Friday, July 7, 2017

Happy Summer Seafood Dining

I have been remiss in my blogging - it's been a while. But now it's truly summer, the flowers are blooming like crazy, the baby birds are showing up at the feeders, and we're enjoying fish on the grill several times a week.
     Two of my favorite summer meals are grilled salmon with one of Jaime's fresh pestos -- he can turn almost anything green into the most incredible pesto -- and Salad Nicoise, a beautiful bowl of goodness that's great for entertaining.
     Jaime makes great basil pesto, which is what most people think of, but he also makes Mustard
Green Pesto, Arugula Pesto, Cilantro Pesto, and Poblano Pesto, all the main ingredients supplied by our local farmer's market. With a food processor, you could easily make these at home, but if you're close to our Hinsdale store, just come and buy Jaime's. Both the mustard greens and arugula add a touch of spiciness to your meal - grill your fish for 8 or 9 minutes (depending on thickness, maybe less, maybe more) and add the pesto to the top of the fish for the last minute of cooking. You don't want to cook the pesto, you're just warming it up. Too much cooking and it will lose it's flavor.
    Salad Nicoise is a French potato salad topped with tuna, green beans, hard boiled eggs, fresh tomato wedges and Nicoise olives. Great for summer entertaining, you can make the entire meal ahead and just assemble it while your guests enjoy wine and hors d'oeuvres on the patio.
Here's my recipe:
This is an easy French-inspired summertime meal that has something for everyone, and uses loads of fresh market ingredients.  
TIME/SERVINGS  Total Time: About 30 mins      Makes: 4 - 6 servings
For the dressing:
1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 large chopped shallot
French Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon, or chives
For the salad:
10 - 12 ounces new potatoes, red & purple 
salt & pepper
6 - 8 ounces fillet (French) green beans 
4 large eggs, hard boiled and peeled
8 ounces fresh ahi or albacore tuna, seared and baked or grilled & chilled 
8 ounces yellow cherry  tomatoes or wedges of large tomatoes
10 ounces Bibb or butter lettuce (about 1 head), washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
8 anchovy fillets, rinsed and patted dry (optional)
1/2 cup black olives, such as ni├žoise or kalamata 
For the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, mustard, and a large pinch each of salt and pepper in a medium, glass or non-metalic bowl until combined. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Stir in the herbs, taste, and season with more salt and pepper as needed; set aside.
For the salad:
Sear and bake or lightly grill the fresh ahi or albacore tuna so that it is still a little pink on the inside. A 1” thick piece of  tuna will require 1 minute of searing each side, then another 3-4 minutes in a 425° oven. Set aside. (Fish will continue cooking, so err to the rare). Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and gently boil until the potatoes are easily pierced with a knife, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a cutting board until cool enough to handle but still warm. (Do not let the potatoes cool completely.) Meanwhile, return the water to a boil over high heat. Add a little salt, then add the green beans and blanch until tender but still crisp, about 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water until cool. Spread the beans on paper towels and let them sit until dry. When the potatoes are ready, slice them in half.  Place in a small bowl and toss with just enough of the dressing to lightly coat.
Taste, adding more dressing, salt, and pepper as needed; set aside.Slice each egg lengthwise into quarters and set aside. Place the green beans, tuna, and tomatoes in separate small bowls. Toss with just enough of the dressing to lightly coat. Taste, adding more dressing, salt, and pepper as needed; set aside. Arrange the lettuce in a large wooden or ceramic salad bowl. Place the potatoes in the center of the lettuce, then the tomatoes, 
tuna and green beans over the potatoes. Top with the anchovy fillets, egg quarters and olives. Serve immediately and, if you choose, with remaining dressing on the side.
Add a chilled bottle of Pouilly Fume and some crusty bread and you have a meal fit for a Roi! 
NB: If you're making this for a party, keep all of the various dressed parts of the salad in the fridge until you're ready to serve, then simply put it all together. I actually drop the beans in the same pot with the eggs - saves water.

Come and see Jaime grilling on Saturdays, and have a taste of his many wonderful salsas and pestos - he'll be in front of the store from 11-2 most Saturdays, weather permitting. Learn from the best! 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

If you love your heart, show it!

