Looking for a hearty meal that will bring the whole family together? Introduce your kids to a nearly forgotten fad-fondue. You'll have some laughs. Everyone will leave the table with a very full belly. Best of all, you'll have minimal dishes to clean up. So dig that dusty old fondue pot out of storage (or pick one up at a local thrift store) and plan an evening of family fondue fun.
Fondue has its origins in 18th-century Switzerland as a means of using up stale bread and past-its-prime cheese. The French word "fondue" means to melt or blend. The melted cheese was kept warm in an earthenware pot and diners dipped their utensils directly into the sauce.
This communal cooking method had its heyday in the 1960s and '70s when it became popular at dinner parties. This social style of eating is a great icebreaker because the diners can't help but interact with each other (which also makes it perfectly suited for a weeknight dinner at your kitchen table).
When you introduce your family to fondue, you can stick to Alpine tradition and simply dip pieces of bread into melted cheese. However, you shouldn't be afraid to modernize this classic communal meal. For example, dip pieces of cooked pasta into the sauce and call it "deconstructed macaroni and cheese."
Large pots of melted cheese or chocolate are obviously not exactly diet food, but you can improve the nutritional value of your meal by offering lots of healthy dipping options (see sidebar for suggestions). Try dipping fresh or steamed veggies such as broccoli or green beans into your savory sauce. Add some protein to your meal by offering slices of cooked chicken sausage or pieces of ham steak. Pieces of cut up fresh fruit make ideal dippers for a chocolate fondue.
For savory dippers, try:
For something sweeter, try:
Check out our favorite fondue recipes (right) or for more ideas (including cheesy pizza fondue and veggie fondue), visit allrecipes.com/recipes/appetizers-and-snacks/cheese/fondue.
Caitlin Murray Giles is a full-time mother of three and part-time freelance writer living in Wicker Park.
See more of Caitlin's stories here.