Category Archives: Family Dinner

Main Meal

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?

Sausage Stuffing – Cranberry/Pear Relish

Thanksgiving Kids Meal

I love Thanksgiving because nobody serves kid food at this meal.  There is simply no time or room in the oven for chicken nuggets.  The kids actually eat the simply prepared foods such as the turkey, corn and sweet potatoes.  You can have one meal for everyone!!!

Two of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes are 1) Sausage Stuffing and
2) Cranberry-Pear Relish.  I have wonderful memories of my mom teaching me how to clean and prepare the turkey and make the stuffing.  Now, I enjoy cooking and teaching my younger cousin how to prepare these special dishes.  Thanksgiving is not just about the food but the traditions and memories associated with the meal.  What Thanksgiving traditions will your children cherish?

Food prepared with love actually does taste better. I hope you enjoy these recipes and that you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sausage Stuffing

  1. Take 1 lb of Italian sausage out of casing and fry in a heavy pan, chopping into bits.
  2. Chop and cook 1 onion and 1 bunch of celery in 1 stick of butter until veggies are soft (you can buy them chopped too).
  3. Add to cooked onion/celery:
  • 1 bag of bread cubes
  • 1 tsp of Poultry Seasoning
  •  ¼ cup of fresh parsley
  • Salt/Pepper
  • Cooked Sausage

4.  Gradually add about 2 cups of chicken broth and stir until moistened.

5.  Place in baking dish.  You can refrigerate for 1-2 days.  Heat on 350 for 30 minutes (add additional broth if needed).

Cranberry Pear Relish

1)  Bring 1 ½ cups of sugar and ½ cup of water to a boil for 5 minutes.

2)  Add the following:

  • 1 bag of cranberries (12 oz)
    2 peeled and diced pears (or canned)
    1 small can of mandarin oranges (optional)
    ½ TSP of allspice and ½ TSP of cinnamon

3)  Stir and continue cooking until thick like jam (about 15 minutes).  Press and “pop” all the cranberries.
4)  Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or days.

Don’t forget to prepare a timeline of tasks to be done to ensure that everything is HOT and ready to serve at the same time – the biggest challenge!

Grilled Herb Pork Tenderloin, Pesto Pasta Salad, Crunchy Veggie Salad

Champagne is Thicker Than Blood

Do you have old family friends that feel more like family than many of your own blood relatives?  I have such fond memories of my second “family” that date back to when I was only about 5 years old.  My “Aunt” and “Uncle” and all their kids generously invited my entire family over for pool parties that included lots of fabulous food (even lobster!), plenty of champagne and an unlimited supply of stories and laughter.  Through the years we have remained connected by our love of food and fun.  Today, as our parents are aging, the “kids” have taken over hosting the parties and now our kids play together.  We may not share a last name, but what we do share is a lifetime of love, laughter and great memories.  In my book, champagne is thicker than blood.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin (I cooked 6 – figure about 3 people per tenderloin)

Marinate Pork:  ½ cup olive oil, 4 cloves of garlic, ¼ cup of white wine, ¼ cup of chicken broth, 2 TBS of fresh chopped rosemary, 1 TBS of Thyme, Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon, Salt/Pepper.  Marinate in Ziploc for 10 mins. or 10 hours.

  • Cook pork on (sprayed) tin foil for about 10-15 minutes on High.
  • Flip and cook for 10-15 mins. on Medium (or turn off middle burner).

Pesto Pasta Salad: 
You can buy basil (or sun-dried tomato) pesto in a jar or tube which is MUCH easier but I try to make a big batch and freeze it.


  • In food processor, combine ¼ cup of pine nuts, 2 cups of packed (dry) basil leaves, 1 TSP of salt, ½ TSP of pepper and 1 clove of garlic.  Pulse until chopped.
  • Keep processor on and gradually add about ½ cup of EVOO (add more as needed) until smooth and creamy.
  • Pour into a bowl and stir in ¼ cup of parmesan cheese and zest/juice of ½ lemon.
  • You can also use it as a dip for the pork.