February is National Heart Month - something to do with Valentines Day - and a great chance for everyone to examine your relationship with your own "ticker." Perhaps you'll decide to treat it with a bit more care and affection.
     There are many ways you can do this, beginning with a visit to your doctor for a check-up, just to see how things are pumping along. Some regular exercise may be in order, and perhaps some changes in your diet. Or maybe your doctor has already told you this, and you just cant find the time to exercise, or the will power to say 'no' to high cholesterol foods.
   Well, here are my suggestions:
1) Exercise: If you don't have the time or money for fancy health clubs or classes, go for a walk, take the dog, if you have one, it's good for his/her heart, too. A good, brisk walk is great for your whole body, you can think about anything you like while you're doing it, and it's free.
2) Diet: By now you've probably read at least one article about fish and their 'omega 3 fatty acids' which help break down cholesterol. When you think about where fish live, in ice cold water, it's easy to see why their body fluids have to be special in order to keep flowing at such low temperatures. Think of what happens to animal fat when it simply cools to room temperature! Then think of that same stuff chugging through your veins. It sure doesn't make your heart's job any easier.
     How you cook your seafood matters as well as what you eat. Start with preparations that are naturally healthy to begin with - poaching, steaming, braising, oven broiling and foil or parchment paper steaming are good examples of ways to cook fish that's moist and flavorful without adding calories.
POACHING: Poaching can be done either on the stove top or in the oven. Your fish must be completely submerged in liquid - a flavorful stock, jusice, wine or court bouillon - and gently cooked just below a simmer. Firm fleshed fish, such a salmon, turbot, bass, mahi mahi, opah, whitefish or lake trout, can be successfully cooked using this method. Serve poached fish either hot or cool, as part of a salad, as part of  a buffet, incorporated into a pasta dish, in crepes, canapes or other appetizer recipes.
BRAISING: In seafood cookery, braising is used to keep thick or muscular cuts of fish moist and tender. Braised fish or shellfish is quickly simmered in a small amount of liquid in a covered vessel placed in a 450 degree oven or over a hot burner. The fish is served basted with it's reduced cooking juices. Meatier fish works well with this method, such as swordfish, salmon or marlin.
STEAMING: An easy way to steam fish requires a wok, a collapsible steamer and a dinner plate. Place the steamer unit inside the wok, add a cup of water, and place the dinner plate on top of the steamer so that it is suspended over the water. Place fish fillets skin side down on the plate, and season with herbs or thinly sliced vegetables. Cover the wok, bring the water to a boil over high heat, and cook for 10 minutes per inch of thickness - usually 5 to 7 minutes is long enough. Fish good for steaming include sole, snapper, walleye, black sea bass, cod.
FOIL OR PARCHMENT STEAMING: Wrap your fish snugly in foil or parchment paper with your favorite vegetables and seasonings, crimping the edges to keep in the steam. Bake in a hot oven (425 degrees) for 15- 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  Our papillotes come under this heading - we make them with salmon, but can make them with other fish as well - they're like a healthy delicious gift on everyone's plate.
OVEN BROILING: By substituting unsaturated oils for butter or margarine, e.g. olive oil, this cooking method can be made more healthful. You can add a bit of liquid to the pan and baste the fish to keep it from drying out. For best results, only use fish that are more than 1/2" thick, preferably with the skin left on, or whole fish.
Now that I've had this heart-to-heart with you, I hope you have one with yours! (Hope you had a happy Valentines Day).

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Setting up for a Super Super Bowl

