One Simple Tip To Making At-Home Dinners Feel More Special

January 24, 2017  —  Written by Julia 

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This post is sponsored by Blue Apron.  

I’ve always loved and advocated for family dinners. From when I was little to present day, most weeknights, the dinner bell was rung and everyone would come running to a set table to sit down, say a prayer, and dish up and eat dinner as a family. It’s fun being on the other side of things now. Being the parent. Asking the questions. Making this all feel like the kind of quality time I cherished and loved growing up. But in the last year, Chris started doing one tiny thing that has made dinner feel even more special (and I’m surprised how much the girls have loved it, too!)–he has started plating our dinners.

We have been using Blue Apron’s family plan (they also have a 2-person plan) twice a week for over two years now. Although Chris is always imaginative in the meals he creates on his own, Blue Apron has given us the opportunity to learn to make new recipes and get out of the rut of making the same dishes, or relying on take out. Can you believe in over 2 years, we’ve never had the exact same dish twice?! Each chef-designed recipe comes with a card, and one night, Chris was inspired to serve dinner as it was shown, already plated to each of us at the table, instead of family style.

The girls felt like they were at a restaurant and ate more of their meals that night, than any night previous. And from then on, it’s been a sweet tradition. Although we’re not experts, it’s fun to try to get creative and we’ve expanded our plate collection since, too!

I took some photos over the last couple weeks of a few of our meals to show you how we might plate a normal meal. This was the Honey-Mustard Chicken with roasted vegetables. While I would normally put vegetables on one side and chicken on the other if we were dishing up at the table. Taking a cue from the card, we stacked them and drizzled the honey mustard and parsley on top. For the girls, we cut their chicken into strips and then placed them all together on top of the vegetables.  

Another night, for our vegetarian meal of the week (another thing we try to do), we had Blue Apron’s Chipotle-Spiced Enchiladas with Mushrooms & Lime Sour Cream. Greta is a major sour cream lover, so we smeared in onto the dark plate first (so it really pops!) and then layered the enchiladas and cilantro on top. “You’ll get sour cream with every bite now!” She couldn’t eat it fast enough.

I always get stumped with how to make pasta look special or glamorous, but Sunday night, we made Blue Apron’s Fresh Cavatelli pasta with broccoli with an arugula and roasted carrot salad. First of all, that salad! It was so fresh and unique and amazing. You can look up the recipe here. We got these big coupe bowls not long ago, and they go a long way in making any meal look a little more luxe. Plus, they’re huge, so you can really pile it on and only kind of pile it on and it will still look like you’re eating like a lady. Ha! 

Have you ever tried plating at home? It might be fun to start just one night a week and see how your family reacts.

And if you’ve never tried Blue Apron, we’re on a mission to make sure everyone does at least once! We can’t get enough of variety, quality, and the farm-fresh ingredients delivered right to our doorstep, in exactly the right proportions.  The first 50 readers will get three free meals on their first Blue Apron order! Just click here


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What do you think?

  1. 100% agree with you about plating. I’m in the Uk and I use a similar service to Blue Apron since just over a year ago. We have honestly fell back in love again with food. We have tried recipes and ingredients that I would have never considered before and the massive bonus point is that the dishes are so tasty AND healthy that even our two years old devours them! :)

  2. Laurie says:

    We are going to order and try it for a month. Wanted you to know. Thank you for your website and podcast. Love them both!

  3. Karmen says:

    Question is cookware related. Purchase the copper stainless steel set. The stainless steel pot is discolored inside and the copper ring is discolored. Not sure what today do, return? If it’s not too much trouble could you take a picture of your set. Just wondering if it’s just wear and tear.

    • Mandi says:

      Hey Karmen, I don’t have that exact set but I do have stainless steel cookware. I have to scrub mine with a steel wool scrubbing pad to get the discoloration off. I’m not sure how it would work on the copper outside but it works wonders on the interior of the pot. Hope it’s just simple wear and tear and not a problem. Good luck!

  4. Rachel says:

    My in laws always offer food to serve yourselves when we visit each week. Will keep in mind to help hubby one plate only leave the rest alone. Plating up and putting spare food away ready for freezer or lunch the next day helps out too.

  5. Abby says:

    I had no idea plating food was unusual. Family style is only a thing at a local restaurant or Holidays. Love it!!!

  6. Abby says:

    I’ve almost always plated our meals (though I don’t always present everything on the plate in a fancy way.)

    It’s funny – serving food on platters in our house is reserved for the fancy meals!

  7. kellie says:

    I too am one of the lucky souls that gets dinner made for me every single night.

    Everything is always homemade … stocks, doughs, pasta, kimchi, beer (!!) , all the sauces/marinades and even includes making his own ketchup to make his own bbq sauce for marinating ribs. Yup. Truly spoiled. ????

