EAT, LAUGH, TALK! A Family Dinner Book

A Family Dinner Book

Recipe included: Orange-Thyme Baked Chicken and Rice

Article by Linda Kissam


Eat, Laugh, Talk!  includes fifty-two weeks of easy- to-make recipes, games and conversation starters. It is an all-inclusive mealtime guide with a target audience of parents and grandparents. That being said, I think it could be used just as effectively for couples dinners or holiday family gatherings.  This book is easy on the palate and soul. It will remind you of what the term “shared meal” is all about.

It is an excellent book to have aboard your boat both for its easy recipes and delightful conversation starters.


The recipes are simply good and feature a short ingredient list. Ninety-nine percent of the items are readily available in grocery stores, however a few recipes do get into some global recipes like Thai, Indian and Chinese, so you might have to go to a local specialty store for a spice or two.

I like the fact that many of the recipes have the ability for dinner participants to build their own dish. If you’ve ever had finicky guest(s) – of any age- picking through the food you just spent hours creating, several of these recipes will remind you to choose  less complicated dishes like Tostados, Pizza, Open Faced Sandwiches, a Do-It-Yourself Salad or Taco Bar to hit the success button for all participants.

The instructions are easy to follow and involve short prep times. The authors assume basic kitchen skills, but I think if you’re an empty nester or have a predilection for less complex tastes on your plate, you’ll find the recipes a vacation from more the gourmet role you find yourself in. Think Chicken Souvlaki, Chicken Noodle Lettuce Wraps, Hummus Plate, Ground Beef Stroganoff and Chai Spiced Hot Cocoa. Tons of attractive recipe photos help in envisioning what success looks like. The book would make a great baby shower gift.

Each week’s sections include suggested games and conversation starters adaptable to a wide variety of ages. No TV or electronic gadgets allowed. There are at least a hundred ways to engage and connect ranging from lighthearted to more serious. Conversation starters include, “If you could change the names of your pets or stuffed animals, what would you suggest?” “If you were in the circus, what role would you play?” “What do you think are the ideal characteristics of a spouse or life partner?  How about a try at being a food critic for the night’s meal or putting a joke jar on the table to help lightened the mood.

Put a joke in the jar


All serious family issues are put aside to allow diners a “war zone free” atmosphere. Bringing  the whole family together for stimulating  conversation, simple and adaptable home-cooked meals, and a game or two reminds us to unwind and enjoy family and friends time. This approach celebrates the ability to go from answering questions about your day with a one word “fine” to engaging in meaningful directed conversations. I’d pay the price of the book for that. How about you?

About the Concept
A note from the publisher

“Eat, Laugh, Talk: The Family Dinner Playbook emerges from the brains behind The Family Dinner Project, a Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Academy-affiliated nonprofit that notes the profound impact that a fun family meal can have on the spirit, brain, and health of all family members.

About the Authors

This cookbook has many contributors, making the book dance and way from the “music” of many. According to the publishers, “The authors come from varied personal and professional backgrounds, are parents and non-parents. Their ages range from “young professional” to ‘Medicare-eligible.’ Their collective professional experience includes education, family therapy, research, food, social work, marketing and communication. With nonprofit partners and local champions, The Family Dinner Project team works online and at community events to help families increase the frequency, meaning, and long-term benefits of their shared meals. We are based in Boston at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Psychiatry Academy.”


Lynn Barendsen

Brianne DeRosa

Anne K. Fishel, PhD

Shelly London


Orange-Thyme Baked Chicken and Rice

Serves 6-8

  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 12 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice and zest of 1 navel orange
  • 2 cups long-grain brown rice
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt the butter and olive oil together. Season the skin side of the chicken thighs with 1 tsp. Of salt and ¼ tsp. of pepper. Working in batches to keep from overcrowding the pan, place the chicken thighs into the hot oil and butter, skin-side down. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until the skins are very golden brown and crisp. Turn the chicken pieces over and cook for another minute on the other side. Remove the chicken pieces to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken.
  3. Standing back from the pot, carefully toss 8 of the whole thyme sprigs into the hot drippings. Fry the thyme for 1 minute, then remove the stems from the oil and discard.
  4. Add the sliced onions and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring, for 3-5 minutes, until soft and beginning to brown. Add the orange juice to the pot and stir, scraping any browned bits off the bottom.
  5. Pour the rice into the pan and stir to coat the grains of rice in the liquid and distribute the onions and garlic throughout the rice. Add the chicken stock to the pot. Season with the remaining salt and pepper. Add the bay leaf and stir well.
  6. Nestle the chicken thighs on top of the rice mixture and pour in any juices that were left on the plate. Cover the Dutch oven tightly and bring to a boil. As soon as the liquid is boiling, transfer the covered dish to the oven. Bake at 375 for 1 hour, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is fully cooked.
  7. Remove the lid from the pot and sprinkle the hot chicken and rice with the zest of the orange and the leaves from the remaining 4 sprigs of thyme.

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Eat, Laugh, Talk!

Family Dinner Project

Oct 1, 2019

Hardcover $29.99 (160pp)


Note: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided a free copy to me to perform a professional review. No fee was paid by the author for this review. I recommend books that I find to have value for my readers. Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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