Real Food For Families

Homemade Granola

When I was a kid growing up in the (gasp) 70’s…the “health craze” was a fairly new phenomenon. Fast food was becoming more common, although the town that I lived in did not acquire a fast food restaurant until after I had left for college! Mothers at home fixing 3 meals a day were no longer a given, and the 1972 introduction of the first video arcade game by Atari (if you remember “Pong” you are really, truly old!) ushered in a new age of kids sitting on their behinds that changed the culture of childhood forever. Back then, all the fun, new convenience foods that were coming out were kind of exciting. Most of us didn’t understand the impact these foods might have on our health and a lot of families were still preparing and eating the majority of their food at home, with real, whole food ingredients. So to mainstream America, the people raising the red flags and talking about how we all needed to get back to a more natural way of living and eating seemed a little strange…and we called them “Crunchy”…a reference to that most healthy of all health foods…granola! Today, in 2013, there are many granola products on the shelves and just as with any other product of our modern food industry, it’s important to check out the ingredients list. You can find granola made out of real food, but it tends to be expensive. Here’s the recipe we use. I don’t even know where it originally came from, as it’s just copied onto a piece of scrap paper, so I apologize for not being able to properly give credit. The nice thing about making granola is that you can pretty much just throw in what you have available and can customize it to reflect what you and your family like. We eat ours as a cereal with milk and we also sprinkle it over yogurt and fruit. My husband likes to just grab handfuls of it to snack on. Because it’s full of fiber, protein and healthy fats it tends to be very filling. A batch of granola in a large jar also makes a great gift. Enjoy!


~3/4 cup honey
~1 cup coconut oil
~4 cups of uncooked oats (works with either old fashioned or quick cooking)
~1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
~1 cup slivered almonds (or whatever kind of chopped nuts you like)
~1 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
~1 cup dried cranberries or raisins

1. Melt the honey and coconut oil together in a saucepan over low to medium heat.
2. Stir the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
3. Pour the honey/coconut mixture over the dry ingredients and stir to mix thoroughly.
4. Spread onto a large, parchment paper lined, baking sheet.
5. Bake at 300 degrees for about 45 minutes, stirring halfway through the baking time.
6. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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Does the Easter Bunny Believe in Real Food?

The Easter Bunny and I have sort of a love hate relationship. While I am grateful for the annual joy and excitement his visit brings to my children…sometimes I question his judgement when it comes to picking out the treats that he puts in the plastic grass laden baskets. Sure, I have read all those colorful books he has written about how he and his helpers make all of the candy by hand and then painstakingly decorate everything with their paintbrushes. But sometimes, I am suspicious that he runs out of time and just swings by Target and loads up on goodies that have artificial dyes and…really…it is not easy to find candy in the stores that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup listed as the first ingredient. I know the Easter Bunny must feel the same economic pressures and time constraints that we all have been dealing with…so I try to be understanding. For the most part, I just back off and let him do what he needs to do and don’t go all “crazy organic real food mom” on him. But this year, since I am writing a food blog about trying to cut back on processed food, I’m having a hard time just looking the other way. I feel that I must, at least, give him a couple of tips. So…Mr. Easter Bunny…I respectfully make the following suggestions for you to use, as you see fit, while filling all of your basket orders this year.

1. Go for quality over quantity. My kids really don’t need as much candy as you think they do! I’d rather you spend a bit more time and/or money on a few things made with better ingredients than giving them enough candy to feed a small nation.
2. Sprinkle in some non-candy items. Trading cards, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, new markers, hair accessories, jewelry, travel versions of games, nail polish, Pokemon balls (or whatever the small toy obsession of the month happens to be) would all be much appreciated at our house.
3. Include a gift card to their favorite ice cream shop (I know that may not be healthy either, but it helps to spread out the treats).
4. Toss in a couple of homemade cookies, brownies, or pieces of fudge, decorated for Easter.
5. Give them a special “coupon” or “ticket” for a non-food treat…I know my kids would love a ticket for some extra time on the iPad or a coupon that says they can sleep in a bit later some morning and be driven to school. I will, of course, help out with any reasonable non-food treats that you come up with.
6. Make the “looking for the basket” part of the morning more fun by sending them on a treasure hunt, with clues placed around the house, one leading them to the next.

