Real Food For Families

Dish To Pass


We’re into the summer party season. If you’re lucky, every weekend there is a new opportunity to go hang out with friends and family on, in and at their various decks, pools and camps. The price of admission…a dish to pass. Here is a simple pasta salad to bring along, made with just a handful of fresh, summer ingredients. Make it in the morning and refrigerate it for a few hours. Pack your swim suit and your sunscreen and enjoy the party!

~16 oz. box of spiral pasta
~about 4 tomatoes, diced
~fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
~several handfuls of fresh basil, chopped
~your favorite vinaigrette dressing to taste. We just stir together balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a 1:2 ratio with a little salt and pepper.

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and rinse with cold water.
2. Combine the pasta with the tomatoes, cheese and basil.
3. Add the dressing and mix it in, 1/4 cup at a time, until the taste is how you like it.

An annual visit from these friends signals the start of the summertime fun!

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Limping Towards the Finish Line


So here we are…the last full day of school…the last lunches packed for the year. Remember how we started? I was all “Use whole wheat bread! Don’t put any processed food in your kid’s lunch!” You will note that in this final packed lunch, there are WHITE bread sandwich rolls, crackers from a box with more than 5 ingredients, and cheese popcorn. Well, at least I have not succumbed to the Uncrustables pre-made PB&J sandwiches. The year has been both long and at the same time over much too soon as my little girl finishes up her elementary school days. It’s on to middle school for her and my project for the summer is to teach her to pack her own lunch! More challenging for households that strive to bring real, minimally processed and packaged food in the lunch bag. But we’ll do our best! Stay tuned for some tips if you too are hoping to delegate lunch packing to the kids! We hope you have all had a great school year and best wishes to all of you elementary school kids heading on to the next phase of your life!


20140625-125010-46210598.jpgKatie and one of her best friends at their moving up ceremony.

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Heaven on a Baked Potato

This is not so much a recipe as an idea. As in, ohhh….yes….I forgot about that time long ago when I used to go out and I used to order baked potato skins. I don’t do that anymore. I still go out to eat on occasion, but why don’t I order baked potato skins? It feels like a college thing to me or at the very least an early 20’s, just out of college, kind of appetizer. Well, whatever it is, it’s delicious, and should not be relegated to my memories. So the next time you make bacon, save a couple of strips. Make baked potatoes the next night, shred some cheddar cheese on them, cut up your leftover bacon, sprinkle it on along with some dried chives, salt and pepper…and taste heaven…on a baked potato.

This is how we bake our potatoes. Wash and prick them a few times with a fork to let steam escape. Rub each one with a little olive oil. Place them directly on your oven rack and bake at 375 degrees F for about one hour.


Finally…Chicken That Both My Kids Will Eat!


I struggle with chicken for dinner. It is so versatile and easy to make, but I almost never am able to convince Katie to eat it and Chris’s chicken appetite is what I would call inconsistent. Of course, they will both eat chicken from the red and white bucket, as I have previously lamented…but chicken that I have so carefully prepared with real food ingredients…to be honest…is usually a failure. But this week, I hit the jackpot. I half heartedly made this version, not thinking that anyone under the age of 12 would actually eat it. I called it “Popcorn Chicken” but didn’t really think I was fooling anyone. I placed one lone, sad piece on each of their plates for them to try. And then, miracle of miracles, I heard “Yum! More chicken, please!” What the what?!! More chicken, please??! Okay! We have a winner! Popcorn Chicken! Into the rotation you go!

There are two versions pictured above. The piece on the left is seasoned with a Cajun spice mix and the one on the right is a very simple coating of Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. I also made a maple Dijon dipping sauce that Katie and I loved. Next time, I will double this recipe and freeze some. This recipe was adapted from the Iowa Girl Eats website. Enjoy!

~Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 3 lbs., cut into bite sized pieces
~1 1/2 cups whole wheat bread crumbs
~1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
~salt and pepper
~2 eggs
~2 Tbs water

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Whisk the water and eggs together in a medium bowl and add the chicken pieces, swirling them around so that they are evenly coated in the egg mixture.
3. Mix together the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the egg coated chicken pieces and stir them in the bread crumbs until evenly coated.
4. Place the chicken in a single layer in a buttered 13×9 inch baking dish and spray lightly with cooking spray (I use olive oil in a mister). Bake for 10-15 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.

~1/4 cup real maple syrup
~1/4 cup plain yogurt
~1 1/2 Tbs spicy brown mustard
Mix all the ingredients together and drizzle over the cooked chicken or serve it on the side for dipping.

If you make extra chicken to freeze, put it on a baking sheet after you’ve coated it in the breadcrumb mixture (before baking) and when frozen, transfer it to a freezer bag. When ready to use it, bake it at 425, directly from the freezer without thawing it first.

Soooo happy that summer is finally here!


Happy Belated Mother’s Day!


The last time I posted something here it was snowing…my apologies to anyone who checks in regularly! Spring has finally sprung and baseball, first communions, bike rides and trips to the local ice cream parlor have nudged blogging time aside. I’ll try to get back to posting here soon! In the meantime…check out #5 on the Mother’s Day card from my son…that makes me smile! And here is a spring pasta recipe from BBC Good Food to try out. Katie gave me a chive plant for Mother’s Day and I am planning on putting it to use in this recipe. (If you make this, note that many of the commenters said that they needed to double the amount of sauce.) I hope you are all enjoying the Spring season!

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"Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather." John Ruskin

So…we're having a "different kind of good weather" here this week. Enough about that. Let's talk about food. This yummy meal comes from The Six O' Clock Scramble cookbook. I did use bacon, as called for in the recipe, but I think this would be great without it too. We also sprinkled on some parmesan cheese. I doubled the recipe and am looking forward to eating this comfort food all week. Comfort food…in mid April…it's just not right!



~Bacon, about half of the package
~A few glugs of olive oil
~One red bell pepper, diced
~4 scallions, chopped
~2 cloves of garlic, minced
~1 teaspoon curry powder
~1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
~2 cups hot vegetable or chicken broth
~1 cup frozen peas
~1 cup uncooked couscous (we used Israeli pearl couscous)
~Parmesan cheese

1. Cook the bacon until crisp, drain on some paper towels and using scissors, cut it into small pieces. (We bake our bacon in the oven at 375 F for about 20 minutes)
2. Start heating up your broth if you are doing it on the stove. (I just used the microwave)
3.In a stock pot or Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the peppers, scallions, garlic and spices and sautée for 5 to 10 minutes until the peppers are softened.
4. Add the heated broth and bring to a low boil.
5. Add the peas and couscous, cover with the lid and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes until the broth has been absorbed. This step may be different, depending on what kind of couscous you are using…follow your package directions.
6. Mix in the bacon and sprinkle on some Parmesan just before serving.

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Herb-Almond Topping for Salmon or Chicken


Someone in our house got braces put on her teeth last week, so I should be doing a post about soup or smoothies today. It seems like that is all we have been eating around here lately. I was also feeling nostalgic for those toddler years as I lovingly cut up her tortellini into minuscule pieces…but that only lasted about 5 minutes…then I began to have flashbacks to a time when leaving the house meant packing a bag like I was going on a 3 week vacation and life was a never ending cycle of getting small, squirmy people cleaned and dressed and fed and changed. Ahhh…these days…how I love the 9 and 10 year old skill set…independently don boots and jackets. Not only feed themselves…but can even feed the dog! Not quite able to keep their bedrooms picked up, but at least I can shut their doors and contain the chaos. But, I digress…


This recipe is one that I tore out of a Country Home magazine back in 2008…I’ve made it so many times, I don’t really even follow the recipe any more. We love it on salmon, but you could also use it with chicken or pork.

