Category Archives: recipes

Our Family Never Misses A Meal: Getting Kids to Eat Their Supper (plus our favorite recipes)

Please, pass the mashed potatoes and don’t hog the gravy.”

Some of my best memories revolved around the dinner table. Holidays and many in-between days found me settled at the family table with my mom, grandparents, young aunts and uncles amidst good food and even better conversation. Graduated out of a high chair, I remember the delight of sitting (propped up on the silverware box) next to my grandmother at the head of the table. I learned the value of keeping your elbows off the table and your manners minded.
Those meals took some preparing. There were duties to fulfill in order to get everything to our plates. Uncle Tom was the master of salads and I recall watching as he shook the dressing packet into the oil in Grandma’s glass bottle. Clean up always seemed to fall to the women of the household, who filled the kitchen with chatter as they washed and dried and put away those Corelle dishes. 

My grandmother managed to keep her family bonded, even after her youngest fled the nest, by officiating a once a week family supper to which we were all expected to return. Those meals not only filled my belly, they nourished my spirit, my heart and my mind.

When I started my own family, my husband  and I agreed that dinner time was important (dare I even say, sacred) so we laid down some ground rules early on.
  1. Everyone sits for dinner together.
  2. Only one meal is served and everyone must eat what is served.
  3. You are free to leave food behind, but you cannot have dessert if you can’t finish your dinner.
  4. No one leaves the table without being excused by dad or mom.
  5. Everyone remains at the table until dinner is declared over.
Everyone sits for dinner together.

Being the only ones to beat my grandparents’ record (they had 6 kids), we inherited their dining room table. That table was actually a deciding factor when we were house hunting as we needed a room big enough to house it (with both extension leaves installed). We all sit down together every night. This is our time to regroup, to recount our day, and to hash out plans. Everything else revolves around dinnertime to the extent that we set schedules to insure we can eat a healthy meal together. Television, radios and cell phones are not invited to the table or anywhere nearby.

Only one meal is served and everyone must eat what is served.
Eight kids in and we are proud to say that not a one is a picky eater. Okay, forgive me if it seems like I am bragging, but honestly we never never ever cater to a finicky eater. My husband is the chef around here. He comes home at the end of his work day and whips up fantastic meals. It would be an insult to snub our noses at his meals so we don’t. Admittedly, sometimes the chili is a bit spicier than Lilia likes and I’ve been known to silently hold my breath while eating extra gamey tasting deer steaks, but the rule still holds. One family=one meal. I really believe (barring allergies) that children learn to be difficult dinner guests. I feel quite confident that poor children aren’t passing up any morsels.
You are free to leave food behind, but you cannot have dessert if you can’t finish your dinner.

My kids are highly motivated by dessert which generally consists of a small bowl of ice cream or two cookies. We learned with son numero uno that it is no fun to dedicate our nightly conversation to begging, bartering and cajoling a kid into eating his broccoli, so we don’t. The policy is simple and everyone knows we stick to our guns, so our darlings police themselves when it comes to wiping the plate clean. Now I have heard the complaint that this can teach children to overeat, but I disagree. If they help themselves to reasonable portions, they should eat what they take (or receive). If their tummies are too full to finish, they are too full for dessert and late night snacks. And if a sweet one opts to skip a meal in defiance, trust me, they will not starve to death over night!

No one leaves the table without being excused by dad or mom.

I shake my head (internally) every time I hear a parent complain about a child’s eating habits right after he was allowed to bolt from the table mid-course. Like I said, dinner is about more than food and so everyone needs to be present. Having children ask to be excused (and waiting for your reply) teaches them respect for your authority as well as respect for the other guests at table. 

Everyone remains at the table until dinner is declared over.
An occasional brief, rest room break is acceptable, but dashing up out of the seat before the meal is declared done is not. Sitting a while longer allows everyone to have a chance to talk, to listen and to digest. And it inspires those less than happy eaters (the ones leaving the squash on their plates until the last minute) to continue grazing from their plates. Additionally, if everyone leaves the table together, then no one is able to mysteriously disappear at clean-up time.

