Real Food For Families

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!



Salmon Quesadillas


I can’t believe that I have not done a post on quesadillas until now. There are so many, many reasons why I love them. It started back when I played in a golf league, years ago when I was single. We used to go out to eat afterwards and I think that every single time, I ordered some form of quesadillas. In fact, during my 20’s and 30’s, I may have ordered quesadillas 98% of the time when eating out. They never, ever disappointed me. Oddly enough, though, I never tried to make them at home. After I got married, I came to realize that my husband liked salmon. He liked salmon a lot…almost as much as I liked quesadillas. So one day, while searching for new salmon recipes, I stumbled upon Salmon Quesadillas. “This is awesome!” I said to myself…well, not really, this was before people said “Awesome!” so much. I probably said something like, “Holy smokes, Batman! This is the perfect meal!” So I went and bought canned wild salmon and basil and mozzarella cheese and tortilla wraps…and made my very first quesadillas at home. And holy smokes, Batman, they were awesome!!

~4 soft tortilla wraps (100% whole wheat if possible)
~melted butter or olive oil
~1 can of wild pink salmon
~2 cloves of garlic, minced
~2 teaspoons of dried basil
~ground black pepper
~shredded mozzarella cheese, about 2 cups

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Drain the salmon and pick it apart to remove all of the bones (this is the most difficult part of this recipe…I hate doing this, tedious and kind of ick!)
3. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil or butter in a skillet and sautée the garlic for a minute or so.
4. Add the salmon, basil and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool while you prepare the tortillas.
5. Lightly brush one side of each tortilla wrap with melted butter or olive oil.
6. Place the wraps, buttered side down, on a large rimmed baking sheet.
7. On one half of each wrap, layer shredded mozzarella cheese, then 1/4 of the salmon mixture, then more shredded cheese. Fold the other half of the wrap over and press them down slightly to flatten.
8. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 4 to 5 minutes, flip them over and continue to bake, 4 to 5 minutes on the second side.
9. Remove from oven and let cool slightly, then cut them in half with a pizza cutter or scissors.

Now, of course, my kids won’t touch these, so I make them a plain cheese version. And that is one of the great things about quesadillas…you can put whatever you want in them and it’s fairly easy to make a few different kinds at the same time to accommodate everyone’s tastes. Some combinations we have tried…sliced apples and cheddar cheese, diced cooked chicken and feta cheese, diced pepperoni and mozzarella cheese…the possibilities are endless.

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‘Tis the Season


We tend to lean in the direction of chaos casual when it comes to our dinner table. Since the dining room table usually looks like this, we most often eat in the kitchen. Lots of stuff spills, we have to defend our plates from dog sneak attacks, there might occasionally be a tiny, tiny bit of bickering…all in all, pretty much your average dinner time routine. But, there are a few weeks every year, when a peaceful sense of calm drifts down over our banged up pine table. That time of year started this week…Sunday marked the beginning of Advent…and in our home we light Advent candles every night during dinner from now until Christmas Eve. Something about that soft, flickering light seems to lull my kids into a trance like state (trance like state=5 minutes to eat in peace). I’m tempted to use candles all year, but then it might not seem so magical as it always does during this time of year. On this night, we ate a simple meal of pasta, shrimp tossed with a spice mix (from Dinner, A Love Story) and corn. These few minutes together each evening, watching the candles glow, is our counterbalance to the craziness of the season. Whatever your faith is and wherever your traditions come from…take some time today to sit and eat with the people that you love.

As I was taking the photo for this post, my husband asked, “How come their faces aren’t in the picture?” This is why not…


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Will Your Kids Eat Fish?


I spent my entire childhood convinced that I did not like fish. I would eat fish sticks and shrimp and, ironically, I declared that “Red Lobster” was one of my favorite restaurants…but, no…I was not a fan of fish. If it was not breaded and fried beyond recognition, I wrinkled my nose at it. The good news is that ,eventually, I gave up my aversion to this particular food and now find myself trying to get my own kids to eat fish. There’s good reason to keep trying. Fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon, are a major source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for healthy brain and eye development in children. Omega-3s have also been shown to lower your risk of dying from heart disease. There has been some concern regarding contaminants like mercury in certain types of fish, but if you avoid larger fish like shark, tilefish, swordfish, and king mackerel, the health benefits outweigh the risks. This article and this one explain the health benefits and risks of seafood if you want to read more.

