Catherine Fowler Sample, With a Recipe for the Best-Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies
The writer has produced award-winning films and published a cookbook, ‘Gather Together.’
For everyone, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, who embraces family gatherings and mealtimes, Catherine Fowler Sample’s book, Gather Together: Recipes and Reflections to Inspire Faith and Friendship Around the Table (Ave Maria Press and available on Amazon) underscores the spiritual and personal values of togetherness.
“When we sit down at a table, we have the chance to connect with an intentional, undivided attention that doesn’t happen at other times,” she said. “Although we need food for practical reasons, food has a deeply spiritual component, which is why the special moments of our lives — like birthdays, sacraments, and all sorts of celebrations — are built around dinner. It is an opportunity to connect the spiritual to the physical.”
She shared that she is always struck by the story of the disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection.
“Amazingly, they did not recognize Jesus until the Breaking of the Bread. It holds a beautiful symbolism because this is when we recognize one another too,” she said. “A meal can be simple, but if it is made with love, connections are formed and lives can be changed. It can elevate making dinner to a spiritual practice and act of love.”
That is what Catherine calls the “relationship renaissance” that happens when gathering around the table.
At the end of her book, Catherine gives advice about entertaining, place settings, the kinds of linens to use, plus more. She felt these were important elements to include because the atmosphere you create makes people feel loved and welcome in your home, even if it’s your own family.
“I was interested to find that the word ‘entertain’ means ‘to show hospitality.’ I love that, and try to foster that hospitality with my family and when having people over,” she said.
It was Catherine’s upbringing that inspired her focus on celebrating faith and family togetherness. Raised as the oldest of seven children in a Catholic home, she told about her mother’s conversion from an atheist background by the influence of the Holy Spirit, and her parents’ deepening conversion through watching Mother Angelica Live on EWTN.
“The home I was raised in appreciated the Catholic faith by conversion,” she said. “The faith was discussed over dinner. My father and mother had their own businesses but they made time to sit around the table with their family every night. That is where we learned about our faith and our heritage. Our family was like a little city of activity, but dinner was when we all hit pause to come together. And the fruit of that has borne out because my siblings are all faithful Catholics and have relationships with one another as adults. This spirit of family relationship is something that is lost in our culture.”
While producing The Dating Project, Catherine saw how much disconnected relationships have impacted our world, and especially young people, observing, “Often the problems in the dating realm link back to the lack of foundational family and friend relationships. Combined with the distractions of technology and devices, you can miss the person sitting right across from you. When this happens it’s a tragedy because we are made for relationship by a God of relationship.”
Catherine felt called to write Gather Together to offer a remedy for the disconnectedness of our day, encouraging people to build relationships through gatherings centered on faith, family and community.
Catherine’s love for cooking and entertaining came from helping in the family kitchen when she was growing up. Now she carries on the tradition of making family dinners and hosting gatherings with her own husband and children.
“We love having get-togethers great and small. The other week, my husband and I invited friends from church to a charcuterie night with the “Rosé Sangria” and “Brown Butter Rice Krispies” from Gather Together. When my brother recently visited from out of town, my sisters and I made a summer dinner of beef kabobs with a big green salad. … I also love baking, especially with my daughters. I have a recipe for the “Best-Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies” (see recipe below) that my youngest brother claims are the best he ever tasted, which for me is the ultimate litmus test!”
Parishioners of St. Thomas the Apostle in Phoenix, Arizona, Catherine and her husband have two young daughters and are expecting a baby this autumn. Catherine shared that she and her husband decided to make family dinner a priority when they had their first child. Even though it can be a challenge when children are small, they embrace the chaos and gather every night for family dinner.
“It’s the best part of our day. We share a home-cooked meal, talk about our favorite parts of the day, and build that all-important family relationship. This is what needs to be revived across families, friends and community,” she said. “We need to bring back what it means to gather together.”
(Note: Catherine Fowler Sample is well-known as writer and producer of the award-winning film, The Dating Project, and she wrote and produced the Emmy-award-winning movie, The House That Rob Built. She has made many media appearances including EWTN’s The World Over and Entertainment Tonight. Her book Gather Together includes more than 40 recipes and reflections on faith, family and community.)
Best-Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Gather Together: Recipes and Reflections to Inspire Faith and Friendship Around the Table by Catherine Fowler
“It's a bold claim to say these are the best-ever chocolate chip cookies, but everyone who tastes them agrees. These cookies are unique because they use nearly-melted butter to create a pale and puffy cookie that is soft, chewy and delicious. Get ready to make new friends!” she wrote.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 heaping teaspoon sea salt
- 8 tablespoons of salted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup chocolate chips or chunks
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, sift flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- Depending on how soft your butter is, microwave for around 15-45 seconds. It should be almost completely melted, although not in liquid form. Do not let it liquify and boil. If that happens, save that butter for another use and start over.
- Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars until just combined. On a low speed, beat in the vanilla and egg until just combined. Add flour mixture to wet mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips with a wooden spoon or spatula. Form dough into 10-12 balls and place on your cookie sheet.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes.
- Allow to cool for 30 minutes to set (but they may not last that long!)