Our Favorite Homemade Apple Pie

August 27, 2015

apple pieAfter all our apple picking excursions in Marin and Sonoma, plus offerings from our neighbors and my mom, we've found ourselves with a surplus of apples. That means I'm always looking for fantastic apple recipes. Of course good old apple pie is one of those that falls immediately to mind.

This is my go-to recipe for this treat. It's an adaptation of the recipe that used to be on the back of the box of Trader Joe's frozen pie crusts. I don't know what it is about it, but it makes what my family thinks it the best apple pie ever. I still usually use the Trader Joe's pie crusts for this, since they're really good quality and make for a lot less work. Feel free to make your own pie crusts or to use a different brand, though.

I like to make this pie with local Gravenstein apples, but any tart apple, such as Granny Smith, will work fine.


  • 3 pounds apples (about 6 medium), peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1 package Trader Joe's pie crusts, thawed

Austrian Baked Ham, Cheese, and Noodle Casserole

August 23, 2015

Schinkenfleckerl Austrian ham, cheese, and noodle casseroleThe real name for this delicious baked pasta dish is Schinkenfleckerl, but since it's hard to pronounce we'll call it an Austrian ham, cheese, and noodle casserole. This dish is like macaroni-and-cheese's more sophisticated European cousin, and since it's pretty rich it's usually just served with a green salad on the side. Schinken is ham and Fleckerl are little square-ish egg noodles that are common in Austrian and German cuisine, but we use regular wide egg noodles or even broken up pieces of egg pappardelle noodle.

Despite the inclusion of ingredients like sour cream (which both my kids swear up and down they don't like) everyone thought this was delicious! This recipe is really easy to put together, and it makes quite a bit so you'll probably have plenty of leftovers for another meal.


  • 12 ounces egg noodles
  • 1/2 pound smoked ham, diced
  • 1/2 pound Emmentaler or Swiss cheese, grated

Apple Walnut Bread is Delicious and Easy to Make

August 22, 2015

Apple Walnut BreadIn the late summer and fall we love to go apple picking at farms in Marin and Sonoma County. It's so much fun to choose and pick your own fruit, but sometimes you end up with more apples than you know what to do with. I've been trying to figure out different creative ways to use apples, since I hate to see any go to waste.

Fresh-baked apple walnut bread is delicious, easy to make and a great way to use up extra apples. It also makes the house smell amazing while it's baking. It's good as part of breakfast, as a snack, or even dessert. My kids love to get a slice in their lunchboxes, too.


  • 1-1/2 cups peeled, cored, and chopped apples
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Healthy Lunch & Snack Ideas for the New School Year

August 18, 2015

Healthy school lunch ideasNo matter how prepared for the new school year you think you are, it can always be challenging to figure out what to pack for school lunches and snacks. Trying to balance healthy, nutritious food and things the kids will actually eat can be difficult, too.

Here are a few of my family's favorite lunchbox treats that are not only good for you, but delicious and fun to eat, too. The kids love to help make them—I find that they usually eat food they prepare themselves (even vegetables!), so I usually let them help out in the kitchen when I can, especially when we're making their school lunches.

Tortellini Skewers

My daughter absolutely loves cheese tortellini (and what kid doesn’t?) so we make these neat little skewers for a lunchtime treat.

You’ll need:

Fresh Summer Vegetable Pasta

August 16, 2015

summer vegetable pastaAfter our last trip to Petaluma's Green String Farm, I wanted to create a recipe that showcased some of the fantastic vegetables that we bought at the farm store there. My kids picked out a lot of cute little baby summer squash, and we had ripe red tomatoes, and a beautiful purple onion, too. Of course I wanted to make something that the kids would eat, too! We created this recipe that showcases these delicious summer vegetables.

We decided to make a creamy summer vegetable pasta with the little cheese ravioli from Trader Joes—my daughter loves them and insisted on having them for dinner. If you don't want to use the ravioli, you could use any kind of pasta shape for this recipe; penne or bow ties would be perfect.


  • 1 bag dried Trader Joe's cheese ravioli, or 1 lb pasta of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

No Campfire? Make S'mores Cookies!

August 10, 2015

s'mores cookiesToday, August 10, is National S'mores Day! In case you don't know what a s'more is, it's a treat consisting of a graham cracker topped with square of milk chocolate (Hershey's is traditional), then topped with a warm toasted marshmallow and then another graham cracker. "S'more" is a contraction of "some more," which is what everyone says after they finish their first one.

If you don't have a campfire or fire pit handy today, try making these amazingly delicious s'mores cookies. They incorporate all the ingredients of a s'more in an easy to make and eat cookie form, so you can enjoy the deliciousness of s'mores anytime without having to wait to go on a camping trip. My son said these were the best cookies he ever tasted, and I'm inclined to agree with him.


  • 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs

Chef Daddy Makes Pizza al Taglio

August 9, 2015

pizza al taglioThe other day I was craving really good homemade pizza, but I was also feeling kind of lazy and didn't want to deal with making dough, trying to get the pizza onto the pizza stone intact, and the rest of the work that comes with my other homemade pizza recipe. In a moment of inspiration, I thought about pizza al taglio, the thicker pizza that's cooked on a baking sheet and popular as a street food in Rome. What if I tried to make it with Trader Joe's fresh pizza dough?

I ran over to our local TJ's and picked up two packages of their very good and inexpensive refrigerated pizza dough, as well as some fresh mozzarella and of course a bunch of other stuff that I probably didn't really need. At home, I picked some plum tomatoes from the garden and grabbed some fresh oregano and basil, too, and decided that I had everything I needed.

Here's the recipe that I came up with for a simple margherita style pizza al taglio:

  • Two bags Trader Joe's refrigerated pizza dough
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded (canned are OK, too)

Blue Bayou Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

August 2, 2015

Disneyland chicken and sausage gumboWe just got back from a family road trip to Southern California, where we spent a couple days at everyone's favorite Orange County destination: Disneyland. (Yes, it was crowded and yes we still had a lot of fun.)

One of the things we were actually pleasantly surprised with at Disneyland was the food. Sure, much of it was overpriced, but the quality was actually very good for the most part. We also learned that if you asked for a recipe at Town Hall they gladly give it to you!

We got their recipe for the gumbo served at New Orleans Square restaurants the Blue Bayou (the one inside Pirates of the Caribbean) and Cafe Orleans. The recipe they give you is a restaurant one for making huge amounts, so we had to fiddle with it a bit to make it usable in a home kitchen. It's really good, though—simple and hearty and everyone liked it. In our version we used spicy andouille sausage and cooked chicken, but feel free to use whatever you like; shrimp would be a great addition. Take a bite and you'll be transported back to New Orleans, or at least the Disney version of it.

Easy Summer Frittata

July 26, 2015

frittataFrittatas are a great dish for a light dinner, brunch, or lunch. This Italian-style omelet is versatile—you can make it with any number of different ingredients—delicious, and inexpensive. Make sure you use good quality eggs; bonus points if you have your own backyard chickens. We used zucchini from our summer vegetable garden, but you can use anything you like. Kale and Swiss chard are really good, as are spinach and asparagus. Leave the ham out to make it vegetarian.


  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
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