Life is too short to eat bad food! Sharing great recipes, farm life, stories and photography from our Northern California dairy farm.

October 30, 2014

7 Simple Tips for Introducing your Kids to Cooking

It's a busy time of year with holiday events right around the corner and maybe your kids are involved in fall sports as well.  Sometimes it can be difficult to find some quality family time to spend with your kids. Introducing the kids to cooking is a great way to spend that quality time with them.  My kids love helping me in the kitchen and by involving them in all aspects of the cooking process, they seem to be more apt to try new and different things.



Chef Works, a leading provider of culinary apparel for professionals and home cooks alike, have compiled the following simple tips to get kids involved (and excited!) in the kitchen!


Start Them Young
Like most things you want to teach your kids, the earlier you can get them started, the better. While obviously you’re not going to let a toddler handle a knife or cook at the stove, there are plenty of tasks that aren’t dangerous that will get them excited about food. Give your kindergartner a bowl of green beans to snap, or let your kids dump flour into the mixing bowl when making bread. Kids from almost any age can help measure, rinse, stir, or clean.
 
Start Simple
When you first teach your kids to cook, you can overwhelm them with complicated recipes and techniques. Instead, try easy snacks and recipes that require very little, but turn out impressive. Simple dips, fruit salads, or easy pizzas are all things that won’t burn out your kids, and that they’ll love to eat when the time comes.   The younger your kids are, the shorter their attention span, so you need to make sure that whatever you’re doing is hands on, and produces results fast. It will make them extra excited to get in the kitchen next time, especially if they end up getting a treat at the end.
 
Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Mess
Kids love messes, and while you may not like cleaning up, it can make cooking all the more fun. Let kids roll out pie dough, stir batters, and smash tomatoes with their hands. Just make sure you teach them how to clean up after each session as well.
 
Get Kids Their Own Gear
If mommy or daddy is a professional chef, then your kids may look up to you when you put on your crisp white jacket and hat to go to work. Who says you have to limit it to work? Chef Works sells a variety of gear for kids, so get your kids their own aprons or jackets. It will teach them about cleanliness, and maybe even encourage them to follow in your footsteps as a professional some day.
 
Let Them Be in Charge
After a few lessons in the kitchen, let kids that are old enough take over the planning, prep, and even some of the cooking. Kids will be excited to know that a meal that they came up with on their own is eaten and enjoyed by the family. Of course, you can help them if they request it, or aren’t old enough to do everything on their own, but it’s an amazing sense of accomplishment when they do as much as they can on their own.
 
Take Them Shopping
Instead of dreading taking your kids shopping, embrace it. Walk them through the produce department, and talk about different fruits and vegetables and their nutritional benefits. Let them touch, smell, and feel the difference between different types of fruits, and teach them about different meats and cheeses. Skip the junk food aisles to limit begging, but instead teach your kids the value of real, wholesome food.
 
Farmer’s markets are another great way to get kids excited about different foods, and you’ll have a blast watching your kids’ excitement as they learn how different foods are grown and produced. It can teach them to appreciate good quality food that fuels their bodies instead of just satiating them.
 
Make it a Family Thing

Parenting experts will tell you that eating a meal around the dinner table is important, and it is. You can make it even more special by making the cooking process a family affair as well. Assign each family member a task based on age and ability, and get in the habit of coming together each night to make a meal that is worthy of the best restaurants. You’ll accomplish two things by doing this: First, you’ll be building good habits and spending quality time with your family, and second, you’ll take the pressure off of one person to do all of the work of meal planning and prep. It’s truly a win-win for everyone involved, and once you start doing it, you’ll wish that your parents had done it with you.
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October 28, 2014

Bacon Apple Pie To DIE For

Last week I attended our Cooking Club's first meeting of the year.  With a fall theme, this is a favorite time of year for flavorful comfort food.  But when my friend, Kristi, walked in with this Bacon Apple Pie, taking pictures of any other dish kind of went out the window.

Bacon Apple Pie.

I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into this one.


It was as tasty as it looked.  The combination of the cinnamon, nutmeg and clove apples with the saltiness of the bacon, was over the top.  I loved it.

The only modification Kristi suggested was to leave the bacon slices a little longer because they do shrink quite a bit during the baking process.

Here's the original recipe from, The Loveless Cafe.

Bacon Apple Pie
Ingredients:
9-inch pie shell, unbaked
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 cups 1/2-inch-thick sliced peeled apples (1 1/2-2 pounds) ~ My favorite for pie is the Granny Smith Apple
8-12 slices uncooked Loveless Cafe Country Smoked Bacon


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the pie shell on a sturdy baking sheet and set aside.

In a large bowl, rub the brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and cloves together with your fingertips until blended. Add the apples and toss to coat. Dump the spiced apple slices into the pie shell, including any sugar and juices that have accumulated in the bowl.

Weave the uncooked bacon on top of the pie filling, starting from the center and working your way out to the edges. For a lattice topping you should have an over-under pattern with 5 pieces going vertically and five pieces going horizontally. Trim the edges and pinch into the crust to seal. Cover pie with foil and bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour. Remove cover. Continue baking for 15 minutes until golden brown and bacon is crisp.