       Pasta Salad (Little Rotini – curly pasta):

  • Cook 1 pound of pasta and reserve some pasta water.
  • Drain pasta.  Mix 1-2 TBS of pesto into a small bowl and mix with ¼ cup of pasta water.  Stir into pasta.  Repeat again if necessary adding more pesto/pasta water as needed.  Pesto is strong so you don’t need too much.
  • Add a container of grape tomatoes cut in half.  This adds color and sweetness.

Crunchy Veggie Salad:

  • Cut up Peppers (yellow, red, orange), peel and cut celery, slice grape tomatoes and baby carrots.  Finely chop ¼ of onion and add to veggies.
  • Drizzle about 2 TBS of EV olive oil, ¼ cup of red wine vinegar and ¼ cup of rice wine vinegar.
  • Mix with salt, pepper, and some chopped fresh basil leaves.
  • You can make this several hours ahead of time.

Caesar Salad:

  • Cut up Romaine lettuce
  • Add croutons and some good bottled Caesar dressing
  • Toss and serve

Fresh Fruit Salad:  We bought it this time but it’s easy to make (or tell someone else to bring it!)

  • Cut up cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries and pineapple – add blueberries if you have them!
  • Squeeze a drop of lemon (if you add apples to avoid getting brown)

How Can Kids Help?

  • Help measure and mix the pork marinade and pour into the Ziploc bags.
  • Teach kids to smash the garlic to open it and then peel (use a wooden spoon or cake knife).
    Mia saw the garlic had brown spots and said “look mom, the garlic has acne!”.
  • Help using the food processor to make the pesto (ask them to add the oil or press the button to food processor).
  • Help count the colors in the veggie salad – ask them to be a taste tester too!

Did You Know?

The name “pesto” derives from the preparation of the sauce with a pestel and mortar.

Seared Tuna, Grilled Stringbeans/Mushrooms and Edamame Rice

“It’s Not Your Fault Your Fat”

For goodness sake, no wonder everybody struggles with their weight.   Have you been to the big grocery stores lately?  The majority of food is processed and filled with chemicals that are known to cause serious harm to our bodies.  Does a cigarette come with those pizza rolls?  The reality is that cheap food is typically highly processed and faster to cook than fresh (if you don’t know better and haven’t read of course).

Would you go to the beach without sunscreen or worse yet, tan with baby oil (even your face)?  Heck no!  We all look back and can’t believe the damage we did to our skin years ago – but who knew any better?   Ten years from now you will be just as horrified remembering a time when we ate 60 pounds of high fructose corn syrup per year and 40% of all foods in a grocery store had hydrogenated oils in them.

Just like smoking and sun damage, we must educate ourselves on the dangers of certain ingredients and their link to cancer.  Even just a few choices you make today could have a major impact on the health of you and your family.   Try these 3 healthy choices next time you go to the food store:

  1. Eliminate foods with high fructose corn syrup (I can’t get rid of the Heinz ketchup though).  Why?  Read this:
  2. Eliminate foods with any type of hydrogenated oils.  Why? They will eventually kill you and make you fat in the meantime.  Read this:
    • 95% of all cookies and 75% of chips and crackers
    • 70% of all cold cereals and cake mixes and 80% of all frozen breakfast foods
  3. Try to buy your meats and milk free from hormones.  Why?  It “can increase the risk of breast cancer and other reproductive system cancers among women and may promote development of prostate cancer in men”.  Read this:

Grilled Tuna:  This is a variation on the marinade I use for my flank steak recipe. 

  • Take 4 fresh tuna steaks and marinate in a Ziploc for 10 mins. or 2 hours in the fridge.
  • Marinade:  ¼ cup of Soy sauce, 3 cloves of garlic, 3 TBS of brown sugar, ½ TSP of ginger.
    Add a chopped shallot if you have it.
  • Grill on tin foil for 3-7 minutes on High.  Flip and grill for another 3-7 minutes on Medium.  Cook times vary based on how rare you like it cooked.

Grilled String Beans

  • Wash and snip string bean ends (or defrost) and cut grape tomatoes in half.
  • Toss on tin foil w/ olive oil, salt/pepper and garlic powder
  • Grill for about 10 minutes – wrapped/covered in foil.  Stir to avoid sticking/burning.

Grilled Mushrooms

  • Wash or wipe button mushroom clean.  Toss with a drizzle of olive oil, kosher salt/pepper and grill on tin foil for about 10 minutes.

