Tag Archives: family dinner

5 Ways to Bless Your Family, Your Budget and Your Community

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5 ways to bless your family titles


Take This Short Quiz

  1. What is the number one thing you can do as a family to improve your general health?
  1. What is a good way to connect with your teenagers?
  1. What is the most important thing the average person can do to make the American food system healthier and more sustainable?
  1. Name one thing can an individual do to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on a fluctuating, unstable economy?
  1. What activity can you do with young children to engage them in learning concepts in math and science even when they don’t usually enjoy those subjects?

The answers:

  1. cook 2. cook 3. cook 4. cook 5. cook

 Cooking vs Watching Cooking

Two people (both grandmothers!) in the last week have told me “I don’t cook!” Way too many people in my classes over the years have admitted they rarely or never cook. In fact Americans spend less time on average cooking each day than people in any other country! The average time spent cooking per day (not per meal, per DAY!) is 27 minutes – less time than it takes to watch The Next Food Network Star (what is up with this fascination of watching people cook? More people watch cooking than are actually doing cooking, and then when the show is over they still don’t have anything to eat!)

 It’s Healthier

Cooking at home is healthier. When you don’t cook you make yourself vulnerable to the big corporations who make all the ready-to-eat food you have to buy. Unless you spend big bucks to buy your meals from a local restaurant where the chef grows his own organic vegetables and carefully sources his ingredients from local farms, you are most likely eating a lot more refined sugar, industrial oils, and highly processed salt than you normally would if you cooked your own food. Corporations also use all kinds of chemical ingredients not available to the home cook. These chemical ingredients make their food last longer and look fresher than it actually is.

 Teens Like It

Cooking (and eating) together connects you as a family. Teens are social creatures, and they are also usually hungry creatures. 🙂 Bringing them into the kitchen to prepare a meal is a way to get them to interact and be social with everyone who is involved in the meal preparation process. The shared experiences can build family bonds. Eating together a meal you have prepared gives a safe place for conversation, listening and sharing together.

 It Connects Us

Cooking connects you with your food and its origins. We were making homemade pizza as part of a Sunday school lesson and I had brought fresh oregano, parsley, and basil from my garden to use. One young 5th grade girl, already surprised that you could actually make a pizza, freaked out saying “why do you have weeds? How do you know those are safe to eat?” I said, “I grew these. They came from my garden. Where do you think food comes from?” and she replied, “I don’t know. The store has it.”

When we cook at home from fresh ingredients we are connecting in a small way to the rest of the community that grows and raises our food. We gain a new perspective on food when we see a list of raw ingredients get transformed into a meal. Growing something that you eat, or buying directly from a farmer, can bring even stronger connections. Real food doesn’t come in neat boxes, shrink wrapped for microwaving. Buying pre-prepared, pre-wrapped meals separates us from the reality of real food. Cooking at home from fresh ingredients creates more demand for real food while reducing the waste and high cost inherent in the processed food system.

 It’s Budget Friendly

Knowing how to cook gives you power over your budget. The illusion of the “value meal” keeps many people trapped eating expensive yet unhealthy food. Being able to cook for yourself means you can eat higher quality ingredients for less money. It means you can cook a little extra to freeze for later or to eat the next day for lunch instead of eating out. Knowing how to cook helps you be more frugal like when you use the bones for broth, leftover vegetables for soup, or freeze over ripe fruit for smoothies.

 It’s Educational

Teaching your children to cook opens up a new world for them. Measuring and counting, doubling a recipe, figuring out what makes bread rise, what makes pickles sour, seeing liquid cream transform into solid butter, comparing the taste of salt vs. sugar – all of this can bring math and science alive. Tactile experiences like kneading bread, cracking eggs, tearing lettuce, stirring batter, or chopping vegetables can be rewarding for busy little hands. And as your children grow and develop new skills in the kitchen you are giving them the gift of self-sufficiency for when they become adults.

Tell us your reasons for cooking! Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page!

