Our Favorite Homemade Apple Pie

August 16, 2016

apple pieAfter all our apple picking excursions to Chileno Valley Ranch, we decided to make our favorite apple pie. This is my go-to recipe for this treat. It's an adaptation of the recipe that used to be on the back of the box of Trader Joe's frozen pie crusts. I don't know what it is about it, but it makes what my family thinks it the best apple pie ever. I still usually use the Trader Joe's pie crusts for this, since they're really good quality and make for a lot less work. Feel free to make your own pie crusts or to use a different brand, though.

I made this pie with Mutsu apples from Chileno Valley Ranch, but any good baking apple, like Gravenstein or Granny Smith, will work equally well.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds apples (about 6 medium), peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1 package Trader Joe's pie crusts, thawed

Make Your Own Glass Art at I Made It! in San Rafael

August 15, 2016

I Made It! Glass Creations

It's always fun to get hands-on with a cool new creative project. We had a chance to check out the new I Made It! Glass Creations studio in San Rafael, where we made some really cool and unique crafts from fused glass. It's the first place of its kind in the country, and it's a fun activity for all ages.

I Made It! offers countless different projects ideas that you make from colored glass. Come on in (no appointment or reservation is necessary) and choose a project—including jewelry, decorative items, housewares like coasters and bottle openers, photo frames, key chains, and more.

U-Pick Apples and More Farm Fun at Chileno Valley Ranch

August 15, 2016

Apple picking Chileno Valley Ranch

Apple season is getting underway, so why not make a day trip to the farm and pick your own? While most of the apple farms in the North Bay are clustered around the western Sonoma County town of Sebastopol (which is famous for its apples), you can actually pick apples right here in Marin County at beautiful Chileno Valley Ranch.

Located in West Marin's Chileno Valley, this ranch offers u-pick apples every Sunday from 9 am to 3 pm from August 14 through October (or whenever the apples run out). Owners Sally and Mike Gale also raise grass-fed beef, sheep, and chickens on the ranch, and there's a lot to see and do there for apple-picking families.

Chef Daddy Makes Pizza al Taglio

August 14, 2016

pizza al taglioThe other day I was craving really good homemade pizza, but I was also feeling kind of lazy and didn't want to deal with making dough, trying to get the pizza onto the pizza stone intact, and the rest of the work that comes with my other homemade pizza recipe. In a moment of inspiration, I thought about pizza al taglio, the thicker pizza that's cooked on a baking sheet and popular as a street food in Rome. What if I tried to make it with Trader Joe's fresh pizza dough?

I ran over to our local TJ's and picked up two packages of their very good and inexpensive refrigerated pizza dough, as well as some fresh mozzarella and of course a bunch of other stuff that I probably didn't really need. At home, I picked some plum tomatoes from the garden and grabbed some fresh oregano and basil, too, and decided that I had everything I needed.

Here's the recipe that I came up with for a simple margherita style pizza al taglio:

  • Two bags Trader Joe's refrigerated pizza dough
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded (canned are OK, too)

Marin Free Family Fun List for August 2016

August 12, 2016


Photo: Concerts on the Green, courtesy City of Novato

There's so much for families to do in Marin and the Bay Area, and much of it can be done for free! Here's the inaugural edition of our monthly list of a dozen fantastic free family activities and events in Marin and beyond. Go do something fun (and free!) with the kiddos before the school year starts again later this month!

Marin Weekend Family Fun for August 12, 13 & 14

August 11, 2016

Here are our picks for great events and activities for children and families this weekend. Find more events for the whole week in Marin and beyond in our Family Events Calendar.

