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Review Post (and a Giveaway!): Grace Before Meals and Spicing Up Married Life

I recently was the grateful recipient of two intriguing cookbooks*. The author, Father Leo Patalinghug is a Catholic priest and a chef who is passionate about families sharing food. You can read more about his Grace Before Meals Food Movement on his website.

The thing that makes Father Leo’s cookbooks so unique, attractive and so darn user-friendly is that he has the whole meal packaged up for you. Now I’m the first to admit that sometimes the amount of work involved in just getting everyone to the table is enough for one night and I don’t worry about cooking special dishes or coming up with entertaining conversation starters. But sometimes, I really do want to plan a special Family Table Night. And that’s where Father Leo comes in. Each recipe in both of his cookbooks comes with a few pages of thoughtful reflection on a specific topic, questions to spark some conversation, and a few scriptures (helfpul if your family is of a Christian persuasion, easy to pass over if you’re not).

Grace Before Meals, Father Leo’s first book, focuses on family meals and family life. The recipes are mostly arranged according to the calendar, and so the recipes and the discussion focus on a particular holiday. Most of these are secular holidays–New Year’s Day, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving–though a few are Christian or Catholic holidays. But even these are easily adapted to other family life celebrations, if that is your desire. Sprinkled among the holidays are recipes to celebrate various events in a family’s life together–moving out, rites of passage, etc.

Father Leo has followed up the success of Grace Before Meals with Spicing Up Married Life, a book to focus on drawing married couples together. This cookbook is arranged topically and covers all stages of a romantic relationship, from meeting and dating to growing old together. So no matter where you are on that continuum, you will find your past, present, and future in this book. For each topic, Father Leo provides a few pages of thoughtful reflection on the topic, a related Bible scripture, suggestions for praying together, and conversation-sparking questions. After the discussion pages comes an entire menu’s worth of easy and delicious recipes: a main course, side dish, and dessert. And there are even journaling pages for recording your thoughts.

And now for an embarrassing confession. Father Leo is a priest, right? I can make a confession? My expectations of the recipes were not very high. I’ve had some less-than-tasty experiences with cookbooks trying to incorporate content with the recipes. However, I’m happy to report that though I expected little, the recipes delivered much. My family has enjoyed everything I’ve set before them from these books, and the Sweetie Pie and I were delighted with the Coconut Curry Pork Adobo. As the primary cook in the family, I appreciated that the recipes use reasonable ingredients and are easy to pull together. I’m only disappointed that there aren’t more recipes that I’m able to adapt to my restricted diet and enjoy with my family.

I’m willing to guess that these cookbooks would delight most families, Catholic or not. Even though some of the content is religious in nature, the topics themselves are universal to the human race–love, kindness, family. And if you don’t like the suggested discussion, use the recipes and meals provided as a starting point to build your own. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

The Grace Before Meals Giveaway (is over)

Thank you for sharing so many special comments about your dinnertime and congratulation to Julie Drigot for winning a copy of Spicing Up Married Life. We hope it is a blessing to your family and marriage!

* Review posts are my opinions on items that were sent to me free of charge. The items were given to me, but the thoughts and opinions are my own. I only provide reviews of items that I find to be truly worthy of recommendation.

Show Comments


  • With one child out of the house and one in high school and often not home for dinner because of practices, social events, etc., my husband and I are finding ourselves at a “table for two” much more often. Any ideas to help “spark” up this time and make it a greater blessing would be greatly appreciated!

    angie hairrell December 3, 2012 AT 10:29 am
  • These books sound lovely and I have been looking for a way to work a devotional with my husband and I into our day. Plus new recipes would definitely spice things up – keep our meals out of a rut!

    Wendy B December 3, 2012 AT 10:32 am
  • This season in life hasn’t left a lot of extra funds for date nights, but I’ve found that waiting until the kids go to bed and then having a quiet dinner with my guy can more than compensate for our lack of nights out.

    Jami December 3, 2012 AT 11:03 am
  • Well, my husband is a great cook and loves to make a special dinner for the two of us after the kids are in bed–we light the candles, sit by the fireplace… it goes a long way in our tired existences as parents to just take time to sit and enjoy a quiet dinner together even if we don’t talk about “significant” things.

    Sarah December 3, 2012 AT 11:06 am
  • One of my fondest memories is a meal my husband made for me when we first started dating. We have often wanted to recreate that. This sounds like a good way to get started.

    Lorraine December 3, 2012 AT 11:28 am
  • As a couple with 3 small children, it is difficult to even try to think by the end of the day. This cookbook with it’s suggested topics and conversation starters would be a wonderful way to prepared a special meal and have some adult conversation during an at-home date!

    Tiffany S December 3, 2012 AT 2:21 pm
  • My husband and I eat dinner every night together – with our kids all around us. Which is a huge blessing – it’s just not very spicy. In any sense of the word. A dinner alone with the hubs would be glorious – we might actually be able to talk to each other!