Taco Stew

taco stew titlesThe whole family loves this recipe. I made it a few months ago when we had several teens over for dinner and they all raved about it. One sweet young lady even asked for the recipe – I love it when kids feel empowered to cook!

The ingredients are simple. This is a great example of how you can take inexpensive real food and make something delicious, nutritious and not break the budget. You can splurge on the grassfed ground beef because the rest of the soup costs so little. I’d estimate the cost per serving, if you soak and cook your own beans from dried and make your own homemade broth, to be less than $3 per serving. Definitely a meal you can be happy about!

Taco Stew


1 lb. grassfed ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, pressed

olive oil or butter for the pan

2 Tablespoons no-MSG taco seasoning (make your own and save even more)

4 cups homemade chicken or beef broth

2 small zucchini or yellow squash, diced

2 cups cooked black beans

2 cups (or one 15oz can) diced tomatoes

1 cup frozen corn kernels

1 cup salsa

1/2-3/4 teaspoon sea salt (depending on how salty your taco seasoning is)

For topping:

shredded cheese

diced avocado

sour cream

non-GMO verified tortilla chips


Heat oil or butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and ground beef and saute until beef is browned. Sprinkle with the taco seasoning and stir well to blend. Add the broth, squash, beans, tomatoes, corn and salsa and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Taste and add the remaining salt if needed. Serve with the cheese, avocado, sour cream and chips if desired.

Taco Stew
Recipe type: soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4-6 servings
Healthy and family-friendly, this soup is easy on the budget while remaining nutrient-dense.
  • 1 lb grassfed ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, choped
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • olive oil or butter
  • 2 Tablespoons no-MSG taco seasoning (homemade is best)
  • 4 cups homemade chicken or beef broth
  • 2 small zucchini or yellow squash, diced
  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 2 cups (or one 15oz can) diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 cup salsa
  • ½-3/4 teaspoon sea salt (depending on how salty your taco seasoning is)
  • shredded cheese
  • diced avocado
  • sour cream
  • non-GMO tortilla chips
  1. Heat oil or butter in a large pot over mdeium-high heat.
  2. Add onion, garlic and ground beef and saute until beef is browned.
  3. Sprinkle with taco seasoning and stir well to blend.
  4. Add the broth, squash, beans, tomatoes, corn and salsa and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Taste and add the remaining salt if needed.
  6. Serve with cheese, avocado, sour cream and chips if desired.


Pin it, share it – use the links above to spread the love. How do you save money and still eat well? Leave a reply and tell us about it!

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Follow Recipes or Cook Without Them?

*Amy shares her thoughts on the idea of cooking without recipes. 

Lamb burgers may be a new Well Fed Family Cousins Camp tradition.  I say “may” because this is only our second year to have them.  But I think I speak for everyone when I say I hope we have them next year!  Judging by the way the kids gobbled them up, arguing over the last few on the platter, I’m pretty sure they would agree.  These burgers were tender, juicy, and full of flavors that made us feel like we were eating somewhere in the Mediterranean.  Right here at the lakehouse in Alabama.

The side dishes were well planned, keeping with the flavor of the burgers:  yogurt-cucumber sauce (Tzatziki), raw vegetables with hummus (homemade of course!), roasted asparagus, Well Fed Family Moroccan Chickpea Quinoa Salad, and roasted potatoes that were specially seasoned with rosemary, parsley, and garlic.  I love it when all the items on a menu go together.  It makes the meal feel complete.  Sometimes it’s difficult coming up with sides, but that’s the beauty of starting with plain vegetables and adding your own herbs and spices:  you can create any dish you want, any time you want.  You might call it customizing your meal.

I’d love to share the recipe for the lamb burgers, but there isn’t one.  Lee is one of those kinds of people who love to cook without recipes.  She chose a few fresh herbs based on the flavor she was aiming for, finely chopped them with garlic, added salt, and mixed it all into the ground lamb.  Lee customizes most of her meals.  When she wants to cook something new, she may start with a recipe the first time and use it as  a jumping point for future attempts as she tweaks it here and there, adjusting it to her family’s tastes.  This involves a lot of trial and error, and may result in a few disappointing dishes sometimes, but it also brings about a knowledge and skill of cooking that only comes with experience.  Food Freedom is a very pleasant result.

