This post is in collaboration with Balance Your Plate and Stouffer’s. As part of the collaboration, I received product and incentives in exchange for participating in the program.
When I was 8 years old, I had an assignment at school that asked us to outline our family tree. I remember being frustrated at all the dead ends and unknowns and only being able to find out a little about my family’s heritage. That was long before the internet at a time when the most reliable information was found in family bibles and on microfiche at the library, but most important, from talking to our ancestors who were still alive. What I discovered then and have continued to realize is that regardless of our roots, the meaningful traditions we create or continue are what matters.
As an example, my dad’s side of the family always got together to celebrate Christmas and the meal was a combination of appetizers like cocktail meatballs, cheese trays and pizza thins. While they still get together, the landscape of attendees as well as the food has changed over the years creating a new tradition that includes homemade enchiladas.
My maternal grandmother was 100% Italian and those customs and traditions have found their place in our family as well. As a kid, the summer family reunion picnic wasn’t decked out with barbecue, chicken and potato salad but rather trays and trays of homemade manicotti. Spaghetti and gnocchi have always been the customary meal of my immediate family for Christmas dinner. My grandmother and my mom would spend days preparing the homemade sauce, noodles, meatballs and braciole. I remember the joys of continuously cranking pasta dough through the press until it was just the right thickness to become spaghetti noodles.
But traditions need to evolve. My mom and grandmother eventually upgraded their crank pasta machines to something mechanical that mixed the dough and pressed out noodles. Gnocchi were no longer made from boiled and pressed potatoes but instead from instant mashed potatoes. The meals were just as delicious, but the process needed to change.
And that’s where I’m at. I want to keep these traditions alive while serving balanced meals for my own children so I find ways to make that possible. We discovered that incorporating frozen products with fresh produce is a good way to create balance. This is possible because frozen meals aren’t the TV dinners that our parents grew up knowing.
As an example, Stouffer’s meals are created using premium ingredients ensuring something that tastes great when it lands on the table. Stouffer’s Family Size Lasagna with Meat and Sauce contains 16 grams of protein per serving as a result of freshly made pasta layered between rich meat sauce and topped with real mozzarella cheese.
With the help of the rest of the family, we prepared a nice dinner including lasagna, fresh grapes and green beans as well as salad and garlic bread. My girls said it felt like a feast while I concluded it was a total success. I opted to keep it simple (with the vision of the meals with grandma), but I realized we could easily use shortcuts to add our own spin should we decide to customize it to our own tastes.
Did you know that research shows that only 7 of 365 days are Americans meeting MyPlate recommendations for vegetables, fruits, proteins, dairy and grains? Stouffer’s recognized this shortfall and announced a new “Kitchen Cupboard” commitment focusing on shortening and simplifying recipes to only include ingredients that consumers recognize. The Family Size Lasagna with Meat and Sauce was the starting point with other products in their line to follow. They’ve also support an educational program called “Balance Your Plate” designed to help consumers create nutritious meals that incorporate both frozen and fresh foods. Hmmm… that sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?
I am a busy mom, so I can relate to how so many families are only getting well rounded meals on 7 of 365 days. Often we are lucky to even eat at home, let alone find balance! As I mentioned before, the recipes and tips included in Stouffer’s Balance Your Plate solutions will help us create better menus for meal time. Keep up with new recipes, tips and news from Stouffer’s by visiting the website or following them on Facebook or Twitter.
What shortcuts do you use to balance your plate?