Let pie cool for 1 hour before cutting.

For more information about different apple varieties, please visit U.S. Apple Association or the California Apple Commission

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October 16, 2014

North Beach Italian Heritage Parade & the Blue Angels in SF

Every year, good friends of ours celebrate Italian Heritage Day during Columbus Day weekend in North Beach, San Francisco....more specifically, from in front of Original Joe's restaurant and bar. This year I had the pleasure of joining in all the fun.  We couldn't have asked for a more spectacular day.  It was sunny, no fog, with temps close to the 90's.....yes, it was that warm.




The Italian Heritage Parade is the city's oldest civic event and the nation's oldest Italian-American parade and community celebration that works its way from Fisherman's Wharf to the quaint neighborhood of North Beach.  Every restaurant in the entire neighborhood of North Beach sets up outdoor, reserved seating, serving food, drinks and a front row view of the two hour + parade which begins at 12:30 p.m.





A family style lunch was served just after noon to our outdoor table at Original Joe's.  Oh so tender roasted chicken, flavorful beef, roasted potatoes, broccoli, ravioli, salad and plenty of vino.  What a spread!







Soon enough the parade made its way down past our table.





 A wide variety of parade entries kept us all entertained....from tossing candy and even a pizza to the parade viewers and diners.




The Italian Heritage Parade happens to coinside with  Fleet Week in San Francisco and this year, the Blue Angels were scheduled to fly once again.  I was fortunate enough to be able to watch the entire Blue Angel show from the roof-top of Saints Peter and Paul Church in North Beach...{thanks Randy!!!}






Fighter jets; so loud, fast and powerful.....gives me chills every time.





We had a panoramic view of the bay and all North Beach from the roof top.  





Perfect for viewing some of our nation's top pilots.





I hope to make this weekend experience an annual tradition for myself.  If you're ever in the City or have thought about attending Fleet Week or the Italian Heritage Parade, I highly recommend it!



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October 14, 2014

Hearty Fall Salad

It's finally feeling like fall here in northern California.  Rain projected to occur within the next few hours!  Such an turn around from last week's high temps of the 90's.  This salad recipe courtesy Bon Appetit just looks like "fall" to me.  From the charred broccoli to the white beans....if a salad can be classified as "hearty", this is the one.

The recipe calls for soaking your own beans overnight but I will modify by using canned Cannellini beans instead.  I'm lazy sometimes.  I love the combination of broccoli and parmesean cheese.  Yum. However, I'm not a huge anchovy fan, so I may substitute my old standby of bacon.  I will also use rice wine vinegar as well....I love that sweet/tang flavor in every salad I toss.

Enjoy your fall!



Photo and recipe courtesy Bon Appetit


Ingredients:
2 cups dried large white beans
(such as gigante or corona),
soaked overnight
3 ounces Parmesan with rind
1 onion, quartered
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
Kosher salt
1½ pound broccoli (about 3
small heads), coarsely chopped
½ cup olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
4 anchovy fillets packed in oil,
drained, finely chopped
2 wide strips lemon zest, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Directions:
Drain beans and place in a large heavy pot. Remove rind from
Parmesan and add rind along with onion and garlic to beans. Pour in
water to cover by 2”; season with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat,
and simmer, adding water as needed to keep beans submerged, until
beans are tender, about 2 hours. Let cool. Discard vegetables and
Parmesan rind, then drain.

Preheat oven to 450°. Toss broccoli with ¼ cup oil on a rimmed
baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing
occasionally, until tender and lightly charred, 15–20 minutes. Let
cool.

Finely chop half of broccoli and toss in a large bowl with anchovies,
lemon zest, lemon juice, and beans. Shave half of Parmesan over and
add remaining broccoli and ¼ cup oil; toss and season with salt,
pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired. Shave remaining Parmesan
over.

DO AHEAD: Beans can be cooked 5 days ahead; cover and chill in
cooking liquid. Warm before serving. Broccoli can be roasted 6 hours
ahead; store tightly wrapped at room temperature


NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION
Calories (kcal) 260 Fat (g) 11
Saturated Fat (g) 2.5
Cholesterol (mg) 5
Carbohydrates (g) 28 Dietary
Fiber (g) 8 Total Sugars (g) 1
Protein (g) 13 Sodium (mg) 170
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October 9, 2014

Guacamole Withdrawals

Two weeks ago I took a trip to Puerto Vallarta with five girlfriends.  I ate chips and guacamole every day for lunch.  That's it, just chips and guacamole, poolside, every day for three days.  Ever since returning home, I've been going through some major guacamole withdrawals so I've been trying to wean myself off of it, slowly....for the sake of my yoga pants.




Well, I haven't had guacamole now in  about four days but knowing we are having fish tacos tonight for dinner, I decided to prepare a batch of guacamole....at 10:30 am.

I hope it survives until dinner time.

I used to buy pre-made guacamole as we have many varieties available here, in California, until my friend, Heather, turned me on to a super delicious and extremely easy way to whip up a batch in no time flat.




