Recipes

Classic Coconut Mini Cupcakes for Easter

March 31, 2015

Coconut cupcakesOld fashioned coconut cake is an Easter favorite. We decided to give this classic treat a kid-sized spin and made a fun mini cupcake version.

These light and sweet little cakes with a marshmallow-like frosting are great for parties, playdates, and get-togethers, and of course as dessert on Easter! Sure, you can use fresh toasted coconut on the outside, but we love the old-school white flaked sweetened coconut from the grocery store's baking aisle.

This recipe makes about three dozen mini cupcakes. You can use it to make regular-size cupcakes, too, but of course you'll need to increase the baking time by a few minutes.

Spring Vegetable Pasta is a Dinnertime Hit

March 30, 2015

spring vegetable pastaAfter seeing all the fantastic spring produce at the Marin Civic Center Farmer's Market, I've been determined to create a recipe that showcases some of the season's best vegetables. I made this spring pasta dish this weekend, and my kids loved it. It's built around the organic English peas that I picked up, and is fresh, light, and delicious. I also found the first of the season's white corn, which I usually think of as a summer thing, and I decided that would go well in this dish too (and it did).

Put the kids to work in the kitchen shelling the peas and shucking the corn. It's always fun for them to get involved in cooking a meal. If you don't have the time or inclination to deal with the fresh peas and corn, frozen would work fine, too.

Serves: 6
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Delicious Chicken, Preserved Lemon, and Green Olive Tagine

March 23, 2015

Chicken, Preserved Lemon, and Green Olive TagineI love to make different kinds of ethnic foods, and when I saw that Trader Joe's had jars of preserved lemons from North Africa on their shelves, I knew I had to make a Moroccan dish for dinner. Morocco food is full of spices but not "spicy", and combines North African and Middle Eastern flavors with influences from nearby France and Spain.

I settled on a traditional tagine of chicken, preserved lemon, and green olives. Rich with spices like cumin, saffron, and cinnamon, this stew-like dish is named after the earthenware vessel in which it's usually cooked. We don't own one, so I used a cast iron Dutch oven which works just fine for the recipe. There are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, although a lot of them are the the spices, which you can combine together in a small bowl and then just add at once, so don't be intimidated.

Serve this tagine with plenty of couscous or flatbread so soak up the delicious sauce. It keeps and reheats well, too. The kids really liked this and cleaned their plates (although my daughter declared that the couscous was the best part).

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken, cut into eight pieces, or four whole bone-in, skin-on, chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)
  • 2 medium red onions, sliced

Three-Cheese Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower

March 16, 2015

mac and cheese with cauliflowerWho doesn't love macaroni and cheese? The stuff in the box pales in comparison to the homemade kind, which has been gracing American dining tables since Thomas Jefferson served it up at a state dinner in 1802. While it's delicious, it's not the healthiest thing you can make, but we try to make it a little more wholesome by adding fresh veggies, in this case cauliflower, which blends in nicely with the macaroni and white-cheddar cheese sauce.

My kids actually like cauliflower, so this isn't one of those "hide the vegetables and hope they don't notice" recipes, although if you wanted to cut the cauliflower up into little pieces it might work that way. You can also use broccoli or whatever other veggie you can think of. I happen to think that the cauliflower goes particularly well with it.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni or other tubular pasta
  • 4 cups cauliflower florets (about half a head)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Easy and Delicious Slow-Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage for St. Patrick's Day

March 14, 2015

Slow-cooker corned beef and cabbageSt. Patrick's Day is coming up, and for many that means it's time to cook that quintessential Irish-American dish: corned beef and cabbage. Corned beef—usually a tough cut of meat like brisket or round—requires long, slow, cooking over low heat to make it tender, so it's the perfect candidate for preparing in your slow cooker.

Start your corned beef in the slow cooker early in the day; there's a minimal amount of preparation involved. Some recipes call for adding most of the vegetables at the same time, but I think they turn out a bit overcooked. Instead, add them to the pot during the last two hours of cooking.

