Category Archives: Beef

Dinners with beef as the main course.

Meatloaf, Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Broccoli/Cauliflower, Crunchy Salad

From the Bottle to the Table

You probably know by now that my pet peeve is that too many children will “only eat 5 things”.  What I can’t figure out is this;  why does a 10 month old baby gobble up a variety of baby foods (carrots, peas, sweet potatoes), but then 2 years later the same toddler won’t eat the exact same vegetable in their original form?!  

Something is happening “from the bottle to the table” that is preventing our toddlers from liking and eating a variety of healthy table food.  One culprit is the introduction of processed snacks/foods to our precious young toddlers.  It’s like hooking babies to crack – we are conditioning them earlier and earlier to prefer fake food to real.  The packaged baby “meals” are like Lunchables for babies….I wouldn’t feed it to my dog (if I had one).  The second problem is lack of exposure to simple whole foods.

Here is my solution:  let’s get rid of “kid food” and move immediately from baby food to regular, simply prepared, table food.  Try chicken sautéed in olive oil and lemon or carrots cooked with dash of cinnamon or orange juice.  Keep the flavors simple so the whole family can enjoy the same healthy dinner.  Gradually test and add more ingredients and flavors into the meal until your kids develop a taste for the healthy foods you and your spouse like.  It may sound selfish, but it works.  Why should I spend time getting the kids to like curry if Mike and I don’t like it.  Now basil on the other hand…..that’s non-negotiable.

Turkey (or Beef) Meatloaf

  • Cook ½ onion in 1-2 TBS of olive oil (add salt/pepper) until soft but not browned
  • Stir in ½ TSP of Herbs de Provence, 2 TBS of ketchup, ½ cup of chicken broth.  Remove from heat.
  • Mix 1 egg, ½ cup bread crumbs and onion mixture into 1 – 1/2 lb. of ground turkey. 
  • Put mixture into loafpan.  Let the kids squirt a ketchup design on the top.
  • Put in loaf and cook on 350 for about 30-45 minutes (or until 160 degrees)

Roasted Cauliflower/Broccoli

  • Wash and cut veggies and lay on large baking sheet.
  • Toss with EVOO, salt/pepper and a dash of parmesan cheese.
  • Bake on 350 for about 30 minutes or until tender.

Sweet Potatoes

  • Cut and boil 4-5 sweet potatoes.  Drain.
  • Add 4 TBS of butter, ¼ cup of milk (or cream), 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 TSP of cinnamon (adjust ingredients to taste).
  • Mash or beat with immersion blender.  Serve immediately or put in baking dish and top with marshmallows and bake for 15 minutes.

Crunchy Salad

  • Cut up about 3-4 celery stalks, 3 tomatoes, 1 pepper, 1 cucumber, 1 carrot and 1 avocado (whatever you have!)
  • Optional:  Add some fresh scallion and juice from ½ lime.
  • Toss with salt, pepper, EV olive oil and a splash of rice wine vinegar and/or red wine vinegar.  Serve immediate or chill.

For the Kids:

  • Give the kids  “samples” of things in the salad
  • Ask the kids to “test” the sweet potatoes to see if cooked or if there’s enough cinnamon/brown sugar.
  • Teach kids how to use a peeler (peeling is always “away” from body)
  • Ask them to put “magic sprinkle” of cheese on the roasted veggies
  • Why is Cauliflower white?  Why is it good for you?

Grilled Flank Steak and Asparagus, Baked Potato Spears, Purple Salad

Love Your Food Store Like Your Friends

We love the people in our lives for different reasons and each person has their own strengths; one friend might be a good listener, one might give good advice, another friend might tell you the ugly truth, and so on.  Most likely, it’s difficult to find everything you need all in one person.  I feel exactly the same way about my food stores, I love them all for different reasons and they are all good at something special:

  • I love Fresh Market for their meat and produce
  • I love Whole Foods for their cheese and bread
  • I love George’s Shop n’ Bag for their home-made deli meat and nuts/dried fruits
  • I love Sonny’s (Ambler) for their fresh fish
  • I love Trader Joe’s for their packaged foods and snacks
  • I love for their paper products and cleaning supplies (delivered for free!)
  • I want to love Wegmans but they are just a little too far!

