Marin Daddy Blog

Presenting, by popular demand, the Marin Daddy Blog from Marin Mommies, where I muse about parenting and family life in the Bay Area from a dad's perspective, and share commentary, resources, and thoughts about the subject. I also occasionally wax nostalgic about growing up in Marin (yes, I'm one of those seemingly rare Marin natives).

Twitter Logo Follow me on Twitter

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

Groundhog Day Results: Spring is Near

February 2, 2016

Ground HogThis just in: Famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil has failed to see his shadow, meaning that spring is on its way. All the alternate, less noteworthy groundhogs, such as Atlanta's General Beauregard Lee have concurred, so we have something of a groundhog consensus. 

Groundhog Day has always been America's most underappreciated holiday, but not in our house! Our kids saw it on the calendar and have been eagerly anticipating the great day for weeks. We're extra lucky this year in that Groundhog Day coincides with that other unofficial American holiday—the Super Bowl.

Apparently Groundhog Day is derived from an old German superstition brought to America by early immigrants. The groundhog (Marmota monax) is a large rodent common in central and eastern North America. We don't see groundhogs out here, but we have a close relative, the marmot, which lives in the Sierras. There aren't any groundhogs in Germany, either, but marmots are common in alpine areas, so perhaps that's the original groundhog.

Chef Daddy Cooks Food Your Kids Will Eat: Beef Bourguignon

January 25, 2016

Beef BourguignonOn 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.

Chef Daddy Barbeques the Thanksgiving Turkey

November 19, 2015

Thanksgiving turkey on the barbequeThis year, as I've done for several years now, I'll cook our Thanksgiving turkey on the charcoal barbeque grill. This is, in my humble opinion, the best way to cook a turkey, hands down. And it frees up the oven for more important Thanksgiving fare, like pie.

Cooking the turkey on the grill has long been my family's favorite way of doing so. I know a lot of people like to deep fry their turkeys in one of those turkey fryer contraptions, but as Captain Kirk shows in this cautionary video, it can be hazardous to life and limb.

Here's what you'll need to cook up your turkey on the grill. My method is optimized for your standard 22-inch Weber charcoal grill, so your mileage may vary with other kinds. I have no idea if this will work on gas grills, so if you try it and it doesn't work don't blame me.

Chef Daddy Makes Pizza al Taglio

August 9, 2015

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)

Homemade Pizza Night with Chef Daddy

June 8, 2015

homemade pizzaI know some people who say that pizza is one of those dishes that's always better when you dine out. I respectfully disagree! While that might be true for topping-laden old-school American pizza, we've been successfully making some pretty wonderful Italian-style pizzas right here at home. Unfortunately, we lack a wood-burning pizza oven in the backyard (someday…), but we get some good results in a regular home oven with a little preparation and a few tricks.

As for tomatoes, I often use good quality canned plum tomatoes pureed with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and a clove of garlic. If I have really good fresh tomatoes, I'll often just slice them thinly or puree them on their own. We're really looking forward to later on this summer when we can go and grab some fresh tomatoes straight out of the garden!

Chef Daddy Makes Hot Chocolate

January 11, 2014

Hot chocolateOn cool winter days, everyone loves a steaming cup of hot chocolate. It's a comforting way to warm up, and a nice treat for kids and grownups alike. Did you run out of those little packets of Swiss Miss hot chocolate that usually hang out in the back of your pantry? Don't worry—making hot chocolate from scratch is far easier than it sounds, and uses only a few simple ingredients. Here in the Marin Mommies test kitchen we tried out a few different recipes as we searched for the best hot chocolate ever.

Did you know that chocolate, in its first form, was consumed as a drink? Spanish conquistador Cortés found chocolate being consumed at the court of Aztec emperor Moctezuma, and the Aztecs in turn adopted the custom of drinking chocoloate from their Maya neighbors to the south. The big difference was that the native Mexicans drank their chocolate cold, mixed with cornmeal and flavored with herbs and chili peppers.

The Age of Steam Lives on at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

August 7, 2013

Sierra Number 3While miniature railroads like Sonoma TrainTown are fun for train buffs young and old, eventually you have to move up to experience the real deal. Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, in the Tuolumne County town of Jamestown, offers families the chance to see what a real working railroad looks like and, better yet, to experience a ride on a historic, century-old steam train. Railtown 1897 was one of the many state parks slated for closure in 2012, but due to the efforts of the park's many passionate supporters, it remains open for all of us to enjoy.

A three-hour drive from the Bay Area, Railtown 1897 is a fantastic destination for a family weekend getaway, especially when combined with some of the other Gold Country attractions in the area, like Columbia State Historic Park. If you're thinking of getting in one last road trip before summer vacation ends, this could be the place to go.