Chef Michael Smith’s new Family Meals cookbook: a review and giveaway!

by DaniGirl on August 8, 2014 · 118 comments

in Feed me, Seymour!,Reviews, promotions and giveaways

So I may have mentioned (cough cough) that I’ve become something of a fangirl of Chef Michael Smith lately. But please believe me when I tell you that even if I weren’t already predisposed to great affection for the towering chef from PEI, I would still rate his new Family Meals cookbook as the best one I have ever owned.

I was lucky enough to receive a free copy from Penguin Canada, and it arrived in the mail this weekend. How much do I love it? Let me count the ways!

  1. I love the emphasis on family. From lunchbox ideas to sharing tasks in the kitchen to appealing to finicky kid palettes, this is a cookbook written by a dad who happens to be a chef and who is passionate about cooking for and with family.
  2. It’s real food, and not even a little bit scary. I’ll admit it, we have very simple tastes and are collectively a little bit suspicious of foods we don’t know. While there are a few exotic ingredients here and there, mostly there are recipes for foods you and your family will love, like pancakes and street tacos and smoothies and baked beans and pulled pork and beef stew… it may be possible that I’m drooling just perusing the index again.
  3. The meals are quick and generally uncomplicated. While I am an initiate to life’s school of cooking, and I’m gradually building up my comfort level, I still don’t have the time or interest on a busy weeknight to invest hours on complicated processes. I’m sure the vast majority of these meals could be made in 45 minutes or less including prep time – which is just about exactly my attention span for anything in the kitchen – and I love that tips are woven into the sidebars on many of the recipes.
  4. He consistently emphasizes meals made from fresh, real ingredients sourced locally when available. This is so important to our family right now – meals made from food, not processed junk.
  5. I can think of no better proof that this cookbook was made with me in mind than finding not one, not two, but THREE of my own go-to recipes, but made oh so much better. Let’s just say those of you who look forward to an annual batch of home-made peanut brittle at Christmastime are in for a delightful surprise!

We’ve had this cookbook for less than a week and have already made a few of the recipes. Beloved whipped up a batch of Weekend Pancakes within the first 24 hours, and I kid you not, they were the best pancakes I’ve ever had. (Oh the hyperbole, I know – but I can’t help myself. I am genuinely this excited!!) They were so good we ate them before I could take any photos. Luckily, the fine folks at Penguin Canada were more than happy to allow me to share this photo from the cookbook AND allow me to share the recipe for you here.

Photo courtesy of Penguin Canada.

In the cookbook, Chef Michael charmingly divides the ingredient list into “Kid 1: the dry ingredients” and “Kid 2 (or parent): the wet ingredients,” just one of the many ways he encourages both cooking and eating to be a family affair. Here’s the recipe more or less exactly as it appears in the cookbook:

Chef Michael Smith’s Weekend Pancakes

Kid 1: The Dry Ingredients
1 cup (250 ml) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (250 ml) whole-wheat flour
1 cup (250 ml) quick-cooking rolled oats
2 tablespoons (30 ml) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5 ml) nutmeg or cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) salt

Kid 2 (or parent): The Wet Ingredients
2 expertly cracked eggs
2 cups (500 ml) of any milk (dairy or otherwise)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) of vegetable oil or melted butter, plus more for the pan
2 tablespoons (30 ml) honey
1 teaspoon (15) pure vanilla extract

“While the kids get out bowls and measure the wet and dry ingredients, heat your largest, heaviest skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Gas, electric, induction or campfire – strive for that magical mark just past halfway, where food sizzles and browns without burning.

“Share the whisk so you don’t have to wash two of them. First whisk the dry ingredients together, then give the wet team a turn. Switch to a wooden spoon and gradually stir the wet into the dry, letting everybody stir the works a bit and not worrying whether the batter will be mixed wrong. Just make sure the batter is evenly combined.

“Coat your hot pan with a swirl of vegetable oil. Spoon in the batter, filling the pan with any size or shape of pancakes. Cook until the bottom of every last pancake is golden brown before flamboyantly flipping the flapjacks. Continue cooking for a few minutes longer until the pancakes are firm. If need be, keep warm in a 200F (100C) oven while you repeat with the remaining batter, dealing with pancakes like you’re working the Vegas strip. Devour with lots of decadently melted butter and of course a long pour of real maple syrup – none of that Auntie-artificial corn syrup stuff for these high-grade pancakes. Serve and share!”

The oats and the addition of some whole wheat flour gives these a wonderfully nutty taste and substantial texture. Try them and let me know what you think!

I feel like my culinary horizons have expanded exponentially in the past year or two. Rather than seeing meal preparation as a chore to be endured, I am really starting to enjoy my time in the kitchen. Cooking real, wholesome food for and with your family is way, way easier than I could have ever imagined. Heh, turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks! ;)

Edited to add: wheeeeee, thanks to the fine folks at Penguin Canada I have an extra copy to give away! How would YOU like to win your very own copy of Family Meals? Just leave a comment on this post telling me your go-to family favourite meal.

Here’s the fine print:

  1. This is a giveaway for a copy of Chef Michael Smith’s new Family Meals cookbook. Trust me, you want to win this one!
  2. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post (not on Facebook, must appear on danigirl.ca/blog) telling me your favourite family meal – no takeout, no pre-made frozen meals, no boxes. Real food meals please!
  3. One winner will be chosen at random from all comments posted.
  4. This giveaway is open only to residents of Canada, excluding residents of Quebec. (sorry!)
  5. This giveaway will run until 11:59 pm EDT on Friday August 22, 2014.
  6. If you win, you must be willing to share your contact information with me so I can arrange for delivery of the cookbook. Please leave a valid e-mail address in your comment – e-mails will not be used for any other purpose.

Disclosure: Thanks to Chef Michael Smith’s team and Penguin Canada. I love this cookbook, and the opinions in this post are 100% genuine.

Edited (again!) to add: Thank you to all who entered, but the contest is now closed. Congratulations to Jessa, lucky #13. Please check your e-mail!


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{ 117 comments }

1 Cathleen August 19, 2014 at 6:26 am

Our favorite family meal is lasagna! Even my extremely picky 4 year old will eat it!

2 Becky August 19, 2014 at 6:52 am

One of our favourites here are the meat loaf muffins from Michael Smith. So much so that my husband often requests them every week or two!

3 Nina August 19, 2014 at 7:40 am

Our favorite family meal is spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread and cesar salad. I love making garlic bread using the bread from the city bread recipe from Michael Smith’s website. For the adults a great bottle of Chianti goes perfectly and for the munchkins a lovely glass of grape juice.

4 Lisa August 19, 2014 at 7:41 am

I think our favourite family meal is homemade pizza. I make a big batch of dough, divide it into 6, and chop up all sorts of veggies and some meats too. I grate up a brick of mozzarella, dice some tomatoes (or use a can of diced tomatoes), drizzle each dough with olive oil and minced garlic, and let everyone go to town creating their own masterpieces. :)

5 Maggie August 19, 2014 at 8:36 am

Our favourite homemade family meal is hands down chef Michael’s MEATLOAF! It’s always a huge hit at dinner and then again for lunches the next day. We even welcomed a new meatloaf lover with this dish (who previous thought, “ew! meatloaf”)!!

6 Brenda August 19, 2014 at 9:15 am

Our favourite homemade meal is spatchcock chicken with brown rice and oven roasted veggies.

7 Leda August 19, 2014 at 9:36 am

Chicken soup or stew

8 Karol Traviss August 19, 2014 at 10:50 am

For a simple familiy meal, I love to make salmon fillet on my cast iron grill pan and serve it with assorted steamed vegetables (peanut sauce on the side).

9 Dee Haug August 19, 2014 at 11:49 am

When we are all in a hurry, I make a quick broccoli, ham, cheese, and pasta casserole (takes about 30 min. start to finish) and, no matter how much I make, it disappears like smoke in the wind! Now our daughters are making it for their families and the little ones will beg for it. When that happens, you know it’s GOT to be good!

10 Rachel Clarke August 19, 2014 at 12:25 pm

My go-to meal is BBQ chicken pizza! I usually have some leftover chicken in the fridge, and some pita or naan bread in the freezer. So easy to put together and the kids and hubby love the flavours!

11 JJ August 19, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Italian sausage pasta!!

12 Pat Berrigan August 19, 2014 at 10:32 pm

My favourite family meal?…hmmmm…I’d have to say roast chicken with mashed PEI spuds, simple bread stuffing – cooked separately, pan gravy and steamed carrots. It’s heaven in a plate. I was born & raised on PEI and this was always my favourite of anything my mother cooked and, believe me, she could cook!

13 Amanda August 20, 2014 at 7:11 am

Homemade steak subs. Actually minced mushrooms with onions garlic green peppers and my BBQ sauce on home style buns with mozzarella and shredded lettuce.

14 Anonymous August 20, 2014 at 1:20 pm

My fav meal to cook and devour is P.E.I. Potato Lasagna. Even my fincky son and grandson like it. but now I have a craving to try Chef Michael`s Weekend Pancakes, sounds really delicious.

15 Mary Schreinert August 20, 2014 at 1:24 pm

The comfort food/go to meal in our household is German Bean Soup…a beautiful creamy soup consisting of potatoes, leeks, and yellow wax beans!
Perfect soup for this time of year with all the ingredients in season..Our kids all ask for it, as it is a family hand me down favorite! We round it out with a tossed salad and homemade bread….

16 Bonnie August 22, 2014 at 8:47 pm

My favourite family meal is Brown rice with tofu and broccoli.

17 HollyStar August 22, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Thanks for the informative review. I had the book in my hand at Costco last week but put it down. If I don’t win here (fingers crossed), it’s going on my birthday list!

Fave family meal is either shepherd’s pie or tacos (with homemade taco seasoning).

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