Why do you love your food store?

Flank Steak:

  • Put a piece of flank steak in a Ziploc bag  and add ABOUT:  1/4 cup of EV olive oil, soy sauce, ginger powder, garlic powder, black pepper (don’t need salt)
  • Marinate as long as you have (10 minutes or 10 hours)
  • Grill on tin foil on HIGH for 5-6 minutes.  Flip ONCE and cook on MEDIUM for another 5-6 minutes


  • Wash and cut ends off asparagus.
  • Lay on tin foil and toss with EV Olive oil, salt/pepper.
  • Cover with tin foil and seal (poke holes on top to vent).
  • Cook with steak (5 mins. on High and 5 mins. on Medium – no flip required just a shake).

Baked Potato Spears:

  • Cut potato in half then cut each piece in half again.  Cut spears like you would orange slices (on an angle).
  • Toss in a Ziploc bag with EV olive oil, salt/pepper and onion powder.
  • Lay on baking sheet (line with parchment or tin foil) and bake for 45 minutes on 425 until golden brown.

Purple Salad:

  • Boil beets and cut into small cubes.
  • Boil (or microwave) baby carrots just for a couple mins. and cut up.  (You can add these raw if you prefer)
  • Cut up grape tomatoes and red bell peppers.
  • Cut up a mozzarella ball.
  • Add all veggies into bowl and toss with EV Olive oil, salt/pepper, a splash of rice wine vinegar and red wine vinegar.
  • Everything with turn PURPLE – even the cheese

How Can the Kids Help?

Did You Know?

  • It has been reported that Asparagus Therapy has been used successfully to treat cancer  (Asparagus therapy includes eating 2-4 TBS of pureed asparagus per day).
  • Asparagus grows upright from a crown that is planted about one foot underground.
  • Image of asparagus growing:

Grilled Rib Eye Steak, Butternut Squash Risotto and Grilled Veggies

Walmart Should Be Ashamed

I needed some paper products for the Lacrosse party tonight and decided to go to Walmart since I was in the area.  I walked into the store and not even 1 foot from the front door was a display for Dolly brand deserts for $2 a box.  They were these nasty powder and chocolate donuts and a disgusting pink sparkle, crème-filled twinkie thing.  I kid you not, the ingredient list was 20 lines long and I could barely read a word of it.  Why is this not against the law?  I bet some street drugs are healthier for you than these deserts.  I could not find one natural yogurt in an entire wall of yogurts.  There were plenty of low-fat, low-sugar, low-carb processed products – God knows what’s actually in them.  Can’t we just eat REAL FOOD?

I continued to walk around the store in amazement – not one person looked healthy, and I am not talking about weight.  I actually do not believe that weight alone is the sign of health.  I know lots of people that are overweight that eat healthy and look healthy.  But I also know several skinny girls that eat only “low-fat/low-carb”– now they are scary.  I want to yell out, “give that girl a cheeseburger please!”.  Don’t people realize (no matter what your size) that all this obsession with healthy eating is killing us?

Grilled Rib-Eye Steak

  • Brush a little EV olive oil, salt, pepper and Herbs de Provence on each side of the steak.
  • Grill on High for 3-5 mins. Flip and turn heat to Medium to cook through for another 5 minutes (to taste).

Butternut Squash Risotto  (This does take at least a half-hour so I like to make this one on Sunday)

  • Cut-up butternut squash into small cubes and lay on baking sheet.  Toss with salt/pepper and a little EV oil (with hands) and bake on 400 for approx. 20 minutes.  Set aside.
  • Heat up olive oil and cook 3-5 shallots until soft (not brown – about 5 mins.).
  • Add a splash of white wine and 1 cup of Arborio rice – stir for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add salt/pepper, a little rosemary and 1 cup of Vegetable broth to rice.
  • Add an additional 4 cups of broth (one cup at a time) and stir until the liquid is absorbed each time (5 cups total).
  • Secret ingredient:  add a tablespoon of cream cheese and of course the butternut squash and stir.
  • Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.