Friday, August 12

  • Children's Garden Series: Unique Derique
    Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco
    Friday, noon & 2:15 pm

    This free event is part of the Children's Garden Series at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco. A beloved Bay Area institution, the Unique Derique is a prince among clowns, an internationally esteemed performer who has honed a singular blend of physical comedy and hambone body percussion. For more info, visit their website.
  • Picnics on the Plaza
    Town Hall Lawn, San Anselmo
    Friday, 5–8 pm

    A fun, family-friendly way to spend your summer evenings. Come on downtown to San Anselmo for Picnics on the Plaza on six Friday evenings this summer: Grab dinner-to-go at a local restaurant, purchase food at the event, or pack a picnic and dine with old and new friends at the plaza tables on Tunstead or on Town Hall lawn. Enjoy live entertainment and activities; it's great, music, food and family fun!  Location: 525 San Anselmo Avenue, Town Hall Lawn, San Anselmo. For more info, visit their website.
  • Friday Nights at the de Young
    de Young Museum, San Francisco
    Friday, 5–8:45 pm

    Friday Nights at the de Young are after-hours art happenings that include a mix of live music, dance and theater performances, film screenings, panel discussions, lectures, artist demonstrations, hands-on art activities, and exhibition tours. The café offers a delicious prix-fixe menu and specialty cocktails, and the Hamon Tower observation level is open until 8 pm. This Friday: Auricular Arrangements. For more info, visit their website.
  • Campfire Program
    Sonoma State Historic Park
    Friday, 7:30–8:30 pm

    Bring the family for a talk with a park interpretive specialist, songs and a marshmallow roast. Location: Barracks Courtyard, Sonoma Historic Park. For more info, visit their website.
  • Nostalgia Days Rod and Custom Car Show
    Downtown Novato
    Friday, 5:45–8 pm & Saturday, 10 am–5 pm

    Now in its 20th year, this celebration of hot rods, classic cars and small-town Americana is a great reason to visit downtown Novato this weekend. This free, family-friendly event kicks off with a Friday Night Cruise, then Saturday sees Downtown Novato transform into a classic car show, all the way from 1st to 7th Street on Grant Avenue. Live music by the Four Teardrops and the Deadlies. For more info, visit their website.
  • Jazz & Blues by the Bay
    Gabrielson Park, Sausalito
    Friday, 6:30–8:30 pm

    Jazz & Blues by the Bay at Gabrielson Park in Sausalito is a free event. Lawn seating available, first-come first-served. This Friday: Dave Matthews Blues Band, sponsored by Sausalito Rotary. For more info, visit their website.
  • Creekside Fridays
    Tennessee Valley Cabin, Mill Valley
    Friday, 6:30–8 pm

    Bring the family, pets, chairs, and blankets to the weekly free musical event. This week: Zydeco Flames. Food available for purchase. For more info, call (415) 289-4152 or visit their website.
  • The Little Mermaid
    142 Throckmorton Theatre, Mill Valley
    Friday & Saturday, 7 pm and Sunday, 4 pm
    Bring the entire family to see this family-friendly performance of The Little Mermaid, based on the Disney movie of the same name and featuring a talented cast of Bay Area performers. Tickets: $18 general, $14 students, $35 reserved. For more info, visit their website.

Saturday, August 13

  • Gravenstein Apple Fair
    Ragle Ranch Park, Sebastopol
    Saturday and Sunday, 10 am–6 pm

    Come and celebrate a time when neighbors gathered to share home baked food, listen to some of the locals sing a tune, and learn a few farming skills. Brimming with tradition, this country fair showcases the Gravenstein apple and the experience of an old time country get together. Enjoy farming displays, a children's corner with crafts, music, and a magician, and more. Admission $15 general, $10 for adults who bike to the fair, $12 seniors & veterans, $10 youth 6–12, free for children under 5. The Gravenstein Apple Fair takes place at Ragle Ranch Park in Sebastopol, at 500 Ragle Road. For more info, visit www.gravensteinapplefair.com.
  • Origami-Palooza and Paper Airplane Contest
    East Japan Center Mall, San Francisco
    Saturday, 10 am–5 pm
    Come create amazing things with paper! Origami-Palooza features an exhibit with amazing origami, lots of tables with instructors to show you new folds for all ages, a table dedicated to folding paper cranes for the World Tree of Hope over the holidays and two hot contests with amazing prizes. Join special guest Dr. Bernie Peyton as he teaches a very cool, wearable Cat Hat. Location: 1737 Post Street, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • The Great Muppet Caper 35th Anniversary Screening
    Castro Theatre, San Francisco
    Saturday, 10:30 am

