I am a collector of great quotes. I was particularly pleased to read one from Ronald Reagan: "All great change in America begins at the dinner table."

I love this quote! The heart of the message is the recognition of how important that dinner table is. It is where it all begins.

In Ronald Reagan's day the dinner table was the place where discussions took place and a good-natured debate between parents and kids could even get heated. Discussing things like politics, religion, ethics in school, etc. was commonplace. This is where ideas were tossed back and forth and dreams were born. I still believe it can be this way! We don't have to be dominated by drive-throughs and negative nutrition.

FlyLady and I are passionate about our mission: to help you get your homes in order first of all, and second, to help you enjoy your family. It is my personal belief that your family is God ordained and nothing less. Those faces around the dinner table give you an opportunity to feed their tummies and their souls. What a great blessing!

You know the old saying that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach? Well, we're all built that way. This lowly piece of furniture, the family dinner table, represents communion, fellowship, a wonderful meal and an opportunity to know and be known in a way that is only possible in this type of intimate community.

I've said all of this before in varying degrees or another. I say it again only because of the importance of the message. If there is a take-away message in this particular column it is that your family is precious and so are you. Time spent at the dinner table will only help you to become more of what you've dreamed your family could be.

It doesn't take magic wands, wishful thinking or pleading prayers (although praying does help!). It takes a little work. Get your house in order, get dinner on the table and call together those special people you are so blessed to call family. Sit down, eat your dinner and watch the magic happen. It will, with practice, I promise.

Here's an easy crock-cooker (slow cooker) recipe to get you started:

CAROLINA CROCK CHICKEN

6 skinless chicken thighs, boneless too, if available

1 onion — chopped

2 cloves of garlic — pressed

1 teaspoon dry mustard

salt and pepper — to taste

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and brown the chicken on both sides. Place in a crock-cooker with remaining ingredients and cook on high for 5-7 hours or low 8-9 hours, depending on your crock-cooker. When done, shred with two forks and serve with crock-cooker juices.

Per serving: 161 calories; 6g fat (35.1% calories from fat); 15g protein; 11g carbohydrate; 1g dietary fiber; 57mg cholesterol; 484mg sodium. Exchanges: 0 grain (starch); 2 lean meat; 1 vegetable; 1/2 fat; 1/2 other carbohydrates.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Serve shredded chicken on whole-wheat buns, some barbecue sauce and side of coleslaw (to make the slaw, mix coleslaw mix with mayo, add a splash of rice vinegar and you're good to go). If you want an authentic barbecue experience, slap the coleslaw right on the buns and eat the whole thing together. Serves 6.

VEGETARIANS: Throw everything into the crock-cooker plus drained, presoaked beans. Add 1 can of veggie broth and an additional cup or more of water to make sure beans are covered. When beans are cooked, serve in bowls with additional barbecue sauce and cornbread.


Leanne Ely, a k a Dinner Diva, is the author of the best-selling "Saving Dinner" and "Saving Dinner the Low Carb Way" (Ballantine). What's for dinner? Go to www.savingdinner.com and find the solution!