All you need is guacamole seasoning package, I use McCormick's, and two California avocados.  I normally add some lime juice and some chopped red onion to taste as well.





Slice two avocados, add the contents of the guacamole seasoning packet and mix.  Squeeze in some lime juice and chopped red onion and or chopped tomatoes, if desired.




Refrigerate and eat for lunch.....I mean with your fish tacos or anything your tummy desires, for dinner.



OLE!!

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October 7, 2014

Bacon Cheeseburger Bombs!

It's MLB playoff time which means games almost every night of the week.  Exciting games!  Hoping for a win tonight for my fave...the SF Giants with these Pillsbury Bacon Cheeseburger BOMBS!.....oh, and some wine.  Enjoy!

Recipe and photo courtesy of Pillsbury


Bacon Cheeseburger Bombs

Ingredients

1
can (16.3 oz) Pillsbury™ Grands!™ Flaky Layers refrigerated original or buttermilk biscuits
1
lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef, cooked or 16 frozen (thawed) cooked meatballs
1
block (8 oz) Cheddar cheese, cut into 16 cubes
16
slices bacon
Long toothpicks or skewers
Canola oil for frying
  • 1.  Separate dough into 8 biscuits. Cut each biscuit in half; press with hands into circle about 3 inches in diameter.
  • 2.  In center of each biscuit round, place 2 tablespoons cooked ground beef (or 1 meatball) and 1 cube of cheese. Wrap dough to completely enclose beef and cheese; pinch seams to seal.
  • 3.  For the Fried Version: Wrap each stuffed “bomb” with 1 bacon slice; gently secure loose bacon with toothpick by inserting it through bacon and halfway into “bomb.” In 3-quart heavy saucepan or deep fryer, heat oil to 350°F. Fry stuffed “bombs” 4 to 5 minutes or until dough is golden brown on all sides. Place on paper towels to cool. Repeat with remaining "bombs". Serve warm with ketchup and mustard, if desired.
  • 4.  For the Baked Version: Heat oven to 400°F. Place bacon on foil-lined cookie sheet with sides. Bake about 8 minutes to partially cook bacon. Wrap each stuffed “bomb” with 1 slice partially cooked bacon slice. Place bacon wrapped dough 2-inches apart on two foil-lined cookie sheets with dough seam side down. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with ketchup and mustard, if desired.
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    September 30, 2014

    Cooking With Local Produce from Safeway


    "Buying Local" means different things to different people.  To me, it means anything that is grown in our sunny state of California.  Just recently, Safeway delivered a farm basket full of locally grown fruits and veggies as a gift.  It was like Christmas in September!  

    A new survey by Harris Interactive found that only 30% of Americans incorporate local produce in their meals daily.  I'm a Safeway shopper, always have been and I like that Safeway makes it a little easier for us to support our local farmers.







    Before I had a chance to bake the pear crisp I had in store for the gorgeous red pears grown at Scotts Valley Ranch in Lakeport, CA, my kids devoured them as an after school snack.  Not to worry, pear crisp recipe coming soon.  





    The heirloom tomatoes were so beautiful and very sweet.  I bought some mozzarella, sliced it along with the tomatoes and arranged the slices on a plate as a light and fresh side for dinner one night.




    After arranging the slices on a platter, I combined balsamic vinegar and olive oil, sea salt and pepper and drizzled it over the top.  Once drizzled, I dropped some baby basil leaves on top and ground some more fresh pepper over the dish and then drizzled more balsamic and olive oil dressing.

    The tomatoes are from Capay Organics out of West Sacramento, CA.




    According to Wikipedia, the eggplant fruit is botanically classified as a berry and contains numerous small, soft seeds which are edible, but have a bitter taste because they contain nicotinoid alkaloids (being a relative of tobacco).  Many recipes advise salting, rinsing and draining of the sliced fruit (known as "degorging"), to soften it and to reduce the amount of fat absorbed during cooking, but mainly to remove the bitterness.

    Eggplants found at my local Safeway are from Valhalla Produce with the eggplant being grown in Kingsburg, CA.




    I cubed the eggplant along with the green bell pepper to add to some cubed chicken for our Moroccan dinner of Spiced Lemon Chicken.




     I cubed the chicken, rolled it in Italian Style breadcrumbs and browned it in a skillet with olive oil.




    I then added all the cubed eggplant and peppers and added a Moroccan Lemon Spiced pre-made simmer sauce, which I also found at Safeway and wanted to try.




    Fruit, veggies and meat all in one dish. 



     My favorite type of dinner.  Easy and nutritious.


    Click here to read about the Safeway Farm Field Trip I experienced last summer, where I met and learned all about the Perry family and their family farm who provides Safeway with the many seedless watermelons and pumpkins throughout the year.


    Special thanks to Safeway for providing the basket of local fruits and vegetables and for also providing a $50 gift card to purchase additional ingredients to complete my meals above.  Though fruits and vegetables were provided complimentary, I was not monetarily compensated for this post or any other Safeway related post I've written.  All opinions above are my own.

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