    The Muppets travel to England in their second big-screen musical adventure! Newspaper reporters Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo work to foil a jewel heist while romance brews between Kermit and Miss Piggy, who just may be implicated in the crime herself. Bring the whole family to celebrate 35 years of this beloved classic, with a special introduction by legendary Muppet performer Dave Goelz, the man behind Gonzo the Great, Zoot, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Boober Fraggle! Tickets: $10. Location: 429 Castro Street, San Francisco. For more info and tickets, visit their website.
  • Healdsburg Water Carnival
    Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach
    Saturday, 11 am–5 pm

    Bring the family to the Healdsburg Water Carnival, a day of old-time revelry on the Russian River. Admission is free. $10 wristbands will be available to purchase at the carnival and include a boat ride on "Sandy the Swan", water activities, face painting, live music and more! Location: 13839 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg. For more info, visit their website.
  • Creative Family Fun: Tile Your Turtle Mosaics
    Presidio Officers’ Club
    Saturday & Sunday, 11 am–4 pm

    Drop in for imaginative craft-making based on the Presidio’s natural and cultural heritage. Featuring different crafts every weekend! The Western Pond turtle has been reintroduced to Mountain Lake. Welcome these turtles back by making your own mosaic of them! Registration not required, but preferred. Location: 50 Moraga Avenue, Pershing Square (across from the Presidio Officers' Club), San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.

Parent-Toddler Classes at Curious Minds in Corte Madera

August 11, 2016

Curious Minds Parent-Toddler ProgramCorte Madera preschool Curious Minds Learning Center is now enrolling for parent-toddler classes for children aged 16 to 24 months and their caregiver. Current classes are held once a week for an hour and a quarter, from 4 to 5:15 pm.

Research shows that toddlers actively take part in making meaning of their surroundings as they openly explore the world around them. This class is designed to meet this need and create a safe, warm, supportive, and stimulating environment for you and your toddler.

Experiences include a wide range of expressive media: clay, watercolor, light and shadow, collage, and rhythm, and movement, as well as a period of outdoor play and a short circle time. The environment encourages exploration and experimentation, while building relationships with other children and families through shared experiences and negotiated play.

No Campfire? Make S'mores Cookies!

August 10, 2016

s'mores cookiesToday, August 10, is National S'mores Day! In case you don't know what a s'more is, it's a treat consisting of a graham cracker topped with square of milk chocolate (Hershey's is traditional), then topped with a warm toasted marshmallow and then another graham cracker. "S'more" is a contraction of "some more," which is what everyone says after they finish their first one.

If you don't have a campfire or fire pit handy today, try making these amazingly delicious s'mores cookies. They incorporate all the ingredients of a s'more in an easy to make and eat cookie form, so you can enjoy the deliciousness of s'mores anytime without having to wait to go on a camping trip. My son said these were the best cookies he ever tasted, and I'm inclined to agree with him.

Ingredients

  • 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs

Walk or Bike on the Bay Trail at Hamilton in Novato

August 9, 2016

The Bay Trail Novato Hamilton

The Bay Trail opened in the summer of 2014 in Novato's Hamilton neighborhood, and it's one of our favorite Marin spots for short hike or bike ride with the kids. With easy access from several points in Hamilton and stunning views, this is a great place for families to head outdoors for an active outing.

The Hamilton section of the Bay Trail skirts the old runway of this former air force base, which has been returned to its original wetland state. The trail is flat and accessible, and welcomes walkers and cyclists to travel along the wetlands that border San Pablo Bay. It is, of course, ideal for walking with an sturdy stroller, too.

You'll find neat little lookout areas along the way, with benches and informative placards that tell you all about the bird life in the area and about the wetland restoration project. They even have stationary binoculars mounted in them so you can take a look at the wildlife out in the wetlands. The views are stunning, with Mt. Burdell to the north and Mt. Diablo to the east.

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