If you are a recipe-follower like me, don’t despair.  Time in the kitchen nurtures a familiarity and skill that will lay the foundation for confident cooking and ultimately your own Food Freedom.  If you are just starting your exodus from the Standard American Diet, don’t let these non-recipe free spirits intimidate you!  I am sure that there will still be recipes in the Promised Land of Food Freedom.  Meanwhile, I’ll keep working on Lee to write down the recipe for the lamb burgers.

lamb burger plate

lamb burger with tzatziki sauce, fresh vegetables, rosemary oven fries, roasted asparagus, and Moroccan Quinoa Chickpea salad

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It Wouldn’t Be Honest If I Said I Really Liked Fish…

*Amy shares her thoughts on having to eat fish and not complain in order to be a good example to her kids at the dinner table. 😀 

It wouldn’t be honest if I said I really liked fish.  In fact, in all honesty, fish is probably one of my least favorite foods, and I don’t really like seafood either (although there are a few things I can choke down if necessary). This character flaw, as my sister so sweetly describes it, has caused trouble all of my life.  In general most people like fish.  Most of society loves fish – I can say that because, trust me, fish is always on a menu and sometimes seafood is the only thing on a menu.

Truly, I wish that I liked fish (and seafood).  Tonight’s dinner would have been amazing if I did!  Lee and Mom prepared another Well Fed Family feast:  slow-cooked collard greens, fresh sweet corn on the cob, purple-cabbage vegetable slaw, cornbread …. and yes, you know where this is going … fried catfish.  After going on last night about how wonderful the green beans smelled, I was a little nervous about tonight’s meal.  I really didn’t want to smell the catfish frying; I don’t have any happy childhood memories tied into the smell of fish, trust me on this.  Thankfully, the catfish did not smell fishy!  In fact, it had a nice country-fried smell because Lee dredged it in Cajun seasoned sprouted corn flour and fried it in bacon grease. The catfish fillets looked beautiful, sizzling on the griddle all golden brown.  And the cousins were salivating over them – they couldn’t wait to “have at ‘em!”

fried catfish

Cajun fried catfish fillets

We didn’t really have what one might call a “kid friendly meal,” yet our six children ate with gusto tonight.  Some kids were not crazy about the collards or slaw. Some kids had never had catfish.  Some kids discovered they liked a new food.  Some kids confirmed they still didn’t like collards. Everybody tried everything, though, and everybody ate well.  Including me.  Since I’m being honest tonight, I need to say that things were not always this way for Well Fed Family and children.  Years ago I had a child who lived almost exclusively on grilled cheese sandwiches, Nutri-Grain bars, fruit, canned green beans, American cheese slices, and bread.  Yet tonight he ate eagerly.  And I must confess that not too long ago I would have turned up my nose at the catfish and collards myself.

What happened that caused a picky eater to become adventurous and eager, and a life-long confirmed fish-hater (I’m not using that word lightly) to actually look optimistically at a catfish dinner?  And actually eat it without choking?  I believe the answer is Real Food.  Real Food is what happened.  Over a period of 11 years, we phased out the processed foods engineered to always look/taste/smell the same regardless of the season, location, and shelf-life.  We gradually replaced that food with the real stuff that’s always different depending on the season and location, and never has a shelf-life.  Over time, we re-trained our taste buds to enjoy new textures, colors, and flavors; I will take it a step further to say that our taste buds now expect to experience variation with every meal.  It wasn’t something we intended to do, and there were battles along the way, but it is a very pleasant result that has even been good for me.

Tonight was memorable.  Six children, some of whom used to be picky, ate adventurously and asked for more!  And, yes, so did I.  That’s just one of the things Real Food will do for ya.

catfish plate

Cajun catfish, sprouted cornbread with raw butter, sweet corn, collards, vegetable slaw

Note from Lee: the catfish fillets came from the Fish Market connected to the Auburn University School of Fisheries & Aquaculture. The market also sells tilapia and shrimp raised locally.

