How TV Helps My Autistic Kids Eat Dinner — My Two Tables

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Here's how I pictured family dinner with my husband and three kids: Everyone is at the table, enjoying steak and fries while taking turns talking about the highlights from their day.

In reality, dinner is more of a workout than a time to relax over conversation. In reality, my husband and I have spent more dinners than I can count chasing our two autistic kids (my son and younger daughter), sensory seekers who like to launch themselves out of their seats at every opportunity. In reality, this ideal image doesn't fit our family dynamic at all.

But I'm learning that that's okay — with a little help from a TV and a therapist or two.


Recipe: Chicken Divan Casserole — Quick and Easy Weeknight Dinners

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman/The Kitchn)

Chicken divan is the ultimate old-school medley of chicken, broccoli, and cheese sauce. It originated in the early 20th century in a New York hotel restaurant, Divan Parisienne, and it hits all the right notes: hearty, creamy, and comforting. While the type of cheese used varies from recipe to recipe, what is not negotiable is the use of cream sherry, which adds a tiny bit of sweetness and richness to the cheese sauce.

There's no doubt that this dish is rich, but this lightened-up version skips sour cream and condensed cream soups in favor of some chicken broth and milk for the sauce. And if you start with leftover cooked chicken or a store-bought rotisserie chicken, this casserole can be yours even on a busy weeknight.


Recipe: Classic PB&J Snack Cake — Easy Dessert Recipes

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman/The Kitchn)

If you're a fan of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches then boy oh boy, are you in for a treat. This snack cake starts with a tender, moist cake full of peanut flavor, but the crowning touch is in the hypnotic swirl of jelly over the top. A creamy peanut butter mixture and dollops of grape jelly mix and mingle throughout the cake batter and bake up so that every single bite of this cake tastes as though a PB&J and yellow cake collided. Don't blame me if you become as enamored of this cake as I am.


How I Get Dinner on the Table When Culture Is Key — Dinner With Kids

I grew up with the ethos that rice is life. Rice holds such an exalted place in the Chinese culture as a staple food and life force that the word itself represents an entire meal and conveys hospitality; it's our custom to greet another person by asking whether he or she has eaten rice yet.

My husband, an all-American guy who grew up in a Seattle suburb on pot roast and boxed mac-and-cheese, did not.

Thankfully, our 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son have grown to like tofu and rice as much as they like pepperoni pizza and burgers, and they understand that mealtimes are important to me.


Why My Family Always Eats Dinner at 6 — Dinner with Kids

Recently my wife Laurie and I attempted to reminisce about the carefree days before our daughter Iris was born in 2003. I was reviewing restaurants and getting into home sausage-making and bread-baking. We were young and flexible.

It turns out we both suffer from parenting-induced retrograde amnesia, because we couldn't remember a damn thing about what we ate for dinner back then — or when we ate it.

Now we have a strict dinnertime and it turns out I love it even more than our daughter does.


The Surprising Trick for Actually Keeping Kiddie Plates Organized — Organizing Tips from Kitchn

With two girls under 5 year old, we've got quite a collection of kiddie plates. You need to if you don't want to hand-wash between every meal, and darn it if they don't keep getting cuter and cuter, so I keep buying more (I recently fell for the Cheeky plates at Target).

But the problem is that, unless you stick to just one brand and have a whole matching set, each plate is shaped just a little bit differently, and often they have dividers to help you feed your kid vegetables (look, the broccoli isn't touching the chicken!), which means they won't nest into each other. So when you try to stack them, it's a wobbly mess that topples over every time you try to take out one or two.

Fortunately, a mom out there came up with a solution: Store them in a dish rack instead! Gah — it's literally something that has probably been staring you in the face this whole time!


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