If your idea of a great Super Bowl party is one where firing up the big screen TV is the hardest thing you do, we’re on your side. Make Burhop’s your one-stop shop for great appetizers and a simple and delicious meal you can serve at half time. If you don't live near enough to us to stop in, we can still offer some great ideas for entertaining your favorite football fans. 
KICK-OFF: Nothing makes fans feel more festive than a party tray of Burhop’s cocktail shrimp and sauce. Or choose from Shrimp & Claws, Poached Salmon, Hot or Cold Smoked Salmon, or tell us what you want and we’ll custom make a tray.  Our Seafood Spreads are a great way to feed a crowd -- just put it in a bowl, add crackers, and watch it disappear.  And we have great fresh Salsas, made in our kitchen, delicious with your favorite tortilla chips. Nothing in a jar can compete.
A SOUPER BOWL:  When half time rolls around, be ready with one of our great meals-in-a-bowl – Burhop’s award-winning Seafood Chili, Shrimp Etouffee, Sopa de Pescado, Shrimp Gumbo and more – all from Burhop’s own recipes, nothing warms up the conversation like a steaming bowl of seafood soup from Burhop’s. Serve them over steamed rice to make them go further. Add some crusty bread, a green salad and half time is a hit!
ROLL OUT PLAY: If you have more of a finger food crowd to please, we suggest our Shrimp or Tilapia Quesadillas (ready to heat and eat), or our Sandwich Rolls – New England Lobster, Seafood Harvest, Cranberry Tuna or Nutty Tuna. A half a roll and a cup of hot soup would be a really scrumptious meal that you can set out on the table and let everyone serve themselves.
If you’re thinking rolls for a crowd, please call ahead – we can put together everything you need, so that you can put them together just before they’re served to avoid a soggy roll. Our rolls come with a small serving of our fresh coleslaw.
END ZONE: For dessert, a slice of Burhop’s great Key Lime Pie or our Wisconsin Baked-in-a-Bag fruit pies are easy to serve, the perfect ending to a great game and a great party.  With Burhop’s on your side, you’ll be a winner whoever comes out on top in the football game.  (End zone celebrations encouraged). Call us for more ideas and to place an order – because so much of our product is made fresh, we can run out. If you order at least 24 hours ahead, we will set aside what you need, or (staff & product availability permitting) make something up just for you.
     We're having friends over who are definitely not football fans, but we've agreed to eat well, talk a lot, and watch the commercials. When the food's good and the Bears aren't playing, no need to worry about the outcome! 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Get to Know Your Shellfish

Shellfish are festive, which is why so many people eat it this time of year. But not many people know much about it -- the main questions we get are "Is it wild?" Or "Is it fresh?" Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. I'll go through the various shellfish species and tell you what you should be looking for, wherever you're shopping for shellfish.

Shellfish are basically shipped 2 ways: Frozen (pre-cooked or raw) or alive. Shellfish tend to be more perishable than fin fish, so here's how most of the shellfish we sell arrives:
SHRIMP: Frozen at the source, either PDV (peeled and deveined) so it's ready to cook, or EZ peel, with the shell still on, but split down the back with the sand vein removed. All of our frozen shrimp is raw, and needs to be cooked before eating. We don't  regularly sell the shell-on shrimp with the head still on, because nobody eats the heads, so why pay for it? We do bring it in for people who have a recipe that calls for it, but most people prefer their shrimp headless.
     We go through hundreds of pounds of our cooked cocktail shrimp every year during the holidays. We cook both farm raised and wild shrimp, but most of what we sell is farm raised. We don't source our shrimp from certain areas of east Asia, because we don't feel that we can trust how the shrimp is handled or what they feed it. Our shrimp is mainly from small farms in Indonesia, an industry vital to the local economy. We cook it fresh daily, with our own blend of spices. It's delicious.
     Grocery stores very rarely cook their own shrimp - they buy shrimp that was cooked on a boat or in a factory and frozen, probably months ago, and thaw it out.
     Our PDV Gulf shrimp are wild, and also delicious, so if you just have to have wild shrimp, we have those, too.
KING OR SNOW CRAB LEGS, CRAB MEAT: Crab is so perishable that it's pretty much all cooked right on the boat, then frozen. It is occasionally possible to get cooked crab legs that haven't been frozen, but since they're all pre-cooked anyway, it makes little difference. Crab legs just need to be re-heated. I thaw mine out first in the fridge over night, then I put them in a large roasting pan with a cup of water, cover the pan with foil, and steam in the oven for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees. I serve them with herb butter and lemon or our Lemon Dill Sauce.
     Crab meat also comes in cans - we get the restaurant-quality lump crab meat that needs to be refrigerated, a much higher grade of crab meat than the stuff that's packed to be kept on your pantry shelf. We don't recommend canned crab meat that doesn't require refrigeration.
LOBSTER TAILS:  Lobsters are nasty creatures that can't be farmed because they would kill and eat each other. That's why they put those rubber bands on their claws in lobster tanks - to keep them from lobstercide. We get ours from 2 sources, the northern US and Canadian East Coast, and off the coast of northern Australia.
    Once endangered, fishing regulations have helped the resource rebound -- females caught in traps get thrown back to reproduce, the males land on your dinner plate. Lobster tails are frozen right after harvesting, and are shipped raw, so they need to be cooked, not just warmed up.
     Our North Aussie tails are harvested by aboriginal farmers off the coast of Darwin - they consider their lobster fishing areas sacred, and manage the fishery very well.
SCALLOPS - SEA OR BAY: Sea and bay scallops (the smaller ones) are deliciously sweet in many recipes, but are the most confusing of all shellfish. They can be shipped and sold "fresh," but the packers are allowed to add chemical salts to the scallops, so that they hold their moisture and are preserved. This gives the scallops a strange, metallic taste, not very pleasant. The frozen, or "dry pack" scallops are the ones to buy - they don't contain chemicals.
     Scallops are harvested wild, which is very damaging to the sea bed, or they are being farm raised, like oysters and mussels. In this case especially, farmed is better for the environment.

