After all our apple picking excursions to Chileno Valley Ranch, we decided to make our favorite apple pie. 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 made this pie with Mutsu apples from Chileno Valley Ranch, but any good baking apple, like Gravenstein or Granny Smith, will work equally well.
3 pounds apples (about 6 medium), peeled, cored, and sliced
The 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)
Today, 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
When things get busy, especially at the start of a new school year, I place an order to Pernilla's Pantry, a mom-run business here in Marin that offers creative healthy meals for busy families. When your order arrives, you'll receive recipe cards and all the ingredients that you need to make three or four fantastic family meals for the week.
Pernilla's Pantry was created by Pernilla Sumner, a Marin mom and Swedish native who loves to share her passion for food and good cooking with others. Pernilla shared one of her most popular recipes with us: Deconstructed Cheeseburger Salad.
When the temperature rises in the summer, we like to make these frozen watermelon pops to help beat the heat. They're easy to make, delicious, healthy (they're all fruit, after all), and fun to eat on a hot summer day.
You don't need much to make these, just the watermelon, a little sugar (if needed), a blender or food processor, and ice pop molds. You can use other fruits to make these, too—fresh strawberries are particularly good—but the classic summer flavor of watermelon just seems to be perfect for a frozen treat like this.
The kids like to pitch in and help make these, too, although it can be hard for them to wait while the pops firm up in the freezer. Needless to say, grownups may want to take charge of the blending, for safety's sake.
Chili is one of those meals that can be on the hearty, heavy side and not something you necessarily want to serve for a summer dinner—except for this fresh and healthy version. For this summer chili, I lighten things up considerably and take advantage of fresh summer produce like the zucchini growing in our backyard garden and sweet corn.
Serve this chili with a variety of toppings and add-ons so each diner can customize it to his or her taste. You can make it vegetarian (or vegan) by omitting the ground turkey and doubling the amount of beans, corn, and squash. Either way, it's delicious! And our kids even eat it, too. There's probably no reason you couldn't make this year-round, either, although you'd have to substitute frozen corn for the fresh.
I love my slow cooker, but I really don't use it much during the summer, because, after all, who wants to eat hearty soups and stews on a hot day? Lately, however, I've been trying to think about how to use the slow cooker to make more warm-weather kinds of dishes. One of my successful recipes is for a slow-cooker version of chicken pho, that delicious Vietnamese noodle soup. Simmer the broth all day in the slow cooker, then prep the garnishes and noodles and dinner is ready!
Pho is usually associated with beef, but this chicken version is a little healthier and easier to make. It's probably not 100% authentic, but it tastes pretty darn close to the real thing, without the need to pay a visit to your favorite Vietnamese restaurant (and there aren't too many of them in Marin). One of the great things about pho is that you can vary the taste to your own liking by adding traditional garnishes like fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and chiles. If you (or your kids) like it plain, that's fine, too!
Now that summer is here and the weather is warm, it's the perfect time to not only enjoy a cold glass of iced tea, but to make your own sun tea, too. I've found myself drinking a lot of iced tea over the past few years (it probably has something to do with parental sleep deprivation). I usually buy bottles of Tejava tea, which I love because it's unsweeted and has a good strong tea flavor.
I decided to try making my own and maybe save a little money in the process. I remember my mom making sun tea way back when, and thought I'd give it a try. The results were really fantastic, so I thought I'd share them here. It's really easy to do, really inexpensive, and the kids actually had fun helping make it.
A two-quart sealable glass jar.
Four to six black tea bags
Sprigs of fresh mint (optional)
Place tea bags and mint (if using) in a clean glass jar. Fill the jar with water and seal.
These marinated and grilled short ribs are the perfect thing for a summer backyard BBQ. They only take a few minutes to make and cook (outside of the marinating time), and the sweet-salty soy sauce-based Hawaiian marinade delivers a taste of the islands without having to get on a plane.
You can serve these short ribs in classic Hawaiian plate lunch style, accompanied by two scoops of rice and macaroni salad, but we opted to be a little healthier and make an island-style sesame-cabbage slaw that has added texture from crumbled dry instant ramen noodles.
You'll want to get Hawaiian-style—also called Maui- or flanken-style—short ribs, which are cut in thin strips across the bone. These don't need to be marinated all that long, and only need to be grilled a few minutes on each side. The marinade works great with chicken or pork, too.