When I think back to my childhood, one of the things that stands out for me the most is that my family ate together at the dinner table every night. Whatever else might have been going on in my life, however chaotic my day may have been, I knew that at the end of the day my family would be gathering around the table for a home-cooked meal. I took comfort in that stability and I looked forward to that time we spent reconnecting with each other. My family was very close and we still are. I'm sure that our meals together helped foster those deep family bonds. Even now that I'm grown, I love having meals at my parents' house. Their kitchen is truly the heart of their home. When we have family gatherings, you'll always find the kitchen bustling with people talking and laughing (usually with a glass of wine in hand!) while preparing food and sharing recipes.
Now I have to admit that when Tony and I were first living together, we rarely ate at the dinner table unless it was a special occasion or we had company. Most of the time you'd find us sitting cross-legged on the floor with our plates on the coffee table while watching television. A lot of the time we didn't even eat together because of our busy schedules. I didn't have much confidence in my cooking abilities and I found cooking to be a chore, so I relied on convenience food, which generally meant sacrificing nutrition for the sake of speed and ease.
When we had our first child it prompted me to take a long hard look at our eating habits and I knew then that it was time to make a change. I didn't want my son sitting in front of the television while eating dinner, or eating the unhealthy processed foods that we'd grown accustomed to. We began eating at the dinner table every night, and I started to take an interest in cooking healthy homemade meals. By the time our second son came along, dinners at the table were a regular thing and I was learning more and more recipes to share with my family. Since starting this blog to share recipes with other families, my interest in food has become a passion and the topic of family dinners has grown very close to my heart.
When I was approached to review this new book called 'The Hour That Matters Most: The Surprising Power of the Family Meal' I was immediately intrigued. I wasn't sure what to expect; was it a cookbook or a psychology book or a parenting book? It turned out to be all of these things combined into one, which makes it quite unique. There are great recipes with photos, tips on cooking and freezing meals, and ideas on how to spark conversations with your kids at the dinner table. The authors also share their own experiences and tell entertaining yet thought-provoking stories about their families. I liked that the makers of this book understand how busy modern families actually are. They aren't expecting us to make delicious meals from scratch enjoyed by happy and talkative kids every night. It's just about doing the best you can with what time and energy you have. As long as you're doing what you can to bring your family together at least one meal a day, you'll make a difference in your children's lives in the longrun. The book has some good advice on how to accomplish this goal on a busy schedule. For example, I really like the idea of starting a freezer meal club! Even the book itself is laid out in a way that makes it easy to read when you're busy. You don't have to read it from start to finish; you can read whatever section you like in whatever order you like.
I've tried a couple of the recipes and so far I've been pretty impressed. I like that most are freezable and easy to make. I did notice that some of the recipes had more salt and/or sugar than I'd normally use, but I'm sure you could adjust that, and there was a good balance of healthy ingredients as well.
Hearty Garden Patch Soup
1 1/2 to 2 lbs hamburger or Italian sausage
4-5 stalks celery, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
Brown these 3 ingredients in a large skillet.
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
2 cans (14 oz each) beef broth
2 cans (16 oz each) dark red kidney beans (including liquid)
2 cans (15 oz each) tomato sauce
1/2 medium head of cabbage cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients, including browned hamburger or sausage, in a large kettle. Simmer for 1 to 2 hours. If you are going to freeze the recipe, cool completely, then pour into a container, seal it, and place in freezer. Warm on stove top when ready to serve.
Helpful hints: If you're in a hurry, you may boil the soup for 20 minutes and serve. For largers quantities, add another can each of beef broth and tomato sauce. Good served with corn bread.
I really enjoyed Hearty Garden Patch Soup. I served it with cornbread as suggested and it was a very satisfying meal. It reminded me of my mom's Minestrone soup, but with Italian sausage and cabbage (I actually replaced the cabbage with spinach). It says you can make it with hamburger but I recommend going with the sausage, it gives it such a great flavour.
12 chicken breast tenders
1 large sliced yellow onion
1 sliced red bell pepper
1 sliced green bell pepper
1/4 cup diced mild green chilies
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp pepper
12 six-inch flour or wheat tortillas
1/4 cup oil
Add chicken, vegetables, and seasonings to an airtight container, and toss with lime juice to coat. Seal and marinate for 24 to 48 hours in refrigerator or in freezer.
Before cooking, thaw if frozen. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in a warm overn. Heat oil in a heavy, large saute pan on stove top over medium-high heat. Add contents of chicken and vegetable container to pan, and stir-fry 10-12 mintues or until chicken is done. Serve with warm tortillas.
The Chicken Fajitas are so simple and still tasty. I thought the green chilies gave them a nice kick. You're supposed to marinate the chicken with the veggies and seasonings for 24-48 hours but I was impatient and short on time so only marinated them for 6 hours. They still tasted great so I'd imagine they'd be even better if you marinate them as directed.
I can't wait to try more recipes! I've already got the Tomato Bacon Egg Strata sitting in my fridge and it's looking yummy.