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.
This time of year always has a way of making us ready for the warm days of spring and summer, especially after the warm weather preview we got last week. And of course with those thoughts of warm months come dreams of our spring and summer vegetable garden! For the last few years, we've really made an effort to put in a substantial vegetable garden in our backyard. The children love to help pick out the seeds, plant them, water the plants, and pick the vegetables (and eat them, too), so it's a fun, educational, and tasty experience for them. We also like the fact that we get to eat our own organically grown veggies!
Our first task of the season is to go get our seeds. We try to go the heirloom route—they're so much more fun than your plain old (ahem) garden variety vegetables—and we always buy our seeds at the Petaluma Seed Bank, the West Coast outpost of the fantastic Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri. They stock a vast array of seeds for a wide variety of vegetables, many of which you probably didn't know existed!
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.
Tiburon, that "nearly perfect" Marin town on the end of its namesake peninsula, is a fantastic place for families to visit. Tiburon has long been a favorite of locals and tourists, and boasts amazing views of San Francisco, plenty of boutiques, shops, and restaurants, and lots for everyone to see and do. So pack up the kiddos this summer and head out to Tiburon for a day of fun!
You'll probably want to head straight for downtown Tiburon. We love to walk along the path in Shoreline park and watch the sailboats as they glide by on San Francisco Bay. Along the way, you'll find a fun and interesting museum that's perfect for kids, as well as grassy areas that are ideal for a picnic or just relaxing.
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.
It's the new year, and that usually entails resolutions about being more healthy. But families are busy, so simple tasks like just going grocery shopping for healthy food can be inconvenient, if not downright difficult. (This goes double for new parents!) Fortunately, you can get healthy, organic food delivered right to your doorstep or to a convenient local pickup area here in Marin County through a local farm's CSA or an organic grocery delivery service. These services all feature locally grown or produced sustainable food—perfect for the healthy locavore family!
Local Farm CSAs
What's a CSA? CSA stands for "community supported agriculture", and it's a way for consumers to get involved with local farms and food producers, support their efforts, and get great seasonal food, too. Every week, or month, or whatever time period you choose, you'll get a box full of fresh produce, eggs, meat, and more, ready to be incorporated into your family meal plan. Some farms, like Petaluma's Tara Firma Farms, offer other benefits to their CSA members, like special events and farm tours.
Most of the time, the farms choose what goes in subscribers' boxes, but that's usually a good thing, since they know what's at the peak of season. Prices for CSA boxes vary depending on the farm and the size and frequency of the box.
Sound interesting? Here's our list of local CSAs that deliver to areas within Marin County. Many of them deliver or offer drop off sites in San Francisco, Sonoma County, and the East Bay, as well (check their websites for exact locations). We've made sure to note which CSAs offer delivery right to your door, too.
West Marin's pioneering producer of grass-fed beef and other sustainable pasture-raised meats provides CSA subscribers with packages that include either meat or poultry. Since Marin Sun Farms raises a variety of livestock, you might receive beef, chicken, lamb, pork, goat, and duck. CSA boxes are delivered directly to your door. More info: www.marinsunfarms.com
Here's our list of Marin restaurants with kids-eat-free offers, broken down by the day of the week. Please note that all information presented here is, to the best of our knowledge, correct at the time of posting, but deals come and deals go, so you should confirm with the restaurant before you go, just in case.
Sonoma Taco Shop 210 Northgate One
San Rafael 94903
Sonoma Taco Shop in Northgate One in Terra Linda offers a free item (dine in only) off the kids' menu with the purchase of an adult item seven days a week. www.sonomatacoshop.com
This recipe for baked manicotti is an old favorite of mine, and something that my kids love to both help make and eat, too. Tubes of pasta are filled with a mixture of ricotta cheese and chopped spinach, then covered in tomato sauce, and topped with a rich béchamel sauce and parmesan cheese. It's hearty and delicious at any time of year, and the kids don't even notice that the manicotti filling includes spinach (something good for them!).
The kids like to help stuffing the manicotti tubes, so get them into the kitchen to lend a hand making dinner. If you're in a hurry, use a good quality jarred sauce and it will come together quickly. We like to make our own, and usually have a container of it in the freezer for recipes like this. (I've included my basic tomato sauce recipe below, too.)
These moist, flavorful, not-too-sweet cookies are excellent for snacks, breakfast or dessert. Full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, your kids probably won't even realize they're snacking on something that's good for them!
At this time of year, my family and I love making a warm pot of comforting soup for dinner. The kids love chicken soup in all its forms, so I created this Mexican-inspired version of chicken and rice soup to mix things up a bit.
This definitely isn't your run-of-the-mill bowl of chicken soup—it's simple but delicious and everyone loved it. Filled with chicken, rice, and vegetables, you can also mix in garnishes to personalize your bowl.
While the "right" way to make this is probably to simmer a whole chicken for a long time, this weeknight one-pot-meal is easy and quick to put together with boneless skinless chicken breasts and good quality chicken broth.