The year 2020 has looked a bit different for everyone, and most especially for families. With the school year cut short, many in-person summer programs canceled and a slew of unknowns on the horizon, there is no doubt that parents—whether single, working full time, part-time or unemployed at the moment—are struggling with how exactly to manage having kids at home.
For one local mom, a solution to that problem is in the kitchen.
Brittany Rastelli, Director of QVC Product Merchandising at Rastelli Foods Group and the on-air guest host for Egg Harbor Seafood has been in the food industry for years, since she was 13. After graduating from St. Joseph’s University, Rastelli got started working as an event coordinator for 20 Steven Starr restaurants before joining the Rastelli Market Fresh Team to develop and manage the catering department. A year later, she joined the Egg Harbor Seafood brand as a brand manager and spokesperson, ultimately becoming the on-air guest host for seafood products. Now, the working mom of two has a few tips and tricks up her sleeve to help all parents figure out how to navigate these trying times with a dash of salt, pinch of pepper and a whole lot of heart.
First off, for those who don’t know, would you tell me about Rastelli Foods Group and also the Egg Harbor Seafood Brand and what you are all about?
Rastelli Foods Group was founded over 40 years ago by my father-in-law, Ray Rastelli, Jr. What began as a small butcher shop has grown into an industry-leading corporation supplying the finest hotels, restaurant institutions, retail markets and our guests at home with the highest quality food, products and service. Egg Harbor Seafood is our seafood division of the company, which has gained a following of its own since debuting on QVC back in 2015. All of this growth came from one family with big dreams and a plan to make it all happen.
With kids now mostly at home, what are some of the key ingredients you should have in your house to provide a healthy diet for your family?
I have two children—my son who is 5 and my daughter who is 2—and food staples in our home typically include frozen raw chicken tenders, cod, salmon, shrimp, burgers and round dogs. I also keep frozen corn, broccoli and carrots in our kitchen at all times. I live in New Jersey, so fresh vegetables and fruits are never at a shortage here. I often stop at my local farmers market and purchase fresh berries, avocados, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, cucumbers and zucchini. These ingredients as staples allow for me to always know that I have something to prepare that will be easy and that I will feel good about eating.
Just remember: The best foods are often made with the simplest ingredients. I like to let my foods shine with as little sauces or starches as possible. Broiled salmon with lemon slices, salt and pepper, steamed veggies and a nice glass of wine is all you really need for a delicious dinner at home.
Are there any recipes/tips that you would recommend for families that have children that are picky eaters?
Keep trying, and honestly, don’t be shy about bribery. My daughter eats everything but my son is challenging. If your child will not eat vegetables, try having them help you make something like a smoothie and when they aren’t looking, put some spinach in the blender—they will never know. I try to hide veggies in as many ‘treat’ foods as I can. I’ll pre-bake egg bites in a muffin tin with peppers and cauliflower for a healthy ‘fast food-style’ breakfast. If you have difficulty feeding your child protein other than items like chicken nuggets, try having them help you bread fresh ones at home; my son will finally eat my homemade baked chicken tenders because he thinks he created the recipe. I even got him to try fish sticks this way, which does require an ice cream treat afterwards… but hey, I got him to try fish.
When it comes to desserts for the kids at home, I try to limit the added sugars when I can—I mean, they are kids after all… hence the ice cream above. Homemade ice-pops with blended fruit and water make for a great summer alternative to traditional store-bought treats. If I can’t find any natural juices in the market, I’ll pour the kids a half and half sippy cup: Half juice, half water. I also make cacao brownies with mashed up avocado.
What are some easy dish ideas for busy parents?
I really love the toaster oven and/or one-pan dinners. I always plan my week ahead of time, even if I don’t have time to meal prep. At least twice a week, I take salmon, cod, shrimp, chicken breasts, chicken thighs or pork chops and season them on a baking sheet over parchment paper—the nonstick paper helps reduce the amount of oils and fat you need while baking or broiling—with baby potatoes next to them and a vegetable such as broccoli or zucchini next to the potato. I then spray them with olive oil or brush with vegan butter and seasoning. I pop the pan in the oven for 25-30 minutes on 350 and dinner is ready in no time. I try to also make a big fresh salad a few times a week. Another tip: spray bottles over tablespoons. Try using a spray bottle to dispense oils or salad dressings. You’re able to coat a greater area, while using less product.
Is there anything specific that you would want people to know about what Rastelli Foods Group or Egg Harbor Seafood Brand offers?
The Rastelli’s and Egg Harbor Brands have almost everything individually packaged and blast frozen, so if you do have a picky one, like I do at home, you can pull out a burger, or chicken for them if you are cooking seafood for the rest of your family and it doesn’t take up any extra time. Also, the premium quality of the meat and seafood makes me feel good about feeding it to my family. If you do not live near the retail locations in Marlton or Deptford, you can simply order online and have the fresh proteins arrive at your home. We also have heat and serve options such as meatballs, so the work has been completely cut out for you. Which these days, is a great option for everyone, not just families.
Any other last-minute tips, tricks or facts that you would want people to know about?
I’m sure everyone knows that meal prepping is the easiest and fastest way to be prepared for meals but sometimes, some of us just don’t have the time to consistently do so. So I suggest keeping your freezer stocked with proteins that you enjoy and that are easy to prepare. Mostly, all of Rastelli’s and Egg Harbor’s items defrost in 30 minutes in a bowl of cold water. Stay hydrated, drinking a ton of water throughout the day keeps my energy up so I can keep up with the kids. Plus, whenever I’m eating, I always make sure to have a large glass of water with my meal, it helps me to slow down, enjoy what I am eating and realize my hunger level. You should also try your best to wash your fruits as soon as you get home and cut the ones that will last like strawberries so they are easily accessible. I also always shave and cut my cucumbers and put them in Tupperware as soon as I get home so they are readily available for the incessant question in my house, “Can I have a snack?”
Just remember, have fun and allow the kids to help. Getting them comfortable in the kitchen with you makes them feel accomplished; it promotes healthy eating and it’s something interactive that you can all do together as a family.
To learn more information visit, rastellifoodsgroup.com