Other shellfish that's very perishable ships best alive, which means that you have to kill it in order to eat it. In fact, if it isn't alive when you cook it or serve it, you generally shouldn't eat it.
OYSTERS: We pretty much always have our East Coast blue point oysters, by far the most popular with our customers. The taste is sweet, they're not as hard to open as some varieties are, and you can eat them just as they are, or with a dab of cocktails sauce or a squeeze of lemon and a little hot sauce, or like the French with vinegar and shallots,. During the holidays, we get requests for other oysters, like Kumomotos from Washington State, and Malbec's from the East Coast. Pretty much all oysters are raised these days, because that allows the farmers to know that the water they come from is clean. They're raised in tidal waters, and the oyster grow on ropes that you can see at low tide -- if you ever get the chance to go to an oyster farm, it's quite a sight.
     The exception to the rule is our shucked oysters, which we sell by weight. These are meant to be cooked, not eaten raw, but it's much easier than shucking them when they're for stuffing or scalloped oysters, or any other cooked oyster dish.
NB: Anyone with auto-immune issues should be very careful about eating any uncooked seafood. 
MUSSELS: Like oysters, mussels these days are almost all farmed, which is a good thing. I remember the days of de-bearding the wild mussels, an onerous task. They often contained sand and grit, not the most pleasant experience. Now the farmed mussels are easy to prepare, just rinse in cold water and drop them in a pot with your cooking liquid of choice. And everybody gets to eat with their hands. Just provide lots of napkins and crusty bread to soak up the broth.
CLAMS: Like much of our shellfish in the US, stocks were horribly over-fished for years, threatening the resource, along with the problems brought by massive development along our shores, and with it massive pollution. The aquaculture operations that have grown over the past couple of decades are helping to preserve the wild resource, and provide us with a wonderful product. About 80% of our US clams are ocean raised. Unlike oysters and mussels, clams don't attach to ropes, they burrow into the sand, and have to be dug up.
SOFT SHELL CRABS: Only available in the spring and summer, when blue crabs are molting, these little guys are shipped alive. They die when we clean them for you, right when you buy them, and should be cooked (or frozen) within 24 hours. These are one of the tastiest treats from the sea. They make a super great sandwich! Once cleaned, you cook and eat the entire beast. Because they've been over-harvested in recent years, supplies are less available due to restrictions, and prices have gone up.
LIVE LOBSTERS: Ours come from the northeast coast of the US or the southeast coast of Canada. They should be live and kicking when you drop them into the pot, but if you get one that isn't very
lively and dies, it's OK to cook it right away, refrigerate it until you want to eat it, and just drop it in the pot with the others at the end, to warm it up. We will also cook your lobsters for you --
all you need to do is warm them up in the oven, or eat them cold - tastes great, either way!
Check out our various How To videos (cooking lobster tails, opening an oyster etc.) by Clicking Here: Shellfish Videos. Our lobster tail cooking video has over 1,000,000 views!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Damn Cups...Finally!