If you want to entice your family to eat more fish (or to even try it at all!) here are some tips that you can try.
1. Introduce it early in your child’s life and include it on the menu weekly.
2. Buy the freshest fish you can and use it the same day if possible.
3. Make sure there are no bones in the fish. We rarely find any in the main types that we buy (salmon and codfish).
4. Start with mild tasting fish like cod, halibut, sole and salmon.
5. Use a glaze or seasonings that you know your kids like. If your child does not like sauces and seasonings, just stick with something simple like butter and salt.
6. Serve the fish in very small portions. Put small, bite sized pieces on toothpicks to dip in a sauce.
7. Try a variety of presentations…fish kebabs, fish tacos, and fish sandwiches on a bun are all ways that allow you to customize with fillings and toppings.

We usually prepare fish very simply…oil or butter a baking dish, sprinkle salt and pepper on the fish and dot it with butter (or drizzle with olive oil) and then bake for 15-20 minutes in a 375 or 400 degree oven, depending on the fish. Pictured below are some simple sauce ideas to use with fish and I’ve included a recipe for an Asian sauce from Katie Workman’s cookbook, “The Mom 100 Cookbook”.


GARLIC SOY SAUCE From The Mom 100 Cookbook
~3 Tablespoons soy sauce
~2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
~1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
~1 Tablespoon brown sugar
~1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Put all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. You can pour some of the sauce over salmon before you cook it, rubbing it in with your fingers. Then drizzle the remaining sauce over the fish after it’s been cooked. Or use the sauce for dipping the cooked fish into.

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Shrimp and Sun Dried Tomato Pasta


This recipe and I go way back. Way back to another lifetime, before I had kids, before I was married. Before I had anyone to cook for other than myself. I don’t remember why I even tried to make something like this back then, but somehow this meal made it into the rotation, along with cereal out of a box, pasta tossed with Parmesan and lemon juice, and Lean Quisine frozen meals. Once I discovered how simple it was and how easily it fooled other people into thinking that I actually had some culinary skill…I think I served it every single time I had company. My parents, my in laws, my friends, my siblings, my co-workers…anyone who has ever been invited to dinner at my house has probably seen this Shrimp and Pasta dish on the table. The original recipe was from the grocery store (Wegmans) but I’ve made it so many times, I don’t actually use a recipe anymore. Feel free to make it with chicken, switch the greens to Swiss chard, or use fresh tomatoes.

Shrimp and Sundried Tomato Pasta
~1 lb. of cooked shrimp (put raw shrimp in boiling water for 3 minutes to cook)
~1/4 cup olive oil (or oil from your jar of Sundried tomatoes)
~2 to 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
~10 oz. fresh spinach or Swiss chard, coarsely chopped
~16 oz whole wheat pasta (I usually use penne or rotini)
~1 jar (10 oz.) of chopped Sundried tomatoes, reserve 1/4 cup of the oil
~1 cup chicken broth
~feta cheese, crumbled, about one cup
~lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. Heat oil over medium high heat in a Dutch oven or large skillet, add garlic and cook about one minute until it begins to sizzle.
3. Add spinach and cook until it is wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Add chicken broth and Sundried tomatoes, bring to a boil.
5. Reduce heat and add shrimp, cook for another minute.
6. Drain the pasta and add the shrimp mixture and feta cheese, mix to combine.
7. Season as needed with lemon juice, salt and pepper.


Salmon Kebabs


Don’t you just love it when you see a recipe in a magazine that looks way out of your league and you try it anyways…and your finished product actually resembles the picture in the magazine? And it tastes wonderful. And one out of two of your kids likes it! This recipe for Spiced Salmon Kebabs was in this month’s issue of Bon Appetit and it was easy and delicious. The next time I make it, I will use less salt. Katie usually does not like salmon but she is my salt lovin’ girl and when she overheard me telling my husband that I thought it was too salty, she decided she would try it…and guess what? Put enough salt on something and she’s a fan! The Bon Appetit version calls for grilling, but our grill died last summer, so I broiled these and they came out great (broiler on high, 5 minutes on each side). As I mentioned, next time I will cut the amount of salt in half from 1 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon…but don’t tell Katie!

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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.