So…I hope that you don’t think I’m meddling too much in your affairs…you are, after all, the Easter Bunny, and you certainly know what you are doing when it comes to “bringing every girl and boy a basketful of Easter joy”. Thank you for your many years of service, both to myself and my children. I’ll be sure to leave you an organic carrot or two. Happy Easter!


Is it Summer Yet?

Katie: Recently, my Mom bought some containers that you can freeze smoothies in, off of Amazon. Well, they were a big success. I have them in my lunch all the time. My favorite kind of smoothie is berry. I like these a lot more than Popsicles. My brother does not like smoothies, so sometimes we put fruit juice in the containers for him. I love smoothie pops!

Debbie: We’ve made smoothies for years, but I had never thought about freezing them until recently and had no idea that I could send them to school in the kids lunches. The picture above shows a blue freeze pop mold (made by Norpro). These are made out of silicone and are dishwasher safe. They are flexible so I can bend them to fit into the ziplock divided lunch containers that we use. They do not stay frozen, since Katie eats lunch about 5 hours after I pack it. She says that it’s a very cold smoothie by the time she eats lunch. So you do have to be careful how you position it and make sure your child understands that it will be liquid when they open it. Once you’ve made these a few times, you won’t really need to follow a recipe…I just add things until it’s the consistency and taste that I want. This recipe is adapted from the 100 Days of Real Food’s site and she has a whole post about these freeze pop molds. I’ve had them for about two months and I use them every week.

Berry/Spinach Smoothie
~1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
~1 cup frozen berries (if using fresh berries, add a cup of ice)
~2 tablespoons of honey or 2 tablespoons of maple syrup or 2 bananas
~3 tablespoons of milk
~1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves, chopped

Blend all ingredients in your blender until smooth. This recipe makes enough for 4 smoothie pops with about a cup leftover (which I drink immediately, of course!)

Another tip I found on My Sister’s Pantry (a great “real food” blog that I recommend you check out!)…you can freeze spinach into ice cubes to keep in the freezer so you always have some greens on hand to add to your smoothies. Just blend about 3 tablespoons of water with every cup of chopped up spinach (or whatever kind of greens you want to use) in your blender, pour into an ice cube tray and when frozen, pop them out and store them in a freezer bag.





By the way…according to the view out my back door…the answer to the title of this post is…NOT EVEN CLOSE! But we’re still going to make frozen smoothie pops anyways!



Biscuit Caprese Salad


In the rare event that you happen to make biscuits and then in the even more rare event that there happen to be leftover biscuits…you might discover that they are just not the same the next day. There is nothing like warm, flaky biscuits fresh out of the oven…but if they are still around the next morning…they have a tendency to be a bit lacking. Here is a perfect way to use them for breakfast or lunch. Turn them into a Caprese Salad. This is so good, that now whenever I make biscuits, I hide a couple so I’m sure to have them on hand for one of my favorite lunches the next day.

Biscuit Caprese Salad (serves 1 to 2)
~1 or 2 left over biscuits, cut up into 1 inch pieces
~1 large Tomatoe or a handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped
~1 to 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (or whatever vinegar you have on hand)
~Olive oil
~Salt and pepper to taste
~1/2 teaspoon of dried basil or a few torn fresh basil leaves
~1/4 to 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or cut up a cheese stick)

1. Place the biscuit pieces on a baking sheet covered with foil
2. Scatter the tomatoes over them, drizzle on a bit of olive oil, and sprinkle with the vinegar, salt and pepper, and dried basil (if using fresh basil, scatter it over the salad after you’ve heated it).
3. Top with the mozzarella cheese and place under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is melted. I usually just put everything on a piece of foil and heat it in my toaster oven if I am just fixing a small portion for myself.


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Put Down That Bag of Doritos!!!


By Katie
My mom makes some yummy snacks! But, I do have some favorites. My absolute favorite snack is Nacho Chips. My mom takes some chips and puts taco meat and cheese on them. Another one of my favorite snacks is a peeled, hard boiled egg with a small bit of salt. My third favorite snack is easy peasy and just about anyone can make it. The snack is cheese and pepperoni. One more favorite snack I have is a smoothie pop which is something we will do a post on soon. I hope you enjoy these simple snacks!


Debbie: We work hard around here to make sure our snacks are as healthy as the meals we prepare. My kids will, of course, go for the bag of Doritos any day if given that as a choice…but fortunately, I’m the one with the wallet buying the snacks, not them. And it does not bother me when they occasionally eat a snack that I cringe at, because, for the most part, their snacks at home are foods that I’m comfortable with. I try to look at snacks as a tiny healthy meal and not as a “treat”. “Treats” are for birthdays and Halloween and other special occasions. I think part of the problem we’re having in our current food culture is that our “special occasions” seem to happen every single day! The other thing that has changed is the need for portable snacks due to the activities we have our kids in. When I was a child, if we weren’t at school, we were usually at home and not traveling around the community en route to our next scheduled event. And when we did participate in something that was under two hours, we usually weren’t served a snack. There were no small bags of pre-packaged foods like we have today. We never ate snacks in the car. There was not a slushie machine around every corner and candy was pretty much reserved for Easter and Halloween. If you happened upon a gum ball machine in your travels, it was one lone machine, not a group of twenty with an assortment of choices that would make your head spin! We are truly bombarded with snacking opportunities so much more than ever before. Anyone who knows someone who has a child with a nut allergy, knows the anxiety those parents face constantly, because sometimes it feels like everything that we do with our kids has a “snack” associated with it. Well…I’ll step down from my soapbox now and get on with the purpose of this post…real food snack ideas. Obviously, fresh fruit and cut up veggies are always great, but here are some other choices that we like. For any of these options that involve a chip or a cracker, try to find a brand that has 5 or less ingredients and no high fructose corn syrup or artificial coloring.

-hard boiled eggs with a bit of salt or deviled eggs
-whole wheat crackers spread with cream cheese and jam
-frozen grapes
-cut up apples with peanut butter or honey for dipping
-cored apple cut into rings with a slice of cheese melted on top
-frozen smoothie pops (we will do a post on these soon)
-tortilla chips with leftover taco meat (or chili), cheese melted on top
-organic, nitrite free luncheon meat (we use the Applegate Farms brand)
-mini pizzas (pictured at the top of this post…whole wheat bun, bread or English muffin topped with a cut up mozzarella cheese stick and some nitrite free pepperoni, heated in the toaster oven until cheese melts)
-homemade granola (will post recipe soon)
-plain yogurt with a little bit of real maple syrup swirled in (and granola, if you have it)
-cut up apple pieces tossed with wheat germ and cinnamon and served with a toothpick for spearing
-whole wheat toast with butter and cinnamon, honey
-milk shake made with an ice cream with all natural ingredients (Turkey Hill has an all natural option) with berries blended in
-homemade trail mix with nuts, raisins (or whatever dried fruit your child likes) and sunflower or pumpkin seeds…I’m ok with tossing in a few chocolate chips as well!
-olives, pickles, other dilled veggies (try to find brands without artificial coloring)
-small bowl of “real food” cereal with milk…harder to find than you would think! Again, look for one with minimal ingredients, less than 5 grams of sugar per serving, no high fructose corn syrup…sweeten it with a tiny bit of real maple syrup
-chips and salsa
-popcorn (not microwave popcorn…those are usually full of questionable ingredients)
-homemade muffins, cookies, pancakes that you’ve made ahead and frozen…just heat them up in the toaster oven

Katie is having one of our homemade berry/spinach smoothie pops.

Tell us about your favorite snacks.  Have a great week!


Ahhh…That’s Better

The piles are gone (well…at least the ones on this table!) and now we can get back to cooking and blogging! Stay tuned for a post by Katie about her favorite “real food” snacks. Have a wonderful, restful weekend!


For Those Weeks When You Just Need To Keep It Simple


As I mentioned in the last post, things are starting to look like an episode of Hoarders around here and we really need to get some clutter cleared out. And despite a very conscious effort to keep our activities under control…that little dry erase schedule on our fridge is looking a bit frightening. In the past, this kind of week would have included a lot of take out or ready made, convenience foods. But you really can keep it simple and make it yourself. And I would even bet that the time you spend is not really that much more than you would have spent on take out or pre-packaged foods. You still have to order the food and go to pick it up. Most packaged convenience foods still have to be opened and heated up. This is the time to fall back on meals that you can make without even opening up a cookbook with ingredients that you probably already have. Here are three simple meals…fish, pasta, and chicken. I’ll plan to make these three meals on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday and we’ll eat leftovers on Monday and Wednesday. And on Friday, I’ll post a photo of my empty dining room table!


1 1/2 lbs. codfish (or any other fish that you like)
1 to 2 Tbs butter
Salt & Pepper
Lemon juice (optional)
Green Beans, washed and trimmed
4 potatoes (medium sized, I used red potatoes and butter potatoes) sliced into 1/8 inch rounds
Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Toss potatoe slices with about 1Tbs olive oil and some salt and pepper and place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
3. Butter or oil a 13 x 9 inch baking dish and place fish in, skin side down. Place several thin pats of butter on top of the fish, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice if using.
4. Place both the fish and potatoes in the oven and bake uncovered for about 20 minutes. Stir the potatoes half way through the baking time, flipping them over if you have time.
5. While the fish and potatoes are baking, place the green beans in a steamer basket in a saucepan with a couple of inches of water, cover, and bring to a boil. Steam about 10 minutes. When done, drain them and add a bit of salt and butter.
6. Remove the fish and potatoes from oven when done and sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on the potatoes.


Olive oil
Tomatoe Sauce (29 oz)
Tomatoe Purée (29 oz)
Small onion, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar
16 oz whole wheat pasta of your choice
Italian Bread

1. In a dutch oven or large stock pot, sautee the onion in some olive oil until softened.
2. Add all of the remaining ingredients, stir together and bring almost to boiling over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
3. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 1 to 2 hours, stir every so often.
4. Cook your pasta according to package directions.
5. Serve pasta with the sauce and bread.
Note: As I’ve mentioned before, my Mother raised 8 of us, and if she had time to make her own sauce…I think we can all give it a try!


2 cups of brown rice cooked according to package directions
Handful of dried cranberries or cherries
Feta cheese (about 1 cup, crumbled)
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (2 1/2 to 3 lbs)
Dried oregano (about 1 teaspoon)
Lemon juice (about 2 tablespoons)
Pepper to taste
Zucchini (2 to 3), rinsed and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Start the rice if you are not using the quick cooking kind, otherwise start the rice after you’ve put the chicken in the oven.
3. Place the chicken in a buttered or oiled 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of lemon juice over it, then sprinkle it with the oregano and pepper, then about 1/2 cup of feta cheese, then the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice. Bake, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees.
4. Steam the zucchini in a steamer basket over 1 to 2 inches of water in a saucepan for about 10 minutes. Drain, and add a bit of salt and lemon juice if desired.
5. When the rice is done, mix in the cranberries and about 1/2 cup of feta cheese.

This chicken recipe is adapted from the Six O’ Clock Scramble cookbook, by Aviva Goldfarb.