    Leigh December 3, 2012 AT 4:28 pm
  • Usually my husband and I get a night off when my in-laws watch the kids about every other month, but we always go out. Maybe we should try sending the kids and the in-laws away and eat at home just the two of us? Wish the in-laws lived closer.

    nopinkhere December 3, 2012 AT 4:35 pm
  • We put all the kids to bed early occasionally and eat together.

    Jessica December 3, 2012 AT 4:43 pm
  • I love the idea for both of these cookbooks! Dinnertime can become monotonous and it’s great to remember that any time together can be meaningful and intentional. Sharing an special meal together would be a wonderful way talk about dreams and our future :)

    Rebecca @This Nest is Best December 3, 2012 AT 9:06 pm
  • What a lovely idea! Hubby and I rarely get a chance to eat alone together… This would help make sure we focus on enjoying those times!

    Tiffany (As For My House) December 4, 2012 AT 6:46 am
  • My husband travels for work most of the year. Our meals together are cherished by me AND our children. All the favorite foods are saved for the occasion of dinner together as a family.

    Christine December 4, 2012 AT 9:00 am
  • Sharing a meal with my husband is so wonderful. We are so grateful that we are able to have this special and rare moment together.We are grateful for all the hard work that goes in preparing a meal , including the appreciation of the farmers.

    Amanda T December 4, 2012 AT 9:11 am
  • With four little kids at home, it is hard to carve out romantic time. I’d love to use this cookbook some night when the kids are at their grandparents.

    Mah-rya December 4, 2012 AT 9:15 am
  • With my husband’s retirement and my medical leave of absence we have spent time together for meals for the first time in our 25 years together. Is this bliss? By no means. It was a surprise to both he and I that he has a difficult time dealing with a sick wife and a sick mom as well.

    He isn’t very inspired about much though we keep trying. We’ve had storms to weather before but this one has lasted for over a year. I think about our differences which seem to grow wider with time. With so many years together our connections to house and home, friends and family are very intertwined. A wise parish priest once said, “Marriage is a mutual forbearing”, that is what I keep remembering. Thanks for reading.

    Julie Drigot December 4, 2012 AT 10:54 am
  • My husband and are newly-empty-nesters, and I’d love to find new ways to celebrate dinner together. We were used to family style, and then as the teens were increasingly busy with activities, sometimes dinner around the table didn’t happen any more. So I’d love to get back to that in a new way, with just the two of us.

    I’m thinking that this new books Spicing Up Married Life would also make a great wedding shower present for my soon-to-be-daughter-in-law! It sounds great.

    Linda B December 4, 2012 AT 2:59 pm
  • This sounds wonderful. We have a five-month old, so things are starting to get hectic. This seems like a great thing to have to go with the Year of Faith this year.

    Danielle December 4, 2012 AT 3:02 pm
  • It would be lovely to have some conversation topics for the dinner table to spice up our discussions. My husband is a student and we find that although it is a blessing to have him home so much, by dinner time we’ve often run out of things to talk about.

    rosebriars December 4, 2012 AT 6:04 pm
  • We have a 2 1/2 year old and 3 month old. Getting out for dates doesn’t happen often so this cookbook would be a wonderful way to have some dates at home.

    JulieDawn December 5, 2012 AT 6:13 am
  • My husband and I are on the path to recovery after infidelity. With the business of full time jobs and an “engergetic” 3 1/2 year old son, it can be hard to connect. I would love to bring us together over a great meal and share our hearts.

    Melissa December 5, 2012 AT 12:12 pm
  • Having a special dinner with just my husband would help us connect while the children are in bed.

    Melody Carpenter December 6, 2012 AT 5:07 pm
  • Even though my husband and I carpool to and from work, we still get a lot of talking done at the dinner table. We’re newlyweds so it’s just the two of us and we have started lighting candles just because we can. My grandma is now on oxygen (and can’t have any fire in her house) and gave us what seems to be a lifetime supply of her old candles. It’s really something we enjoy.

    Kate December 6, 2012 AT 6:59 pm
  • Sharing a meal makes us sit and talk. It’s good to take time to enjoy each other and reconnect after hectic days.

    Katie December 6, 2012 AT 10:36 pm
  • We have a shared family meal every night and I am glad my family thinks that is normal. However with five little people around the table at the same time, my husband and I tend to stay up late after they are in bed to have any kind of uninterrupted conversation. I am glad that we still take the time to connect even though it leaves us sleep deprived!

    Kim December 7, 2012 AT 2:53 pm
  • Wow, what a great book! I have to admit many times I wish I had the energy to pull resources and put together more of a dining “experience” for my family, but honestly, with all these babies and children and the late working husband, just getting the food cooked and on the table all hot (and still hot when all the little hands are washed) is a challenge. Would love to follow have all the thinking done for me ;-)

    Christa Haggard December 8, 2012 AT 8:08 pm

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