Feb 08, 2024

4 Recipes to Connect Families

Family mealtimes with seniors
Memorable family times often revolve around food. Mealtimes connect aging adults and their families in a special way, whether it’s a romantic dinner for two, a favorite family recipe, a TV night staple or a delectable dessert. An added bonus of these family meals could be the nutrition that seniors may be lacking, especially if they’re living alone. Family meals give aging adults a reason to eat well. Think about creating a fun mood with conversation starters, set the scene with fun facts and get the entire family involved in the family dinner experience.

Companionship Diet Dinner Experience

Family traditions often revolve around favorite recipes passed down through the generations. What’s yours? Build on those recipes to create a companionship diet dinner experience.

Connect Over a Family Favorite

Favorite meal: Every family has that famous go-to recipe that just makes life better. Perhaps it’s Grandma’s meatloaf and pot roast, or Mom’s chicken Alfredo. Some recipes have been passed down through the generations, making family mealtimes even more special.

Conversation starters: What’s your favorite family dinner? Your favorite recipe? What makes this dish so popular? What family traditions surround this recipe or meal?

Fun facts: The single food that most Americans would want to eat for the rest of their lives is pizza, which 21 percent of survey participants chose as their answer. It beat out steak (16 percent), tacos (11 percent), pasta (11 percent), and even the undeniably American hamburger (13 percent), according to a Harris poll of 2,000 Americans.

Take action: Collect your family’s favorite recipes into a simple book (online or print) that can be shared among the generations. Assign someone to make (or bring) a favorite recipe for the next family dinner.

Best family favorite recipe: Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Potatoes and Carrots



  • 2–3 lb. (1–1½ kg) beef bottom round or rump roast
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 mL) canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 mL) tomato paste
  • ⅛ tsp. (½ mL) red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ½ cup (125 mL) ketchup
  • 2 cups (500 mL) lower sodium beef broth
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 mL) cider vinegar
  • ¾ lb. (375 g) baby carrots or 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ (5 cm) chunks
  • 2 lb. (1 kg) red potatoes, quartered if large
  • chopped parsley for garnish
  • salt and pepper


Rub roast with half the oil and salt and pepper. Brown on the stove in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high heat. Once browned on all sides, remove the meat and set aside on a plate.

Place the remaining oil in the Dutch oven and cook the onion until soft, about five minutes. Then add the garlic, red pepper flakes (if using), and tomato paste, and cook until fragrant, about one minute.

Add the meat back into the pot, and then pour on the ketchup, broth, and cider vinegar, and bring to a simmer.

Once boiling, place the carrots and potatoes on top of the meat, cover, and let the roast simmer on low until meat is tender, about 2 hours. (Another option: let cook in a 300°F [150°C] oven for 2–3 hours. Or transfer to a slow cooker, and cook for 5–6 hours on low.)

Dinner for two anyone? Romance adds the spice to a healthy companionship diet for aging adults. It’s not difficult to plan a romantic dinner complete with a favorite recipe.

Enjoy a Romantic Dinner for Two

Favorite romantic dinner: Many couples have a favorite romantic meal they enjoy with their significant other. Perhaps during the COVID-19 pandemic you’ve learned to re-create that dish at home. Either way, certain recipes may generate that feeling of romance connected to a special time in the lives of you and someone you love.

Conversation starters: Share with children and grandchildren your first special date night. What was the dish or meal, and where were you? If you’re widowed, think about that special meal and share with family or friends what made the evening so memorable. What did you do after dinner?

Fun facts: Check out these 17 Interesting Facts about Dating including: Couples usually wait until six to eight dates before they are willing to enter into an exclusive relationship.

Take action: Stuck at home? Check out these 50 Fun Stay at Home Date Night Ideas.

Favorite date night recipe: Flounder with Tomatoes and Olives



  • 2 fresh or frozen flounder fillets or other thin mild-flavored fillets (about 5 oz. / 150 g each raw)
  • 2 tsp. (10 mL) canola oil
  • 1 green pepper, chopped (1 cup / 250 mL)
  • ⅓ cup (75 mL) finely chopped shallot or onion
  • 3 small plum tomatoes, chopped (about 1 cup / 250 mL)
  • 1 tsp. (5 mL) capers, drained
  • 4 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • ⅛ tsp. (0.5 mL) black pepper


Thaw fish, if frozen. Rinse fish and pat dry with paper towel.