If you are just starting out, take my advice. Set the household agenda so that your family circles the table at least once a day; giving one another their undivided time and attention. “But it’s soccer season,”you say. Well, then factor the times into the schedule and sit down as a family either before or after practice. If you make this time your priority, it will work out.
If your family is in the habit of dining and dashing, leaving behind half-eaten portions or demanding tailor-made courses, then stop and take back the reins. It is never too late to reevaluate and begin anew. Get the kids involved to help them re-adjust and feel responsible. 
The evening meal has always represented more than a venue for stuffing our bellies. So, especially now in this time of fast food and fractured families, it is time to reclaim the supper table.
homemade all-natural garlic and olive oil dressing for salad

We place a lovely salad on the table first and everyone takes a serving. In the past, when we used bottled dressings we ate smaller helpings of salad. Then we switched to homemade Invisible Dressingand now it isn’t uncommon for kids to ask for seconds. One of our sons is responsible for making the salad. Here’s our recipe (as handed down to us from Poppy):

Poppy’s Invisible Salad Dressing:
(amounts are based on feeding 9 people)
1 head of Romaine lettuce
4-5 cloves of fresh, raw garlic
1 ¼ tsp coarse salt
pepper to taste
½ C extra virgin olive oil
¼ C red wine vinegar
Cut, wash and spin the lettuce (we love our salad spinner!)

Remove the garlic cloves from their skin, then crush them along with the salt directly in the bowl (we prefer a wooden bowl), Add pepper to taste.

Add the olive oil and be sure to mix the crush garlic into it. Let sit for a few minutes.

While that it sitting, cut up some tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese and olives and add them to the lettuce pile.
Now toss the lettuce and extras into the bowl with the oil and toss until everything is coated (but not dripping) in the garlic/oil mixture. Then, just before serving drizzle the red wine vinegar over the complete salad and toss again. Voila! A delicious, nutritious start to our meal. 
We like to keep beverages clear and minimal, so that the kids don’t fill up on liquids. Drinks should accompany a meal, not replace it. Another son assumes the duty of beverage maker (in addition to the pitcher of water always at the table). Here is his recipe for homemade Southern Lemonade:
home made lemon lime lemonadeNikolai’s Fresh Southern Lemonade
This recipe should make you one gallon. Feel free to add or subtract sugar or juice to suit your taste.

 3 lemons
2 limes
1 Cup sugar
2 Cups boiling water
10 Cups cold water

To get the juice out of the lemons, I use one of these things:

But any other juicer or even just your hands work as well.

First, it’s a good idea to wash and scrub the lemons and limes, as they have a thin layer of wax coating and possibly residue from pesticides. 
Second, squeeze as much juice out of the lemons and limes as you can. I’ve heard before that if you microwave them beforehand for 10 seconds, they are supposed to yield more juice. Personally, I’ve never noticed a big difference. 
Third, dissolve your sugar into the boiling water. Add the sugar water to the citrus juice.
Fourth, add cold water and ice to your taste. Some people prefer their drinks near freezing, whereas I kind of like them chilled.

Fifth, It’s pretty easy and tasty to add other fruits and herbs if you wish. Grapefruit makes for pink lemonade, oranges, mint, and pomegranates are also pretty good. Go ahead and experiment! 

Delicious Veggies On The Grill via Chef Cheapo’s Sous Chef

My 17 year old son, Nikolai, helped Mr. B (aka Dad) cook up some truly delicious grilled veggies this week and he jotted down the simple recipes. Grilling brought out the vegetables’ sweetness and gave them each a nice, tender texture. They make a lovely compliment to burgers, chicken, or fish or you could just enjoy them as the main course.

Today is the perfect summer day here in Brelinskyville.
Iced sweet tea, lemonade, fresh cookies, and dad fired up the grill.

So let me get right to the point.
Here’s some epic recipes for grilled veggies!
Mostly they involve prepping the veggies, seasoning them, and tossing them on the grill.
There are simple and taste amazing.

Sweet Peppers
For these, you don’t even have to do more than wash them.
As for seasoning, toss them in a big bowl, pour in some
olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Give em a good toss and they’re ready to be grilled up.

Roma Tomatoes
These get washed, cut, and then seasoned.
They need only a little
olive oil, and then salt, pepperand chopped basil
These were especially sweet and just the right texture (not too hard or squishy)

Eggplant is a little more tricky.
First, you need to peel the skin off and cut them into disks. About half an inch or so is a good thickness.
They then get seasoned with just a little
olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano.
I couldn’t stop eating these. The spices were perfect.

Cornon the cob
First, you’re going to want to pull out all the corn silk from the top of the corn.
However, do not husk the corn just yet.
Next, you’re going to soak the still-husked cobs in water. This way, they won’t burn on the grill.
Next, you’re going to grill the cobs for a bit. The water will actually cause them to be steamed inside the husk instead of just scorched.
After they’re done, you can husk the corn and season them with
olive oil, cilantro, and creoleor cayenneseasoning.