With the proliferation of vegetables cooked with the meat, there's something here for everyone in the family. Serve your corned beef accompanied by grainy mustard, horseradish sauce*, and gravy** made from the cooking liquid. Also, when it comes to corned beef, bigger is better. Much of the weight of the meat is water, and it shrinks in size during cooking, so budget about one pound of meat per diner for a generous serving and leftovers (think corned beef sandwiches… mmm…). This recipe serves about 4 people, depending on how hungry everybody is.

Traditional Irish Shepherd's Pie for St. Patrick's Day

March 9, 2015

Shepherd's pieWith St. Patrick's Day coming up next week, my kids have been asking me to make Irish food for dinner. Since corned beef and cabbage is not exactly something you throw together after school, I've been trying other appropriate dishes from the British Isles, like this rib-sticking, easy-to-make, and kid-friendly shepherd's pie. It's essentially a beef-and-vegetable stew topped with mashed potatoes and baked in the oven until golden brown. I topped this version with a little grated Irish white cheddar cheese for a bit more authenticity.

This pub-grub favorite is more correctly known as "cottage pie", since it's made with ground beef instead of leftover roast lamb, but it's delicious no matter what it's called. I always try to bulk up the stew part with extra vegetables to make it a one-dish meal. My kids love this and even my picky-eater daughter asks for a second helping. Feel free to substitute ground turkey or ground lamb for the ground beef. You can also use chopped leftover roast beef or lamb in the filling.

Longevity Noodles for Chinese New Year

March 2, 2015

longevity noodlesDuring Chinese New Year, which ends on March 5 this year, we try to make some of the traditional foods associated with the holiday. Foods that are made and eaten during the new year celebration often have symbolic meanings meant to invoke prosperity and good fortune. In this case, the name "longevity noodles" is self-explanatory: the long noodles symbolize a long and happy life. Don't break them up when you're cooking, and try to eat them all in one piece!

This recipe is our adaptation of the traditional dish. We included a variety of kid-friendly Asian veggies like snow peas, napa cabbage, and bean sprouts, and left out the black mushrooms at the request of my daughter, who helped shop for the ingredients. Feel free to vary the ingredients depending on your family's preferences. Our kids both asked for seconds (and ate the vegetables and chicken, not just the noodles).

Also, it helps to prepare, measure out, and set aside all the ingredients in advance. The dish comes together quickly, and having everything ready and at hand makes a big difference.

Ingredients

When Life Hands You Meyer Lemons, Make Lemon Bars

February 28, 2015

Lemon barLemon bars have to be one of my all time favorite desserts. I usually reserve lemon bars for special occasions, because they are so sweet and rich. They are great for a special treat, party or a school event.

My mom gave me a huge basket of Meyer lemons from her tree, so naturally I used them to make some lemon bars. If you're not familiar with Meyer lemons, they're a seasonal citrus fruit that's similar to the regular Eureka lemons that you find in the grocery store, but with a thinner peel; they're sweeter and more aromatic, too. The lemon bars they made are truly fantastic, with an amazing citrus flavor that you simply won't get from grocery store lemons. If you don't have a Meyer lemon tree yourself (or have a friend who does), you can find them Trader Joe's or at one of the local farmers markets—while they're in season.

Here is the recipe I used for lemon bars. Yes, it seems like a lot of sugar, but you have to offset the tartness of the lemons. If you don't have Meyer lemons, that's OK. This recipe is still fantastic with regular lemons, too.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

February 23, 2015

Slow cooker chicken tortilla soupWinter  to use your slow cooker, since it's perfect for making long-simmered comfort food favorites that hit the spot on a cool evening. Try out this recipe for a Mexican-style tortilla soup. The technique couldn't be easier: you just throw almost everything in the cooker and let it go all day, adding beans and corn at the end.

Everyone likes this because you can personalize your bowl with various garnishes, like avocado, cheese, sour cream, and more. Fire-roasted tomatoes and smoked paprika give this soup a delicious smoky flavor, but of course you can use the normal varieties of these ingredients, too.

Ingredients

  • 1 32-ounce carton low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 15-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
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