5 Fancy Family Dinner Ideas: From Kitchen to Table in a Hurry

If you're looking to bring your dinner from drab to fab, here are a few recipes to help you on your way to restaurant-level food.



Drawing a blank on fancy family dinner ideas because you're low on funds, time, and energy? Take a deep breath and don't worry. Taking your meal to the next level is easier than you think, and it could take you out of that cooking slump.

One reason for getting into a dinner rut might have to do with your family's usual schedule. If you make a fancy dinner, however, it signals everyone that dinner really is an important meal to share together. "An important and often overlooked component of eating is the experience. So often in our modern, hustle-bustle 24/7 on-the-go world we simply consume the convenient without care or thought," says Dr. Mike Fenster, a cardiologist, professional chef, and author of "Eating Well, Living Better." "But the latest research is reaffirming the importance of the context in which we devour our [food]." And with a fancy meal, you'll want to savor every bite!

So gather the crew and take a few minutes to create something your entire family will enjoy. It just might perk up your whole week. Once the nanny leaves for the night, use these five fancy recipes to help you get that family bonding time started.

  1. Shrimp Cocktail
    Start dinner off on the right foot with a beautiful, fresh appetizer. If you're looking to eat light, you can pair it with a garden salad for the main meal itself. Be sure to take care in arrangement, as the look of this dish is key for adding an air of elegance. "Garnish your dishes! This will immediately elevate your plate from average to elegant," says Susan Carter, professional chef and owner of Anatomy of a Bite. "Chopped herbs are an easy place to begin, and using fresh thyme or flat-leaf parsley makes an immediate visual impact as well as adding a fresh flavor note." Try cilantro in your shrimp cocktail for a southwestern flair.
  2. Chicken Marsala
    Boneless, skinless chicken breast makes this meal a low-fat treat. The addition of sweet Marsala wine and buttery mushrooms gives it a richness that your whole family will love. Leftovers will be just as good heated up for lunch the next day.
  3. Potato Beef Croquettes
    These luscious croquettes can be served as a main dish alongside steamed vegetables and wild rice. The fantastic aroma of beef and potatoes will draw your family to the kitchen. If you've made meatballs before, you can certainly make these croquettes -- they're just as easy. You can even prep these ingredients the night before for easy cooking the next day. "Have all your ingredients prepped ahead of time. This is called a 'mise en place,' translated as 'everything in its place.' It means that all your ingredients have been cleaned, cut and partially cooked, if necessary, so that everything is ready and at your fingertips for that last bit of cooking prior to plating and eating," says Carter.
  4. Cedar-Planked Salmon With Red Peppers and Capers
    Grilling salmon on a cedar plank gives it a smoky, earthy flavor that's a great change from your regular fish recipe. If you've got one -- or the funds to buy one -- try slicing the red peppers on a mandolin for extra-fine slices that up the fancy factor on the whole meal. "If possible, invest in a mandolin, about $20 -- a great kitchen tool which allows you to slice food from very thin to very thick. Running a cucumber or your favorite piece of fruit through the smallest setting on a mandolin will produce sheer slices that will elevate your salad presentation," says Carter.
  5. Steak au Poivre
    Steak au poivre is a great way to add some fast French flair to your culinary repertoire. If you're uncomfortable cooking with brandy, you can substitute an equal amount of apple juice, apple cider or white grape juice. Steak au poivre is traditionally served with pommes frites -- the French term for french fries.

"Sharing a meal and pleasant conversation reaffirms a very ancient and basic human experience. It is something that satisfies the soul as the meal nourishes our body," says Dr. Fenster. "It is a pleasant and painless prescription to help combat the stress and illness thrust upon us in our modern society."

So put on your classiest apron and get cooking! These recipes are easy to follow, but these fancy family dinner ideas deliver big flavor with a side of class.

Craving comfort food instead? Try these family dinner recipes

Christina Montoya Fiedler is a Los Angeles-based writer and mom of two boys. Follow her on twitter.

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