Food and Cooking

Delicious recipes, family friendly dining news and reviews, and resources for foodie families in Marin and the Bay Area

Easy and Delicious Slow-Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage for St. Patrick's Day

March 11, 2016

Slow-cooker corned beef and cabbageSt. 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.

Fast Food Gets Healthy at Amy's Drive Thru in Rohnert Park

March 7, 2016

Amy's Drive Thru Rohnert Park

The terms "fast food" and "health food" have never really been synonymous—until Amy's Drive Thru opened last summer in the Sonoma County town of Rohnert Park! Created by the same people who run the Amy's Kitchen, famous for its vegetarian and vegan frozen pizzas, mac-and-cheese, burritos, and other prepared foods, Amy's Drive Thru is like a traditional fast food restaurant with, as the name implies, a drive through, but everything is either vegetarian or vegan, as well as made from sustainable, local, and organic ingredients. We've stopped by Amy's for lunch a few times when up in the area, and really enjoyed their unique healthy take on traditional fast food treats.

Three-Cheese Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower

February 29, 2016

mac and cheese with cauliflowerWho 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.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni or other tubular pasta
  • 4 cups cauliflower florets (about half a head)

When Life Hands You Meyer Lemons, Make Lemon Bars

February 23, 2016

Lemon barLemon bars have to be one of my all time favorite desserts. I usually reserve lemon bars for special occasions, because they are so sweet and rich. They are great for a special treat, party or a school event.

My mom gave me a huge basket of Meyer lemons from her tree, so naturally I used them to make some lemon bars. If you're not familiar with Meyer lemons, they're a seasonal citrus fruit that's similar to the regular Eureka lemons that you find in the grocery store, but with a thinner peel; they're sweeter and more aromatic, too. The lemon bars they made are truly fantastic, with an amazing citrus flavor that you simply won't get from grocery store lemons. If you don't have a Meyer lemon tree yourself (or have a friend who does), you can find them Trader Joe's or at one of the local farmers markets—while they're in season.

Here is the recipe I used for lemon bars. Yes, it seems like a lot of sugar, but you have to offset the tartness of the lemons. If you don't have Meyer lemons, that's OK. This recipe is still fantastic with regular lemons, too.

Slow Cooker Chili for a Cool Evening

February 21, 2016

slow cooker chiliWinter is the perfect time to fire up the slow cooker and make some long-simmered comfort food. Chili is a perfect food for a cool winter, fall, or early spring evening. Everyone in our family likes it, and you can offer a variety of different condiments so everyone can customize their bowl to their own liking.

Here, I’ve adapted my go-to chili recipe for the slow cooker. Put all the ingredients in the cooker in the morning and let it go and it will be hot and ready in time for dinner. You can also chop up the vegetables for the recipe—onions, garlic, and green peppers—in the food processor, saving a little more work in the process.

If you like your chili spicy, feel free to add some cayenne pepper (1 teaspoon or to taste) or chopped jalapeños. Since we always have to feed both grownups and kids, so I tend to make it mild. Besides, you can always add your own heat after the fact, but it's impossible to take it out once you've put it in!

Get Your Garden Started with a Trip to the Petaluma Seed Bank

February 21, 2016

Petaluma Seed Bank

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!

Make Some Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies

February 13, 2016

Valentine's Day cookiesMy kids love to make these basic sugar cookies and decorate them for Valentine's Day. They are easy to make and are a fun project for a rainy day. Decorate your cookies with pink and red Valentine's sprinkles or, better yet, an artistically applied drizzle of rich dark chocolate. They look festive and taste good too.

Give as a gift wrapped in cellophane bags tied with raffia or ribbon or in a heart-shaped box. Who wouldn't be happy to get these delicious and pretty sweet treats on Valentines Day?

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (you’ll need a little more for dusting your work surface, too)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Sunday Fundays Return to Hard Rock Café at PIER 39: Kids Eat Free!

February 12, 2016

Hard Rock Cafe FamilyMarin Mommies presents a sponsored shout-out from the Hard Rock Café at PIER 39 in San Francisco.

Back by popular demand… SUNDAY FUNDAY: Kids Eat Free with family friendly entertainment at Hard Rock Café, PIER 39! Mom and Dad get to rock out, drink, and eat while the kids enjoy a free meal with every adult entree purchased, 1:1. Mention that you saw it on Marin Mommies and get a free souvenir for the kids. Make your reservations here.

Enjoy face painting, pirates and fairies … it changes every SUNDAY FUNDAY. Count on Hard Rock Cafe for healthy meal options, great ambience, and rock star service! Join us please for the best deal on the pier and say "hi" to the sea lions while you are down here.

Offer is valid noon to 2 pm and is not combinable with other offers. Free validated parking with purchase at PIER 39 garage. This week come please see Bri Crabtree, San Francisco circus artist specializing in juggling and variety entertainment. 

Sweet Treats for Valentine's Day at Teeny Cake Bakery in Novato

February 9, 2016

Teeny Cake Valentine's DayLooking for a sweet treat for someone special this Valentine's Day? Teeny Cake, Marin's favorite cupcake bakery, is getting geared up for the big day this Sunday, February 14. All of their delicious teeny cakes will be decorated for heart-filled celebrations, and special Valentine's Day boxes with either a dozen or half-dozen cakes will be available for pre-order and pick-up on Saturday or Sunday.

Delivery is also available for a small fee (with minimum order). Pre-ordering is encouraged, as many popular flavors are expected to sell out!

Teeny Cake will also be hosting a high tea service at 11 am and 2 pm on Sunday, February 14. Reservations are required—spots are filling up quickly, so call soon to reserve your spot. Tea service includes a selection of loose-leaf tea, an organic fresh fruit scone, clotted cream and jam, assorted finger sandwiches and hand-made sweets. The high tea costs $40 for adults and $18 for children 12 and under, including tax and gratuity.

Wonton Party for Chinese New Year

February 7, 2016

Fried wontonsTomorrow, February 8, marks the beginning of the celebrations for Chinese New Year: the Year of the Monkey. It's a tradition in our house to make wontons, as dumplings are traditionally associated with the holiday. Wontons are easy to make, tasty, kid-friendly, and you can get everything you need at your local grocery store. Furthermore, they're something children can help make with minimal effort, and they even have a lot of fun folding the things.

So, pick up a pack of pre-made wonton wrappers and other ingredients and get ready to start your Chinese New Year wonton party! Our recipe is for chicken wontons, although you can use pork, shrimp, or other fillings, depending on what you like or happen to have on hand. Wontons can be prepared in a number of different ways, including steaming, boiling, frying, and can even be served in soup (our favorite).

Ingredients

The wontons

  • 1-1/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into pieces
  • 1 package square wonton wrappers