There was a good balance of sweet and spicy, but you could skip the cayenne if you don’t like a little heat.

Sweet Potatoes
Peel these and then cut them into thick slices. Place them in bowl and toss with olive oil, salt and Garam Masala  (if you can’t find that just go with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves). Then grill until they are soft.
We like to serve these with a dollop of sour cream. Yummy!

After you wash the zucchini, you can cut off the tops and bottoms.
Next, split them longways in half.
Then, season them with a sprinkle of
olive oil, salt, pepper, andchopped mint.
Now, they are ready for the grill.

Lots of people don’t like Eggplant or Zucchini, but believe me; It’s good stuff.
Don’t be afraid to deviate and try new stuff!
Enjoy your summer everybody!

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7 Quick Takes for Combating Cabin Fever

ideas to pass the time when you are stuck inside with the kids
Got cabin fever? What can you do to break up the day when you are stuck in the house? Here are seven quick ideas to chase away the winter blues.

#1. Bake up some fun. Pull out your cook book and make a cake, brownies or your favorite cookies from scratch. Perhaps, a loaf of fresh bread would make a nice compliment to tonight’s dinner. Or throw together a few extra meals to store in the freezer in anticipation of some late nights when you won’t have time to cook.
Brownie recipe
(after I discovered this recipe I never bought another boxed mix again)


1C (2 sticks) butter 
1C all-purpose flour
2C sugar
4 eggs
¾ C unsweetened baker’s cocoa
2 tsp vanilla extract 
½ tsp baking powder 
¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease/flour a baking pan and set aside. (The other reason I love this recipe is that all of the mixing takes place in just one saucepan, so the clean-up is minimal.)
In a heavy saucepan, quickly melt the butter, then remove pan from heat. Add in sugar and vanilla, stir. Add eggs one at a time, being sure to mix each in completely (be careful the mixture isn’t too hot because you don’t want the eggs to cook). Mix in the cocoa (I use my hand whisk for this) and then the flour, baking powder and salt. 
Pour into the greased baking pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. I like my brownies super gooey, so I take them out while the center is set but still soft. I tried these in a mini muffin pan and got perfect brownie bites (cooked for just 15 minutes).

Try this tip:
If you’re going to make your favorite cookie dough, why not just double the recipe and store half for another day. Just wrap half of the raw dough on a sheet of wax paper (forming a log in the center) and fold as you would a burrito. Then, wrap this log in a sheet of aluminum foil, mark the outside with the name of the cookie and place in freezer (you might need to place the log on a cookie sheet when you initially put it in the freezer but after about 30 minutes it should be hard enough to store without the extra support). When the day comes that you are ready to bake this portion, simply pull it out of the deep freeze, thaw for an hour, open, cut into pieces and bake.
#2. Pull out those extra cozy blankets and build a fort 


fun things to do when you have cabin fever
apparently one Brelinsky isn’t having loads of fun
#3 Raid the bookshelf or movie stockpile for some oldies but goodies that haven’t garnered any attention in a while. Then, sit down and read together or pop-up a big bowl of popcorn and have a family movie night.
#4 Collect paper, pencils, crayons and scissors. Design a few Valentine’s Day cards or birthday cards. See who can create the most elaborate snowflake cut-out or write a love note to a far away friend.

#5 Go play outside. Bundle up in your warmest mittens, hat and coat and spend a little time romping in the snow. Use a stick to sign your name in the slush or draw some silly faces. 

#6. Sip some hot cocoa or a snow shake.

Hot cocoa recipe:
fun in the snow with snow shakes Fill a jar with these two ingredients- 3 parts sugar to 1 part baker’s cocoa
Optional: add a bit of cinnamon to taste
Shake all dry ingredients up well
Fill a mug halfway with hot water (or hot milk) and spoon in the mix by the tablespoon, stir until dissolved. If you opted for the hot water, you will want to add milk to finish filling up your mug (otherwise your hot cocoa will be too thin)
Snow shake recipe:
Fill up a cup to the top with snow, then add milk (until it reaches about 1/3 of the way up) and sugar (by the teaspoon, to suit your taste), stir together. You can also add either a pinch of baker’s cocoa or a squirt of chocolate syrup.

#7. Play a game.Try a board game or card game (think War or Go Fish). Set up nine plastic cups in a hallway and bowl them over with a soft ball. Need to get your parts moving? Try a little Simon Says or Hokie Pokie.