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Monday, August 29, 2016

Family Dinners at Our House | Steaks with Easy Red Wine Sauce + This Week's Menu

Family Dinner At Our House

I will not pretend that this is the scene every single night at our house... but we try for at least a couple nights a week.  These photos were from last night's Sunday dinner table.  It is always easier to pull off a nice Sunday dinner than during the week, right?  At first glance, this setup may seem fancy for a family dinner, but all of these elements are really common.  I know that some are thinking, why all the trouble?  And the truth is that it isn't really much trouble at all, really very little effort or expense involved, though the impact is big.

I feel so strongly that sitting down at a table that is set, brings a sense of purpose to a typical family dinner.  It brings us all together for a moment of grace and it says no matter what your day was like, I want to sit, share and talk with you.

A lot of time when we sit down at this table it doesn't have flowers and the candles aren't lit, and it feels completely different.   So, at least 3 times a week, I am going to make it my goal to actually light the candles : )  It feels somewhat related to "stopping to smell the roses."  It is there for the taking, you just have to stop and actually make the effort.  I mean, what does it take 4 seconds to light candles?

And like most families, we have our fair share of casual dinners at the island, too, don't worry.  Though, if you've never thought about the difference between sitting at the counter versus sitting at a table, the difference is this : conversation.  When you are sitting and not facing each other, conversation is hard.  Eye contact is even harder.  I imagine as kids get older and they have more independence, eye contact with parents while talking about their day can be so revealing.  It is always my goal to make our dinner table a safe zone, a comfortable place that is a place that everyone wants to be and feels loved and cared for.

I mentioned that the setting was not much effort.  I always try to create a "maintenance free" table setting once a week - this is a perfect example.  The flowers are dried hydrangea from our yard that have turned the prettiest shade of green (that actually seem a little more vibrant in the photos than in real life).  They don't have any water and would look just like this if I left them there all year long.  Though dry, they still bring life and some seasonal color to the table.  Other "maintenance free" tables we like are a bowl of apples or gourds (fall!), or potted herbs.

Anytime you add taper candles to a dinner table...and actually light them ; ) you add instant atmosphere.  These are 12" Privot Berry Blue tapers that go great with the green flowers (blue + green is my current favorite combo, as you all know).   The candles come in an 18" too for an even bigger effect.  Super elegant.  The "copper" salt and peppers were a steal from Target.  Be fore warned, they are plastic with a copper coating... something I didn't realize (but should have since they were $18).  Love the warmth that they bring to the table, though.

Emma always helps with setting the table.  This time, she made place cards for each of us, while I took care of the rest of the setting.  When she sets the entire table there is a lot of mix-matching linens and flatware, which is just fine by me.   I'll be sure to share one of those tables someday, too.

As you can see, above, she drew a pumpkin and maple leaf for me... she knows how much I'm itching for fall!

Mike got a "branch" : )

The place cards were her idea.  Sometimes she makes placemats from printer paper or tries her hand at interesting napkin folds.  I just like that she's enthusiastic to help and looks forward to making it special.  Hoping I pass on this love for making family dinners special to her.  At least I'll know that whatever life circumstance she finds herself in, she'll be able to create a special dinner for her family.  What is it they say about teaching a man to fish?  So many parables in this post... ; )

A cherry leaf and cherries for her.  After the fact, she also decided they could be headphones, which she thought was better.

Dinner was seared steaks with a very simple Red Wine Sauce.  I'll share the recipe for the wine sauce later today.   It is all of 3-4 ingredients and transforms dinner.  In fact, this entire dinner looks impressive but it is the easiest dinner to make.  Besides putting the baked potatoes in the oven 1 1/2 before, the rest of the dinner took about 20 minutes of hands-on time.

I'd like to pretend that this was Mike's giant loaded plate, but we all know that he doesn't like mushrooms...  busted : )

Table Setting Resources :

Block Print Napkins, 4 for $32

Privot Berry Blue Taper Candles, $10.50

Brown & White Ceramic Container (available in Squares or Round), $12.00-28.50

Heathered Indigo Throw (over back of chair), $80

Dusty Green Block Print Pillow, 20" Square, $32

See the rest of the Blue & Green Classic Home Collection, here >

This Week's Menu :

Seared Steaks with Easy Red Wine Sauce  (recipe coming later today)

Baked Potatoes

Sautéed Mushrooms

Sliced Tomatoes

Chicken & Vegetable Corn Chowder 

This is a great dinner to make in advance.  I'll put individual servings in the freezer for Emma and I to reheat for lunches, too.

Beef Stroganoff

This photo and recipe link are of this "fancy" version of Beef Stroganoff.  Our favorite weeknight version is made with ground beef and egg noodles.  I'll share this version very soon - an almost weekly staple around here.

Panko Salmon

So much flavor in this Barefoot Contessa recipe.  That Nine Color Salad is still one of my favorites.

I'll share the Easy Red Wine Sauce recipe later today.  I'm off to pick up Emma from preschool... oh boy do these mornings go by quickly.


  1. I love this post. It resonates so much with me. Growing up we almost always sat down to dinner together as a family, my mom always had to light "her" candles, and I helped set the table and usually got to pick out music to put on (often classical piano). It may sound fancy but it was just a normal family dinner with a few small touches to make it special. Another aspect of it that I appreciate more now as an adult was the rule my parents had of having to ask to be excused (this happened more as teenagers) from the table when finished - my mom would usually linger with a glass of wine. Family dinners with good homemade food are some of my fondest and most comforting memories growing up. Keep up the good work - your priorities are so good, especially in a world and time that often doesn't honor these things!

  2. Do you iron your napkins? Or do you sell napkins made of fabric that naturally look that great straight out of the wash? If you do iron them, do you have any tricks to get it done quickly? We use cloth napkins, but with 3 young boys I end up washing about 40/week, and ironing them is never a priority!

    1. Nope! I don't always iron the napkins... in fact I rarely do : ) I do think the block print napkins in my store look pretty good straight out of the drier, though. I really only iron napkins once in a blue moon if I'm in the mood or for company. We tend to get a couple of uses out of them by leaving them folded at the table, unless there is something messy involved.

  3. Love everything about your kitchen! It is beautiful. What is the brand of your range?

  4. Jenny,
    I love the table set just the way it is...with the blue candles and block print napkins. We ate a family dinner nearly every night when our sons were young. Now they have family dinners with their young families. I do think it's important and teaches so many simple things about good manners, conversation skills and such.


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