Old 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.
This dish subverts the traditional chicken pot pie and makes it into an easier but no less delicious weeknight meal. Make a chicken pot pie filling, with plenty of chicken and vegetables, then spoon it over buttermilk biscuits. It's a dish that everyone in the family loves!
You can use either homemade or refrigerated biscuits to make this—it's great with either. Feel free to mix up the vegetables in the "filling"; broccoli and mushrooms are great additions. This recipe makes 6 servings.
2 cups diced cooked chicken (leftover rotisserie or roast chicken works great)
These cute and clever bird's nest cookies are the perfect treat for Easter. Light and airy coconut-filled meringues really look a lot like birds' nests—you can complete the illusion by adding a few egg-shaped Easter candies. We like the Cadbury mini eggs, but malted milk eggs or even jelly beans will work equally well.
The kids love to help make these, and of course love to eat them. These treats are a great addition to Easter baskets, too. Give them a try, and you'll probably find that they earn a spot in your spring baking repertoire.
With St. Patrick's Day coming up this 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.
This recipe serves 6 to 8, so we usually get two dinners out of it, reheating the leftovers on a weeknight. It actually tastes better after sitting in the refrigerator for a day or two! You can make this either in a casserole dish or in individual ramekins. The kids like the ramekins because each person gets his or her own little shepherd's pie! Watch out, though—the ramekins will be hot.
St. 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.
Who 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 sometimes 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. Try using orange, green, or purple cauliflower to jazz things up a bit, visually.
On cool winter nights, it just seems right to make some stick-to-your-ribs comfort food classics. One of my family's favorites is beef bourguignon.
This timeless dish of beef braised with red wine and vegetables is easy to make and I have yet to find anyone who doesn't love it. It's one of my dinner party staples, since you can throw it all together in the early afternoon and just let it go on the stove so you can socialize instead of slave away in the kitchen.
One of the other great things about beef bourguignon is that you can make it from an inexpensive cut of meat like chuck, which the long braising time renders tender and delicious. I like to buy locally raised grass-fed beef from Marin County producers like Stemple Creek Ranch and Marin Sun Farms when I can, and this is a great way to prepare a quality ingredient without breaking the bank.
A classic central European comfort food dish, chicken paprikash is a great recipe to add to your winter cooking repertoire. Essentially chicken braised in a paprika-laden sauce finished with some sour cream, chicken paprikash is popular in Hungary and its neighbors like Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia.
Make sure you use sweet paprika—preferably Hungarian or Hungarian-style, not the hot or smoked varieties. Dark meat chicken pieces, bone-in and skin-on, work best in this slow-cooked dish. You can use bone-in chicken breasts, too, if you like or even a whole cut-up chicken. Also make sure you serve this with lots of noodles, mashed potatoes, or spätzle to soak up the delicious sauce (it's the best part).
2–3 lbs chicken thighs or leg quarters, bone-in and skin-on
A roast chicken can be satisfying and delicious, but it can be deceptively difficult to make. I've been experimenting with trying to make the perfect roast chicken (I'm getting there, I think), and have been using different techniques to see how they turn out. One of the more successful ones is a "faux-tisserie" chicken, which attempts to develop the same fall-off-the bone texture that you get from your favorite rotisserie-cooked bird.
The general technique comes from Bon Appetit magazine, which advocates cooking the chicken low and slow for hours. I decided to flavor it like they do at Gira Polli in Mill Valley, whose wood-fired rotisserie chickens I think are some of the best in Marin. While this is not a whip-it-up-after-you-get-home-from-work recipe, it's really pretty easy. You just need to be around for the 3 hours it takes to cook it.