Can a chocolate shake without ice cream or added sugar be any good? I decided to find out by making the A Date with Chocolate Breakfast Shake from Laurie David’s newest cookbook “The Family Cooks.”

David’s previous book about families and food, “The Family Dinner,” convinced me of the importance of family meals and was a driving force behind my commitment to gathering my family around the dining table as often as possible. Her latest book is the next step in the family meal process for those of us that are making them a priority. 

“The Family Dinner” contained some recipes, but it’s more of a “why do family meals” book than a “how to do family meals” book. “The Family Cooks” has a little of the “why” in it, but is more focused on the “how” with information to help families take control and over 100 simple, healthy recipes for every meal during the day. The recipes were created by Kirstin Uhrenholdt who collaborated with David on the previous book, too.

In addition to recipes, the book contains compelling information about the benefits of home cooked meals in combatting the increase in diet related diseases – a subject covered thoroughly in the must-see movie “Fed Up” that David co-produced with Katie Couric. Creating meals from ingredients instead of purchasing processed foods decreases the amount of salt, fat, sugar, chemicals, additives, and food dyes we put into our bodies, all of which contribute to diet related diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart problems in both children and adults.

After a convincing introduction, David gives some shopping advice and helps readers decipher food labels since many of them can be deceptive. Further advice on kitchen tools, buying and storing pantry staples and fresh foods finish out the beginning of the book. David then dives into the recipes that take you from sun up to sun down and with a few homemade sweets thrown in for once-in-a-while treats.

What about that shake I mentioned in the beginning? Was it any good? Could cocoa powder, frozen banana, dates, milk, nut butter and spinach create something cool, thick, chocolatey and appetizing I’d want to drink through a straw in the morning. The answer is, “yes.” Does it taste just like a chocolate shake from an ice cream shop? Not really, but it was chocolatey and tasted good. It was quick to throw together and would make a fast breakfast or post-workout replenisher. I’ll be making it again.

Quick to throw together is one of the beautiful things about the recipes in this book. A few of the chicken recipes will take over an hour from start to finish but the majority of these recipes are under one hour total prep and cook time. There are some dinner dishes like Saucy Eggs that can be on the table in 15 minutes.

Another beautiful thing about the recipes in this book is that they start with the basics and suggest additional ways you can “play with it” by adding other healthy ingredients to slightly alter the dish. The Saucy Eggs are basically eggs cooked in tomato sauce, but you can add garlic and onion or melt cheese on top of them or mix some beans into the dish.

At the back of the book are some conversation starters from Huffington Post’s Table Talk, a tool I use to get discussions started around my own dinner table. The foods served at the table are very important, but equally important to strong, resilient families are the conversations that happen during the meal.

“The Family Cooks” now has a permanent place on my bookshelf, and I’m sure I’ll be reaching for it as often as I’ve reached for “The Family Dinner.”

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