The biggest obstacle for me to instituting a Family Table Night? My desire to create the Perfect Family Table. I confess to being a perfectionist by nature, and I don’t like it when I can’t realize the vision of what I want to accomplish. My ideal family table has fresh, sniffy flowers on the table, clean and unchipped serving dishes, matching table linens, and beautifully presented food. Oh yes, and clean, well-mannered children sitting around saying things like, “A delightful dinner, Mother,” and “Please, Father, will you pass the brussels sprouts?”
Surely it goes without saying that this scenario has occurred in my house exactly zero times. And if I wait for this perfection before attempting a family table, well, we can just say buh-bye to the family table. My mantra in this season of life: Don’t let the best be the enemy of the good.
I reminded myself of this on our scheduled Family Table Night as I suddenly realized I didn’t have time to make dinner. It was one of those days of spinning my wheels all day long, and dinner plans had been derailed. What to do? I reminded myself to not let the best be the enemy of the good, shrugged my shoulders, and thawed some hot dogs. I used the 20 minutes I had until dinner time to cook some potatoes and pop a quickie dessert into the oven. (These cookie bars, by the way, were a big hit. I’m sharing the recipe below.)
I had planned some dinner table conversation starters, which did a lot to restore the intentionality to the table. I found a list of handy dinner-time questions online, copied them down onto strips of paper, and put them all into a jar. At dinner, each person picked a question from the jar and the person to the right had to answer it. Even the little guys at the table enjoyed this game, though of course they needed help reading the questions. And we made up questions for the Peanut; things like, “Do you like kitties or doggies?” (“Kikis”) and “Do you like bananas or apples?” (“Yes”).
The Sweet Pea and the Bean kept the questions going and going, all the way through dessert, until everyone at the table had answered practically every question. Which only serves to prove my point, that the family is more important than the table.
I’ve reduced the sugar by half, and added a bit of whole wheat flour.
Source: Everyday Foods (adapted)
Course: Desserts (Bars and Cookies)
- 1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp fine salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter room temp
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup sucanat or brown sugar,
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup dried cherries
- Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
- In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat butter and both sugars on high until pale and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, and beat until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and cherries.
- Press mixture into a 9×13″ baking pan. Bake until a toothpick in the center comes out with crumbs attached, 28-30 minutes. Let cool completely in pan. Cut and serve.