Mrs. T's Pierogies and Ali Fedotowsky-Manno celebrate simple family dinners

Ali Fedotowsky-Manno with her favorite Mrs. T's Pierogies recipe
Ali Fedotowsky-Manno with her favorite Mrs. T's Pierogies recipe / Mrs. T's Pierogies

While some households might continue the Sunday Supper ritual, busy schedules can push the family dinner off the jammed packed calendar. With some help from Mrs. T’s Pierogies, Ali Fedotowsky-Manno shows all the busy parents that gathering around the table for a meal and carving out some family time are more important than ever.

One of the barriers that some families feel prevents them from enjoying a meal together is time. From the minutes required to prepare the food to carving out the time block to actually eat the meal, the event seems to be more taxing than finishing the last-minute science fair project.

Still, those moments around the table are vital to connect and reconnect. It is more than a parent peppering a child with questions about their day. It is a time to laugh, share memories, and even make some new traditions.

Recently, Ali Fedotowsky-Manno partnered with Mrs. T’s Pierogies on the Go-Fun-Me Challenge. The concept is relatively simple. Families commit to making a simple at-home dinner one night a week and create a family experience with the time saved by cooking a quick, delicious meal.

Ali Fedotowsky-Manno for Mrs. T's Pierogies
Ali Fedotowsky-Manno with her favorite Mrs. T's Pierogies recipe / Mrs. T's Pierogies

During a conversation with Ali, she revealed some ideas that work with her family. From a tasty recipe that anyone can master to how she carves out some additional family time, the busy mom understands how to balance her priorities.

Cristine Struble/FoodSided: Busy families often have dinner on the go or dinner in shifts. Why is it important for you to have that family dinner where everyone sits down and eats together?

Ali Fedotowsky-Manno: I think it’s super important to sit down and eat with your family, but I also know it’s not always possible. Life can get hectic and crazy. Because a lot of people, including our family, tend to eat in the family room, where kitchen and the living room come together. We have a little kid’s table where our kids do their arts and crafts, but we also eat there. We eat as a family at that little child’s table 95% of the time or at the kitchen counter/island.”

“I don’t think eating together as a family means sitting around the dining room table necessarily because that’s just not always feasible for a lot of families. I think it’s just as simple as pulling up a chair to the kitchen island if you have one and eating together, or sitting at the kid’s table so you’re eye to eye with your kiddos. Anything to make it easy and simple but allowing you to be together. I think as long as you just get the time in, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be sitting around a dining room table. Maybe have devices off so you can chat about school or life, and connect, in a spot that is convenient and works for your family.”

CS: How do you manage to create a meal that has food and flavors which appeals to everyone? 

AFM: I think the key is using ingredients that I know my kids already like, but also I try to switch up how to prepare them. My kids like tomatoes, corn, avocado, cheese, and tortillas. One of my son’s favorite foods is a burrito. I take all of those ingredients and find different ways to mix up that meal so that he feels like he's trying to eat something adventurous and different - even though it's not. For example, I make this burrito bowl with Mrs. T's Pierogies. The pierogi -the pasta shell with the cheese inside - is similar to the tortilla and the cheese of the burrito. Then, I put corn and cilantro and tomato and avocado on top with a crema. My son likes it because it's all the food that he likes to eat, but he thinks it's different because it looks so different. He feels he's being adventurous is willing to try other things in the future.”

CS: Some parents believe that getting the kids involved with cooking can help them be more willing to try new foods and flavors. How do you get your kids involved in the kitchen? 

AFM: “I think you kind of have to decide up front, is this going to be a quick meal? Or are you going to kind of sit back and like let chaos ensue, and let it take a little longer? And if the answer is like you're okay with it taking a little longer, then I suggest getting your kids involved and making cooking process part of quality family time! Get them involved!, Kids are so much more likely to eat food, if they prepare it themselves.”

“My son will try so many more types of food if he cuts it up himself or helps make it. I give him something he'll be like ‘I don't want that,’ depending on what it is. If he literally just cuts it in half himself, then he wants to try it.”

“Parenting experts always say things like if you want your child to do something, give them options. Kids want to feel like they're in control, because they have so little that they control in their life. Adults are always telling them what to do. For my kids, I like to try to give them control in the kitchen and let them pick out things they want to eat, make dishes they want to make. I think you want to just give some kids control in the kitchen because there'll be more adventurous eaters if you do.”

CS: You’re partnering with Mrs. T’s Pierogies for a new campaign. How do you think that this campaign will resonate with families? 

AFM: “I know that my busy schedule and routine sometimes put quality family time on the backburner, and I’m sure that’s the same for many other families. I think families like mine will love the Go-Fun-Me Challenge, which aims to help families make a simple dinner one night a week and create a memorable family experience in or out of the home with the time saved thanks to Mrs. T’s.”

CS: What’s your favorite flavor of Mrs. T’s Pierogies and how do you enjoy using them as part of a meal? 

AFM: “My favorite flavor is the Mrs. T’s 4 Cheese Medley Pierogies because they are the perfect addition to making a delicious burrito bowl for my kids! My recipe includes so many light and fresh ingredients, as well as a homemade avocado crema that my family loves, and the pierogies which are the star of the dish. 

CS: With summer fun on the horizon, what’s your plan to keep the kids engaged while away from the classroom? 

AFM: For me, there's definitely going to be some summer camps this summer. Just because kids aren't in school, that doesn't mean mom and dad don't have to work. Summer camps are a big one. But I also don't want to over-schedule summer camps.”

“We also really want to make sure we have a lot of good quality time. I'm always a sucker for those Instagram reels that are like you only have 18 summers until they're gone off to college.”

“For us, we love to paint as a family. And we all enjoy painting so it's always really fun. We buy canvases and after the kids create their art, we hang the canvases all over their playroom and all over their rooms, and they feel really prideful that their art is displayed in our home.”

That family time is not necessarily just limited to summertime. From family dinners to just a break in the week, that idea is at the heart of Mrs. T’s Pierogies Go-Fun-Me Challenge. Choosing to carve out some time together is the conscious decision that can make a big difference in people’s lives. Even though there might be a big effort to plan a magical getaway or an epic vacation, the little moments can be the ones that the whole family remembers for years to come.