Grilled Veggies  (Serve these by themselves or throw them on your salad)

  • Cut up a broccoli head and a red bell pepper.
  • Toss on some tin foil with EV olive oil, salt pepper and 3 cloves of garlic.
  • Seal tin foil and grill with steak (about 10 minutes).

Salad w/ Balsamic Vinaigrette:  LOVE my new Salad Spinner (thanks Aunt Nina)- it keeps the lettuce SO crisp!

  • Wash and thoroughly dry lettuce.
  • Salad Dressing:  Pour ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar, 1 Tsp of mustard, salt/pepper in a jar (w/lid).   Add about 3/4 cup of EV olive oil and shake hard.
  • You can put the veggies on the salad and toss it all together with the dressing if you like.

Desert:  Mia made this up.

  • Toss strawberries with a little Sugar in the Raw (even a dash of balsamic vinegar is great).
  • Scoop them into an ice-cream cup and top with whipped cream or fluff.

How Can the Kids Help?

  • Drizzle the oil and spices on both sides of the steak (you flip it over).
  • Sprinkle the salt/pepper on the butternut squash and toss with EVOO with your hands!
  • Measure the wine, rice and chicken broth and help stir the risotto
  • Measure salad dressing ingredients and use immersion blender to mix.  Teach safety about unplugging appliances immediately after use.

Did You Know?

  • Butternut squash is technically a fruit because it has seeds – it’s a member of the gourd family but is much healthier than zucchini.
  • Butternut squash is high in fiber, potassium, B6 and beta-carotene – all good for preventing heart disease, breast cancer, and it’s good for your immune system.  Plus just one cup provides you with ½ of your Vitamin C for the day!
  • The smaller the squash, the more flavorful it will be.

Quick NY Strip Steak and Cheesy Broccoli/Rice

Skinny Face

Is this a cruel joke?  Why is it women over 35 (hypothetically speaking of course) who eat healthy, minimize processed foods, and exercise regularly are left with a skinny….. face?  It’s not exactly our goal when running on the treadmill at 7 mph, uphill.  A skinny face is not what we had in mind when we envisioned a great compliment, “boy, she looks terrific, and how about that skinny face?!  But sadly, it is true that after 35 we automatically lose the fat in our faces of all places and gravity takes hold.  It’s the one good reason to keep some weight on.  Do you ever notice that skinny women who get old are scary (they play the scary witch in the movies), and the rounder women are always associated as the sweet grandmother-type.  So if you were thinking about losing that last 5-10 lbs. after your last baby –  don’t bother, you know just where you’ll lose it.  So go for that extra scoop of ice-cream (it doesn’t take much of an excuse anymore)!

NY Strip:  Par-defrost your steaks in the microwave if you are in a rush and then leave it on the granite counter to defrost the rest of the way.

  • Drizzle a little EV olive oil, salt/pepper (and dash of Herbs de Provence if desired) on both sides.
  • Grill on High for 5 minutes – turn once, reduce heat to medium and grill another 5 minutes (or to desired temp.)

Cheesy Broccoli:  Don’t buy the processed stuff, it’s so easy to make it yourself (cheaper too)! 

  • I defrost a bag of frozen (cooked) brown rice at Trader Joe’s – OR – Boil some white or brown rice yourself and set aside.
  • Cut up and cook small broccoli pieces (about 2 bunches) in a 1/2 cup of chicken broth in a pot.  I added a TBS of butter too.
  • Stir in a cup of shredded cheese (I mixed some mild cheddar and mozzarella) and the cooked rice.
  • Let sit covered on LOW for 5 minutes or so.  Stir again and serve.

How Can the Kids Help:

Did You Know?

  • Meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions – cows emit methane, which is 23 times more effective as a global warming agent than carbon dioxide.
  • Broccoli is recognized for its anti-cancer nutrients.
  • Broccoli consumption has increased over 940 percent over the last 25 years!  It has as much calcium as a glass of milk!
  • Converting brown rice into white rice destroys 67% of the vitamin B3, 80% of the vitamin B1, 90% of the vitamin B6, half of the manganese, half of the phosphorus, 60% of the iron, and all of the dietary fiber and essential fatty acids.  See article:

Asian Flank Steak, Bok Choy, Veggie Fried Rice

“Girls Night Out

My son, Mac had a birthday party one night so my 7 yr. old daughter, Mia and I decided to go to P.F. Changs for dinner (one of our favorites).  We ordered a ton of food so we could share – by the way, this is BY FAR the best part of having your kids eat the same food as you – the sharing!  As the food kept coming out we were running out of space on the table (we were at a high top table in the bar).  I stuffed myself silly and said to Mia, “Do you ever eat and eat and keep eating because it tastes sooo good, even though you are full?”  She looked at me with a deadpan expression and responded with a little sass, “Mom, since when do you NOT do that?”.  So much for the “everything in moderation” speech.  Oh man, not only is her palette sophisticated, but now her sarcasm is too. 

Asian Flank Steak:  I think flank steak is more tender than London Broil and tends to marinate more quickly because it is so thin.  Plus, it cooks on the grill quickly and can be made for just for your family or for a large group.

  • Mix 2 TBS (each) of EV Olive oil, Lime juice, Soy Sauce and Brown Sugar
  • Grate some fresh ginger or 1 TSP of ginger powder
  • Mix and pour into Ziploc with the Flank Steak.  Marinate in fridge for 15 min. or 15 hours
  • Grill on high heat for approximately 5 minutes on each side (turning only once)

Fried Rice:  I found some frozen, cooked brown rice at Trader Joes – just defrosted it on the counter.

  • Scramble 2 eggs and cook in a pan with a little oil.  Remove eggs and set aside
  • Chop an onion and cook for a few minutes in a drop of oil
  • Add chopped carrot and frozen peas to onion and cook for a few minutes
  • Add 4 cups of cooked rice (brown or white) and toss with 2 TBS of soy sauce and eggs
  • Stir and serve

Bok Choy/Stringbeans

  • Wash thoroughly.  I like to use the peeler on the thick part if it’s not baby bok choy
  • Heat up some EV olive oil and garlic, add fresh ginger (if you have it)
  • Toss bok choy (I added some stringbeans too) around with some soy sauce (add ginger powder if you didn’t add it fresh)
  • You can add a drop of rice vinegar  or water while cooking so it doesn’t stick to pan
  • Cook about 7 or 8 minutes or so (I don’t like my veggies too crunchy).  I put a lid on it at the end to make sure they are cooked through.

How Can the Kids Help?

Did You Know?

  • Ginger root has many benefits and can improve nausea, digestive problems, circulation and arthritis.
  • Ginger is often included in many herbal decongestants and can help to minimise the symptoms of respiratory conditions, colds and allergies.
  • The Gingerbread house became popular after the Brothers Grimm published the German fairytale “Hansel and Gretel”

Turkey Burgers w/Italian Guacamole, Corn on the Cob, Artichoke Pasta Salad

 “Best (Food) Memories”

I can’t blame my entire obsession with food on being Italian.  Please tell me that the rest of you agree that some of your best memories involve food in some way.  I think about big boisterous Sunday dinners around the table.  I am convinced that the reason I talk so loud to this day is because I had to shout to be heard at the table (I was the youngest of 4).  I remember coming home everyday after school and my mom saying “How was your day?”  to which I always replied, “Good, what’s for dinner?”.  One of my most exciting memories is white water rafting in Colorado with my ever adventurous sister.  How does food fit into that memory, you ask?  I vividly remember the most delicious dinners cooked by the fire at the campsite by the River Guide.  When we were kids, there were no activities on the weekend.  My parents would load the 4 kids and my grandmother and great-aunt in the station wagon and take a ride “up the country”.   It felt like it took hours just to get few exits up the Northeast Extension.  But, of course, the highlight of the day, the best part of the trip, was when my mom handed out the lunches she made to everyone in the car.   “Food always tastes better in the car” my dad would say as he drove and ate and grinned all the way there.  Where did we go?  I have no idea.

