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

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! πŸ˜‰

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 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!

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian, blogger, portrait photographer, government social media strategist, mom to 3 boys, inveterate storyteller, professional dilettante.

118 thoughts on “Chef Michael Smith’s new Family Meals cookbook: a review and giveaway!”

  1. Ok, so whose favourite exactly? For the kids, it’s quesadillas – they’d eat them daily if we’d let them – dipped in hummus and/or ketchup, with a side of green grapes. The fact that they’re dead easy may contribute to how often they’re served ;). For the grownups, a green Thai curry. I love making a big batch on the weekend and eating it all week.

  2. Right now it is anything on the bbq grill, chicken, pork, beef and our favourite potatoes and veggies in tin foil.

  3. I would really love to get better in the kitchen. I don’t cook much but when I do it’s always the same standards. My favourite thing to make and that everyone loves is potato leek soup. At least it’s one reason to look forward to winter.

  4. Sounds like a really good book – I’m looking forward to having a peek at it. Our family family meal is paninis – I make a fresh loaf of bread in the bread maker, then everyone gets to add their own fillings (bacon, ham, cheese, lettuce) and then press it in the grill. Mmmmm.

  5. I REALLY want this cookbook!! Our favourite meals come out of the slow cooker – I really need to use it more! Soup is spectacular, and it is so nice to come home to have supper ready, along with some homemade bread – yum! I’m hungry now!

  6. Oooh – what a great giveaway! Our fav meal to make together is homemade pizza. My girl loves to be the one that spreads the sauce and adds the toppings. The trick is getting her to stop eating the cheese as she sprinkles it on the pizza! πŸ˜‰

  7. My favourite family meal is Black Bean Tacos. Takes only about 15 minutes (unless you make your own fresh tortillas) and the whole family loves it.

  8. After your glowing review of one of his other cookbooks, I took it out of the library. I am a fan.
    My family’s favourite meal is something called Baba’s fried chicken. It is not actually fried, but rather baked in the oven. So crispy and delicious. And it is not our baba, but rather a cookbook author’s πŸ™‚

  9. My favourite family meal is creamy wild rice soup — it’s super healthy and my kids love it! I usually serve it with homemade corn meal muffins.

  10. Loved Michael Smith’s Back to Basics and can’t wait to try this cookbook out too. My favourite family meal to make is porkchops with maple gravy and sauteed onions. With mashed potatoes and a nice green salad on the side it makes for a hearty dinner!

  11. I’d have to say chicken pot pie. On a week day it is often a spin to get it done but everyone eats it.

  12. I will roast a chicken on low in the oven on a Saturday or Sunday, and use the leftovers through the week (sandwiches, soup, pasta, etc). Chef Smith has a good recipe on his site, but basically I stick a little butter and some herbs under the skin and throw it in my Dutch oven around 275 for a while (cooking time depends on the size of the bird ). So much cheaper than buying cut up chicken, and an easy meal with a veg and some bread or rice.

  13. Our go-to family meal homemade pizza: everyone helps knead the dough, roll it out and, of course, top the pizza before it goes into the oven or onto the BBQ!

  14. Homemade cream of chicken soup. Even on a hot summer day it’s good and I don’t have to heat up the kitchen to get supper on the table

  15. Lasagna is our favorite family meal. It’s one of few meals that everyone looks forward to and eats without complaint. It also makes great leftovers!

  16. We make our own bagels, and stock. Our favourite family meal is homemade bagels, with bean and sausage soup, all from scratch of course! Love Michael Smith’s cookbooks, they are generally so practical.

  17. Love Michael Smith and covet his pantry on his cooking show,all those mason jars full of potential. Our fall/winter family favorite is a “unstuffed” cabbage roll dish, and in the summer its all about the bbq for us, with cold salads and crudités for our sides.

  18. Depends in which family member you talk to as to the favourite meal. Spaghetti is always good as the kids like noodles and cheese, and the adults like the meat sauce. Another goto meal is fajitas or quesadillas with leftover steak or chicken. Would love to find other reci

  19. This cookbook sounds amazing! Our newest go-to family meal is Sesame chicken – starts on the stove and finishes in the oven. Both picky eaters like this one!

  20. Our favourite home cooked family meal is currently pulled pork on homemade buns with creamy coleslaw. We are Michael Smith fans!

  21. I’m a huge Michael Smith fan and would LOVE to add this book to my collection πŸ™‚
    Our go to meal would probably have to be a chicken curry. I put on a pot of rice (in the rice cooker) and whip up a curry (sometimes it’s more Thai inspired with coconut milk, sometimes more Indian with curry and ginger.)
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  22. I really love Michael’s cooking show. His process and style are just captivating, yet so simple. Our favourite summer meal is green salad (fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, feta), marinated chicken (marinade of s&p, honey, garlic, olive oil, tad of mayo), boiled corn on kob, and a side of basmati rice made in VitaClay multi-cooker. For dessert, we enjoy milkshakes or smotthies, made with either organic milk and organic fruit or plain yogurt and fresh berries. Yum!