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Precious Memories

*Enjoy another blog from Amy as she shares memories from our childhood dinners.

There’s nothing quite like the smell of fresh green beans cooking, especially in the summer when they are in season.  Aromas can dig deep into the mind revealing long buried memories making them just as fresh as if they were yesterday. And that is what happened as the savory scent of green beans cooking with onions and bacon filled the house tonight as Well Fed Family prepared dinner on the official Day 1 of Cousins Camp.  It’s a comforting, homey aroma that takes me back to the days when I was a little girl and my grandmother snapped beans on her back porch in West Virginia, and then cooked them for a family feast that night.

pork chop dinner cousins camp

family dinner


Grammy’s house had a back porch that wrapped around two sides and the back corner of the house with a portion enclosed for a laundry room and storage area.  The enclosed area was just off the kitchen, and always smelled like fresh produce.  I remember playing on her outside back porch with Lee and smelling the fresh, raw beans as our Grammy snapped and strung them.  Later the wonderful smell of the beans cooking permeated the downstairs.  We would come in for the family meal, then return to the yard where Lee and I ran around catching fireflies.  I remember how the grass felt as I ran barefoot through her yard, running back to the porch to show everyone the firefly I had just caught.  And now our children are growing up with their own special memories tied to the wonderful smell of fresh green beans simmering on the stove in summer.


We had a full day today that began with worship, followed by wave jumping in the boat and swimming off the dock.  As dinner cooked, the house was filled with the aroma of simmering green beans and the noise of bustling cousins horsing around.  When the meal was prepared and on the table, we sang the Doxology together before digging in.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him all creatures here below

Praise Him above ye heavenly host

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost

pork chop plate cousins camp

pork chops, green salad, sweet and white oven fries, and slow cooked green beans

Tonight’s menu included grilled pork chops and those fresh green beans from Randle Farms, homemade oven fries, and a fresh salad (the lettuce was from Malco’s, a Tennessee farm produce stand) with homemade vinaigrette (using fresh herbs from the backyard).  The chops were tender and savory, full of flavor.  As my 8 year old daughter hungrily ate all the crispy fat from the edge of her chop, we remembered the Mother Goose rhyme about Jack Sprat:

Jack Sprat could eat no fat

His wife could eat no lean;

And so betwixt the two of them

They licked the platter clean.

 We talked about how modern illustrations of that rhyme show Jack Sprat as skinny and his wife as plump, when the reality should be the opposite because we know that it’s too much lean protein that adds weight, not fat.  Eating fat doesn’t make you fat.  Interestingly, the name “Jack Sprat” may have been used to describe people of smaller stature several hundred years ago; not far off base since robust health is tied to the important fat-soluble vitamins that aren’t well metabolized when you eat only lean.

storm cousins camp

storm rolling in over Lake Martin 

Just as dinner was winding down, the weather radio alerted us to a severe thunderstorm headed our way.  Everyone jumped up to check their weather apps, grab the swimsuits drying on the deck, and make sure everything on the dock was tied down tight.  Then we stood on the porch and watched the sky turn from the beginnings of a beautiful sunset to dark, angry clouds pulsating with lightning.  Once the wind picked up and the lightning intensified, we came inside for dessert: homemade ice cream, Nourishing Traditions-style.  While we ate we planned out our activities for the week and had fun taking silly panorama pictures with our phones.  The evening wound down with a game of Clue (the very one that Lee and I played when we were girls) while Lee and I worked on Well Fed Family stuff.

clue cousins camp

Professor Plum in the conservatory with the rope?


Fresh green beans with sliced onion, salt and pepper, and a dollop of bacon grease – set for a slow, lengthy simmer.  There’s a lot tied in to a pot of beans. It’s real food for a real family that creates real memories for all generations.


For we are the aroma of Christ to God

among those who are being saved

 and among those who are perishing.

2 Corinthians 2:15

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