Turkey Burgers: Try with grass-fed beef too.  Make little sliders for the kids – they now have little slider rolls!

Mix all ingredients together and shape into burgers:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. of white meat ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup of Italian Bread Crumbs
  • Dash (1/4 TSP) of: Onion powder, Garlic powder, Poultry Seasoning and Mustard
  • 1 TSP of Worchestire Sauce
  • Salt/Pepper

Form into patties.  Make sure the middle of the burger is pressed down so it cooks evenly.

  • Cook burgers on Medium-High on one side for 5 minutes and flip (only one time) and cook on Med/Low for another 5 minutes.  

    Note:  If cooking burgers in a frying pan; spray pan and cook until browned on one side, flip (only once) and brown 2nd side. Then add 2 TBS of water and reduce heat to Low for 2 minutes to cook through.

 Corn on the Cob:  Cooked in a big  pot or on the grill, you gotta love corn on the cob!  The kids love the old-fashioned corn holders too.

  • If you are in a rush, you can actually microwave all your corn in a glass baking dish with about 1/2 inch of water.  Cook about a minute each ear and then flip them over and cook another couple minutes.

Artichoke Pasta Salad:

  • Cook pasta according to directions (save about 1 cup of pasta water)
  • Heat a little garlic in olive oil in a pan.  Add a jar of artichoke hearts (with juice and cut smaller), cherry tomatoes and some fresh basil.  Cook for a few minutes.
    You can also toss all the ingredients directly into the pasta without cooking anything!
  • Toss pasta with a little olive oil and mix with the sauce.  Add salt/pepper (add a little pasta water if you need it) and sprinkle some extra basil (or parsley) on the top for color.

Italian Guacamole:  I love guacamole on my burger but I never seem to have cilantro on hand to make it.  So for a quick fix, I smash an avocado with tomato, basil, lime juice and onion powder (add salt/pepper too)!  It takes 2 seconds and is sooo good on a burger!

How Can the Kids Help?

  • Teach the kids to shuck corn early (my mom used to send us outside with a bag of fresh corn and an empty brown paper bag).
  • Mix bread crumbs with spices and mix meat with their hands (teach about raw meat and washing hands).
  • Pick apart a basil leaf into tiny pieces for the pasta (in the summer they can go outside and pick from the plant).
  • Test the pasta for doneness.
  • Set the table (outside yeah!) and get drinks.
  • Tell the kids one of your favorite (food) memories at dinner tonight.

Did You Know?

  • Corn is America’s #1 field crop.
  • Corn growing:
  • Corn is used to produce fuel alcohol. Fuel alcohol makes gasoline burn cleaner, reducing air pollution, and it doesn’t pollute the water.
  • 82% of all U.S. Households own a grill or smoker.

(Chicken) Cheese Steaks, Carrot Sticks, Mac N’Cheese (Home-made)

“Chemists in the Kitchen?”

If you ever want a funny read, just pick up an old copy of “The Joy of Cooking”, my copy from my Aunt Peggy is from 1964.  I reflected on a section I read in the Quick Breads section:  “Housewives often wonder why their coffee cakes and fillings seem insipid compared with some of the more sophisticated commercial products… a touch of yellow coloring..or almond paste are often used in commercial coffee cakes…”.  Readers probably said to themselves, “so THAT’s why I can’t get my baked goods to taste as good as the ones from the store, aren’t they tricky!”.  Today, do you know why you can’t get your baked goods to taste the same?  You are missing a dose of chemicals. 

I played golf with a guy who owned a small Baking business, specializing in a variety of home-made gluten-free treats.  He told me that he attended baking classes alongside “chemists” from some of the largest store-brand name baking companies around the country.  Why would chemists attend baking classes?  He told us that chemists were sent from their labs to learn how to bake so they could best determine how to incorporate chemicals into the baking products to make them taste better.   A far cry from 1964 I’d say.

