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.
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.
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.
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!
Marin 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.
Looking 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.
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.
Our go-to place for Japanese food in Marin has always been Taki restaurant in Novato's Pacheco Plaza. We've been dining there for years (even before we had kids), and it's consistently provided good food, friendly service, huge portions, and a pleasant atmosphere. It's a great family dining experience.
Taki has a rustic Japanese country inn atmosphere, with lots of woodwork and Japanese art and decor. While most of the seating is at regular tables, there's a Japanese-style tatami area for larger groups in back, where you sit on the floor, courtesy of cutouts for your legs in the raised platform. There's even an outdoor dining area in front of the restaurant, in case you happen to be there on a nice day.
The a koi pond and fountain near the entrance contribute to the serene atmosphere, and the owner sometimes lets the kids feed the brightly colored fish, who swim over to them in anticipation of a meal. The kids also enjoy watching the sushi chefs at work at the wooden sushi bar, and looking at all the Japanese decor items around the restaurant, including traditional geisha dolls, lucky cats, and darumas.
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.