food & stuff Life! marriage and family

A Pleasurably Way to Pursue a Successful Family

The best things in life are always blessings from God, and so many of God’s best blessings are the simple things in life, the ones we easily overlook and take for granted — blessings like life, love, fellowship, laughter, good food, and interesting conversation.  Some people seem particularly adept at recognizing and enjoying and celebrating such blessings.  One such person is the Triangle’s celebrity chef Elise Johnson, whose persona and culinary expertise (and recipes) are known to many throughout this area through her TV cooking segments “Cooking With Elise”, her blogging at and through her service as Chef Spokesperson for BJ’s Wholesale Club.  Chef Elise recently published the following article and graciously consented to my re-posting it here. Bon appetit!

The Importance of Your Family Table
by Elise Johnson

I have been so happy and honored to welcome so many of you into my home for adult and children’s cooking classes over the years. I have been honored that you have entrusted your children in my care. I hope I have encouraged your family in some way and made a difference in your lives. I have been blessed to meet so many wonderful families over the years.

Many people do not realize (because I have made up for it over the that I did not speak with ease until I was about seventeen years old. A terrible speech impediment (stuttering) caused me great anxiety and made even saying my own name nearly impossible. It was in my grandmother’s kitchen that I found a safe haven. This is one reason why I am so passionate about cooking with family and friends. As many of you know, my mission has always been to inspire families to connect in their kitchens and around their tables. In my own experience, cooking and eating together strengthens and nurtures relationships quicker and stronger than any other way.

Please consider the following:

Family Meals 5 or more times per week spells S-U-C-C-E-S-S.   80% of families value family mealtime, but only 1 in 3 achieve success

S = Safe, secure place to belong

U= Unlikely to smoke, drink, do drugs, and engage in premarital sex.  Psychologists compare the family meal to a vaccination protecting kids from harm.  Children who eat with their families 5 or more days a week also avoid fights, and are less likely to be depressed and contemplate suicide.

C= Courteous and Conversational. The family table is a natural training ground.  Children learn social skills and manners.  Children learn how to have pleasant conversations and how to talk things through.  Children learn a better vocabulary. Learn to behave properly, learn how to not interrupt, take turns, learn how to share, and how be polite. Children learn how to listen.  Children learn how to entertain guests which is a great lesson for life.  Children who are nurtured learn how to care for others.

C= Connected and Committed.  Stronger family ties.  Place to belong – a place of refuge.  Greater sense of identity.  Children learn how to commit and keep a schedule.

E- Eat Better.   Children who eat as family 4 to 5 days per week do better in school; get better grades.  Test higher than children who eat only 1 to 2 times a week.  Eat better.  Eat more fresh fruits , vegetables, grains, protein, iron and fiber; less intake of soft drinks and sugar.  Are less likely to suffer from eating disorders; have better weight control

S= Self Esteem.  Mealtime conversation brings the family together, promotes positive self-esteem in children and starts a lasting and positive relationship with food and family.  Families learn how to share the responsibilities of preparing and cleaning up meals before, during and after the meal.

S= Success in School.  Children who eat 4 to 5 times a week together as a family do much better in school. They receive better grades, achieve higher achievement test scores ; have improved vocabulary and reading skills.

We recently welcomed my literary agent, David, from Oregon to our home. He told our family of his time at a homeschooling convention. The speaker from Focus on the Family asked the hundreds of families present to raise their hands if they cook and eat together at their family table more than three times a week. David was shocked to see only a few hands raise. It is stories like these that made me write my new cookbook, YOU NEVER COOK ALONE. You Never Cook Alone is much more than a cookbook however. This is one review on Amazon:

“”You Never Cook Alone” is not your average, “cookie-cutter” cookbook. Elise Johnson has written a cookbook that is true to its subtitle, “Stirring Memories, Feeding Souls and Building Legacies”. The pages are not only filled with delicious, mouth-watering recipes, cooking tips, and activity suggestions, but they are also overflowing with stories that will warm your heart with joy and laughter, and may even bring a tear to your eye.” You can read the book description and editorial review here.

My family has had the blessing of traveling the country this summer on a book tour. On my tour I have been interviewed by television stations, newspapers and national radio. I always speak about the importance of the family table, how families connect in the kitchen and if spending time in the kitchen and around the table with my family helped me speak, imagine what it can do for other families!

On Sunday, July 15th at 3:00 pm, I will be signing books at Quail Ridge Books & Music. Enjoy a Sunday afternoon book signing and taste samples of the recipes in my book, meet our family and be encouraged! I’d love the opportunity to share my story with you! You Never Cook Alone is also written from a Christian perspective! I have been thrilled to share my faith on national platforms. If you are unable to join our family, you can purchase my book on Amazon. It is also available at some Barnes and Nobles and of course at Quail Ridge Books. Even more important than purchasing my book, please pray for our family and all the people who pick up my book. It is my deepest desire to glorify God in all I do!

Enjoy your summer! May you make many memories in the kitchen and around the table together!

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Easy ‘Square Foot Gardening’ for Homeschoolers (Background)

For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise
spring up before all nations. – Isaiah 61:11

This is Part 1 in a series detailing our family’s journey into Square Foot Gardening, how we applied it to homeschooling, and how we are using the experience to train our children to love and honor God.

Our gardening saga started a couple of years ago when a family friend overheard my wife and I bantering back and forth about the topic of gardening.  My wife was “encouraging” me to plant a garden.  In response, I was reminiscing about my childhood experiences in gardening with her.  The conversation went something along the lines of this:

Beautiful Wife:  “Why don’t we plant a garden this year?  It would be great to have fresh vegetables and the kids would have fun seeing things grow.”

Supportive Husband (Me):  “That’s great!  I hope that when you say “we” you are referring to yourself and a mouse you have in your pocket.  However, if by “we” you mean that I get to clear, till, plant, weed, mulch, water and maintain while the kids watch, I think we might have a problem.  I’ve helped in a few gardens over the years and I know how much work it is.  I would, however, be happy to show you where the garden tools are kept.”

It was at this point that our friend uttered the words that would lead us on a garden saga that would have been unimaginable to me a few years ago. 

food & stuff

Explosion of flavor

Whole Foods has quite possibly the best recipe for collard greens in the world … here.