My Great Grandmother Stemwell was a German immigrant living in Milwaukee, and her English wasn't very good. My dad, who had moved to Chicago, suggested that she listen to the Cubs games on the radio to help her language skills. Milwaukee at that time (late 1930s) had no major league baseball team, (the Brewers were a minor league team then), so lots of people up there were Cubs fans because they could hear the games on WGN radio.
     By the time I knew my great grandmother, her English was pretty good, but I didn't learn until later years how the Cubs had helped her. She became a die-hard fan, listening to every game. When my dad would call her he'd ask her how she was, and she'd invariably reply "Terrible, terrible, the damn Cups, they lost again."
     We all became Cubs fans, my younger brother Billy in particular. He loved going to games, and was a follower of Billy Buckner - he'd moved out west to California, but watched as many games as he could on WGN, the first "super station. " He was glad when they started playing night games at home - made it much easier for him to watch. I lost my little brother 8 years ago, sadly because of a medical condition that was totally curable but his insurance didn't cover the test he needed and he died before he could see his daughters grow up and his beloved Cubs win a world series. I bought him a brick outside Wrigley, we go and visit it whenever we go to games.
     My dad was a Cubs fan from his Milwaukee days, and would have loved seeing them win it all. He was great friends with John Allyn, who owned the White Sox in the 1960s and early 1970s, and he was also friends with Jack Brickhouse, with whom he played golf occasionally. We would go to the White Sox games and sit in the owners box at Comiskey, but it was never as much fun as sitting with the Cub fans in the bleachers at Wrigley. One time, when I was 18 and working a summer job up in Michigan, I'd come home for a family funeral and was flying back to Petoskey on a Tuesday morning. John Allyn wanted my dad to play golf, but he said he was taking me to the airport and couldn't. So Mr. Allyn said "I'll fly her and Marge (his wife) and Nancy (my mom) in the Sox plane, then you can play golf with me." So I, a huge Cubs fan, had to fly to Michigan in a plane that said Chicago White Sox on it. Hard to live down.
     Watching the playoffs this year nearly gave me a coronary. The guys didn't make it easy, for themselves or for their legion of fans. When Kris Bryant threw the ground ball to Tony Rizzo at first for the last out of the World Series, I had tears running down my cheeks, and I said, incredulously, to my husband, "they won!" How much my great grandmother, my dad and my brother would have cheered -- I'd like to think that somehow they were watching, perhaps through me or my children who were also glued to the TV. I honestly didn't think they would win it all in my lifetime -- thank you, to the Ricketts family who spent the money to get a great team, and to the players who played their hearts out.
     Grandma Stemwell would have to change their name, from the Damn Cups to the Great Cups, or the Super Cups - or probably she'd still call them the Damn Cups, but she'd be beaming from ear to ear.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Memories of State Street

I grew up just a few blocks from the Burhop family in Glenview, and my mother, a friend of Vern and Janis Burhop, would call Vern at the State St. store and he would bring home her seafood order, even dropping it off at our house. I only remember going to the State St. store once as a child, when I thought it seemed very big and the men in white coats and brimmed hats behind the counter seemed quite intimidating.
State St. fish counter c. 1960
    In the 1970s, when I started dating Jeff Burhop, he took me down to see the State St. location, both in the front retail space, and in back, where the thousands of pounds of wholesale seafood was moving in and out. Whole tuna, giant turbot, cases of shrimp and lobster tails.
     I loved it -- it was amazingly Dickensian, a mostly wooden building, with each room on a different level, making it hard to move things around except through human muscle power. There was a fleet of green and white Burhop delivery trucks that parked outside, and virtually every restaurant in town, if you asked where they got their fish, would say Burhop's, even if they didn't. Known for their quality and honesty, everyone wanted to claim that their fish was the best, hence from Burhop's.
     The owners of the building, the American Medical Assoc., also rented out the top floor of the building to a health club. With great regularity, someone up there would leave the showers on until there was a flood and water would come through Burhop's ceiling, causing enormous, expensive damage. Burhop's had to take them to court to get repairs done, and finally the AMA made the decision to sell the building. That area of Chicago was getting more and more built up, and it was assumed that the new owners would tear down the old building, so Burhop's had to move. A new location for the wholesale was found near Elston Ave., much newer and far less interesting, but easier to keep clean. What was Burhop's for about 50 years became the Weber Grill Restaurant. The retail store was moved to the corner of LaSalle and Chicago, and was dubbed One Fish Plaza.
     By this time, Vern had retired very quickly, because of health issues, and two new partners bought him out, joining forces with Jeff and his brother Jim. This became a period of extreme change -- the new partners, one a lawyer, the other in real estate, had grand ideas but little experience in seafood, retail or wholesale. Jeff and Jim, who had the experience, were basically not consulted or their advice was ignored about many of the changes that the new partners made, and the result, along with other influencing factors, was the closing of the wholesale side of the business.
     Many restaurants went out of business owing Burhop's large sums of money for seafood, and then the owners would open a new restaurant a block away and want Burhop's to deliver fish. Competitors would sell fillets of west coast flounder which they were able to sell very cheaply, and call it genuine Dover sole. Chefs who should have known better were fooled.  Too much money was being lost, so Burhop's wholesale was shuttered, and the focus was put on expanding the retail.
     Up to seven retail locations by the mid 80s, the decisions made by the new partners came back to bite us. A couple of the locations turned out to be extremely bad choices, and were shuttered after sizable losses. One Fish Plaza was closed after the building was sold, leaving Burhop's with no Chicago store for the first time in almost 60 years. Two more of the suburban stores closed, leaving Glenview, Wilmette, Hinsdale and Highland Park. The Highland Park store, in an out-of-the-way location, closed, and then the remaining three stores were sold to pay outstanding debt. Jeff had left the company a year before it was sold, his brother after the sale. Glenview and Hinsdale were bought by a former Burhop's employee, Phil Kulin, and Wilmette was purchased by the owner of the Plaza del Lago shopping center, Joe Moss.
     Two years later, Jeff put together a deal to buy back Hinsdale and Glenview, which he owned until the Glenview store was closed last September. The extremely high rent was just too much to make the store successful. The last family owned store, located in Hinsdale is now for sale, as there is no one in the family to take it over.
     For 90 years, Burhop's has stood out as the premier purveyor of fine seafood in the Chicago area -- as we look to retire, we hope to find someone who can continue the legacy. We have loved going to seafood shows and visiting wineries and wine tastings, meeting our many "foodie" customers, and enjoying the best seafood in the Chicago area in our own dining room. There is much to commend being in the seafood business!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fish for those back to school blues