Chicken Cheese Steaks

This is another version of my fast food before practice.  Check with your local italian market (I like Sam’s) for frozen chicken and “chip-steak” meat for Cheese Steaks.  You can cook them frozen.  The meat is simply cut paper-thin and cooks quickly.  Grab some long italian rolls, or keep some in the freezer for a last-minute meal.  It’s almost like being at Tony Lukes!

  • Heat a drop of oil or PAM in a hot non-stick pan.  Cook your chicken or steak in the pan like scrambled eggs.
  • Add slices of American cheese and slide onto your roll.
  • Cook side of onions, peppers or throw some spinach or mushrooms in the pan to add to your cheese steak if desired.

Carrot Sticks:  I always have these on hand when in a rush – a veggie is a veggie!  Read below for “where do baby carrots come from?”.

Mac N’Cheese:  You can go with a box of organic stuff but it’s so easy to make your own (plus the organic stuff has sugar in it).

  • Cook any kind of pasta according to directions (try 2 cups of elbows).  Drain and set aside in colander.
  • Heat 2 TBS of butter in the pot with a tablespoon of flour
  • Add up to 1 cup of  half and half (or any kind of milk) and up to 3/4 cup of cheddar cheese (or any cheese on hand).
  • Add the pasta into the cheese and stir.  Add salt/pepper to taste.

How Can the Kids Help?

Did You Know?

  • Baby carrots are not exactly what you think they are.  Baby carrots are ugly carrots or “culls” that are peeled and cut down to a uniform size for packaging.  They are not processed like a chicken nugget just cut to look more pretty.  It’s true that they are not nearly as sweet as their longer brothers with the stems on them, but they are more convenient.
  • What Are Baby Carrots?
  • Mac n’ Cheese is originally from China and was brought to Italy by Marco Polo over 500 years ago.
  • 1 Cup of Kraft Mac n’ Cheese has 410 Calories and 19 grams of Fat

Turkey Veggie Chili Macaroni

Shut Up, Sit Down!

Some nights I sound like the imitation Howard Stern does of his father yelling at him as a child, “Shut up, sit down!!”.  Getting my children to sit still, butt completely on the seat, feet down and using their utensils properly has been WAY more difficult than getting them to actually eat the food.  How they can get distracted or start arguing even for a few minutes with a plate full of hot food in front of them is beyond me.  I have the opposite problem, the minute that plate hits the table you would think I haven’t eaten in days and I barely come up for air.  At some point during the meal, the phrases “butt on the seat, please”, “napkin on your lap”, or my all-time favorite, “would you sit down!” have become automatic responses (press #1 for sit in your seat….).  At least at every meal after grace the kids will add “…and god bless the cook!”.  Still frustrated, Mike happens to go on a business golf trip where each team is paired with a professional golfer.   At breakfast, Mike looks over at the (famous) Pro who is sitting with his wife and small children looking quite perfect.  Upon listening more carefully, Mike overhears him say to his kids, “Would you sit down!!  Stop that!! Get your butt…”.  We’re all in the same boat afterall.

Chili Macaroni:  If you want to eat more plant-based but just aren’t ready to go 100% yet. Only 1 pound of meat makes a huge pot when you add lots of vegetables. Try this quick and easy recipe that is also flexible with ingredients.  Add more or less spices, veggies and beans according to taste.  It tastes better the longer it sits but can also be ready in about 30 minutes.  You can make enough for 4 or 40!

  • Drizzle a little olive oil in a large dutch oven pot and cook 1 pound of ground turkey.  Add sprinkle of onion powder and garlic powder and chop up until cooked through. Drain if needed and set meat aside.
  • Heat a little olive in the pot and cook 1 small chopped onion and about 1 – 1 1/2 cups of veggies adding the most firm first (carrots, sweet peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, frozen corn) until softened.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 tsp of Pepper.
  • Add 1 large can of diced tomatoes.
  • Add 1 can of kidney beans (or black or 1/2 can of both). Mash them a bit if your kids don’t love beans and they’ll disappear.
  • Add 1 cup of water or more if needed.
  • Add Spices:  2 tablespoons of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of turmeric.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne (optional).
  • Bring to boil then cook on low for 30+ minutes.  Keep on low for 1-2 hours if desired.

