I love to make a big pot of soup on Sunday evenings, since it's a great weekend meal and makes for leftovers all week long. This version of the classic Italian minestrone soup uses vegetables that are available locally during the fall months. It's hearty and filling and good for you, too.
Leave out the pancetta to make it vegetarian/vegan. I also like to make this soup using just water instead of chicken broth—the flavor of the fresh vegetables really comes through. I cook the pasta separately and add it to the bowls when serving. That way when there are leftovers it doesn't absorb all the liquid in the soup when it sits.
Creating colorful leaf prints is one of my children's favorite simple fall craft projects. We love to take advantage of Marin's great fall weather and go on family hikes and walks at this time of year. Along the way, the kids collect interesting autumn leaves, which we bring home to use as decorations and to make leaf prints.
Making leaf prints is an easy project that kids of all ages can do, and the results can be really beautiful. To make them you’ll need:
My daughter wanted to make something for dinner with pumpkin in it, it being that time of year and all, and I suggested pumpkin soup. She countered with the idea of serving the soup in little scooped out pumpkins instead of bowls, and we both decided it was a great idea!
The soup turned out better than I imagined, and using the pumpkins as bowls is fun and easy, if a bit labor intensive. This soup is really simple, so make sure you use high-quality ingredients so that all the flavors come through. We found wonderful little locally grown organic sugar pie pumpkins from Full Belly Farm on sale at our local market, and we used yellow potatoes that we dug up ourselves at the Great Peter Pumpkin Patch a couple weeks ago.
Halloween is one of our favorite holidays of year, and there's so much family fun to be found in Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area. Find a variety of family-friendly Halloween events that's right for you! We'll keep updating our list of events for Marin and beyond as we find more this fall. If you have an event you'd like to see added to the list, please contact us.
Marin and Sonoma Events
The Amazing Maze
Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito
Children experience the joys and surprises of black light in this glow-in-the-dark hay maze. In this special exhibit, children are challenged to navigate a 150-bale hay maze—complete with tunnels, netting, and a slide—all under black light! In addition to the winding maze, there is a glow-in-the-dark dress-up station with white clothes and accessories for kids to try on, as well as a fluorescent Shoot-A-Hoop game. (Note: The hay used in our maze is seed-free rice straw.) Admisson applies. Location: 557 McReynolds Road, Fort Baker, Sausalito. For more info, visit their website.
Spooky Sound Stories with Trombonist Andy Strain
San Anselmo Library, Counsel Chambers
Wednesday, October 26, 3–3:45 pm Get in the Halloween spirit with scary stories presented by two talented musicians. Andy Strain is a professional trombonist and educator and Aaron is a master percussionist. Location: 110 Tunstead Ave, San Anselmo. For more info, visit their website.
I'm a big fan of cooking with pumpkin, which is one of the reasons I love the fall. Pumpkin soup, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bars, pumpkin ravioli—they're all delicious. My kids' favorite are these pumpkin oatmeal cookies, which are chewy and, I like to think, actually good for you. These cookies are a great treat for the lunchbox too.
I mix in in dark chocolate chunks (chocolate chips work equally well), walnuts, and dried cranberries to make them more interesting. They're also fantastic with toasted pumpkin seeds instead of the walnuts. In fact, feel free to use whatever you like to mix in: white chocolate chips, raisins, dried cherries, and pecans are all good.Ingredients
This weekend we paid a visit to the popular Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch, a certified organic pumpkin patch that has been a Marin County tradition for 20 years! Located in the small west Marin village of Nicasio, the farm is just west of the Nicasio Village Square right on Nicasio Valley Road. Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch is open seven days a week through Halloween from 10 am to 6 pm, and it's always worth a visit.
Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch offers a wide variety of certified organic pumpkins spread out in an expansive meadow on the farm. Pumpkin varieties ranged from your standard Halloween jack-o-lantern types to white ones, green Italian and Australian varieties, and flat European "Cinderella" style squash. The farmstand also offers of gourds, squash, and decorative cornstalks, apples, as well as drinks and snacks. Pumpkins range in price from $5 to $32.
In addition to producing healthy and sustainable local food, Petaluma's Tara Firma Farms also puts on fantastic family-friendly events throughout the year. This fall, their annual Pumpkins on Pikes event continues this tradition. Come on out to the farm for Halloween fun with pumpkin carving, live music, dancing, a corn maze, BBQ and more.
Pumpkins on Pikes takes place on Saturday, October 29, from 2 to 10 pm. Bring your pumpkin carving tools, blankets and coats to stay warm after dark, a sheet to cover hay bales for seating, and favorite treat for the dessert potluck. Free pumpkins for carving will be provided with admission. The carved pumpkins are placed on pikes out in the cornfield, and when the sun goes down, the pumpkins are lit. It's an amazing spectacle! A BBQ dinner will be available for purchase at the event, too.
Fall is one of our favorite times of year, and there's so much family fun to be found in Marin and beyond. Find a fall festival or fair that's right for your family! We'll keep updating our list of events for Marin and beyond as we find more this fall. If you have an event you'd like to see added to the list, please contact us.
San Domenico School Garden Faire
Saturday, October 8, 10 am–1 pm
Enjoy a family-friendly community fun day for all ages. There will be craft & games, live music, farmers' market, eco-exhibits and gourmet foods. Event website.
Lagunitas Fall Music Fest
San Geronimo Valley Community Center
Saturday, 2–6 pm This annual community music festival supports the Lagunitas Public School District’s Montessori Program and features area performers and youth bands, fun kid's activities, great food, and arts and crafts. Free admission. Food and games available for purchase. Location: 6350 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, San Geronimo. For more info, visit their website.
Late summer marks the start of apple season, and plenty of the tasty and popular fruits can be found in the North Bay, especially in the area around Sebastopol in western Sonoma County. Sebastopol is the de facto apple capital of the Bay Area, and it's justifiably famous for its Gravenstein apples, a variety that you won't find grown commerically anywhere else. While it's fun to eat and cook with apples, it's even more fun (and educational) to head out into an orchard and pick them yourselves!
If you're not lucky enough to have an apple tree growing in your backyard, then head up to one of the local apple farms that offers a u-pick experience. It's a fun family outing, and prices and quality are usually bettter than you'll find in the supermarket. There's nothing quite like an afternoon on the farm, too.