Written and developed by Cathy Collins

We have all heard about the numerous benefits of eating dinner together.  There are plenty of experts from the medical industry to social services to the diet and weight loss industry who tell us sitting down and the table and having a meal with friends and family as part of a social gathering will enrich our lives in one way or another.  It helps us stay connected as a family.  It provides an opportunity to talk to our children, parents and friends.  It gives us time to air grievances, find out what’s going on in each other’s lives or talk about what’s going on in the world.  When we are trying to lose weight, it helps us by being conscious about what we eat and helps us slow down the eating process.

I have always been an advocate of “dinner time.”  I’ve always tried to plan at least one meal a day where everyone in the family is home (and usually a few extra friends to join) and the meal is homemade.  When all of my kids were young and still at home dinner time was a time to put down the cell phones. Don’t even think about bringing cell phones to the table, your friends, the text messages, Facebook, Instagram and all the other social media will wait for an hour while we eat. The television was off, video games and computers, off.  I have gone so far as to let the answering machine pick up phone calls.

Sometimes I had to settle for a family meal only a couple of times a week and sometimes it wasn’t the evening meal. That’s ok. The point is to be together, face to face and talk.  The benefit is a home-cooked, healthy meal and a break from our fast-paced, hectic, go here, go there, do this, do that lives.

This week, as it is most weeks, our meal was a combined effort.  I had more red potatoes to use and I promised my family some homemade pierogi. The simplest explanation of pierogi is this; they are potato and cheese stuffed ravioli which are boiled and then sautéed in butter and onions.  The result is a lightly browned noodle stuffed with warm, cheesy mashed potatoes.

Sunday is the day we gather at my oldest daughter’s house, cook a big meal and enjoy each other’s company.  I share my recipes with my kiddos and teach them how to cook like Mom.  That way, when they grow up and move out, they’ll always have the family recipes with them.

My oldest daughter had boneless pork chops and wanted breaded tenderloin sandwiches.  That we could do.  We love breaded pork tenderloin, especially if it’s breaded with Panko and served with Tonkatsu sauce.

I don’t always make dessert.  In fact, dessert is a rarity in my house so when I do make it, it’s a special treat.  My family got lucky; a friend shared a recipe on my Facebook page, Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.  I love pumpkin… anything from just roasted with a bit of salt and pepper to curried pumpkin soup to pumpkin pie and muffins… but trying this recipe was a must!  Cream Cheese Frosting AND Pumpkin!  WOW!

The good news was, I have lots of cans of pumpkin from the pantries.  Now the dilemma, I was out of cream cheese and powdered sugar.  What did I have? …  Brown sugar, butter, flour and walnuts; perfect for making Walnut Crumble Topping.  I also have several boxes of raisins. While I love them and they are a terrific snack just by themselves or as an addition to oatmeal and oatmeal cookies, the fact remains they are taking over my cupboard and must find a useful endeavor.  Into the Pumpkin Crumble Sheet Cake they go!

Take Your Pumpkin to Work

I was surprised at how quick and easy this recipe and its adaptation was.  In less than 35 minutes start to finish, my kitchen was filled with the scent of warm, wonderful pumpkin spice and bubbly, buttery brown sugar topping.  This was supposed to be dessert. It didn’t make it to dessert time.  The poor cake was devoured one square inch at a time by the kitchen snitchers (the people who sneak into the kitchen to see what I’m cooking and nibble a bite of this and have a taste of that)…. I guess that’s the way the pumpkin crumbles!

Pumpkin Crumble Sheet Cake recipe

Walnut Crumble Topping