    We always plate our food. First and foremost your eat with you eyes and delicious homemade food should always be appreciated for the art that it is!

    #toamazingpartnerswhoshowtheirlovewithfood ❤

  8. Kate S. says:

    You know, I’ve always plated meals for my husband and myself and I never until this moment realized it was an unusual thing to do. I’m very interested to know if most people pass dishes around the table family style instead of plating!

    • Mara Smith says:

      I’ve always plated my family’s plates. Less dishes to clean up, but more so that I control what my children are eating. If it were up to them, they’d eat none of the side dishes and little of the main course.

  9. Plating food and “eating the rainbow” goes such a long way towards getting me excited about an at-home meal :)

  10. I just signed up after seeing how delicious those look, thanks for the credit towards it! I am so excited for this! it’ll be a nice surprise for my boyfriend when we cook dinner together next week!

  11. Karen says:

    I love the idea of plating our meals! We stick to the family style most nights, but this is a great way to switch it up :) Might have to spice up my actually plates while I’m at it!

  12. Haley says:

    Great ideas! We usually plate our meals, but somedays my man will make it look a little fancier than others. One thing we do is our ‘everyday’ plates is a set of China from my grandma’s collection. It makes even the most basic meals (frozen pizza, etc) feel a little bit fancy and we really get to enjoy having a nice set of plates instead of sitting in storage… and yes we have a kid. Our toddler is quickly learning to treat things nicely even though we’ve had a few casualties

  13. Jennifer says:

    Good ideas!

    I’ve always been curious about Blue Apron and the other companies like it, but never tried it. How does the food arrive? When my husband was on NutriSystem, he got the frozen meals in huge styrofoam boxes. We never figured out how to get rid of them. Is the packaging recyclable with Blue Apron?

  14. Katie says:

    My family loves Blue Apron! We recently switched to Hello Fresh and we are loving that, too! Can’t beat the variety and fresh ingredients. My husband plates our dishes for us as well, and we love it :) Great post!

  15. Jo says:

    Neat idea to make the weeknight meals more interesting. Where are the coupe bowls from? The link just goes to Blue Apron site.

  16. Cara says:

    How do you eat gluten-free with Blue Apron? We had a neighbor go out of town and forget to cancel her order for that week so she generously let us have the 3 meals. I couldn’t make 2 of them due to the ingredients but I also noticed they warn of cross-contamination, so it defeats choosing meals that are gluten-free or can be made GF (i.e.: subbing in your own noodles). The enchiladas look yummy but the tortillas are flour and I assume the sauces are not gluten free. Could you please share how you make these work for you? Thanks

    • Chris says:

      Julia’s GF restriction has been softened a bit, so we don’t eat gluten free every night. And when she is gluten free, she isn’t so impacted by cross-contamination. Small trace amounts don’t bother her. So we have used substitutes a lot for her.

      To start, I always have gluten free staples stocked in our pantry. GF noodles, rice, corn tortillas, spaghetti squash etc.. If we have a meal that includes something with gluten, like the flour tortillas in the enchiladas, I’ll grab a substitute (and corn tortillas make really great enchiladas).

      Sometimes the spice mixes from Blue Apron will include wheat or gluten in some form. For this, I’ll usually just taste the spice mix and go to my spice drawer where I make something that is as close as I can get it – it’s not exactly the same, but always turns out great.

      Regarding sauces, that’s case-by-case. This enchilada sauce actually was gluten free because the recipe called for making it from scratch, and it was only peeled, stewed tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper. Super simple but really delicious.

      • Cara says:

        Thank you. I have to be gluten free so I was curious how you managed that with Blue Apron. All good tips.

  17. This is the kind of post i LOVE. And those little gif-montage of you dressing the plates are so nice to watch ! Almost mesmerizing !
    I<m currently watching Masterchef australia, and the plating going on on that show is just STUNNING. As a result I started doing it more too.
    You said the kids eat more like that, but I also find that we adults eat less, since we're plating a right portion into our plate, and try to make it pretty, we don't focus on filling negative space on the plate. Heck, negative space on a plate while plating is even really GOOD !

    Also. Where is the dark plate from? I NEED those in my life.

  18. Joellyn says:

    There are some other advantages to plating your food. No need to dirty extra serving dishes- just serve out of the pots on the stove! And they say you eat less when the food is not on the table in front of you. You have to actually get out of your chair to get seconds. We have been doing this more and more for family meals also, even though at our house it’s less about presentation. Love this! :)

  19. Amelia says:

    I plate our meals every night. Helps with portion control for the kids (i.e.: prevents 1/2 the plate being filled with mash potatoes vs spinach) and makes clean up quicker too.

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We believe we should all love where we live.

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