  23. My hubby-to-be is a huge Michael Smith fan. He loves how easy his recipes are and how quick they can be made.

    We have a very active family and our fave family meal has to be tacos. Tacos are quick and the we can dress our own tacos the way we want. Plus, they are quick enough that the kids can eat on the run. However, I do not suggest it unless you like to clean your vehicle once a week.

  24. Oooooh, I love Chef Michael and I would love this book! I have two of his older books and use them quite regularly. There’s a lamb curry recipe in his Best of Chef at Home that I love sooo much. But for a family favourite, it would be a toss-up between spaghetti with meat sauce (oldest and pickiest child has finally decided he likes sauce on his pasta! Yay!), pulled pork in the slow cooker, or any sort of Tex-Mex like tacos, fajitas or quesadillas. And really, nothing beats a good “breakfast for dinner” night. Totally trying those pancakes ASAP!

  25. I love home made pizza. Pizza has always been my favourite food, but the take out kind is usually greasy and doesn’t have enough veggies on it. I love making my own dough and then we pile it up with all the toppings that we love and don’t often get in restaurants.

  26. One of our favourite family meals in the summer is corn on the cob, garden salad and chicken breasts. Simple and tasty.

  27. My favourite family meal: Roast chicken with lemon and rosemary. Very easy to make and can feed lots of people! Or have tons of left over! YUM!

  28. My favourite family go to meal is Salmon with Mustard & Tarragon. Just mix the mustard and tarragon, paint it on the salmon and bake! πŸ™‚

  29. My favourite family meal is the one that we cook together as a family and enjoy together as a family. We start by choosing a recipe, walk to the grocery store, buy fresh ingredients, and get to it! Sometimes that may be fresh seafood, homemade hamburgers, or anything in between. Our two girls are becoming great foodies and our options are limitless! Those are the best meals.

  30. Homemade chicken burgers topped with bbq sauce for the kids and blue cheese and hot sauce for me.

  31. Tacos, usually on Tuesday! (or on the weekends, whatever ingredients are handy and stuff gets mixed up, usually good but some failures mixed in.)

  32. My favourite family meal is a full turkey dinner at Thanksgiving. I love have the extended family all together and all sharing in the cooking and enjoyment of the meal. Nothing beats turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and whatever veggies are chosen for that year.

  33. Our favorite go to meal is salsa chicken. A quick and delicious dish using chicken breasts, salsa (homemade is better) and sharp cheddar cheese. Some brown rice and steamed broccoli are perfect side dishes for this meal, or sometimes we keep the southwest theme and make a sweet potato mash with salsa in that as well.

  34. Ooh,I would love to win this book, my daughter and I both love Michael smith. Our favorite family meal that we all will eat is either lasagna or mac and cheese, true comfort foods.

  35. I would LOVE (!!) this book to add to my Chef Michael cookbook collection! Our favourite meal is a weekend meal and includes making fresh pizza dough and fresh toppings, which each person making their own individual pizza. Gets everyone involved! Thanks!!

  36. We love to cook everything from scratch but one of our favourites is beef stew (made in one of our pressure cookers) using local beef, homemade beef stock (again from pressure cooker) and veggies and herbs from our garden – mmmmmmm.

  37. I’ve been a fan of Chef Micheal Smith since day one of his appearance on tha Food Network.
    When we have grand kids for sleep- over…pancakes are always on the breakfast menu with maple syrup, snow( powdered sugar) and sprinkles. I will definitly use this recipe next time .

  38. Our favourite meal changes with the seasons but it’s always about who we share it with. For us it’s about family. I grew up in a large family with 7 siblings. We ate dinner together every night regardless of everything around us. It was important to my parents and it’s important to my husband and I. Even though our three children are grown and on their own we try to have a family dinner whenever we’re all in the same town at the same time. Our new favourite food right now is butternut squash soup. We love roast chicken as well. Pretty much everything I’ve made from Michael Smith’s cookbooks (I have 4 of them) has been a hit.

  39. Despite the low-carb craze, our go to meal is an ethnic pasta dish from my childhood! Oooooo how my kids devour this very simple Slovak dish called Haluski. Don’t let the “ethnic” title scare you away….it’s simply cooked rotini noodles, browned butter, cottage cheese, cooked crumbled bacon, and salt to taste. Divine!

  40. One of my all time favorites is the pizza soup recipe in Michael Smith ‘s chef at home book. It’s a great way to sneak vegetables in for picky kids and of course is just like the taste of pepperoni pizza!

  41. Michael Smith is one of the most intuitive chefs I have come to admire. He cooks from a common sense approach, with useful and common everyday ingredients that most well stocked kitchen have in their cupboards and pantry. This man has my respect, and a great deal of respect for his true talents. Cheers.

  42. My favourite family meal is pasta with a homemade tomato sauce. I often use ground chicken, lots of vegetables, including onions, carrots, celery, garlic, red peppers and sometimes even parsnips, tomatoes of course, herbs, and a couple of shots of tabasco sauce for a little kick. Quick, easy and it goes well over a lot of different shapes of pasta, including cheese tortellini. Makes great leftovers that are easy to take to work and reheat in a microwave.

    And I love all of Michael Smith’s tv shows. He has inspired me to get creative and cook without a recipe. I always keep in mind his 4 S’s – Sweet, Sour, Salty and Spicy for a well balanced dish or dressing.

  43. My family loves a good home cooked meal! Good thing I love to cook πŸ™‚
    I have tried many of Chef Michael Smith’s recipes and he is by far one of my favourite!
    My husband loves his pan fried steak recipe, perfect steak every time.
    A family favourite meal would have to be frosted meatloaf with gravy and steamed veggies. They love it so much they ask for it for birthday dinners.
    There is nothing like the feeling you get when your family loves the meal you prepared.
    I hope to win this cookbook and if I don’t I will be definitely be adding it to my collection!

  44. Hi! I am a big Michael Smith fan! It would be nice if he came out west more often. I would love to see him in action live. Our families favourite meal (and there are lots) I have to say is Spanikopita. My kids love spinach with the feta and phyllo. My husband and I talk about how odd our children are compared to others because they like good food but we abuse that privilege often by pushing the envelope and introducing them to new things. I look forward to hopefully winning the book. Thank you

  45. Our favorite meal would have to be Spaghetti casserole but my individual choice would be fishcakes and beans. Love Chef Michael and have been a fan for many years, not to mention how easy he is on the eyes as well.

  46. our fave family meal is tacos. My husband mad me a tortilla press so my daughter(5 years old) helps me squish the tortillas. Then I put out some cheese, black beans, avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, some kind of meat( I braise up a big batch of beef or pork and freeze it in about 8 oz portions) salsa sour cream. We build our own it is fun , fast and delish!

  47. Our family go to meal is a creamy penne with sausage and broccoli. I can tart it up and make it with wine and cream (fancy for when we have company) or make it “everyday” style with just chicken broth and milk (less creamy but still delicious). I’ve been making it since 2006 at least once a month – likely more often in the winter months!

  48. Our favorite meal is chicken roll ups, mashed potatoes, and one or two green veggies or salad depending upon the season.
    I have been to see Michael Smith twice, one where he demonstrated brining turkey. He is so down to earth as well as knowledgeable. He is the one who introduced me to fennel.
    Would love to have a copy of his current cookbook, I already have two that I use.

    I would pay to go see him again.

  49. Our favourites are always changing but my 4 year old loves tacos. My favourite is a hoisin-sauced meatball sandwich recipe I found in the newspaper recently.

  50. My favorite food to make is soup!!! Sounds so simple but I can live off it and I can load it up with so many veggies!! I love Michael Smith’s cookbooks and would love his new one!!!

  51. With five kids it is hard to chose just one favourite family meal. Fish tacos are right up there but I think the one meal that always seems to get the crowd around the table is a recipe for chicken wings that I got from my mother-in-law.

  52. So many family favourites at this house but pasta is always a great go-to supper. With or without meat, it’s on the table at least once a week. Right now I am simmering a pot of tomatoes, onions, peppers and eggplant to make a sauce that I will preserve and use this winter to remember the bounty of my backyard garden. I love Michael Smith’s encouragement to cooks of all skill levels to trust their palates and make food the way they like it. I also support his use of fresh local ingredients!

  53. We love Michael Smith in our household, and have tried many of his recipes. Our favourite family meal is Beef Stew, and Michael has a kick-ass recipe!!

  54. Any kind of a taco on soft corn tortillas (something you can’t find in PEI), cilantro, onion and lots of salsa (made with veggies from my garden).

  55. this is tough to choose as my family all have their different favourites, I will go with my youngest daughters favourite as she complains when she goes to a friends house and has KD mac’ncheese she hates that but loves the recipe we from Michael Smiths website with broccoli in it, I make that so we can have left overs for lunch and she’ll eat it all.

  56. Really looking forward to sharing this cookbook with my family. One of the family favourites her in our home is lasagna & caesar salad! Runner up…shepherds pie made with local lamb.

  57. My favourite family meal is lasagna, because it is hearty, cheesy and you need a family to justify defrosting a pan of it πŸ˜‰

  58. Family Meal? We have many, but the fun kitchen time with my little boy so far has been the creation of the desert! Peanut butter chocolate pudding cookies were the outright winners of many that we have tried out. Though my four year old hasn’t grasped the full concept of building recipes, he has a great time helping out with adding the ingredients and stirring them in. As is always the case, the journey creates the big memories and the actual cookies just happen to be a big bonus.