Gluten-free Macaroni:
Cook macaroni according to directions.  Drain and add a drop of olive oil to avoid sticking and leave in pot.

Scoop grain on bottom of bowl and put chili on top.  Sprinkle some non-dairy cheese and sour cream to taste.


  • Mix up your ingredients and test different types of salad.  Romaine seems to be liked by most kids and is healthier than iceberg.
  • Tonight I used the yellow pepper from the chili, added some sunflower seeds and snuck some alfalfa sprouts on there and the kids didn’t mind (p.s. they have an incredibly broad range of nutrients in them)
  • If your sunflower seeds are not fresh, they get a very nutty smell and taste to them (kids might not like that)

What Can the Kids Help With?

  • Help use your VitaMix to chop all the veggies (no swim goggles or tears necessary)
  • Stir and cook the ground meat
  • Open cans (teach to use the can opener)
  • Add chili powder, salt/pepper – test for how spicy, ask if it needs more spice!
  • Cut (yellow) pepper – teach them to take out all the white flesh, it can be bitter (“what’s bitter?”)
  • Ask “what can we put in the salad tonight?” and help sprinkle ingredients
  • Activity Page “Chilly or Chili?” –

Did You Know?

  • Chili did NOT come from Mexico!
  • Legend has it that the first recipe for chili was written by a beautiful nun from Spain in the 17th century.
  • Chili allowed Texas ranchers to serve meat close to spoiling thanks to all the delicious spices.

Ravioli and Tortellini with Meatballs and Salad

Children’s Food Preference – Nature or Nurture?

Children often look like their parents or relatives which is simple genetics.  But are food preferences genetic?  Research indicates that while genetics do play a role in food preferences initially, environmental factors and exposure to new foods repeatedly do have the greatest impact in a child’s appetite for certain foods.  I guess “nurture” vs. “nature” wins this one.  It’s not surprising that a child’s food preference develops in the early stages of life and shapes their food choices as an adult.  Most of us today are lucky to have good memories of our parents or grandparents cooking real food and enjoying a family dinner.  But imagine that when all our children are grown, we are left with a generation raised on chicken nuggets and processed food with no memory of anything different?  At least we know it’s wrong, they won’t know any better.  Think I am being dramatic?  Ask Jamie Oliver about the folks in Huntington, West Virginia, it’s already happened there.

Ravioli and Tortellini

If you are lucky enough to have an Italian Market (i.e., Sam’s) nearby, it really is worth the trip.  If not, look for the local brands and check the ingredient list of your pasta before buying it.  My kids love ravioli so I made these tonight but also made a bag of the tri-color tortellini to introduce something new with it. Both were a hit.  Just remember this:

  • Use a large enough pot so the pasta has room to boil around
  • Salt the water generously before boiling
  • Do not overcook – test for ‘al dente’

Sunday Gravy (previously made, see “Sunday Gravy…”)

I always freeze my gravy in small containers so that I can defrost them quickly and in the amount I need.  Try to take the containers out of the freezer in the morning so they will be defrosted by dinner.  If you forget, just heat the frozen container in a pot with a little water until you can pop the sauce out and heat it properly in the pot (obviously with no water in it).

Meatballs:  You were waiting for this one I know it.  Keep in mind that you have to be able to really feel the proper texture of your meatball mixture so don’t be too exact with the measurements on this.  My mom used to actually test her meatball mixture raw before cooking it to ensure just the right amount of ingredients.  Me, not so much….

  • 1 to 1.5 pounds of ground Beef/Pork/Veal OR ground turkey OR plain ground hamburger
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 2 ground cloves of Garlic (or garlic paste)
  • 1/4 cup of Parsley
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 cup of Italian style bread crumbs (or 8 pieces of wet, crustless bread)
  • 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese

Mix ingredients and roll into balls.  Line baking sheet with meatballs and cook on 350 for 10-15 minutes then plop into your pot of gravy.
 My mother and grandmother always fried their meatballs but I like to bake them and swear that nobody knows the difference.

