We had a birthday in the house for one of my kids and part of our family tradition is getting to pick the menu for Shabbat dinner. Naturally, I forgot about this when planning last week, so Friday night dinner quickly became Shabbat lunch. On the flip side, I’m excited to eat leftover takeout Chinese food this week. It’s as if the birthday came with a gift for me.

Our family enjoys marking birthdays with special treats, whether it is cake or a special meal. This isn’t in lieu of gifts, parties, or the other more traditional ways of celebrating a birthday. Rather, because shared meals, chosen by the birthday boy or girl create an opportunity for a shared experience, conversations, and gratitude. Meal choices in our family have ranged from requests for takeout from a specific restaurant to special dishes or even just a request for the right kind of dessert.

I’ve valued this experience so much more than our pre-COVID dinners out. Gone are the noisy restaurant and the invariable meltdown of one or more children. The pace of the meal is slower and we can actually hear each other in conversation. When the meal request requires me to cook (such as the birthday waffles that were requested for breakfast), I get another way to show love and affection.

In case you are curious, the birthday cake we made was a Smores Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake – fun to make and even more fun to eat!

Menu Plan


Pizza – This is rapidly becoming a standard meal in our house on Sunday nights. Usually homemade, but occasionally ordered in.


Leftovers – yup, it’s time to eat all of that takeout Chinese food that wasn’t finished!


Pretzel dogs*, potato knishes (I’m cheating and using frozen knishes – I’ve made them from scratch before, but it just isn’t the same), cut veggies


Honey Dijon pretzel-crusted salmon (pretzel crusted just sounded so yummy!), French fries, roasted cauliflower


Enchiladas (an easy meal to throw together and everyone is happy), cut veggies


Potato leek soup, petite meatloaf with green beans and carrots, rice with carmalized onions (this recipe from Paula Shoyer’s Instant Pot cookbook has become a family favorite).


Pizza bagels (kid-prepared!) – we’re invited out for lunch, so a simple dinner is planned for the kids.