Avocado/Tomato Salad = Avato Salad

  • Cut one avocado into cubes and slice grape tomatoes in half.
  • Toss with ½ fresh lime, olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt/pepper.

Edamame Rice

  • Brown rice takes a while to cook so you can use instant (10 mins.) or buy it cooked and frozen from Trader Joes or just make a large batch and freeze it yourself.
  • Defrost some edamame.
  • Cook/defrost rice.  Add a drop of soy sauce and edamame and stir.
  • You could also add some lemon zest and tarragon for a french vs. asian flare.

What Can Kids Do to Help?

Did You Know?

The consumption of canned tuna accounts for more Americans eating tuna than any other type of fish.

Grilled Turkey Breast, Honey Roasted Carrots and Sweet Potatoes, Crunchy Salad

Food Shapes Character

What traditions were important to you as a child?  What traditions are important to you as a parent?  Whenever it’s somebody’s birthday or Mother’s/Father’s Day or just any random Sunday night, my local family, “the core” (that’s my sister, her kids, my dad, my husband and our kids) will enjoy a nice sit-down dinner.  On special occasions, we all watch, joke and laugh as the guest of honor opens all their cards (some hand-made by the kids) and opens their presents.

I truly enjoy watching my children say grace, eat (of course the family dinner) and listen to the conversations at the table.  As they mature, it’s fun to watch them interject their own opinions or comments into the exchange.  They don’t know it yet, but these nights are just as character-forming (if not more) as the college they select or the job they choose.  Now I do know that these dinners give my children confidence and shape their character but what I don’t know is how much of the dinner conversation they will actually remember – I can only hope for the best.

Grilled Turkey Breast:  This was the fastest, most delicious turkey breast I ever made.  I bought a 5-6 pound turkey breast and cut off the string that held it tightly together (otherwise it’s too thick).  You can grill the breast flat or I loosely tied it to keep it moist inside.

Marinade:  Mix about ¼ cup of EV olive oil with some herbs (basil, rosemary, thyme), salt/pepper and pour it over the turkey breast.  Let marinate for 10 mins. or 10 hours in a Ziploc bag.

  • Grill on some tin foil on MEDIUM for 20 minutes each side.
  • Take off the grill and cover with tin foil for 10 minutes.

Honey Roasted Carrots

  • Peel carrots and cut into slices about 2 inches
  • Toss with a little EV olive oil, salt/pepper and honey
  • Roast for 30 minutes or until tender

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • Peel sweet potatoes and cut in half – then slice into wedges.
  • Lay on a baking sheet (line w/ parchment paper for easy clean-up) and toss with a sprinkle of brown sugar and salt/pepper.
  • Roast for 30 minutes or until tender.

Crunchy Salad:

  • Cut up some grape tomatoes, orange peppers, cucumbers and celery.
  • Toss with some fresh basil, EV olive oil, salt/pepper and red wine vinegar.

How Can the Kids Help?

Did You Know?

  • Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added to it
  • Brown sugar has less calories than white sugar.
  • A slice of apple or a few drops of water will loosen hard brown sugar in the bag.
  • Sweet Potato Plant:

Broiled Flounder, Tin Foil Veggies, Tarragon Potatoes, Shallot Spinach

Surprise – No Grill Gas!

Can someone please tell me why it is such a complete surprise when you uncover the grill (raw dinner in hand),and realize, after pressing the igniter about 10 times, that there is not even enough gas left to light a candle for your table.  I guess it’s the same feeling I find, after using the bathroom, that there is not a stitch of toilet paper left.  Perhaps, it’s the same surprise I get when we show up to our son’s first piano recital and, can you guess, the battery is dead in the camera.  I guess my husband and I could benefit from being more organized, more prepared, more structured in our daily lives.  But then I think of this quote by Leo F. Buscaglia:

“Love withers with predictability; its very essence is surprise and amazement.  To make love a prisoner of the mundane is to take its passion and lose it forever.”

I smile and think, “who needs the grill tonight after all?”.

Broiled Flounder:  Each piece of fish uses a separate piece of tin foil so mix up the toppings.

  • Lay a piece of flounder on tin foil and drizzle some EV olive oil on top/bottom.  Flip the thin tail underneath so the fish is about the same thickness across).
  • Chop some fresh herbs (or dried) basil, parsley and/or thyme – whatever you like.
  • Squeeze some fresh (or bottled) lemon juice and a splash of white wine (if you have it).
  • I added some leftover calamata olives and grape tomatoes to my 2nd piece of fish.
  • Broil for about 10-15 minutes.

Tin Foil Veggies:

  • Slice a zucchini (into spears), and some colored bell peppers and tossed with olive oil, shallots, salt/pepper on a piece of tin foil.
  • Covered and poked holes and broiled for 10-15 minutes.

Spinach w/Shallots

  • Cook some shallots up in a little EV olive oil in a large pan.
  • Add fresh spinach and toss w/ salt/pepper (add 1-2 TBS of water if needed).  Cook for about 5 minutes.

Tarragon Potatoes

  • Wash and slice baby red potatoes in half. Boil for about 10-15 minutes.
  • Toss with EV olive oil, salt/pepper and a little tarragon (fresh or dried).

How Can the Kids Help?

Did You Know?

  • In Iran, crushed shallots are often eaten in yogurt.
  • Shallots are very high in vitamin C, potassium, fiber, folic acid, calcium, iron and is also a good source of protein
  • The body can digest the shallot much easier than it can an onion.

Grilled Fish Trio, Grilled Snow Peas/Portobello and Rice Pilaf

Falling Through the Cracks

When I grill food on tin foil, it feels as liberating as serving dinner on paper plates.  The kids like it because they don’t get too much of that charcoal taste and texture (yes, they don’t like the black stuff).  I like it because I simply just throw it away after the food is cooked– no cleaning pots/pans or serving dishes.  No matter what it is, veggies, steak, chicken, pork and fish – it all works on tin foil.  And the best part is, you don’t have to worry about stuff falling through the cracks and you still get some grill marks and delicious grill taste.  Now if it could only catch the things on my “to do” list from falling through the cracks….

Grilled Fish:  While not a fan of cooking multiple main courses, my kids and I picked 3 different fishes at the market today, “I want salmon, no I want swordfish, no I want…!”.  The customer next to us said to me, “I have never seen children so excited about fish before!”. 

Grilled Teriyaki Salmon:

  • Put a piece of Salmon on tin foil and pour a little teriyaki sauce on top (and bottom), sprinkle with ginger powder, pepper and some fresh garlic cloves.
  • Wrap in tin foil and grill for 7-8 minutes.

Grilled Swordfish:

  • Cut a piece of swordfish in half and place on tin foil (with a little EVOO on bottom).  Pour a little EV Olive oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic clove and splash of white wine on top.
  • Wrap in tin foil and grill for 8-10 minutes.

Grilled Flounder

  • Place flounder on tin foil (fold thin sides under to cook evenly).  Pour a little EV olive oil, salt/pepper, garlic clove, fresh lemon and spices (I used thyme and parsley).
  • Wrap in tin foil and grill for 6-7 minutes.

Grilled Grape Tomatoes

  • Place grape tomatoes on tin foil.  Toss with EV olive oil, salt, pepper (and fresh basil if you have it.  FYI it will turn black on grill).
  • Wrap in tin foil and grill for about 10 mins.

Snow Peas

  • Wash and take strings off snow peas.  Place on tin foil and toss with salt/pepper, fresh garlic and ginger powder.
  • Wrap in tin foil and grill for about 10 mins.

Portobello Mushrooms

  • Slice mushrooms and place on tin foil.  Toss with EV Olive oil, salt/pepper and grill for about 10 minutes.

Rice Pilaf:

  • Cook rice pilaf (Far East brand) according to directions (does take about 30 min.)

How Can the Kids Help?

  • Smash the garlic clove
  • Pick and/or sprinkle herbs on fish
  • Squeeze the lemon wedge on fish
  • Help wash veggies (teach importance of washing food)
  • Measure and pour rice pilaf ingredients
  • Fish coloring/activity pages:

Did You Know?

  • To get Omega 3 in eggs, farmers force hens to eat flaxseed (fish oil).  Don’t bother, just eat fish instead.
  • If Omega 3 is “added” to your food, chances are it wasn’t meant to be in there in the first place.  Just eat fish!

Now THAT was good!