Recently I've run into a number of people sending off their first child to college - that's when it generally hits moms & dads that things will never quite be the same at home. The house gets quieter, the errands get fewer, though remaining kid(s) can expand his/her/their demands to fill the void. Don't worry - your college student will come back during the holidays, and it will seem like they never left. You'll breathe a sigh of relief when they go back to college.
     For parents who have littler ones going back to school, there will be more time during the day for work (and play - grown-up style). But most households these days have two working parents. So how to cope?
     As long as you have kids at home who are going back to school, life changes when summer ends  I was a "working mom," part time when the kids were very small, 2 days per week, then full time when they were around 10 and 11. I was lucky, I worked very close to home, and could do my shopping during lunch, take it home and put it away and be back at work. I could also call my husband, and ask him to bring home fresh fish several times a week - that was a real bonus. I was close enough to "pop in" on a regular basis, to make sure the kids were following the rules, e.g. no friends over when we weren't home. This was pre-cellphones, so monitoring their whereabouts was more difficult than it is today. Both kids often went to friends' houses after school, ones where mom was at home, and were very good about calling to tell me where they were. Here are some tips from my own experience to help you keep things running smoothly:
     1) Talk to your kids about "the rules" and why you have them. I think children respond much better to rules that are explained rather than Mom and Dad just laying down the law.
     2) Breaking the rules should have consequences - otherwise, there's no point in having rules.
     3) Eat together as a family every evening as much as possible - that's when you can tell each other what you all did during the day.
     4) Eat healthy foods - too many people in this country give their children fast food for dinner - like a pizza or fried chicken in a bucket - because it's easy. It's no wonder we have an epidemic of obesity and diabetes in the US - the expression "you are what you eat" has more meaning than most people realize.
     5) Incorporate seafood into at least 2 meals per week - fish is brain food, you can Google it, and kids' brains need a lot of nourishment as they develop. Our kids started on fish when they were babies, one of their first solid foods. We had a baby food grinder, and they got pretty much the same food we did, because we eat a lot of healthy food. Fresh fruits and vegetables, organic if available, lots of fish and occasionally some lean meat.  And our kids are definitely both brilliant (no prejudice here)...
     6) Talk to your kids quietly when you put them to bed - read the little ones a story. We used to play "The Goodnight Game," where the kids and I would share things that happened during the day - we'd each tell each other one good thing and one bad thing that happened, and one thing that we liked about each other. It was amazing what I learned about my kids during those quiet moments. And about myself. The other advantages to this - our kids never ever complained about going to bed, and they were always well rested for school. Our babysitters used to remark about how great it was to sit for kids who would cheerfully go to bed when told it was time.
     Enough sleep; good food; explained, enforceable rules; family togetherness time. Nothing hard here! Kids grow up incredibly fast - it will fly by. Take the time to make it good for all of you.