Salad:  Nothing like a green salad with a simple olive oil/red wine vinegar dressing.  Cut some peppers, carrots and cucumbers for color and nutrition.  Buon Appetito!

How Can the Kids Help?

  • Teach them how much to fill up the pot with water
  • Salt the water
  • Test the pasta for doneness.  If cooking spaghetti, you can even throw a piece on your kitchen cabinet, if it sticks – it’s done!
  • Measure and mix meatball mixture – help roll into balls
  • Teach about raw meat and washing hands thoroughly
  • Pick veggies for salad and help cut (if appropriate)
  • Cut and color paper dolls:

Did You Know?

  • Research by Kansas State University recommends that we offer new foods to our children in small amounts along with other already known foods.  We should encourage the child without fuss or punishment behavior to try the new food and repeat this on several occasions until the food is accepted.
  • When Jamie Oliver went to a 1st grade class in Huntington, West Virginia, he brought all kinds of fresh vegetables to test the children’s knowledge.  They did not know what a tomato was, or a potato, or brocoli, or any other vegetable for that matter.  But boy did they recognize ketchup, pizza, and french fries!  How well would your children do on this test?

Filet, Shitake Spinach and Baked Sweet Potatoes

Filet on a Weeknight?
I know you’re thinking “filet on a weeknight?” well before you get too upset at my extravagance, I will tell you that this was leftover (uncooked) from Christmas.   I finally took over Christmas dinner from my mother about 5 years ago.  We always have filet and we always have over 20 family members.  When I first started hosting this meal my parents would buy the filet for me.  They would wait and buy it on sale, wrap and freeze it (up to one month before), and bring it to me defrosted and ready to cook the day before Christmas.  When my mom passed away two years ago, I informed my father that I could handle this filet thing on my own now.  I was all grown up at 37.  I was convinced that only old people with WAY too much time on their hands searched to find meat on sale then took the time to freeze AND defrost it.  Who has that much time anyway?  So, of course, I waited and bought the meat full price 2 days before Christmas, see how easy!  Much to my dismay, I spent a small fortune on my Christmas filet that year (enough to buy over 1000 meals for children in need at ).  Now I may still make more than I need, I am italian afterall, but needless to say, I now spend about 60% less on my Christmas filet.  Why are mothers always right?  Is it possible, can your mother still teach you a lesson even if she is gone?  Yup.

FILET: There is only one recipe for filet as far as I am concerned and that is from the Barefoot Contessa herself.

  1. Rub butter, salt and pepper all over your 4-5 lb. filet (of course, it’s Ina afterall)
  2. Cook on 500 for 25 minutes for medium-rare
  3. Take out of the oven and tightly cover with tin foil at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  4. Meat should be about 140 degrees.

BAKED SWEET POTATOESI always microwave my potatoes for  about 2 minutes before preparing them for the oven.  It speeds the cooking time a lot!  These are so easy and sooo delicious!

  1. Wash potatoes vigorously and poke 3-4 times with fork for ventilation.
  2. Microwave for 2 minutes each (you can cook 2 at a time, 4 mins.)
  3. Place each potato on a piece of tin foil.  Pour a drop of olive oil and kosher/sea salt on the potato and roll it around.
  4. Bake in the oven with your meat at 500 for 25 minutes (test for doneness)
  5. Cut in half and serve with butter

SPINACH w/ shiitake mushrooms:

  1. Pull the tough stems of some of the spinach leaves (only if necessary)
  2. Heat some EVOO and fresh garlic (if you have it) in a large pan
  3. Add a little chicken broth and white wine and mushrooms and simmer for a few minutes (wine will cook off)
  4. Add spinach to pan, stir and cook about 5 more minutes until soft

Spinach w/shitake- YUM!


  1. Boil or microwave broccoli in a little water
  2. Drain and top with butter and salt (so simple, yet sooo good)
  3. Put lid on to stay warm until rest of dinner is ready

How the Kids Can Help

Did You Know: