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Mary Beth's Blog

I want to eat real food. I want my family to eat real food. Armed with this plan, I know I can do it. I am a real person, with real kids in a regular ol' kitchen cranking out dinner. Find out my inspiration for the menus, what's happening in my kitchen, and the achievements on the kid-friendly front.

Take Your Own Advice

2016-09-17
 
If I’ve said it once I’ve said it 1000 times. You must plan to be successful. Don’t we say this to our kids all the time?
 
You have to study – and plan to study – to be successful on your test.
 
You have to practice to be successful at sports, theater, art, skateboarding, driving (!) etc.
 
You have to create a routine to be successful at bedtime, getting ready for school in the morning, or remembering your chores.
 
You have to make a plan to achieve the things that matter to you. Things like exercising, seeing friends, volunteering or getting to church. Just because they matter to you doesn’t get it done. You have to have a plan.
 
Eating a healthy, delicious dinner should be easier than it is especially since unlike any of the above, we have to eat! But, without a plan, we end up making different decisions than we’d like too. We either spend too much money on a single meal, we eat food that might not be as healthy as we’d like or – the worst – we miss the opportunity to be home, at our own table for 20 minutes with our crew.
 
Real Family Real Food to the rescue! We have four nights already mapped out. Just go to the store and sock it away in the fridge. You are 90% there.  Whether you choose all four or just one, you will feel better about this one thing that you did for yourself and your crew this week. I promise....
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The Most Hits

2016-09-09
This week's plan is a rerun from year's past. It is also the most searched and downloaded week this September!   Enjoy!

‚ÄčLet’s make this proclamation.
 
We won’t sacrifice flavor, or quality or health for time.
 
Sounds easy enough but it’s not. I decided a few years ago that I would cook at home more than eat out.
 
There are several reasons for this decision and they are best summarized in an article that I tore out, once again at the doctor’s office: “it tastes better, it reduces preservative intake, it’s more nutritious, and it’s often substantially cheaper than what you find in the store. It does take time, but once you get used to it, most food preparation doesn’t take much more time than going to the store - again, buying it, taking it home, popping it out of the package, and following the directions.”
 
One of the most beneficial reasons for me to cook at home is that I am…at home.  When my day outside of the house is done, the last thing I want to do is go to the store or stand in a line for dinner. Ugggh. I want to be home. I want my kids to see how to care for themselves by cooking real food, not just living a grab-n-go existence. Now, don’t get that twisted. This is not a judgement – I use plenty of time saving, real food products to get the job done. We eat a lot of hot sandwiches and wraps around here but they are full of real food that I took the time to prepare myself. They are free for unwanted sugar, fat and any other “enhancements”.
 
Start slow. Maybe make a plan to cook 1, 2 or 3 days a week. You will be amazed – it tastes better, is more nutritious and is cheaper – I promise....
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A Little Horn Tootin'

2016-08-19
Last week I challenged MYSELF to have the kids cook dinner each night. Here’s the report:
 
Sunday: We printed the Shopping List and 12 YO and I hit the market. Lots of good choices – she even selected a “peach tasting” (4 varieties) to try as snacks during our marathon Olympic viewing.
 
Monday: They knocked out the chili in splendid fashion. By this I mean loud music, minimal bickering and a few tips for me to tweak the recipe. They also learned that this is a great meal to fix when we stagger our dinnertimes – Dad wasn’t home until late but still enjoyed a hot, real food dinner.
 
Tuesday: Music is back on – loud! They made the pesto ravioli and truly did it together – my plan is working! Look at them…working together…enjoying it…then eating together…just the two of them…priceless.
 
Wednesday: Blew Up. Nobody home. That’s why the plan is only 4 nights folks.
 
Thursday: My baby is outside grilling! Sissy Biggs at the stove hovering over her rice and learning to prep the pineapple. We were all home to sit down to a lovely dinner prepared by our kids with zero complaints and lots of kudos. Leftovers went right in to the fridge for wraps tomorrow.
 
All in all I would declare it a success. They really did all of the cooking. And, they want to do more – together! I asked if perhaps we could work out a little schedule each month that goes something like this-
 
WEEK 1: I cook.
WEEK 2: I cook with my baby (my 12YO baby)
WEEK 3: I cook with Biggs
WEEK 4: They cook together
 
I almost cried when they BOTH said “Absolutely!”
 
And ….. scene....
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Where the Rubber Meets the Road

2016-07-08
*** Minor Non-Food Rant Alert *** Feel Free to Skip to the Food ***
 
Sometimes you just have to decide who you are as a person. I understand that we are all still influenced and ever evolving, but there are core standards that you choose to live by – or not.  I have been up close and personal to the best of people and the worst this week. I have watched the horrific, shameful events of the last few days on TV. It represents the worst of all of us – not just one group – all of us. I am trying to imagine being the mother of a young, black man or police officer. Both must be frightened this morning – in fact, every morning. I worry about hidden sugar in food. They worry if their sons will be actually make it home to dinner.
 
I have also been exposed to another ickyness  - kid friendships. Kids reach forks in the road. They are all maturing at different rates – physically, emotionally and socially.  It’s exciting to meet new people and it’s natural to make new friends. Sometimes, some old friends may take off and leave others behind. Some may venture out to new kids who they have more in common with or may hold on tight to the familiar old pals. I see both of my kids struggling at times and it’s all a part of growing up.
 
Both the shootings and the kids stuff made me think about my own family and the lessons both to be reinforced and those be learned. Both our national problem and the kid stuff speak to the same issues. You just have to decide who you are as a person. Are you kind? Are you generous of heart? Are you considerate of the other person’s circumstances or feelings? Do you respect the humanity in others? Are you an includer? What do you value in people? Are you a homebody? Do you need others to feed your soul? These are all things I think about and then realize that by my choices, I am teaching my children how to navigate the world.
 
I spoke of “the best of people” above. I have seen witnesses to the shootings, black and white alike, tremble in horror and fury. Likewise, I was sharing some kid issues with two pals this week and they cried. They cried big, fat tears for MY child. That is how I feel this morning for the mothers of the murdered young men, both in uniform and out.
 
To be clear, our problems as a people are my problems. I can’t control the world - or the hidden sugars! – but I can control me. I will do my very best to send kind, generous, thoughtful little people into this world.
 
OK, that’s it. I feel better – a little ;)...
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I Heart the 4th

2016-07-01
This was my absolute favorite holiday when I was growing up on the coast of Connecticut (OK, of the non-gift receiving type). Tall ship regattas, fireworks off the islands, traditional clambakes, decorating my bike for the parade from the town square to the beach, fife and drum corps, ringing of the town bell ... this is the 4th to me. Now, that I am in CA, I love BBQ’s, hand-cranked ice cream, pool parties and of course, from LA to SF - the traditional shooting of your handguns!?! Damn near had a heart attack my first year here.
 
In my hometown, the traditional fare was of the sea and we never veered - why would we? The day started with a trip in the Whaler out to lobster pots and then to the docks to meet the boat for Bluefish and clams. Then we were off to the Bower Brothers Farm  - for their fresh picked corn and tart blueberries. I don't think I have ever felt more connected to the land and sea as I did in those days. It is my hope to get my family back to that - but I digress... My peeps were down. We were 'keepin' it real' ... and allthewhile doing so in our matching headband, belt, Bermuda bag sets ... sheesh.
 
Now, that I have been here in CA for 20+ years, I have to say that I embrace the melting pot version of this holiday.  This week the plan includes a kicked up guacamole, Pacific West inspired shortribs, my Mom’s summertime crab coup and a steak sammie smothered in cheese and peppers. 
 
Summer is in full swing and we are all relishing a weekend without commitments and we are enjoying the earth’s bounty. If you can, get some corn and tomatoes from the California’s Central Valley - Ah-may-zing! If you are back East - get some Jersey tomatoes and corn from Connecticut. They are amazing.
 
Lastly, let’s all cherish and remember that it’s what we all have in common that makes this country strong - beer and fireworks!  And John Phillip Sousa! And the Grateful Dead! It's gonna be a great day....
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People Change, I Am One of Those People

2016-06-10
My 7YO niece just told me a story about her little friend who wanted to “break up” because she didn’t like to play with blondes anymore. Can you imagine?? She capped off the exchange with “People change and I’m one of those people.” Seriously? I mean there’s a speck of me that admires her self-aware sass -- but they are first graders!
 
Now, literally today, I am confronted with the contrast. I am with a group of gal pals – my college posse. I haven’t seen a two of them in 15 years and one since graduation.  You know what? We don’t change.  We really don’t. We have fallen right in line. The smarty is still whip smart, the pithy wit is as sharp as the day we met, the "mom" is still equal parts adoring and critical, the actress is as loving and needy as ever, the artsy free spirit is an entrepeneurial juggernaut, the anti-establishment world citizen is fantastically self actualized, and the serial dater has her man with her. We are all independent, opinionated women. We are mothers, daughters, wives, girlfriends, caretakers, businesswomen, authors, artists, animal lovers, survivors, partygirls and loyal friends. In fact, I'm finding that we each have a slice of eachother in ourselves. That's not an accident.  It's perfect.
 
I adore each one of these women with my whole heart. Why? Because they kept it REAL, yo! They are REAL FAMILY.  As much as my taste in people may have evolved, these peeps are a true crew. My OGs.
 
This week I am reppin’ them with few few old school Real Family Real Food hits. Enjoy!

PS Have you noticed our changes?? What do you think?...
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Drum Roll Please!

2016-06-07
 
What’s new about Real Family Real Food? It’s free! That’s right, Real Family Real Food is free. As of today, you will no longer be charged for your membership.
 
As most of you know, Real Family Real Food started when I just wanted to help out a few pals that needed a plan. I just wanted to lighten their load. Little did I know how many of you would want to join in the fun. I love hearing about all of your dinnertime triumphs. And now, I am so happy to be able to lighten even more loads.
 
I hope that this will encourage you to share with your pals, family, neighbors – anybody. Just click on the Tell a Friend button and share away!
 ...
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Drum Roll Please!

2016-06-07
What’s new about Real Family Real Food? It’s free! That’s right, Real Family Real Food is free. As of today, you will no longer be charged for your membership.
 
As most of you know, Real Family Real Food started when I just wanted to help out a few pals that needed a plan. I just wanted to lighten their load. Little did I know how many of you would want to join in the fun. I love hearing about all of your dinnertime triumphs. And now, I am so happy to be able to lighten even more loads.
 
I hope that this will encourage you to share with your pals, family, neighbors – anybody. Just click on the Tell a Friend button and share away!
 ...
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Pardon Our Dust

2016-06-03













 Hold on to your bonnets! We are almost ready to reveal RFRF 2.0.
 
Next week, we will be making changes to the Real Family Real Food site. There may be a few glitches during the week so we suggest that you download any or all of this week’s plan prior to Monday as it may now be accessible.
 
I hope that you enjoy this lovely weekend with your families.
 
Mary Beth...
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One Smart Mama

2016-04-26
 My good pal and OG Real Family Real Food member just laid this gem on me.
 
As a busy, working mom of three, she has assigned each person in the house one night to make dinner. That includes Dad, the Sophomore, the 8th grader and even the 6th grader – I saw the pics of him grilling pork chops with my own eyes!
 
Yup, that’s right everybody is cooking. This Mama is dropping some serious knowledge on her crew. Here’s what is really happening:
 
  • Meal planning and recipe research
  • Appreciation for ingredients in their real, whole form
  • Self sufficiency – keeps them out of the quickie mart aisles
  • Cooking is sharing your generosity with others
  • Accolades from the whole family
  • Appreciation for what goes into putting that dang dinner on the dang table each dang night
 
Oh, and how about that fact that Mama can sous chef or even just pull up a chair? Genius.
 
How can we all take a page from this forward thinking gal? Let’s start by getting our kids to help with the grocery shopping and ingredient selection. Or helping with chopping, mixing, tasting, etc. It all informs their future – and ours!
 
Let me know how it goes…
 
MB...
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Its Good To Be Grown Up

2015-09-04

One of my littles declared this a few days ago and it reminded me of a story. We got a real kick out of it a dinner.
 
A few years ago, we stopped the kid menu thing. They were so boring – chicken fingers (fingers ?), mac n’ cheese,  pizza - and nary a veggie. No matter where we went, it was largely the same. Plus, they were always eating our “adult” food and leaving the “kid-friendly” dishes barely touched.  How many $12 noodles with butter can one take? So, we stopped. We let them choose their dinner from the regular menu.
 
The first time we tried it we were on vacation in San Diego at famous seaside steak house. When it was our time to be seated, we waived off the kid menus. The hostess didn’t know what to make us – weirdos.  She probably felt bad for my kids. We sat down and everybody read their big tall leather bound menus. They asked a few good questions.  What is au poive? What is “lump” crabmeat? Then it was time to order.
 
First up – my youngest.
“Are you ready to order?”
“Yes, please. I’d like the clam chowder and the caesar salad with lumpy crab. “
Well played. I was beaming! We are rock star parents!
 
Next up, SP (Super Picky).
“And, for you?”
“Thank you, I’ll have the Surf… and Turf!” Wah? Screeech! Ummm, ok?
While not a fail, we weren’t taking any victory laps either. I quickly switched my order to the house salad.
 
LESSON LEARNED: Discuss the dishes before the waiter arrives.
 
TIP: Try choosing appetizers or  “small plates” as the portions are just the right size.
 
BONUS: Often, their orders surprise me. I get to see what different kinds of things they are willing to try.  
 
FULL DISCLOSURE: My kids were 7 and 11 when this all went down.
 
So, listen, I’m certainly not preaching here. Just sharing some stories from my real family’s trenches. My real family also ate at Pasta Pomodoro at least once a week for four years solid. I didn’t care what penne with butter and cheese cost. I was just so glad that my Chianti came out first and that someone else was cleaning up that high chair mess.   Just keeping it real, Yo....
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UPDATE

2015-05-29
We are so sorry for the current difficulties that new members are having with access to the site as well as those attempting to join. Please know that we are working around the clock to get everyone back on track.  ...
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Hey, How Do You Do That?

2015-05-08

My crew likes to travel and when we travel we like to eat local. Whether it’s a food truck, strip mall, end of the dock or alley, we don’t care – we want to go where the locals go. That’s where you find the good stuff. We’ve had Dorado fish tacos in Cabo, oysters on the Cape, pizza in New Haven on Wooster Street. We can have mac n’ cheese and chicken at home – we want to try the indigenous, treasured dishes.
 
We were in Kauai a few weeks ago and sampled the local fare – tons of ono, poke, local beef and Kalua pig. There was this awesome food truck that made Kalua pork. I asked them  “ Hey, how do you do that?” We got SO much info!  Kalua is the method by which the pig is cooked in an imu or underground oven  - a whole dug in the ground, lined with mesquite wood and banana leaves, covered with hot rocks and dirt. This is what you are served at a traditional luau. SO glad I asked!
 
Lucky for us on the mainland, Sam Choy has developed a Kalua pork recipe using the Hawaiian Alaea red salt and bacon to mimic the smoky, salty flavor of the imu. But, we can use our slowcooker! We had a feast of Kalua pork, pineapple, rice and bok choy – just the way we had it on Kauai – ok, minus the macaroni salad and the balmy breeze and mai tais and the slack guitar jams – c’mon it was a Tuesday night!
 
I hope you will give this one a whirl – it will bring you right to Hawaii. A head’s up – the pork cooks on LOW for 13-14 hours so plan accordingly. Aloha....
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MY MASTER PLAN

2015-05-01

My oldest is a teenager and is already thinking about what she is going to eat when she’s off to college and I’m not cooking! Go figure, she’s a planner like her Mom.
 
This latest revelation of hers fits right into my master plan to get my kids to eventually do everything around here.  They’ve been doing the dishes since 3rd Grade and their own laundry since 5th Grade – and now they can start cooking once a week – yessss.  The little one shows real promise  - I think she can start even sooner – as long as we want to eat dessert for dinner.
 
So my oldest shadowed me this week and honestly it was awesome. She understands how simple, real, delicious, healthy food is selected and prepared. Take Tuesday’s Eye-of-Round Roast – salt, pepper, 20 minutes at 500º, turn off the oven and then just walk away. She was imagining all the things that she would do with the leftovers (my heart is soaring). Or, how about Wednesday’s whole wheat Pizza Blanca loaded with veggies or Monday’s Shrimp Tostadas? Both quick, yummy, crowd friendly dinners that can be prepared on a tight budget.
 
As much as I am counting down the days until she really makes dinner and I can just enjoy it, the best part is knowing that she is even thinking about it. Now she’s concerned that she needs all of her favorite recipes and my tips…ummm, hey, like, I know a website?!?!...
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How to Get Away with Dinner

2015-03-25

Pssst…this week’s plan has a few of my favorite tricks that help me get a yummy, healthy dinner on the table. Tuesday’s pasta sauce, a hearty beef and pork ragu, morphs into Thursday’s chili over a freshly baked potato. Wednesday’s Carrot-Ginger soup is very simply simmered on the stovetop and then finished off in the blender. And, the dinner rolls are made with store-bought whole wheat pizza dough – seriously!
 
Gotta dash…have a wonderful holiday weekend....
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Slow Cooker Groove

2015-03-13

I’m in one right now – a slow cooker groove. I left mine out on the countertop and it continues to inspire. It’s super satisfying to prep the ingredients, set the slowcooker, and then walk away. Then, how awesome to walk in the door to a clean kitchen and dinner cooking – hands free.  I actually take the time to set the table – myself!
 
Since I’m in the slow cooker zone and it’s St Patty’s Day, I found a method to combine the two and it’s by far the best corned beef I have ever made. The addition of fresh thyme, chicken broth and mustard seeds elevated it from the traditional “Irish boiled dinner” that I have always mimicked. Even the vegetables were delicious. But, as good as it was as a St. Patricks dinner, the leftovers that became reuben sandwiches are killer – not to be missed.
 
Finally, and perhaps the most meaningful part of this week’s dinner, was the opportunity to remember, share stories and photos of my grandmother and her Stanley clan. I can see her in all of our faces.
 
Have a great week and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!...
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If it Ain't Broke

2015-02-27

We are sticking with our recent back to basics theme this week. Who eats something different every night? Not real families, not my family.
 
The ones that I like to roll out over and over must be easy to prepare, nutritionally balanced family favorites like this week’s Chicken Cacciatore and omelettes. I know, omelettes? Yup. I taught my daughter’s Girl Scout troop to make them and now she’s cooking dinner – and she’s psyched to do it! I’m a genius.
 
On another note, I have received a ton of requests over the past few weeks for recipes that work for folks who are gluten free, dairy free, or nixing sugar. This week’s recipes satisfy all of these or are very easily adaptable  - even at the last minute. Skip the egg noodles on Tuesday and serve with roasted cauliflower or even brown rice. Omelettes can be cooked in a bit of olive oil just as easily as butter. And, wait until you try that dressing on the Southwest Salad – creamy, herby, tart – boom.
 
Thanks to everyone that has been sending me your Real Family Real Food repeat requests too– I’m really enjoying hearing what’s working for you and your real families.
 
Have a wonderful weekend.
 
PS For the record, I see gold and white.  I’m either super dope or a super dope. We’ll see....
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Jacques & Julia

2015-02-06

Jacques Pepin, Julia Child and I go way back. I have watched them on PBS for 30+ years. They both insist on high quality, fresh, real, local ingredients and while classically trained accomplished chefs, they use simple techniques when preparing a weeknight dinner. There are two things that I remember them saying and I am putting them into practice tis week.  
 
Sometimes I like to let the supermarket be my prep cook. –Jacques Pepin
 
Preach! Sometimes time is tight or ingredients are scarce. Or, how about that I just plain don’t feel like it? This week we are sourcing fresh pesto for pasta, tomatillo salsa for soup and pie dough for quiche – all from the refrigerated cases at the market - done.
 
Oh Dearie, dainty just won’t do in the kitchen. –Julia Child
 
Word. Can’t you just hear her? We’ll put this into play on Tuesday when we roast a whole chicken. It’s so simple, so elegant and Man, your house will smell SO good. It’s great for a weeknight as well as when you are delivering a meal.
 
So see? Those fancy pants chefs are real cooks too. It can’t be Duck a l’Orange and Beef Wellington every night.
 
BONUS TIP: As I am a Yankee and both Jacques and Julia transplanted to New England (one to my hometown!), here’s a nod to our shared frugality. You just can’t throw away the prep scraps and roasted bones.
 
  • Before you start, place a stockpot filled with 2-3 quarts of water on the stovetop.
  • As you prep the veggies, dump the scraps in the pot – ends, skins and all.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of salt, another chopped carrot and celery if you have it, a quartered onion, a bay leaf, a tablespoon of peppercorns and the leftover tarragon. Do not add the lemon.
  • After dinner, remove the remaining meat from the bones for Thursday’s soup, remove the lemon and chuck all of the bones in the pot.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce to medium low heat and let her rip for 1 ½-2 hours.
  • Strain into a large bowl, cool the broth and freeze flat, in 2-4 cup measurements  - I like quart sized ziptop bags.
 
One chicken, 2 dinners, 2 quarts of delicious, homemade stock. ...
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Practice, Practice, Practice

2015-01-30

We all know the old joke about Carnegie Hall, but we also know it’s true. To be successful at anything requires practice.
 
My Mom was a fantastic cook – some might even put her in the gourmet catagory. But, you know what? Let’s be honest, she got a ton of practice. We only went out to eat 1 -2 times a month – my kids eat out 1-2 times a week! While she didn’t have the widest repertoire, what she did create was truly scrumptious. I’d like to make that my goal. I realize that I am not going to get there by constantly making something brand new every night. There will have to be solid, go-to repeats, that I can work on each time I make them.
 
The difference between what is good, very good and exceptional can be found in repetition. A chef must master the basics before he can create something that is truly exceptional, and the only way to master something is to repeat the process many times, honing your skills and making slight changes to your methods until you have reached your own version of perfection.  -- Chef Alex Atala
 
Yes, Chef! It’s on. I am going to comb over the last 2 ½ years of Real Family Real Food recipes and bring back some favorites so we can practice our “technique” for getting dinner on the table. This week it’s a quick meat ragu, 10- minute sweet potato pancakes and a bright, tropical salsa. Maybe you'll try a little balsamic vinegar or dried herbs in the ragu? Or, orange juice insted of lime in the salsa?  No matter what, these are all good ones to have in your back pocket.
 
Have a great week!...
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Orange You Happy?

2015-01-23

I am! Lucky me (again!) that I have another neighbor who's tree is bursting with Valencia oranges. 

I love winter citrus and there are just so many choices at the market these days. They bring such a welcome scent of sweet freshness to these gloomy, grWhen it comes to getting dinner to the table, it takes a game plan to get it done.  Huddle Up. I’m going to break it down.
 
Monday it’s Hoisin Scallops. As many of our members do their shopping on Sunday evening or Monday morning, this dinner needs to be a quickie – you might even consider purchasing frozen rice as an added time saver.
 
Tuesday is our cooking day and this dinner is the perfect reward for our time spent in the kitchen.  It’s Raspberry-Thyme Chicken with Wild Rice Almandine and it is killer.  While the rice bakes, we will have time not only to make the rest of dinner but set up the rest of our week – c’mon, we’re cooking and making the mess anyway. Right after you pop the rice in the oven, prep the ingredients for Wednesday’s soup and stash them in the fridge. After dinner, while the kids do the dishes, pack up the extra chicken. Now it’s ready and waiting for dinner on Thursday.
 
On Wednesday, we are letting the slow cooker do the work - Hot & Sour Soup. Since the prep was done yesterday, take 5 minutes to plunk it all in and you’re off!
 
Thursday’s Almond-Kale Salad (with Thyme Chicken) is my oldest daughter’s favorite and I’ve included it by her request. I’m also doing the Whole Life Challenge again and this meal is completely compliant, very filling and packs so much bright, tangy, roasted, fresh crunch that I always wish that I made more.
 
Head’s up. Be ready for the breakaway. The Real Family Real Food plan is just that - a plan.  We all know that life happens and Tuesday might happen on Sunday, Monday might happen Tuesday, scallops might have to be shrimp.  The point is to take the chore of planning off your massive list of things to do and know that since you’ve already done the shopping, it’s all there ready to go – when you are.
 
So there’s our play-by-play for getting real food to our real families in real time this week.
 
Ready? Break!ey days. I’ve included oranges in most of the dishes this week but try some others – limes, Meyer lemons, Valencia oranges, clementines, or grapefruit. Give a good sniff at the market - you will feel better immediately. Sub them in your dressing, squeeze over a salad or your cocktail– c’mon, live a little!
 
How about a Buddha’s Hand for your kitchen table? It smells deelish and brings a little of the outside in.
 
We have a wonderful small batch supplier here in the Bay Area Alta Crest Fruit Company. It's a fantastic group of kids that are working very hard to deliver a great product - and they are succeeding! And, just wait for their avocados - Oh, Man. They are a truly special variety, huge, creamy, a touch sweet and unlike anything out there. Check them out.
 
Have a great week!...
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Bring It

2015-01-23

When it comes to getting dinner to the table, it takes a game plan to get it done.  Huddle Up. I’m going to break it down.
 
Monday it’s Hoisin Scallops. As many of our members do their shopping on Sunday evening or Monday morning, this dinner needs to be a quickie – you might even consider purchasing frozen rice as an added time saver.
 
Tuesday is our cooking day and this dinner is the perfect reward for our time spent in the kitchen.  It’s Raspberry-Thyme Chicken with Wild Rice Almandine and it is killer.  While the rice bakes, we will have time not only to make the rest of dinner but set up the rest of our week – c’mon, we’re cooking and making the mess anyway. Right after you pop the rice in the oven, prep the ingredients for Wednesday’s soup and stash them in the fridge. After dinner, while the kids do the dishes, pack up the extra chicken. Now it’s ready and waiting for dinner on Thursday.
 
On Wednesday, we are letting the slow cooker do the work - Hot & Sour Soup. Since the prep was done yesterday, take 5 minutes to plunk it all in and you’re off!
 
Thursday’s Almond-Kale Salad (with Thyme Chicken) is my oldest daughter’s favorite and I’ve included it by her request. I’m also doing the Whole Life Challenge again and this meal is completely compliant, very filling and packs so much bright, tangy, roasted, fresh crunch that I always wish that I made more.
 
Head’s up. Be ready for the breakaway. The Real Family Real Food plan is just that - a plan.  We all know that life happens and Tuesday might happen on Sunday, Monday might happen Tuesday, scallops might have to be shrimp.  The point is to take the chore of planning off your massive list of things to do and know that since you’ve already done the shopping, it’s all there ready to go – when you are.
 
So there’s our play-by-play for getting real food to our real families in real time this week.
 
Ready? Break!...
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A Little Twist

2015-01-10
This week’s plan just works. Nothing to fancy, just straightforward preparations and familiar flavors. Each night has an old favorite and a little twist. Let’s get to the play by play.
 
Monday leads off with Cornflake Cod. My Gram lived in Boston her entire life and this is one my favorites of hers. The twist? I added her succotash recipe. Who doesn’t love saying succotash?  
 
Tuesday is the doubler day when we are cooking a little extra to save time later in the week. This preparation of the roasted beef is my Mom’s method.  I found it in one of her recipe boxes. It’s super easy and the twist? Those roasted tomatoes – oh my God.  You’ve got to enjoy them on top of the warm sliced beef.
 
I found Wednesday‘s pasta recipe in a magazine while sitting at the pediatrician’s office a bazillion years ago. I’ve been tossing Brie on hot pasta ever since. It’s buttery but with a subtle sweetness and with the mushrooms? C’mon. The twist? Not so much a twist but what I had around – baby arugula.  Now it’s a one-pot meal. Boom.
 
Thursday’s Hot Beef Subs were the inspiration for roasting the beef. The roast is fabulous but we just love a hot sub over here.  What? I’m just keeping it real. And the twist? I added pepperoncini to the peppers and onions.
 
So no fun quotes or quips this week. No pearls of food wisdom or revelatory research. Just a solid plan for real families to enjoy some real food. Straight up. Sometimes you just got to get back to basics, put your head down and cook dinner. Wait, was that one? Jeez, I can’t help myself…...
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Follow Your Bliss

2015-01-02 | 1 comment

This past month I saw a gal do something that I found tremendously scary. She joined a singing group - and she even performed live on stage!  Can you imagine? There they were – a dozen Moms singing away with their hearts on their sleeves. But, as moved as I was by their courage, it was the example they were setting for their kids that really got me. They are following their bliss.
 
Another gal rekindled her running bug, just running little bits but then she ran a half marathon and there were her kids at the finish line – beaming with pride. Another wrote and self published a book – and it’s selling!
 
It really makes me think - my kids are watching all my choices. My choices with my time, my words, and yes, even my food. While they are not all blissful choices, at least a few include volunteering, saying please and thank you and cooking real food. Whether I brought dinner to a friend or picked up an extra carpool shift. Or, cleaned their rooms without mentioning it later. No matter what it was, they saw me doing something for someone else.  
 
This is my bliss. I love to cook but even more, I love to feed. I get the same rush as the gal on stage or the one crossing the finish line when I make and deliver a yummy meal to a pal. I’m completely over the moon when I here someone tried a Real family Real Food dinner menu and it was a hit!  Then I’ve hit the daily double – I get to share my passion for family dinnertime and they get the satisfaction and kudos!
 
I encourage you to rekindle and follow your bliss in 2015, whatever it may be, and to let it be an example to your kids. 
 
Happy 2015!...
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Meyer Lemons are In!

2014-12-05 | 1 comment
This week’s line up highlights one of my all time favorite ingredients - Meyer lemons. I have been waiting for the season to arrive and it’s finally here! And, lucky me, one of my besties has a gorgeous tree full of them. They are a little sweeter and less acidic than the traditional lemon and their skin is super fragrant. In fact, I try to score a bowl full whenever possible. It’s so nice to have that fresh aroma when all our windows are sealed up all day.
 

OK, back to the food. I chose Tuesday’s Chicken Piccata and a Greek Style Lemon Chicken Soup on Thursday for my lemons. Both incorporate the lemons but in a different way.  The flavor is bright and right up front.
 
Finally, yes, there are two soups for you! (Soup Nazi voice).  Monday’s Thai Shrimp Soup comes together very quickly and is a hit with all ages. Even my little that “hates coconut” gobbles this right up. Oy.
 
Enjoy this week – it’s a goodie.
 
MB...
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Happy Thanksgiving

2014-11-21

It's all hands on deck - big hands, little hands - to put together OUR holiday. Little hands are making decorations and prepping veggies. Big hands are brining the turkey and creating a new Thanksgiving cocktail. But, we still have to eat on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. And, ...
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Pantry Raiders

2014-11-07

This week’s recipes rely heavily on pantry items. Many of these ingredients will be on sale over the next few weeks, so let’s stock up. Look for crushed tomatoes (Tuesday’s Moroccan Chicken), organic stocks (Wednesday’s Hot & Sour Soup), beans (Thursday's Mexican Pizza) and especially spices – look for buy one-get ones.
And, as poultry is the star of November, look for deals on organic, grass fed ground beef. It’s great to have it on hand for a quick meatloaf, meatballs or Monday’s Sloppy Joe’s.
 
Keeping it short today, I have to go pack up Halloween and get ready for a 4 day weekend!...
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Ouch! My Wallet Hurts!

2014-10-03
Turkey Noodle Soup
It can be spendy – all this “real” food business. I try to buy organic, well-raised, sustainable meats, fish and veggies. But, Man, it can do a number on my wallet.
 
So, back to what makes this Real Family Real Food thing work – a plan! A plan for just what I need. Let’s shop strategically for only what we need and will actually use. We will use a bag of carrots, a bag of lemons and a whole bunch of celery – even the leaves! Best of all, with our plan, we can take a few little steps to make better foods at home than the ones we would buy – like vinaigrette or turkey stock. Both have the added bonus that they just plain taste better. (BTW, neither should have added sugar – that’s just gross!)
 
I have selected a sustainable fish, Monday’s Spanish Cod, that is very easy to find fresh or frozen. Look for an Alaskan Pacific if possible.  The other is a whole turkey breast. At $3.99-4.99/lb, it’s super budget friendly. The plan is to stretch Tuesday’s Roast Turkey and Kale Salad over two meals by cooking a little extra and making stock for Thursday’s Turkey Noodle Soup.
 
One more thing, I LOVE this week! I love being smart in the kitchen, creating with humble ingredients and making yummy real food for my little crew. I’m thinking you do too…...
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My Blinders Are Off

2014-09-26

I bristle at Real Family Real Food ever being perceived as judgemental.  It is not. We are all real families just trying to make good choices when and where we can. This week, is no different.
 
Want to make a really good choice? This is a very simple one. See Fed Up -the movie. See it with your whole family. It is truly important.
 
It is not political. It is not highbrow. It does not blame the victim. Is it a very well done, documentary that is accessible to both kids and adults.

Here's the personal part: I have heard over and over about the "-oses" amd "-ates" in food and I do a fairly ggod job at avoiding them but, this film landed on me in a new way. My blinders are off. And, as much as the information infuriated both my husband and I, the most profound impact was on my kids. They really took it in.
 
To be clear, I refuse to demonize sugar.  I will, however, be conscious of when, how and how much it enters my family’s diet. I buy the food, I cook the food – I AM IN CONTROL.
 
I think that will stick with … Real Family Real Food!...
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Ya, We All Do It

2014-09-19

Spaz shopping. I do it.
 
I go to the market and cruise around, happily grabbing items that I know my family will eat without complaint. I unload my groceries and check the box – shopping done! I’m a stud. Cut to 6:00 – there’s nothing to eat.  But I went to the store dammit!
 
Or, even more likely, I hit the ...
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I'm in! All in!

2014-09-12

The Whole Life Challenge starts tomorrow, September 13th, and I’m in. It focuses you on the key areas of your life that easily creep towards what I refer to as “tilted”  - they are out of balance. The goal is to restore balance through real daily habit changes that you can learn from and work into your life. You can check it out here Whole Life Challenge but, here are the CliffsNotes:
 
Stretch everyday.
Drink water.
Lay off...
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I'm in! All in!

2014-09-12

The Whole Life Challenge starts tomorrow, September 13th, and I’m in. It focuses you on the key areas of your life that easily creep towards what I refer to as “tilted”  - they are out of balance. The goal is to restore balance through real daily habit changes that you can learn from and work into your life. You can check it out here Whole Life Challenge but, here are the CliffsNotes:
 
Stretch everyday.
Drink water.
Lay off...
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Feeling a Bit Tilted

2014-09-05

We have had so much interest in The Real Family Real Food Plan this past week!  

I get it. We are all just trying to score a little balance in our lives. Whether it’s back-to-school, back-to-work, winding down summer or gearing up for Fall, there’s one thing we all could use – a dinner plan!
 
Seriously, we all have enough to do, so take that layer of needless stress out of your day. Replace it with solid, yummy, real food choices that your crew will want to eat.
 
Here’s how it works:...
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Homework? Already?

2014-08-29

She's clinging to the summer vibe while she does her homework. She needs a soft landing place at dinner time. So, we are circling back to a few Real Family Real Food favorites. These are tried and true standards at my house. As I’ve said before, back-to-school season is a time for our dinner to be comforting – just the hits!

Monday is my youngest’s most often requested dinner – Maple Glazed  ...
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Clinging to the Summer Vibe

2014-08-22

FACT: Come July 15th, I am ready for everyone to get back to school.
FACT: Come August 15th, I don’t want summer to end!
 
I mean we finally got our groove on! I love the time together. We have lazy mornings, loosely scheduled days and late night movies. We travel on a whim, catch a lot of baseball games, hangout with friends and everyone is pretty chill. 
 
I am determined, as I say every year, to  ...
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My Plan is Your Paln

2014-08-15

Thank you! The responses are coming in from our survey and I am finding the data overwhelmingly encouraging and super helpful. You are using Real Family Real Food to make your days a little easier, less stressful and more organized. That was the mission!
 
I am also finding your comments super helpful. In fact, I am already incorporating some findings this week. Monday’s Prosciutto Egg Cups is a great dinner recipe that can roll right into breakfast or the lunchbox. Tuesday’s Turkey Meatloaf and Thursday’s Meatballs are a lighter choice for this time of year but still pack so much flavor from the vegetables we snuck in there. And, finally, Wednesday’s quickie Mediterranean Pitas are my personal favorite – I’m a sucker for this flavor profile – cold, crunchy, tangy veggies with earthy hummus wrapped in a warm, soft pita? Aw ya.
 
So, see? My plan IS your plan.  What? You didn’t get a chance take our quick survey? C’mon, I really want to know your opinion. Here it is Real Family Real Food Survey.
 
Keep watching for more of your suggestions…...
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These are for YOU!

2014-08-08

Can you believe it’s been almost two years since Real Family Real Food launched? That’s over 100 weeks of my ramblings and 400 dinners! High five!
 
As we continue to grow, it’s very important to me that I understand how you use Real Family Real Food and how I can best serve you - the membership - as it continues to grow and evolve.
 
The most immediate way is to just ask. So that’s what I’m doing.
 
There is a link below to a brief, twelve-question survey. Would you take a few minutes to take it? I suggest that you pour a glass of wine, get comfy…and it’ll be over in just a few sips. Or, if you are forgetful like me, you could just do it right now!
 
Lastly, I read every single email, blog comment, and Facebook post. I treasure the photos of happy kids and empty plates. Please keep them all coming!

Mary Beth

Real Family Real Food Survey...
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My Latest Obsession

2014-08-07

I get on food kicks. I become obsessed. I will make something over and over because I have fallen madly in love with it. It could be a new ingredient like dried guajillo peppers or tarragon mustard. Or, it’s a process like making a wild mushroom pate or Thai spring rolls. I will see it made on TV and take off like a shot to the market. Cut to 3-4 attempts and a post apocalyptic mess in my kitchen – Ta da!
 
By far, the best result of my obsessive food nature  ...
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I Heart Corn

2014-07-26
Indulge me for a moment…




It’s the height of summer on the Connecticut shoreline, I’m 11, I’m riding my bike home from another long day spent at the beach. My sandy little legs are cashed from swimming and climbing on the rocks all day. But, I will still take the long way home by the Bauer Brothers Farm to grab a huge, sweet tomato for the ride. And, while I’m there, I pick 8 of the best looking ears of corn you will ever see. They go under my towel and I’m home in 15 minutes.








OK, I’m back. It’s height of ...
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Improv

2014-07-18
While I appreciate a solid plan, this is the time of year to leave room for some improv. Local gardens and farms are bursting with fresh produce. I love to stop by and add their yummy, fresh picked fruit and veggies to my dinner.
 
I have purposely left holes in the plan for us to enjoy the summer’s local harvests. Monday’s Mussels would be great with fresh corn or maybe green beans with Tuesday’s Pork Chops and Fresh Cherry Couscous. On Thursday, try picking all your different herbs for a salad – you could even put it right on top of the pizza – that sounds killer.
 
I hope you all will support out local farms, gardeners and farmer’s markets by stopping by and picking up a few things for snacks and dinner.
 
Do you like the graphic up above? Me too! Check it out at LizzyClara on Etsy. ...
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Beer & Fireworks

2014-07-04
From Nantucket to Tahoe, Miami to Iowa, I hope that you are enjoying this extra long holiday weekend with your friends and family.
 
This week’s plan is light and breezy and perfect for kicking summer into high gear without spending too much time in the kitchen.  There’s something for everyone – Maui Dogs for the Real Families and Waldorf Wheat Berry Salad for the Real Foodies.
 
I wish everyone a wonderful, safe holiday. Please take just a minute to cherish and remember that it’s what we all have in common that makes this country strong - beer and fireworks!
 
 Happy 4th of July!...
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The Dude's Got Mad Skillz

2014-06-20
My husband is mad cool. He has the green thumb in the family.

I inherited a few things from my parents – my Mom’s palette, my Dad’s golf swing  - but nothing truly useful like ...
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Try to Find the Funny

2014-06-13
My Dear Dad was a gem.


Since it’s Father’s Day weekend, I’m thinking of my Dad and about his everlasting fatherly influence on us kids.
 
Be a lady.
Be a good sport....
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What Not to Wear

2014-06-06
I’ve had a thought that I want to share. Why do we care SO much about what we wear but not about what we eat? Or, what we put on our bodies vs. what we put in our bodies? Why do we care more about how our kids are dressed and groomed vs. what’s in the lunch box? Just thought I’d throw it out there. Give it a think.
 
This week is another in the “Can We Just Git ‘er Done” series.
 
Monday it’s Shrimp...
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Fresh, Real Food ... In a Hurry

2014-05-30
These next few weeks are crazy for all of us. Some kids are already out of school (!), for others it’s crunch time as the last weeks wind down – which actually feels more like winding up! I don’t know about you, but I could easily be talked into ditching the last 2 weeks of school – I’m dead serious. Maybe hit the sand, a few day games at the ballpark, even just sleeping in sounds better than making another lunch or killing it to get to the pick up circle. Oy.
 
OK, I know time is tight so we just need a good plan to get everybody fed this week. Let me break it down for ya....
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Countdown to Summer

2014-05-25
As we head out of town this Memorial Day weekend, I am nostalgic for my hometown - Madison. It’s a little beach town on the coast of Connecticut. September through May it was quiet and quaint - albeit full of salty New England Yankees. Think Town & Country meets The Farmer’s Almanac.  May weather was sunny but with a heavy dew in the air  - perfect for our garden. Everything was lush, green and in full bloom.  And, it was so still in the evenings.
 
My Dad had a great vegetable garden. He would be out there every night after work, in his madras Bermudas and tall ships belt, tending to his babies. By Memorial Day, we would have a few tomatoes, peas, radishes and little cucumbers. A few of this week’s recipes are straight out of my Dad’s garden and my Mom’s kitchen - Tuesday’s Barley Salad,...
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Moderation

2014-05-22
Listen. I want to eat real food and I want you to - too! But, let’s be realistic. It’s tough to sell quinoa and new veggies all the time. This reminds me of a family mantra about moderation that we had growing up.

My dear Dad used to say “Everything in moderation – including moderation.”  This family value was instilled into him by his father, my grandfather, Pop. Pop had a framed piece of paper, with the word moderation simply written upon it. It sat on his desk in his office and then sat on my Dad’s desk. Now it sits on mine.
 
Honestly, it took a while but now I get it. Don’t go to overboard in any one way. You’ve got to live a little – this is where the whole Real Family part kicks in to The Plan. Let’s use sugars, flours, salts and oils, but moderately and simply. Let’s use them to enhance the Real Food.
 
We are putting  ...
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Cooking for A Crowd

2014-05-09
 
We are getting ready for summer. The cushions are out, the pool is ready, the flowers are planted, bike tires are pumped, and now we need some ideas for summertime dinners.
 
Very often, Real Family Real Food is asked for entertaining suggestions. Whether we are having friends over or picnicking in the park, we need dishes that are both easily prepared and great for a crowd. I’ve chosen 4 dinners that you can download and roll out at anytime. So let’s get to it....
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Pizza Dough

2014-05-09
This is my go-to recipe. You will really taste the difference.

Ingredients
4 cups bread flour – whole wheat if you can find it is a good choice
1 packet instant yeast...
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My Back Pocket

2014-05-02
This week’s plan is comprised of recipes that come straight from my back pocket. These are the ones that I go to when I don’t have time to think about dinner. They are solid, trusted hits. Let’s break it down.
 
We are celebrating Cinco de Mayo with ...
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Decisions, decisions...

2014-04-25
We all have so many decisions to make, big ones, little ones, every single day.
 
One of my littles is a Virgo, bless her heart, and cannot make a decision to save her life. Oh, how she struggles. Thank God, one of my buddies is a Virgo and has explained the condition with which both she and my little are afflicted, Analysis Paralysis (AP). It can be tough for me, a textbook
 ...
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K.I.S.S.

2014-04-21
Remember that? Keep it simple, Stupid? Wait! Were you thinking Detroit Rock City?? Love you!  But, no.
 
We are applying the K.I.S.S principle to The Plan the week.  In fact, two nights are no-cook dinners – yup!
 
I changed things up a little this week. Since I have so many hardboiled eggs,
 ...
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The Funk Buster

2014-04-11
Feeling uninspired in the kitchen? Tired of the same ol’-same ol’? Me too! And, that’s not so good when I have this dinner planning gig. So I decided to bust that funk with a ...
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Can We Offer You an Upgrade?

2014-04-04 | 4 comments
We are just pulling in from vacation in Miami where we happily indulged in yellowtail taquitos, tuna tataki, lobster BLTs, sweet potato fries, bouilliabaisse, morning buns – every morning! Yum! But, this wasn’t how it always went down.  
 
A few years ago, we stopped the kid menu thing. They were so boring – chicken fingers (fingers ?), mac n’ cheese,  pizza - and nary a veggie. No matter where we went, it was largely the same. Plus, they were always eating our “adult” food anyway and we were leaving the “kid-friendly” dishes barely touched.  How many $12 noodles with butter can one take? So, we 
 
 
 
 ...
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You Know I Can See the Future, Right?

2014-03-21
Here’s what I see:
 
Villanova will take the NCAA Tourney.
I will win my pool with my keen choice of bracket-busters.
This week’s dinner plan will go down as one of the Real Family Real Food all-time greats.
 
OK, I’ll settle for two. Number 3 is a lock.
 
Why is this week so great? It...
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Can I Just Check the Box?

2014-03-18
C'mon, sometimes we just need to check the dinner box. But, can we still feel good about our choices? Can they be real food choices? Hells ya! 

As I peek ahead, next week is particularly busy. We’ve got birthdays, overlapping sport’s seasons, play practice, a traveling husband and … work!  Listen, we have to eat. And while I’d be cool with...
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The Dinner Dance

2014-03-07 | 3 comments
Quick, quick, slow, slow.
 
Ah, middle school cotillion. Where I learned that boys have unbelievably sweaty palms, speak in a string of grunts and make me nervous.
 
It is also my approach to our menus this week- two quick, two slow. I figure we need to...
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An Ode to Mrs. Patmore

2014-02-28
“Anyone who has use of their limbs can make a salmon mousse.” – Mrs. Patmore, Downton Abbey
 
Preach! Leave it to my favorite cook to...
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No plan. No fun

2014-02-21 | 2 comments
Read it.
Print it.
Cook it.
That’s wassup.
 
Do you ever wonder who on earth ...
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XOXO

2014-02-14 | 2 comments
Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
I love you so much
I’ll cook dinner for YOU – even on a Friday!
 
You know that it’s true love because I never  ...
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Little Miss Canadienne

2014-01-31
I had my first ice skates when I was 2. They were white with white laces and were emblazoned  with “Little Miss Canadienne” in gold script on the ankle. They were single blades and well worn. They are one of the only things that I still have from my childhood and they are treasured.
 
Whenever I come across them I am reminded of...
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Just the Facts Ma'am

2014-01-17 | 2 comments
This time of year we have so many many folks hitting up the site – yeah! Everybody is energized by the new year and wants to get organized and eat better.  Here’s why Real Family Real Food not only helps, it ensures great results.
 
You have to eat – eat...
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TBT? TOTES!

2013-11-22
Could Thanksgiving be the ultimate Throwback Thursday? I think – yes!
 
If we were to throwback to Thanksgiving dinners past, you would see...
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You Have to Plan to Be Successful

2013-11-15
*** Did you order your turkey? If no, go do it now. If yes, nice work.***
 
You have to plan to be successful. That bears repeating. You have to plan to be successful.
 
But who’s got the time? That’s where we come in. I am hosting Thanksgiving this year and that’s what I need to be planning and working on this week – not dinner. This week is full of One Stop Dishes ...
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Miss Manners Strikes Back

2013-11-08
Holy Crap! My kids are going to be sitting at my haute Thanksgiving table with my grandmother’s gorgeous china, multiple fork and spoon situations and ... guests! At their ages, there are no more excuses and none of their faux pas are "cute" anymore. Boot Camp starts...
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What's Old is New Again

2013-11-01 | 5 comments
Real families are eating real food! I have been enjoying great reports from the field that you are eating real food and so are the kids. I’ve heard kids are requesting quinoa. And parsnips. And fish! What? That’s awesome!
 
Recently, I have received requests to see  ...
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Mission Critical Gizmo

2013-10-11 | 2 comments
I love a Sunday roast. Even on a Tuesday. I love how my house smells, I love how easy it is, I love how fancy it tastes and I just plain love the feeling of having a roast in the oven. I know some of you are totally feelin’ me. 
 
But, we’ve all killed a roast. I did just recently. You know why? I...
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Digital Meat Thermometer

2013-10-11
This is what I use:
http://www.taylorusa.com/classic-digital-oven-thermometer.html...
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Gluten Free Gravy

2013-10-11
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
2 cups chicken stock  
salt and pepper to taste
 
Melt the butter in a pan on l Take it off the burner and serve it, immediately....
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I Hear Ya

2013-10-04
You guys are MY inspiration. In more ways than you can imagine but now you’ve inspired this week’s plan. Here are a few of the most popular questions that we get here at Real Family Real Food.
 
Q: What’s your weeknight dinner when you are tight on time?
 ...
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Getting Herby with It

2013-09-28
As we head into Fall, its time to stock the pantry with herbs and spices to bring flavor to dinnertime. Some Fall veggies have just plain boring flavor- squashes in particular. But, with the addition of ...
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BBQ Sauce

2013-09-05
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large onion)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup tomato paste (10 ounces)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup soy sauce or tamari
1 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

In a large saucepan on low heat,...
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You are 90% There!

2013-08-30
This week’s plan and each week’s plan are for you. It’s a tool for you to use to make your life easier. Just like the dishwasher or the food processor. The fact that your family benefits from your reduced stress, a calm dinnertime and good food is a bonus. Just print the shopping list and go to the market. You are almost done.
 
Back in the day, ...
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It's Not the Bread

2013-08-16 | 1 comment
Its early morning in Manhattan, I can smell the Real Food all around. The scents of sweet waffles and strong, rich coffee. Its gonna be a great day!

I poke my nose in the Halal Falafel truck and see a pile of onions, seasoned with garlic and cumin and I can smell the tang of yeast steaming out of the fresh pitas he's prepping for the day. That's gonna be good. 

For lunch we tuck into...
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HOMEMADE KETCHUP

2013-08-12
KETCHUP
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion. minced
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1½ tbsp. smoked paprika
1½ cups tomatoes, roughly chopped
2/3  cups apple cider vinegar
¼  cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup water
salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS
Heat the olive oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat.
Add the garlic and onion; cook until golden, about 7 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and smoked paprika; cook, stirring, until slightly caramelized, about 2 minutes.
Purée in a blender along with the chopped tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and water, until smooth.
Return to saucepan and bring to a simmer; cook until reduced by half, 35-40 minutes.
ADAPTED FROM WWW.SAVUER.COM
 ...
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You Guys ARE Awesome

2013-08-02
You CAN serve your family REAL food. But don’t just take it from me, here’s what our Real Food Family is saying…
 
“My kids are eating fish!”
 
“I am feeling so much more confident in the kitchen.”
 
“Finally, dinners for my kids...
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A Great Summer Line-Up

2013-07-26
I love all the dishes this week! They highlight the seasonal offerings at the market and aren’t too fussy. As we shift into the second half of summertime, that’s just what I want. This week’s strategy is to use flavorful, fresh, versatile sauces so that we can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with our crew.
 
The star of Monday’s Machego-Romesco Burgers is the...
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Father's Day

2013-06-14
It’s Father’s Day and I am picturing my Dad out in his vegetable garden, in his madras bermudas, tending to his ‘babies. I’m thinking of the dishes my dad liked to eat, the ones we made together and how he influenced my palette. My Dad was a salty, sharp, witty, Connecticut Yankee.  He instilled in me an irrepressible respect for my family, my freedom, and Mother Nature.
 
When I was growing up, we watched the weather together– literally – from the porch. Great big ...
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Let's Be REAListic Folks

2013-06-07
We want to eat real food. We want to serve our families real food. But c’mon, sometimes that’s a tall order.
 
Time is probably the most common obstacle but tiny tastebuds are a clear second. So, this summer we are going to revisit some winter hits with a seasonal summer twist. We will be grilling inside of instead of roasting. We will swap out seasonal fruits and veggies.  This week’s Farro with Nectarines and Basil is a perfect example.
 
Are there some hits that you would like to see tailored to summer? Hit me up at mb@realfamilyrealfood.com and let me know. I always love hearing from my REAL family ;)...
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Who's on First?

2013-05-24 | 1 comment
MONDAY: Classic Grilled Burgers with Dill Potato Salad
TUESDAY: Apricot-Balsamic Chicken with Veggie Quinoa
WEDNESDAY: Pizza Primavera
THURSDAY: Avgolemono with Chicken and RIce

I can’t even answer that – I have no time! Everybody seems to be going in opposite directions and I am finding that I need to be in three places at once – and those are the three that I remember!! As much as I would like to just pull the kids from school and start summer vacation right now, I won’t. And, as much as I would like to just eat out every night this week, I can't. My goal is to eat together twice and with this plan I can do it....
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Summer Stock Auditions

2013-05-19
One of my littles was preparing for a recent audition and callbacks. Having no earthly idea how that all works, I went straight to the top. I looked to the pros on the SAG website. It was chock full of great tips and advice that were fit for the stage and kitchen alike! While I perused the information, I thought – we are doing the same thing this week – casting recipes for roles this summer. I plan to have the following memorized and performance ready!...
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We Are on to Something Here

2013-05-19
Monday - Crab Cakes with Avocado-Mango Salad
Tuesday - Slow Roasted Prok Carnitas
Wednesday - Easy Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli
Thursday - Sweet Pork Lettuce Wraps...
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Curveball!

2013-04-19
So you know that whole deal about how its not about the curveball its about how you handle it? I handle it by having a plan, albeit a versatile plan. Monday might happen on Tuesday – what?? Chicken chilaquiles might be salmon chilaquiles – what, what?? Yes.  It’s true.
 
This week’s line up  ......
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SlowCooker Chicken Recipe

2013-04-17
Pat dry the chicken and season with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. In batches, cook chicken, skin side down, until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes.
Place onion, garlic, and thyme in a 5-to-6-quart slow cooker and season with salt and pepper.
Add chicken, skin side up, in a tight layer.
In a small bowl, whisk together wine and flour until smooth and add to slow cooker. Cover and cook on high until chicken is tender, about 3 1/2 hours (or 7 hours on low). ...
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Hit the Reset Button

2013-04-05

We are back from Spring Break and it was a wonderful time to recharge, reconnect, enjoy some the things that get missed in the day-to-day hubbub. We managed to pack a few first-time experiences in with long floats in the ocean and lazy hours in the sand. We made fresh Sea of Cortez Red Snapper tacos with the day’s catch and even tried a few new dishes including a spicy shrimp and crab stuffed avocado and green chilaquilles. Oh, and a Tequila Mojito! All told, the best part for me was watching my big kid be little, my little be daring.

Soon enough 

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Eat it All Up...Please

2013-03-14

I hate to waste food. And $!  This is was my motivation when creating this week’s plan. I just saw A Place at the Table. It’s an alarming documentary exposing the millions of hungry families in America. It’s heart breaking to see parents trying to feed their children and having zero fresh food options. Sometimes there is not a singlre piece of fruit for 100 miles. And here I am pitching food because it’s turned before I got around to using it. I know we are pretty good about freezing leftovers or packing them into school lunches. We make and freeze stock from vegetables left in the crisper. But I can do better.

As I surveyed my fridge in preparation for this weeks plan,

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In the Words of Maya Angelou

2013-03-08

“When you know better, do better.”

I just quoted Maya Angelou, via Oprah! What? Yes. I have been part of such an interesting and charged discussion this morning and I want to share.

It all started with the movement on Facebook to urge Kraft Foods to remove dyes from their Mac n’ Cheese. The conversation went from passion to apathy, judgement to nostalgia, and in the end, dug up some great sources of information. But, by far, the most exciting thing was

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He Said, She Said

2013-03-01

What’s for dinner? He said.

I don’t know. What are you cooking? She said.

Well, what did you plan to eat?

What did YOU plan to eat?!?

Ugggh. Sound familiar?

Early on, I realized that feeding my family was a lot harder than it looked on TV. How could a half hour

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London Broil, Part 1

2013-02-28

Welcome Mom's Council! Make the London broil part of a great meal. Check out the recipe below for London Broil, Roasted Potatoes and Grenn Salad. All the steps are there, in order, one thru done! Let me know what you think.  mb

See the full recipe.

French Dips, Part 2

2013-02-28

Welcome Mom's Council! This dish was originnaly posted in Fall '12 but, lucky us, we have access to great fruit all year...enjoy!

See the full recipe.

Lucky Lo Mein

2013-02-08

8 is a very lucky number  - at Chinese New especially. So, we are going to use our favorite Lo Mein recipe and include 8 lucky ingredients.

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Holiday Mash Up

2013-02-08

Kung Hey Fat Choi!  Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!  Would You Be Mine …

Holy Moly! What a week of celebrations.

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One of My Favorite Greens

2013-02-01

What are my favorite greens? Arugula, collards, and Dropbox! Ok, have you heard of Dropbox? It’s SO cool. Dropbox is a free service/app that let’s you download docs, photos and video to a mobile device.

It’s perfect for Real Family Real Food. Each week you can choose the download option on the Weekly Plan and keep it in your Dropbox. No more printing – just pull up tonight’s recipe from your Dropbox and get cooking!

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Pastry Dough Recipe

2013-01-31

Why mess with the best? This is Ina’s recipe and as a think she’s the bee’s knees, I must share it.


 

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I'll Have the House Wine

2013-01-25

Do you have one? Of course you do. You have a house red and a house white. We even have a house bourbon.  

Now you need a house pesto and house vinaigrette. The one that your crew likes the best. Is it sweeter, saltier, a little shallot, a few dried herbs, no cheese? Buy a few canning jars at the grocery store and get to testing – these are very inexpensive condiments to make.

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The House Pesto

2013-01-24

I bought a bunch of 4 oz canning jars to make lemon curd – never happened. But, Trader Joe’s had big boxes of basil, so I made pesto. It takes all of 15 minutes. This recipe is our house favorite, basic combo. I will use 2 jars this week and I have 6 jars in the freezer – 6 dinners!

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Orange You Glad

2013-01-18 | 2 comments

“Knock, knock”

“Who’s there?”

“Orange”
“Orange who?’
“Orange you glad you don’t have to think about what’s for dinner?”

I am. Every Monday, I am so glad that my fridge is full of real food. I have just what I need to feed my family for the week. And, from the emails and texts that I am receiving from coast to coast, you are too.

In keeping with the “Orange” theme, yes, it’s a theme; we are eating orange foods all week. Orange you glad?!? My kids totally latch on to this kind of theme and ask me every night which orange food we are eating tonight. Fun!

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Turning Leaf Project

2013-01-11

It’s a New Year and time for a new perspective. I think its time to resurrect an old ritual of mine. Back in my early married days, I instituted my own social survival tool. When my husband and I married, we ‘inherited’ each others old friends, friend’s spouses, relatives, you know how that goes. Some are very cool, some just aren’t and some you want to smack. But, they’re not going anywhere so you have to deal. In order to cope, I created my yearly Turning Leaf Project. Every year, I chose one of these folks. I was resolved to find common ground for conversation and something redeemable to focus on. IT WORKED EVERYTIME. And, believe me, we had some doozies.

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Eating Your Way to Feeling Good

2013-01-04 | 2 comments

Well, as of 8:30 AM, Monday morning, everyone will be back where they belong.  I’ve had tons of family time, eaten enough cheese to fill the pool, knocked out 5 birthdays, gotten great photos, new boots (!), and a few pounds.  Now, a few days and nights of detox are just what the doctor ordered. But, no nasty shakes or cleansing liquids for dinner – No! We are going to do it naturally with detoxifying foods, portion control and... our handy dandy meal plan.

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Holidays

2012-12-21

 I think the holidays remind us all of when we were a kid.  When we were so excited about counting down the days. I couldn’t wait until my Gram arrived because I knew Santa was next. I worried about the snow and how the reindeer would make it. I scoured the night sky for Rudolph’s red nose. Fast forward to returning home from college. It was an Amtrak odyssey up the eastern seaboard, a quick stop for “cheer" with friends at Grand Central, and then out to CT. It would be so biting cold and I can still feel the warmth of our home when I walked through the door. The smell of the fire and dinner roasting are such a vivid, snuggly memory. Our holidaytime dinners were just as precious to me then as they are now with my kids. Lingering at the table and being together are what I cherished then and now.


So, amidst the holiday craziness, I hope that you will find time to relax and linger at the dinner table with your families – what’s the rush? You are exactly where you are supposed to be. 

I wish you all the happiest of holidays.

MB

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My Holiday Shopping Strategy

2012-12-10

Yes, the holidays are about real family, real friends, real peace to all, of course! But, for me, they are also about the real, precious moments spent with a real good Pinot, truffle salt and oh-so-stinky cheese. I am saving my grocery budget for these holiday necessities. I’ll be damned if I’m going to blow $$ on last minute, pricy weeknight dinners instead of these treats. Lord knows it’s all over in January…

So, I plan. I’m a planner. That’s what I do and I am gonna work it. This week, we are going to get the most flavor out of inexpensive items like ground beef and readily available veggies. No crazy new foods, just straight up fare that my crew has heard of – pizza, soup, enchiladas, sloppy joes – but, all made with real food. And, as time is a budget item too, they are all full of little prep opportunities – there if you want them. 

So, as you continue to hack away at the Holiday Checklist, I hope that you will take time to remember what’s important to you – champagne, chocolate?

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It's All Good

2012-12-04

It's all good. Good fresh food. Good canned products. It’s all good, real food, and that's where we start. Everyone’s time is compromised during these weeks that ramp up to the holiday. And, according to many of you, having a plan really helps. Having THIS plan really helps…

Instead of wasting time wandering the grocery store for inspiration 

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Prep Opportunities

2012-12-04

I see little opportunities, windows of time, in my day/evening to get some dinner prep done. I find that when I just take the 15-20 minutes to prep, the actual cooking of dinner is more enjoyable – and I’m not so rushed. I’ll even let the kids help me cook if I’ve done the knife wielding earlier.

Dinnertime at my house is also Study Hall.

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Wait! There's another dinner there...

2012-11-20

Do you know how to make sure you have delicious turkey stock for soup? You plan to have delicious turkey stock for soup. You will already have these ingredients lying around so go for it. 

 

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Now Casting Thanksgiving Auditions

2012-11-09 | 3 comments

I love this time of year! Thanksgiving is just around the corner and it’s time to breakout all those treasured recipes. While it makes me homesick for New England and my family table and those traditions, I cook as many of those dishes as possible. But, as many of us do, I want to represent my husband’s traditions as well as mine.  Thank God we have bourbon in common!

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Lentil Soup - Part Deux

2012-11-03 | 1 comment

A few weeks ago, when we made the lentil soup, I made double. I do that a lot - why not? I'm already cooking. 

So, the other night, I was working late and as Real Families do, I headed to the freezer. I thawed the soup and some chorizo. Now here's the best part - my husband made dinner. That bares repeating - my husband made dinner.

He browned the chorizo and added the thawed soup. A little parmesan or cotija and voila! 

It was delicious and a hit with the whole crew.

 

There's Real Food on the Shelves...

2012-11-02 | 1 comment

 I want to eat real food and I want you to - too! But, let’s be realistic. 

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Simple Cooking is Authentically Real

2012-10-29

Just letting the ingredients sing with simple preparations – that’s what’s up this week. No need to over do it to get rich flavor. This week we are roasting – both quick and slow – with a little oil, salt and pepper. We are roasting chicken, pork, potatoes and mushrooms all with the same basic approach. Simple. Real.

Strategy Session:

Tuesday’s roasted chicken is a doubler for use Thursday – super time saver.

Wednesday’s frittata serves 6-8 so be prepared for some leftovers.

As always, let me know how it goes!

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The Kids are Watching...

2012-10-20 | 4 comments

I try to think about this all the time. They are watching all my choices. My choices with my time, my words, and yes, even my food. While they are not all great choices, at least a few include volunteering, being inclusive, saying thank you and cooking real food. Maybe you brought dinner to a friend. Or, picked up an extra carpool shift. Or, cleaned their rooms without mentioning it later. No matter what it was, they saw it.

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We are off and cooking

2012-10-18

We are off and cooking real food. You guys are doing it!  I am inspired by all the texts and emails highlighting your success stories at dinnertime. I am so glad that you are taking advantage of the Plan and it is working for you.

I gotta say that this week my favorite kudos came from your spouses :)

Please, if you have a sec, share your stories below...they are super encouraging.

See you Friday morning with my next installment - it's a goodie.

One of My Favorite Greens

2012-10-13 | 1 comment

What are my favorite greens? Arugula, collards, and Dropbox! Ok, have you heard of Dropbox? It’s SO cool. Dropbox is a free service/app that let’s you download docs, photos and video to a mobile device.

 

It’s perfect for Real Family Real Food. Each week you can choose the download option on the Weekly Plan and keep it in your Dropbox. No more printing – just pull up tonight’s recipe from your Dropbox and get cooking!

 

And, before you ask, NO, I don’t know the Dropbox folks…

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Things are Getting Real Around Here

2012-10-02 | 2 comments

OMG, hold on to your hats - I'm going "live' this week!

I know, it took long enough right? Actually, I like to think it took just the right amount of time. I needed all the other facets of life and biz to align. 

Thank you so much for your patience and even more for the encouragement. And, let me know if you stopped by here.

Now, let's get REAL.

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My Real Food Memories

2012-09-21

 

My real family is eating real food and I am SO psyched about that. And, I am finding that as I reach back to my favorite food memories, so many are ‘real food’ dishes.  But then again, I’m that old, we didn’t own a nuker and I had an old school dinner table growing up. We ate together every night and we ate what we were given – no questions asked OR wrinkled noses.


 

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How do I fit these meal plans into my schedule?

2012-05-17

Instead of wasting time wandering the grocery store for inspiration, you will shop faster with the list – time saved.

Instead of staring into the fridge wondering how to make a meal out of peanut butter, martini olives and salami, you will grab the ingredients that are already there waiting for you – brain power saved.

And, the best part, instead of listening to the whines and moans of the crowd waiting for dinner, you will enjoy your time in the kitchen knowing that they are going to eat a delicious, nutritious, real meal – in good time.

Now pour a glass of wine and enjoy your time in the kitchen.

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What is a Real Family?

2012-05-17

Your family, my family. The group of people you eat dinner with is your family – however you choose to do it. Real to us is to be realistic about meal time and the food we eat. Real life families have conflicting schedules, picky eaters, and no time. Too often, another pizza gets the job done – and that just fine!  But, I have the desire to do a little morefor my family and make good food choices. Often my real life trumps that desire – enter the realfamilyrealfood plan.

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One Thru Done

2011-11-12
That's what sets us apart at www.realfamilyrealfood.com - its my way of attacking dinnertime prep and cooking. I organize the steps for all the recipes in one easy to follow plan - The Plan as I refer to it. One Thru Done! From start to finish - to get dinner on the table - and a yummy one too!

Who is this Mary Beth?

2011-11-12
It's me! Here's how I got started...

Everybody's got their thing. For some its numbers, for others its gardening, running, writing or art, and still others is folding laundry or shiny sinks. None of those are my thing. My thing is creating dinner menus. I love it. I love the actual task. I love food - simple, tasty food. I relish the research, the balanced weekly plan, preparing the shopping list, the prep and the primal satisfaction of a well fed family.

My passion was born of necessity. I had to 'get real'. I have one child who is beyond picky, one who eats everything and a spouse who flies through the door at dinner time. I formed a two pronged attack - plan tasty, simple, real food dishes that I could prepare easily. I did it.

But, never could I have imagined the response I would receive from planning the meals for other families! From the very first week, when I received texts and photos of big smiles, thumbs up and empty plates from astonished parents - not to mention the thank you emails from the husbands!

I hope you will get onboard and use real family real food as a tool to make your days easier and your dinnertime much more fun.

What is Real Family Real Food?

2011-11-12
A four night meal plan that is easy to follow at any skill level and a shopping list for exactly what you need.

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