Believe it or not, today's mothers spend more hours focused on their children than the mothers of the 1960s did. While we like to hark back to the Leave It To Beaver halcyon days of mothers greeting kids after school with milk and cookies as an ideal for raising happy children, the reality, according to a University of Maryland study, actually looks better these days.

Based on detailed time diaries kept by thousands of Americans, mothers in 1965 spent 10.2 hours a week focused on their children in activities such as reading with them, feeding them or playing games. While the number of hours dropped in the 1970s and 80s, it began rising in the 90s and is now higher than ever at almost 14.1 hours each week.

But ask those same moms how they feel about it, and at least half will say they don’t have enough time with their kids.

The study shows how these extra hours spent with kids have been stolen from time spent on housework, cooking, meal cleanup and laundry. Oh, and sleep!

What I found most interesting was that moms almost halved the time they spent in cooking and meal cleanup. Unfortunately, this might suggest that we’re relying more on take-out, fast food or prepackaged frozen meals. Along with the cost of convenience, we’re also paying for undesirable amounts of sodium, additives, fats and calories.

I firmly believe that meals don’t have to be time-consuming to be healthy; that you don’t have to face an hour of cleanup after dinner in order to serve delicious, home-cooked food.

Here is a quick and easy kid-friendly recipe that can be easily adjusted for using fresh or frozen foods, depending on your rush level and how recently you’ve been to the grocery store. Regardless, you can feel good about serving it, and it won’t eat up important time better spent with your kids!

Garlic Fish and Potatoes
Serves 4

16 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
1 – 1 1/2 lb. filets of white fish, such as flounder, tilapia or sole fresh or frozen
2 russet potatoes or 16 oz. frozen hash browns (loose, not in patties)
4 cups broccoli florets, fresh or frozen
4 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
2 cups sliced carrots, fresh or frozen
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray inside of 3 1/2- or 4-quart cast iron Dutch oven and lid with olive oil.

Drop whole, peeled garlic cloves into Dutch oven. Scrub and cube potatoes and place in pot; or shake frozen hash browns in (break apart hash browns so that they are not frozen in a single mound). Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and pepper, if desired. Set fish filets in next, in a single layer as much as possible. With thinner filets, it is ok to have multiple layers as long as the filets are not frozen to each other. I find it easy to separate frozen fish filets using the tip of a knife as a lever and applying a little pressure.

Tuck carrots into the crevices and follow with corn and broccoli until pot is full. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and pepper.

Cover and bake for 40-53 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the fish. Note: using frozen foods WON’T necessarily increase cooking time! You’ll know its ready 3 minutes after the aroma of a fully cooked meal wafts from the oven.

Your kids won’t eat fish? Although the fish species suggested here are very mild flavored and a great way to introduce more fish to non-fish-eaters, try substituting 4 pieces of chicken for a different meal.

Don’t be nervous about the amount of garlic! Although it may seem like a lot, when the cloves are left whole they impart a milder, nutty flavor.

Nutritional Analysis per serving, based on 2 servings and using flounder, fresh potato and carrots and frozen corn and broccoli.
Calories 326
Protein 33g
Carbs 53g
Fat 2.8g
Cholesterol 54mg
Sodium 150mg
Fiber 11g

Elizabeth Yarnell is the inventor and author of Glorious One-Pot Meals: A new quick & healthy approach to Dutch oven cooking. Visit for more information on this unique, patented cooking method and to sign up for Elizabeth’s newsletter.