This post is sponsored by The Dairy Alliance, who also provided this recipe. All opinions are my own, and you can be sure that I only work with brands I truly believe in.
When I was eight years old my mom went back to work in a very demanding job, I was involved in sports, and my dad traveled, so we didn’t eat many meals together as a family. Even so, I know the power of a meal shared together. I remember the days when my dad would sit down and eat breakfast with me before school and when my mom would take the time to make a home cooked meal when I knew she was exhausted after a long day of work. And some of my favorite family memories happened around the table at my grandparents’ house in Macon, Georgia, where our family gathered a few times each year. When I moved to Birmingham, I knew no one, but eating dinner at church on Wednesday nights with new friends of all ages gave me a place to belong in a foreign city.
Food has a powerful way of drawing people together across all kinds of social barriers and solidifying relationships as we look into one another’s eyes across the table. October is Eat Together, Eat Better Month, so it’s the perfect time to focus on intentionally eating more meals together as a family.
Family meals have so many health benefits, including improved overall nutrition, strengthened family ties, and higher grades and less risky behaviors in children and teens, and yet family meals are on the decline. In fact, 10% of families in the US won’t even share one meal together as a family this week. The number one barrier cited is lack of time.
If you know me, you know I’m a big believer in meal planning, which can certainly help to address the lack of time for preparing family meals. But even more basic than that, I think one of the best things we can do to make more family meals happen is to keep it simple. A lot of weeknight meals in our house involve a simple protein (like this quick seared salmon) alongside roasted vegetables. I also frequently use my slow cooker or Instant Pot for soups and chilis that make great leftovers for especially busy nights, or I might make a quick frittata and serve breakfast for dinner. And there’s no shame in using convenience products, like jarred pasta sauce, frozen veggie burgers, or bagged salad kits, which can help make balanced meals even simpler.
One dish meals are another way to make getting dinner on the table a reality. This Skillet Butternut Squash Lasagna from The Dairy Alliance is packed full of nutrient-rich ingredients, all combined in one skillet, for a quick and healthy meal. Spinach, tomato sauce, and butternut squash provide a serving of vegetables, and there’s plenty of dairy included as well. Dairy foods, like cheese, provide high quality protein, as well as three of the four nutrients that are missing in most of our diets – calcium, Vitamin D, and potassium. So including dairy in dinner really pumps up the nutritional value of the meal.
This recipe makes use of pre-cut butternut squash, jarred pasta sauce and pesto, and no-boil lasagna noodles to reduce prep and cooking time. I also used jarred minced garlic for a completely no-chop meal.
The ingredients get layered in a skillet, and the lasagna cooks on the stove top except for a final broil to brown the cheese on top. (It was so nice to reduce the oven time and avoid heating up the entire kitchen in this early fall Birmingham heat!)
Just 30 minutes of hands-off cooking time, and this is the finished product.
Look at that cheesy goodness….
So get out your favorite cast-iron skillet, set the table, and let everyone know that tonight, dinner is a family affair. Let’s celebrate Eat Together, Eat Better Month by making time to share a meal with the ones we love.