By Cari Levin

Cari_LevinThe Dilemma:
Following a weekend of karate, golf lessons, sleepovers and the requisite meltdown it is once again Sunday night and I have to make dinner.

The Fantasy:
I make a simple yet fun and enticing dinner that my family not only eats but also thanks me for and reminisces about.

The Solution:
“Themed Sunday Night Dinners.”

How They Work:
I am one of the lucky ones. My two sisters, parents and six nephews and nieces live within an eight block radius. For the last three years we have been gathering for Sunday night dinners. The rules are few and simple: there is no need to RSVP and whomever guesses the theme of that week’s dinner chooses the following week’s theme. Contestants are limited to those under 10 years old (conveniently limiting it to my 2nd grade son and his younger cousins).
Early on themes were fairly basic. The first week I chose “circles” whereby every dish was made of circular foods only: salad of hearts of palm, tomatoes, red onion and cucumbers; hamburgers/turkey burgers, onion rings and for dessert melon balls and cookies. After exhausting shapes the kids moved on to colors. “Red” night was welcomed with a roasted tomato soup, grilled vegetable lasagna, a tomato and beet salad and red velvet cupcakes. “White” night included panko-crusted halibut, basmati rice, grilled asparagus and shortbread cookies.

As seasons change we have seen almost every sports night. College football welcomed a traditional tailgate while baseball night was not without Dodger dogs and peanuts.

Although Sunday Night Dinners are by no means culinary adventures and often violate basic rules of entertaining (I strongly believe a meal should be comprised of a variety of colors and textures), they have undeniably become an event that is looked forward to by all. Not only have I found a way to get through the last hours of the weekend, but also have created a way to fill my family with rich memories that will hopefully last a lifetime.

Cari Levin is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. She has spent the past 15 years working as a private chef for celebrities, athletes and all who love good food.