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Counter Intelligence: Making daily dinner at home easy

By By April Hamilton
For the Gazette-Mail
APRIL HAMILTON | Courtesy photos
Veggies and cheese make up this Broccoli Cheese Strata — what’s not to love?
You know it’s ready when it bakes up golden brown and fluffy.

What’s for dinner? The question is a daily rewind and can overwhelm even the most well-organized family. The experts at The Family Dinner Project from Harvard have the answers. Not just the what, but also the why and the how.

Its site is rich with recipes that help busy families make dinner at home a reality. Its research shows the benefits of meal time at the table, and, regardless of the most hectic schedules, it shows you how it’s done.

The best news is that this dedicated group of researchers, professionals, parents and grandparents is bringing its talented team to West Virginia, and it will help us all turn the family dinner from fiction to fact.

Summon the website and click the Dinner Tonight tab, where you will find a recipe, a conversation and a game. These daily prompts help turn the gears to make the dinner table goal a reality.

Laura Dice, Program Coordinator for KEYS 4 Healthy Kids in Charleston has made the switch.

“You know, I have been so enjoying cooking.” she said. “It’s a slow process, but we are doing it step by step.”

Dice became step-mom to her husband David Hill’s 7-year-old son Ryan last spring. With her background in wellness, she was determined to create a table time tradition as a family.

“At first he wasn’t happy about it at all. He had a scowl on his face, we almost had to force him to sit down with us. But by the end, he was smiling and talking.”

Ryan jumped in with helping prepare dinner, assuming a kitchen name — Chef Ryan.

“He felt like a real chef making pizzas, sprinkling the cheese and adding sauce. ‘This is just the right amount,’” Dice said. “After we took them out of the oven he wanted to serve us and asked to be called Mr. Hill. We sat down, and he served us one by one. When he joined us at the table he said, ‘Now you can call me Ryan.’”

Dice rejoices that the family has reached a turning point.

“He gets excited about cooking with us,” she said.

After a recent hectic day, Hill came home exhausted from his design and landscaping company and said he would go pick up something for takeout.

“No daddy, we are gonna make food.” Ryan insisted.

“It’s all about stocking the kitchen, keeping ingredients for the emergency. It’s as fast if not faster,” Dice said. “We’ve had some frustrations, but we are figuring it out.”


Save the date and join us in welcoming The Family Dinner Project to Charleston.

The presentation at the University of Charleston’s Geary Auditorium in Riggelman Hall will be free and open to the public. It’s set for 5:30 to 7 p.m. April 26. Register in advance at

Engage in the discussion and discover tools that will facilitate family dinner success. Clear the calendar, and I hope to see you there.

Then head home for dinner. Make this quick strata ahead, and it will be waiting for you.

Broccoli Cheese Strata

This recipe is a great starting point for your favorite combination of vegetables and cheese. Broccoli and cheddar with a little bell pepper confetti are great. Recipe doubles easily — enjoy one now and chill or freeze one for later. Serve with fresh fruit or a big salad on the side. Adapted from The Family Dinner Project.

Serves 4 to 6

4 cups torn bread cubes

1 cup finely chopped broccoli florets

1/2 cup diced red or yellow bell pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

6 eggs

2 cups milk

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Heat the oven to 400.

Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking dish (or one with similar volume. I use a 6-by-10-inch Pyrex dish).

Combine the bread cubes, broccoli, bell pepper and onion in the baking dish and toss to distribute evenly.

Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl and add the milk, cheese, salt and pepper.

Pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread and vegetables.

Bake until golden brown and puffed, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Spoon out onto plates and enjoy.

April Hamilton shares her easy, practical recipes for delicious food through her cooking classes for kids and families. April would love to hear from you at

Hungry for more? Visit, and follow her on Facebook at


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