Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Lesson from Sara Sturgeon & A Recipe for Poppy Seed Chicken

Recently the subject of family dinner time has presented itself to me over and over. First, of course, our son is home from college for the summer and dinner is once again a ‘family affair’ as we knew it for so many years. Yay!!

A Facebook friend who is in graduate school and actively shares parenting responsibilities with his wife is on break from classes for a little while. This young family will, at least for a little while, be able to enjoy the elusive dinner hour collectively as a family – a difficult task in their family where work and class schedules are, no doubt, challenging on the best of days.

As important as we know it is to sit down and have a meal together, sometimes making it happen seems about as likely as revisiting the Walton’s, where it seemed to be the unquestioned way of life. We want to sit down and have a meal that someone - no offense guys, but in most cases, that someone is typically the mom of the family - has prepared for the family to enjoy. We want to be relaxed and have a lovely, well-balanced and nutritious meal with a perfectly set table and children who are behaving and using their best manners. In reality, the work schedules of parents and teens often conflict with making this Walton-esque scenario a reality. When we add in outside responsibilities and kids’ sports schedules and errands and chores and caring for elderly parents, and .... well, it’s just hard to get it all done.

I had an opportunity to sit down for a marketing meeting with one of “my boys” for a while recently. He had a great year in college and will be spending the summer in Cincinnati doing an internship. During that time, he told me he is looking forward to some Brower family dinners. Oh, it did my heart good to hear him say that! He specifically mentioned the salmon I often make a couple of times during our conversation. Ironically, he didn’t even used to like fish! He had salmon here a couple of times within the last few years after which I would sometimes hear from him, “Is it fish night?” when dinner time rolled around. I always got a kick out of that. He loves Ken’s burgers, too, and most recently requested those (Ken is, afterall, the grill master.) We love to know that our kids want to be here with us for meals! We treasure those hours with them.

But – back to the family dinners. It wasn’t until we moved to Orrville, that I actually heard someone verbalize the importance of the family dinner – that is, eating together DAILY. I worked with a wonderful lady at the Orrville Area Chamber of Commerce in Orrville a number of years ago when we first moved to Orrville. Her name is Sara Sturgeon and she is an awesome lady! Fun and fun to be around, Sara is one of the funniest gals I’ve ever known. Just thinking of her makes me smile, yet I can’t remember any specific thing she said. Ever know someone like that?

Well, Sara had these two terrific girls - Stephanie and Katie - who just excelled at everything and I imagine they still do!. At that time our son was in first or second grade. I remember asking Sara what the secret was to raising such incredible kids. Without hesitation she told me that she believed the family dinner was critically important. She said that she and her husband, Bill, had always tried to make time each day to eat together with their girls and reconnect as a family.

I never forgot what Sara shared with me, and Ken and I tried to implement that lesson through the years as Matthew grew up. Even if we were eating at odd times during golf or baseball season, we always tried to eat together. I could see what Sara meant: regularly reconnecting was crucial. I truly believe it made a difference in our family as our son grew up, too.

I know that Sara, who worked full-time, was very busy with her daughters’ schedules. They were very active and were involved in many extra-curricular activities. To make sure they were able to have dinner together, Sara would often begin preparation for their dinner meal when she went home for lunch. For example, she might prepare a casserole and refrigerate it so that it so that it could be baked later. That preparation impressed me so much! Dinner was clearly a priority to her and to their family. What a woman! And what an inspiration she was to me when we worked together. Some people touch our lives in ways that are difficult to express. Sara is one of those people for me.

Sara's daughters are all grown up now and Sara is a grandma. What a very cool grandma she must be! She will create laughs for those kids that they can carry in their hearts forever! She has the light-hearted sense of humor that touches everyone and leaves you feeling happy.

Sara shared a recipe with me that has become a family favorite. Like so many recipes, I have tweaked it so much that I don’t even know what the original recipe was. I do, remember, though, that it came from Sara! This is one of Matthew’s favorite recipes. For you regular readers, I serve it with the rice recipe I shared previously (“Dear Abby’s Infallible Rice”).

5-6 chicken breasts, deboned and with skin removed**
1 cup sour cream (preferably Smith's!)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup melted butter or margarine
3 sleeves Ritz cracker crumbs
1-2 Tbls. poppy seeds
1/2 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

-Use cooking spray to grease 9 " x 13" casserole dish. Cook chicken until well done (I like to cook mine in the crock pot for several hours.).
-While chicken is cooking, melt margarine in large saute pan on stove top over medium heat. Add Ritz cracker crumbs and heat through. Set aside.
-Cut thoroughly cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place in large bowl.
-Add soup, sour cream, poppy seeds and chicken broth. Mix well. Spread into greased casserole dish.
-Spread buttered cracker crumbs over top of all.
-Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until bubbly.

Notes: Refrigerate leftovers. Reheats well.

**I like to use chicken pieces with bone and skin intact until cooked, as they make a tastier broth. Both can easily be removed later.

Enjoy! And if you see Sara Sturgeon, tell her she’s my
hero(ine), will you?

1 comment:

Tina said...

Yummo, on the recipe. Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog.