simple weeknight dinner and turn it into something special–so here are my top 3 tips to do this:

Tip One ~ Set the Mood
Have I mentioned how much I love Pinterest? Oh I have, sorry! But seriously–GREAT source for inspiration! From a picture I saw on there I was able to create this beautiful centerpiece in under 5 minutes using things I already had in our house. I used wine glasses, a doily, voltive candles, seashells, and a Family Conversation Jar–which leads me to tip 2

Tip Two ~ Get the Conversation Going
We made these awesome Dinner Coversation Jars at MOPs a few weeks ago. Here is all you need to make one for yourself! They are an amazing way to get the conversation going and to learn about your family beyond just “how was your day?” “fine” routine!

Materials: Canning jar, ribbon, scrapbook paper, packet of questions/games (print them out on some pretty paper. Go here to find 100 Questions to ask Your Kids)

Instructions: Take off the jar’s top, separate the pieces. Trace the circle piece onto the paper, cut out. Glue paper onto the top of the circle piece (you only need to glue along the edge), then glue this to the ring piece-to create one, solid jar lid that can come on and of the jar easily. Glue the ribbon around the lid-you can trim the ribbon as needed to create less overlap. Cut up the packet of questions into individual strips (use “fancy” scrapping scissors for special effect if you like) fold and put into your jar!

Tip 3: Break out the Best for your family
Do you have a set of good china? A set of fancy cocktail glasses that never get used? A pretty tablecloth reserved for guests? Do you wait to use these for special occasions? Well guess what–the people who mean the most to you live under your own roof and TODAY is a special occasion because for all you know it could be your last. Break out the candles, dust off the china, and make your family feel like the special, loved people that they are!

Take one weeknight and turn it into a special event to remember! Doing all the above took me well under an hour and was so much fun and well worth it!

Be sure to Follow Bertolli on Twitter and “like” them on Facebook as well for ways to make your family fast, easy, and nutritious dinners!

I was compensated by Bertolli to participate in the Weeknight Meal Special Challenge.