Monday, September 11, 2017

How to Feed a Houseful of Dudes in 30 Minutes

As summer s’mores melt into back-to-school prep, seismic shifts occur in homes with school-age kids. Though this annual evolution is not unexpected, drastic changes occur on a daily basis, like kids reacclimating to wearing socks again after a summer of flip-flop fun, and eating normal meals again, rather than shoehorning an apple and string cheese into 8 hours of playing outside, becomes a necessity.

With school back in session, one thing I know for sure is that the minute the Junior dudes get home, they are ready to eat. That means dinner must be quick and easy to prepare while three kids simultaneously ask for snacks.

That’s why my famous Turkey Pasta Bake is a ‘Dude Family classic’.

My boys love pasta (who doesn’t?), and would be happy to eat it 8 days out of 7, but variety is important, as are incorporating protein and vegetables into their diets.  So when the Little Dude was even littler, Mrs. Dude and I started making this tasty recipe that is also fast and easy, because when hunger hits, the food is never ready fast enough. But in as many years, I’ve learned that I can boil some water, put an episode of their favorite show on the DVR and when that 30 minute show ends, voila, dinner is served.

One of the trickiest parts of dinner is choosing everyone’s favorite pasta cut, and Barilla® offers 38 different options, so you could eat a different one every day of the month without repeats. For this recipe, I used two of my boys’ favorites: Barilla Blue Box Penne and Rigatoni.
While the pasta cooks to a perfect al dente, in about 12 minutes, I brown a pound of ground turkey meat on the adjacent burner. Once the pasta is finished, I drain it and add Barilla Mushroom Sauce (my favorite!) to the fully-cooked turkey meat, along with garlic, oregano and a few other seasonings.

Then, I mix the pasta into the sauce and pour the combination into a glass baking pan, with a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese on the bottom and provolone slices on top. Last, I put the combined dish into the oven, which had already been preheated to 350°F, and bake for 15 minutes, or until the top layer of cheese is lightly browned.

To balance the meal, we mix a nice green salad, garlic bread and some fruit while we all talk about highlights and lowlights of our days.

Once the pasta masterpiece is served, it’s only a matter of minutes before my hungry kids are not only no longer hungry, but asking for seconds. And after they clear their plates, hopefully there is still enough daylight remaining for them to play outside for a bit before the school night bedtime activities begin, and we start everything all over again the next day.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Barilla Pasta for this promotion. Though I have been compensated for my participation, all ideas, thoughts and tasty treats are my own, for better or worse.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Why You Should Have Another Kid, Even If You Think You Shouldn't

When you first get together with a romantic partner, after you’ve introduced them to family or friends, the first question from everyone you encounter becomes “when are you getting married?” After you’re married, the first question becomes when are you having kids? After your first child is born, shortly after the placenta is delivered, the big question evolves into “when are you having another one?” This process seems to continue until you eventually become a grandparent.

Asking about someone’s potential reproductive plans is not only nosy, it’s not a simple question as there are always myriad factors that go into these decisions. When Mrs. Dude and I began talking about starting a family, I wanted 3 kids (because I came from a family with 3 kids) and she wanted 2 kids (you can probably guess why). We got married in our early 30s, became parents a couple years later, and then again 3 years later, so time was not working in our favor. But thoughts of “what if?” lingered in both my wife’s and my mind after the Littler Dude was no longer so, um, little.
As our 40th birthdays approached, the conversation continued, and we went back and forth on how we could potentially add another child into the mix, if we could even get pregnant again, that is. Then one day, I read something that helped solidify the plan for me. In a Facebook group I belong to, someone mentioned that you don’t only have kids for yourselves as parents, but it’s important to consider having kids for them to have each other, as time passes and life evolves. Nine months later, give or take, Little Miss Dude was born. 

Beyond my prognostication that we were only ever going to have boys, having baby #3 changed my mindset toward parenting. We were never the type to sterilize the baby if they encountered a speck of dirt, so laid-back parenting has always been our M.O. But it’s the knowledge gained via almost 7 years of parenting experience when she was born that has made my daughter a different type of gift. She was a gift for my wife and for me, but also for her brothers, who at almost 7 and 4 when she was born couldn’t believe how lucky they were to have another life to help shape.

From day one, which began early one Friday morning at 4:15am with Mrs. Dude’s water breaking three weeks before her scheduled C-Section date, Little Miss Dude has made the perfect punctuation for our family. Unlike after our boys’ births, I was able to take paid paternity leave after she was born, and the almost 10 weeks we spent together day in and out, helped lay the foundation for our now complete quintet.

Now that her first year is 3 quarters over, I can’t imagine life without this little girl, whose infectious smile helps her makes friends in every grocery store line, restaurant and little league game she attends. I know how lucky I am to have three wonderful children, even if they usually wake up too early and are sometimes too picky with food. They are happy and healthy, which helps me feel confident that they will live long healthy lives, as wonderful children, siblings and hopefully parents themselves.


We usually think about all that we are thankful for later in the year, with turkey and pumpkin pie, but with Father’s Day upon us, I’ve partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers to say #ThanksBaby for helping complete my family.

I’m sure you have stories about your kids and what you are thankful for, so please use the #ThanksBaby hashtag on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with a picture and a few words about what your little ones have done for you.

Also, take a moment to check out this great video that Pampers put together to honor all kinds of fathers on Father’s Day: