Category Archives: Family Dinner

Main Meal

Guest Blogger! “How to Eat Local”

Many thanks to James Kim from Food on the Table for this post that encourages us to eat local.  Many local farms will actually deliver their produce straight to your door.  It’s more than a trend – it just makes sense!

How to Eat Local

You can probably guess the benefits of eating local: it helps minimize air pollution and strengthens the local economy while providing you with fresher food. But how can you go local in your meal planning? Here are some easy tips to help you get started.

Take a Trip

Take the whole family to visit a nearby farm. Not only is this fun, but it’s educational for the kids (and yourself)! Here, you learn the methods used to harvest your food. Don’t know any farms in your area? Find one using the Eat Wild website.

U-Pick farms are another way to get yourself out to a farm. Grab a date and head out to a u-pick farm to pick your own fruits and veggies. Afterwards, you pay for what you’ve picked. Try the Pick Your Own website to find a u-pick farm near you.

Know Your Seasons

In our globalized economy, you can now buy nearly any grocery item year round. However, buying food in season cuts miles out of your food’s travel time. Smart Living provides a search engine which provides a list of seasonal food for each state. Create seasonal rituals that implement these food items. For example, in summer, make a pie out of your favorite seasonal fruit (find a vegan pie crust recipe here). This will help you and your family internalize your list of seasonal foods.

Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ markets can be a fun way to get the freshest local treats. The best part about shopping at farmers’ markets? Meeting exactly who has been harvesting your food. While some local food does not have the USDA organic certification, you can ensure that the food is organic by USDA standards by asking your farmers questions about their food. Assure that your farmers have not used most conventional pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.

Find a farmers’ market near you by visiting the USDA website, which contains a farmers’ market search engine.

Local Food Producers

The easiest way to go local? Buy a loaf of bread from your local bakery or coffee beans from your local coffeehouse. Endorsing local eateries can help you build your community (while making you feel more a part of it!).

Follow these easy steps to get started on your new local diet. Helping the environment has never tasted so good.

James Kim is a writer for foodonthetable.com.  Food on the Table is a company that provides online budget meal planning services.  Their goal is to help families eat better and save money.

Herb Chicken/Veggie Noodle Dinner (20 minutes)

Good-bye Kid’s Menu

Here’s my goal – get rid of the Kid’s Menu at all restaurants!  I propose that all restaurants offer ½ portion meals at ½ price for their child patrons.  The restaurant could also offer a toddler some pasta or steamed veggies with butter or some grilled chicken.  This not only helps your child, it also helps the restaurant build goodwill with their customers.  Don’t be afraid to ask your waiter to make something simple for your kids even if they do have a kid’s menu.  This is so easy if your children are accustomed to fresh, simply prepared food at home.  I love the fact that my kids love the same restaurants we do.  Why limit yourself to TGIFridays when you could go to your favorite Italian or Sushi place!

Herb Chicken/Veggie Udon Dinner (20 minutes)

I always try to use up everything in my fridge on Thursday nights.  I lay it all out on the counter and start thinking.  Tonight I had 1 red pepper, 1 head of broccoli, some chicken breasts and a few mushrooms.  Any veggies will do and you can make this without the chicken.  Here’s what I whipped up:

  • Boil a package of pasta* in salted water.
  • Sautee 2 cloves of garlic and 2 shallots in EV Olive oil until clear.
  • Optional:  pour about ½ cup of white wine and scrape the pan – let cook off for 2 mins.
  • Add chopped veggies and a splash of chicken broth.  Cover a cook for 8-10 mins. until tender.
  • Add some salt/pepper and herbs (I chopped some parsley, basil, rosemary/thyme) – fresh or a dash of dried.
  • Drain the pasta (save some liquid) and pour the veggies in the pasta pot.
  • Cut up the chicken and add salt/pepper.  Cook chicken in pan used for veggies until cooked through.  Add a little chicken broth and scrape bottom.
  • Pour the pasta and veggies into the chicken and stir.  Add a little pasta liquid or chicken broth to thicken.  Top with some grated cheese.

*Note:  For the pasta, I used flat Udon noodles.  The kids loved it (so did we)!

Did You Know?

  • Udon Noodles are white but are made from wheat flour.  They have more fiber and taste the same as regular pasta.   If you are like me and can’t seem to make the switch to the brown, wheat pasta – give this a try!

Stuffed Turkey London Broil and Brussel Sprouts w/Pancetta

Snack Drawer

What’s in your snack drawer?  We all deserve a little something sweet or crunchy (or both) once in a while right?  My problem was that I would find my kids continually sneaking the food upstairs in their room or down the basement and worse, hiding it from me.  Something felt seriously wrong about this – I was creating very bad habits not to mention ruining my kid’s appetites for a healthy dinner.  Then I realized, “If I don’t want them to eat the food, why am I buying it?”.  Perhaps I was really buying the snacks for me but using the kids as an excuse.  Sure a few Doritos with your sandwich sounds like a great idea but it all goes wrong when you find the empty bag under the couch or worse, YOU eat half the bag.  Save the occasional junk food for the snack bar at the baseball game or the pool.  In the meantime, gradually transition to some healthier alternatives (e.g., granola bars, cut up fruit, cheese/crackers or even some chocolate covered raisins).   Now about MY secret stash of chocolate/almond bark in the freezer….shhhhh.

Turkey London Broil (aka ½ a turkey breast w/ tenderloin attached).  This is easy and pretty enough for a  dinner party.

  • Rinse a turkey London broil (1-3 lbs.), pat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Lay slices of prosciutto, mozzarella and basil on one half.  Fold the turkey like a sandwich and tie the roast together with butcher string.
  • Drizzle or paint a little EV olive oil on the top.
  • Bake in oven at 350 for until turkey reads 155 degrees (about 60 mins).
    You can also grill the turkey on Med heat for 45 mins.
  • Take turkey out of oven and cover with foil for 10-15 minutes to continue cooking.

Brussel Sprouts w/Pancetta

  • Cut up some pancetta (or bacon) and fry in a pan for a few minutes until crisp.  I keep some pancetta wheels in the freezer.
  • Add brussel sprouts (cut in half) to pan.  Sprinkle with salt/pepper.
  • Continue cooking until tender (7-8 mins).  Add a drop of water and cover to speed cooking.

Spinach w/shiitake Mushrooms

  • Heat a clove of garlic in a pan with EV olive oil.  Add sliced mushrooms and cook until tender (7-8 mins.).  Add a splash of white wine and cook a bit more for extra flavor.
  • Add a bag of fresh spinach and a little salt/pepper.  Toss with a drop of water and continue to cook for about 5 minutes until soft.

Rice Pilaf:

  • Use a good brand (i.e., Far East) and follow package directions.
  • I always keep some frozen brown rice in the freezer for a quick starch (try Trader Joe’s or Genuardi’s Organic brand).

How the Kids Can Help:

  • My daughter layered the prosciutto, cheese and basil onto the turkey (see bikini picture above).
  • She also used the “paintbrush” to paint some EV olive oil on the turkey once it was tied.
  • Kids are great at measuring and pouring to make the rice pilaf.

Did You Know?

  • A male turkey is called a “Tom” and is also referred to as a gobbler.  Female turkeys are called “Hens”.
  • Enjoy this Turkey puzzle:  http://www.kidzone.ws/animals/turkeypuzzle3.htm
  • Children and teens that have frequent family meals are likelier to say that they can confide in their parents.*

Chicken/Sausage Pasta (15 Mins.)

15 Minute Meals and 3 Minute Abs

Dinner-time comes at roughly the same time each night – so can you tell me why there are some nights we look at the clock in complete and utter shock, “Oh my god!  It’s dinner-time, what are we going to do?!?”.   Imagine waking up one day, “Oh no! It’s Christmas Eve and I haven’t bought a single present!”.   The shock of dinner-time sneaks up on all of us and it happened to me tonight.  So I looked in my freezer and whipped this up with just a few ingredients in just 15 (not 30) minutes.  I guarantee it was faster than chicken nuggets and mac n’ cheese and required the same number of dishes.  I just wish I could get the same amazing results with 3 Minute Abs.

Pasta with Chicken/Sausage

  • Cook ¾ box of Pasta (add lots of salt to the water).
  • Take the meat out of the casing of 4 Italian Chicken Sausages (I only had 3 so I cut up a single chicken breast and added it in). 
  • Fry the sausage/chicken breaking into small pieces until it is cooked through.
  • Place the cooked pasta in a bowl and mix with the sausage/chicken.  Add about ½ cup of pasta water and ¼ cup of parmesan cheese.  Stir and serve!

Note:  You can cook some veggies with the meat (e.g., mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes).  Add salt/pepper and herbs to taste (e.g., parsley, basil). The flavor from the Fresh Market sausage alone was amazing!

How the Kids Can Help

  • Choose the pasta you will cook
  • Add salt to the pasta water
  • Identify some veggies to add to the meat
  • Taste the pasta to see if it’s cooked
  • Set the table/fill the drinks

Did You Know?

  • The family meal helps pre-schoolers develop better language skills (they may hear different words used at the table than they heard during the day).
  • The link between processed foods and cancer is being proven more every day.
  • Create Food Flexibility in your Family!  Life is so much easier when everyone eats the same healthy meal.

Red Snapper, Asian Broccollini, Israeli Cous Cous

Watch our new videos on You Tube!
1)  30 second Video of Mia and I for Whole Foods Fantasy Foodie Contest:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Vz4h0TUHXM

2)  5 Minute Overview of Blog/How to Make Chicken Roll-ups: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OqwhMU_cCI

Table for Two
It is so rare that I get to spend a quiet dinner at home with just me and……my 10 yr. old son.  This being a rare occasion, I asked him what he would like to have for dinner (sushi is out because he gave up raw fish for lent).  He asked for fish, cooked.  So we stopped at the fish market and I let him choose.  “How about the Flounder, or the Cod?”, I suggested.  He told me, “Mom, it’s important to mix it up a bit, how about the large red snapper?!”.  Like I need a lecture on exposing kids to different foods, who’s teaching who here?

Red Snapper (about 1 pound even)

  • Pat fish with paper towels to dry it and salt lightly.  Grab a baking dish and lie fish skin side up.
  • Mix 2 TBS of EVOO, juice from 2 lemons, 2 TBS of white wine, ½ TSP of Fine Herbs into a bowl (add 2 TBS of fresh parsley and 1 chopped clove of garlic if you have it).
  • Pour it over the fish.
  • Slice  ½ cup of grape tomatoes and lay them on top.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes (depending on thickness)

Brocollini

  • Wash and trim stems.  Heat 2 cloves of garlic in 1 TBS of EVOO for a minute or so.
  • Stir fry brocollini with a dash of ginger powder and 1-2 TBS of soy sauce and a small dash of crushed red pepper.
  • Cover and reduce heat for 1-2 minutes until cooked through.

Israeli Cous Cous

  • Cook ½ onion and some mushrooms in a drop of EVOO and cook until soft.  Add 1 cup of cous cous and stir.
  • Add salt, pepper, 2 TBS of parsley and 2 cups of chicken broth and/or water.  The broth makes it a bit more starchy.
  • You could even add some chicken and spinach to this recipe and make it a quick main course.

Hey Kids!

Shrimp Scampi w/ Cappellini, Roasted Veggies and Salad

The Future of Food is the Past

Last week my son was eating a piece of fish so simply grilled and prepared from Red Stone.  He said “This is a piece of heaven.  This is the future of food!”.  How true that statement is.  But what my son doesn’t know or remember is that food USED to be fresh and simply prepared years ago.  In the days where everything is processed and doctored up in some way, we can only hope (in this case) that history does repeat itself.  Just leave the ugly clothes and hair behind.

Shrimp Scampi

  • Peel shrimp and dry them.  Cook some cappellini in salted water.
  • Heat some garlic in a little olive oil and 2 TBS of butter.
  • Cook shrimp for about 2 minutes on each side.  Add a little salt/pepper and move shrimp to a side dish.
  • Add lemon juice (1 lemon), 1/4 cup of fresh parsley, about 1/4 cup white wine to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes until it thickens a bit.
  • Toss the shrimp and sauce over the pasta.  Stir and serve.

Roasted Veggies (or whatever is leftover from the week)

  • Cut up some carrot, fennel, broccoli and brussel sprouts (cut in half).
  • Toss in a baking dish with some EVOO and “Fine Herbs” (it’s a nice blend).
  • Bake on 375 for about 40 minutes or until tender.

Salad

  • Make a salad and add some tomatoes, celery and whatever you have left from the week.
  • Toss with some balsamic vinaigrette.  I like to add a little fresh basil or a bit from the spice tube for added flavor.

For the Kids

  • Let the kids test the pasta
  • Teach them to “smash” the garlic and peel the skin off.
  • Show them how to de-vein a shrimp.

Flounder Cutlet, Zucchini, Brown Rice

They Like Gagoots!

For years my mom made zucchini w/fresh tomatoes (we called it “gagoots”) and I never liked it.  Tony Soprano used to call his stupid-head son “you big gagoots”.  Hard to believe after 40 years that I am now making the exact same thing.  Not only do I finally LOVE it, but my kids quickly started liking it too!  I guess it’s true, we really do become our parents when we get old.  I can only hope that my kids learn their life lessons as quickly as they learned to like gagootz.

Flounder Cutlet

  • Salt and cut fish into several pieces (as desired).  Dip into flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs.  Use flounder or cod, whatever looks freshest.
  • Fry in canola oil (enough to coat the pan well but not submerge fish).
  • Flip it as soon as it’s brown.  When the other side browns, immediately put on a baking rack to cool.
  • Serve plain or with ketchup or tartar sauce.

Zucchini (Gagoots)

  • Heat a little garlic in about 2 TBS of EVOO in a pot.  Add some sliced onion and cook until soft.
  • Peel and slice 3-4 zucchini  (about 1/2 inch thick circles).
  • Cut 3-4 tomatoes and add with zucchini into the pot.
  • Heat on Medium for about 15 minutes or until cooked.

Quick Brown Rice

  • I am hooked on this Brown Rice cooked and frozen in a bag from Whole Foods.
  • Just heat it up in the Microwave and add a little EVOO or soy sauce for flavor/texture.  Great for a quick starch!

For the Kids:

  • Let the kids help crack the eggs and pour the breadcrumbs.
  • Let them help with the dipping into the flour, etc.
  • FYI:  The dish “Gagoots” is a true italian term for a traditional dish that typically includes zucchini, onions and peppers.