In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook green pepper and shallot for about 5 minutes or until just tender. Add tomatoes, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in capers and olives. Place the flounder fillets over vegetables, sprinkle with pepper. Cover and simmer about 5 minutes or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Transfer fish to serving plates and top with vegetables.

The best family mealtimes often revolve around a favorite movie or TV show. Build on memories of a beloved show or series, or create new ones as part of your companionship diet experience.

Experience a TV or Movie Night Meal

Favorite movie or show: Regardless of your generation, perhaps your family has a favorite television show or movie they like to watch after family mealtime gatherings. If you were a parent or child of the ‘60s and ‘70s, Sunday dinner entertainment may have included gathering around the television to watch “Bonanza” or “Wonderful World of Disney.”

Conversation starters: What were your favorite TV shows and movies? (Ask all generations.) What did you like most about these shows? How have TV shows and movies changed?

Fun facts: Lasting 14 seasons (1959-1973), “Bonanza” was among the longest-running Western television series (second behind “Gunsmoke” 1955-1975) and continues to air in syndication. While the show originally aired on Saturday night, it later became a Sunday night favorite, entertaining millions of baby boomers.

Take action: Poll your Sunday dinner group and decide what show or movie you’d like to watch after the next family dinner. How about a throwback? Show the grandkids (or great-grandchildren) the programs you watched back in the day by checking out some classics on Netflix, Amazon Prime or other television/movie services.

Best TV night recipe: Slow Cooker Spicy Pulled Pork



  • ½ Tbsp. (7 mL) brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. (2 mL) cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 mL) chili powder
  • ⅛ tsp. (0.5 mL) cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. (5 mL) ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. (2 mL) garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. (2 mL) ground oregano
  • ½ tsp. (2 mL) onion powder
  • ½ Tbsp. (7 mL) salt
  • 2½–3 lb. (1–1.5 kg) boneless pork shoulder roast (pork butt)
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 mL) canola oil


To make the rub, combine and mix all ingredients except for the pork shoulder and canola oil in a small bowl. (Alternately, you may substitute a pre-mixed spice rub, for simplicity.)

Remove the string from the roast, and pat dry with paper towels. Cover the roast with the rub mixture, reserving any leftover rub mix for later. Marinate in the rub overnight or at least for one hour.

Heat canola oil in a large skillet medium high heat. Place the roast in the pan and brown all sides.

Place the roast in a slow cooker, and sprinkle any reserved spice rub onto the roast. Cook on low setting for 6–10 hours, until the pork is so tender that meat falls apart when checking internal temperature (internal temp 190–205°F [about 90–100°C]).

Remove the roast from the slow cooker and place on a cutting board. Let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into large chunks. Then use two forks to pull the meat apart into bite sized shreds. Return the shreds to the slow cooker and stir to coat with the juice and rub mix from the roast.

Call it the grand finale of a companionship diet: dessert! It can top off any family meal in a big way.

Savor a Delectable Dessert

Best dessert: Whether it’s a fruit dish or double chocolate cheesecake, many family dinners wouldn’t be complete without something sweet. Remember, dessert doesn’t have to be unhealthy.

Conversation starters: Ask everyone around the table to name their dessert preference and tell you why. Just talking about it won’t add any calories, right?

Fun facts: If you lined up the number of pies sold at U.S. grocery stores in one year, they would circle the globe and then some, according to the U.S. Pie Council!

Take action: Ask someone in the family to volunteer to make (or buy) one of the family favorite desserts and bring it to the next meal.

Favorite dessert: Nutella Stuffed Strawberries (Taste of Home)



  • 12 large fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup Nutella
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips, melted
  • 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • Confectioners' sugar


Remove stems from strawberries. Using a paring knife, cut out centers; pipe Nutella into strawberries.

Insert a toothpick into the side of each strawberry. Holding toothpick, quickly dip stem end of strawberry into melted chocolate; allow excess to drip off. Sprinkle with hazelnuts; place strawberries on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet, point side up. Remove toothpicks; refrigerate strawberries until set. Just before serving, dust with confectioners' sugar.

Companionship Diet: A Recipe for Healthy Aging

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