  59. My favourite dinner to cook is meatloaf with mashed potatoes and steamed garlic broccoli. The broccoli is one of Michael Smith’s own recipes, where you add the garlic to the water (except I add the garlic in the steamer basket with the broccoli for extra flavour). The meatloaf is a combination of ground beef and Italian sausage and herbs and seasoning – I was so impressed with the end result. The sauce is a combination of ketchup and brown sugar (and that simple recipe has inspired me to create a barbecue sauce).

  60. Our family favourite meal has always been and will probably always be homemade Mac and Cheese!! Nothing beats the ooey gooey goodness of it πŸ™‚

  61. Fav family dinner…porcupine balls with cheesy mashed potatoes! My mother in laws recipe which she used to make for my husband and his siblings and now our kids love it as much as they did! πŸ™‚

  62. My family loves macaroni and cheese. I make it with endless number of variations from healthy to decadent!

  63. Hi! We love “backwards supper”…which is locally made Horyl’s sausages, with local Cape Breton eggs, homemade pancakes, toast w homemade jam & local fruit whenever possible!!! A glass of orange juice, a hot cup of tea…to go with it! No room for dessert!!! πŸ™‚

  64. I have all of Chef Micheal’s books except this new one and plan on buying it next week anyway, but what the heck, I’ll try to win one…..My best recipe and go to, when guests are due to arrive is easily Braised Short Ribs……yes, it is one of Chef Micheal’s. I highly recommend it! This recipe is simple yet so delicious your guests will rave about it for months to come……trust me, enjoy!

  65. One thing we can all agree on is spaghetti and meatballs – both homemade sauce and homemade meatballs. There is nothing more comforting than that meal paired with a salad of romaine and grated carrots with an oil and vinegar dressing. Simple, but it pleases everyone!

  66. I would have to say that pork roast would have to be my family’s favorite meal. Chef Micheal isone of my favorite chefs

  67. My so very easy meal that everyone loves is chilli. After I have browned and drained the ground beef, added all the ingredients and seasonings I put in lentils. I am trying to cut back on the amount of meat we eat. I do the same thing with spaghetti sauce. So much better for us, fewer calories and so very tasty and nutritious.

  68. Right now, our favorite family meal is bbq’d pizza. Closest I’ve had to NYC brick oven pizza.. So we’re kind of addicted right now.

  69. Because the weather had gotten pretty cool last week I was all about the warm and hearty meals. One of my favourites is making shepherd’s pie from scratch – especially when all the ingredients come right from our farm and garden! Add a fresh-baked loaf of rosemary-beer quick bread and you’ve got a family pleaser in my house!

  70. Our all time favourite meal is roast chicken with sides. I love his pantry, and his recipes are easy to follow. Fresh food well cooked is a winner every time!

  71. I love all kinds of food. Louisiana shrimp or fajitas or a hearty beef stew on a cold day. I love Michael Smith and would love a copy of Family Meals!

  72. Our favourite family meal is roast chicken, with mashed potatoes, gravy and steamed veggies!!

  73. Sounds like a great cookbook! I would love to get my hands on a copy of Chef Michael Smith’s newest book. I am a big fan! One of my favourite family meals is turkey burritos. I use ground turkey flavoured with a homemade mix of spices. Served in a whole wheat tortilla with avocado, spinach, cheese, tomato, salsa, and sour cream. Delicious!

  74. I have been a fan of Chef Micheal Smith for a couple of years, and would like to have a cookbook from him, although I am also a fan of cooking without a recipe. So far without too many complaints!
    Best Regards

  75. Hello thank you, our favourite home cooked meal is rice, roti, and chicken paneer. A family get-together at the table every time.

  76. Our favorite family meal is real homemade mac and cheese with a twist. We add half teaspoon of curry powder into the cheese sauce and some cut up cherry tomatoes. The whole thing goes into the oven and baked until it’s hot and gooey. Mmmm.

  77. Awesome review – I want to buy the cookbook right now! (I may have all his others…) This would be a perfect gift for my brother and his family. They are trying to eat healthier and this sounds like a great cookbook to get everyone involved in meal prep. Our favourite family meal growing up was stuffed shells. Delish!

  78. I would love a copy of Michael’s latest book. My hubbie was unable to make it to the CNE this yr to stand in line or as Michael called it “brownie points” for my my birthday. This book sounds like the perfect completion to the collection of Michael’s books that it already have and use quite regularly. Thank you for the consideration.

  79. Our favourite family meal in this house is bacon Mac n’ cheese – the recipe is in Chef Michael Smith’s Back to Basics cookbook and it is simply delicious.

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