~3 tablespoons chopped almonds
~2 tablespoons melted butter
~2 tablespoons bread crumbs
~1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
~handful of snipped fresh basil and/or Italian parsley (or a smaller amount of dried herbs)
~1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
~1 clove garlic, minced
~1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients and spoon on top of your fish or meat. Bake as directed. We usually bake salmon at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes and boneless, skinless chicken breasts at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes.

Now I’m off to make more soup!



Asparagus Breakfast Bake


Despite what I have been witnessing outside my window lately, the season of daffodils and tree buds and rain boots is supposedly upon us. So that means it’s time to start making things like Roasted Carrots & Peas, Pasta Primavera and of course…asparagus. This recipe comes from the Simple Bites website and even though it’s “breakfast”, we like to make it for dinner. Aimee has an asparagus recipe round up on that post so head over there if you need more asparagus inspiration!

ASPARAGUS BREAKFAST BAKE (Adapted from Simple Bites)
~bacon, one package
~one bunch of asparagus, washed and trimmed
~sprigs of thyme
~lemon zest
~salt and pepper
~eggs (10)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the bacon in a single layer in a 13×9 inch baking pan and bake for about 10 minutes. I used 2 baking pans in order to fit all of the bacon. Remove the bacon and place it on some paper towels to drain. Pour off almost all of the bacon grease, leaving about a tablespoon in the pan. Put the asparagus in the pan and stir it to coat with the bacon grease. Arrange the asparagus in a single layer and sprinkle with the lemon zest, thyme leaves and black pepper. Roast the asparagus for about 8 minutes. Then crack the eggs one at a time, in a single layer over the asparagus, sprinkle with a bit of salt and return to the oven for 5 to 6 minutes, until the eggs have set. Remove from the oven and serve immediately along with the bacon.

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Simple Raspberry Vinaigrette Recipe


When we started paying attention to ingredient labels, we were astounded by the long lists of ingredients in some of our favorite salad dressings. And then, even though they seem to last forever, I would always have a few sad bottles of dressing, long past their expiration dates, lurking around in the side door of my fridge, taking up valuable real estate. I mostly just make my own now. My husband, who eats a salad almost every day, mixes up a simple balsamic vinaigrette and keeps it in a jar on the counter. Those of you who know my husband, no doubt, now feel confident that you too can make your own salad dressing! The general rule to follow is to use a 2:1 oil to vinegar ratio. Then adjust up or down, depending on your preference. If you like a more tangy dressing, use more vinegar. I almost always add a bit of salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Since I am usually making just enough for what I need, I don’t worry about refrigerating leftover dressing and just give it a good shake before using it. This is how I make Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing. This also makes a great marinade for chicken.

Raspberry Vinaigrette
~1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
~1/4 cup white vinegar (I usually use white balsamic)
~2 or 3 Tablespoons raspberry jam
~ Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Whisk all the ingredients together in a jar. This makes about one cup of dressing.


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The Homemade Pantry…Cookbook Review


If there were such a thing as a support group for people who buy too many cookbooks, I would be at every meeting. I am especially vulnerable to the ones that read like a journal. The ones that you can sit down and start on page one and keep going all the way to the index, because you are fascinated by how she and her husband divvy up the kitchen responsibilities (Jenny Rosenstrach’s Dinner, A Love Story) or by how he became impassioned to help people learn how to cook for themselves (Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution). My most recent purchase, The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila, is that type of cookbook. Her sweet stories about her family and her easy going, relaxed style make you think that…yes…maybe I could make my own butter. Beautiful color photos accompany stories and easy to follow recipes for 101 everyday staples that most of us usually buy prepackaged. Everything from chicken stock and spice mixes to pudding and peanut butter cups. She covers children’s menu staples like chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese and also delves into making your own dairy products like ricotta cheese and butter. She provides a section on canning that actually doesn’t sound scary! I mixed up a batch of her pancake and waffle mix and keep a bag of it in the freezer to help streamline the Saturday morning “Mom…will you make us pancakes?” routine. Alana also has a cooking blog, Eating From the Ground Up, which you should definitely head right over to and pick out something to make for dinner tonight!

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