FED UP? Get Real

6 Oct

Facts-in-School-copy_optBelow is a repost of my review of the documentary FED UP which is now available on DVD and BLU-RAY or through iTunes and Amazon. Since then, producers Katie Couric and Laurie David successfully have  completed a Kickstarter campaign which will provide every school in America a free FED UP Food Education Kit.

We started this campaign because we believe that kids deserve to learn the truth about what’s really in their food and how they can make healthy food choices despite the relentless marketing and backwards policies that tell them otherwise.

Now we’re one step closer to arming our students with the most powerful weapon we have to fight back — knowledge.

Please follow this link if you are a teacher and would like to REGISTER to receive the free kit which includes a copy of the film in both English and Spanish, an exhibition license to allow for unlimited school screenings, a 60 minute classroom version of the film and a comprehensive curricular resources package created by REACT to FILM.


Fed Up

Seeing the new documentary FED UP at the Sundance Film Festival last week inflamed an already nagging disbelief that this generation of children face a shorter life expectancy than their parents due to the rise in obesity. At the same time, it provided a sense of hope that the film may follow in the footsteps of producer Laurie David‘s 2006 Sundance hit An Inconvenient Truth which brought the issue of global warming to the forefront and galvanized a call-to-action that established it as not just a political challenge but a moral imperative. 

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Farmers Market Recipes: Spring Season

21 Apr

B Gibson - Version 2An uplift in mood is clearly evident come spring at the farmers market. And the beauty of cooking and eating along a somewhat seasonal track is the joy that comes from seeing favorites return after a long absence.

Below are a few items you’ll find in abundance now along with recipe links. And if you do live in Marin, check out the Spring Schedule of Local Farmers Markets below.

Click images for recipes        


ArtichokesThis recipe is straightforward and full of flavor. Artichokes are trimmed, seared and then sit covered to cook for 45 minutes. And although a dip isn’t necessary, here’s a good one to accompany a more simple steamed artichoke.


Asparagus Pic Monkey

Go with the fatter spears to avoid them becoming stringy when roasted. This recipe is a great meld of flavors.


BeetsA simple, versatile and tasty recipe. Feta works well too.



I usually make this recipe without the orange juice and use fresh or dried rosemary, thyme or a combination.



Although the freezing-for-winter strategy extends strawberries’ lifespan, there’s nothing like the freshly picked. Click the image above for recipes.




SAN RAFAEL, 8:00-1:00, Marin County Civic Center Parking Lot


MILL VALLEY, 3:00-7:00pm, Tam Valley Community Center, 203 Marin Ave   (Starts in May)


CORTE MADERA, 12:00-5:00 pm, Corte Madera Town Center, Highway 101 & Tamalpais

FAIRFAX, 4:00-8:00pm, Bolinas Park, 124 Bolinas Avenue     (Start in May)



8:00am-1:00pm, Civic Center, Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium’s Parking Lot

6:00-9:00pm, Downtown San Rafael, 4th Street between Lincoln and B Streets


MILL VALLEY, 9:30am-2:30pm, CVS Pharmacy Parking Lot, 759 E Blithedale

BOLINAS, 2:00-6:00pm, Star Route Farm, 95 Olema-Bolinas Road


LARKSPUR, 9:00am-2:00pm, Marin Country Mart, Larkspur Landing Circle

Cooking Inspiration for the Month

8 Jan

During this reset season, the competition between the abstinence commitments made in December and the lingering desire for comforting food, especially when faced with frigid temperatures across the country, can be fierce. Maybe it’s best to ride somewhere in the middle so here are a few ideas.

Please share in the comments section below what you’ve tried and how it turned out.

Happy New Year!


The Perfect Make-Ahead Waffles from Marion Cunningham

We all have our idea of what makes the perfect waffle. In our family, these are it. Lighter than pancakes, they are slightly crispy on the outside but fluffy within. As a bonus, they’re quick to prep the night before and finish up in the morning. Try them served with butter and berries, either fresh or heated from the freezer.

Marion Cunningham Waffles


  • If you’re wanting to up the nutrition factor, you can substitute whole wheat pastry flour for white.
  • A teaspoon of vanilla adds a nice flavor boost but is not necessary.
  • Don’t be surprised by the thin batter.
  • Any extras will freeze well for a toaster oven snack.


Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Meatballs from Cheeky Kitchen

Just in time for the Golden Globes this weekend or for the Superbowl on February 1st, these are a simple, sure hit. Ground turkey also works well.

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Meatballs


Weeknight Porchetta from Bon Appétit 

To simplify this recipe, skip nestling the heads of garlic around the tenderloin.

Weeknight Porchetta

Spaghetti and Drop Meatballs with Tomato Sauce from Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman does it again with meatballs and sauce made easy in one pot.



Roasted Carrots with Honey, Sage and Garlic from Cannelle Et Vanille

Something healthy and light to go with that pork. Good with or without the yogurt.



Corn Muffins from Food 52

Great to serve alongside the Porchetta above or Butternut Squash Soup below and perfect with chili, these are a fun alternative to corn bread. I prefer the buttery flavor to the bacon fat called for in the recipe.
Corn Muffins


Butternut Squash Soup from Half Baked Harvest

If you haven’t discovered the blog Half Baked Harvest, it’s worth checking out. Tieghan took over cooking for her big family of nine in her mid-teens and hasn’t missed a beat since. Her creative, delicious recipes, excellent photography and youthful flare have brought her well-deserved success.

Below is a recipe inspired by her Moroccan Butternut Squash Soup. Next time, I’ll try her version, but for today, I lacked a few ingredients. Regardless, it was full of flavor.

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup with Curry and Leeks


  • 4 cups Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed (about 2 small to medium)
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil
  • 1 Leek, white portion only, or 1 small Onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon Curry Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried Thyme, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1 Garlic clove, skin removed and crushed
  • 1 (14 ounce) can Coconut Milk
  • 2 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • 4 ounces Goat Cheese, softened

Optional Toppings: Plain Greek Yogurt or Goat Cheese and/or roughly chopped Cilantro and Pistachios


  1. To make peeling easier, cut off the bottom of the squash and put on a plate in the microwave for 3 minutes. Peel, remove seeds and cut into approximately 1-inch cubes.
  2. Add the coconut oil to a large soup pot set over medium heat.
  3. Once hot, add the leek or onion and cook for 3-5 minutes or until soft.
  4. Add the cubed butternut squash, curry powder, paprika, cumin, cayenne and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the garlic clove and stir for 10 seconds or so to meld the flavor but avoid scorching.
  7. Pour in the coconut milk and broth.
  8. Bring to boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the butternut squash is fork tender.
  9. Once the squash is tender, add the goat cheese (optional).
  10. Remove the pot from the stove and allow to cool slightly, then puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Return the soup back to the stove and heat through.
  11. To serve, ladle the soup into bowl, topping with Greek yogurt or crumbled goat cheese and garnishing with chopped cilantro and/or pistachios.

Pecan Pie Bars and 19 More Christmas Cookie Recipes

19 Dec

Looking for some holiday cookie baking inspiration to carry you through to the new year? Here is a repost from last year with a full range of recipes. The pecan bars (recipe below) have become a seasonal regular and should not be relegated to this single time of year.


Next up, the winner of the great pancake debate, just in time for the holiday break.


2013 Christmas Cookie Recipe Repost

Christmas CookiesHere we are, at the annual pinnacle of eating pleasure. Festive images of sweet and savory delights at every turn. Thoughts surface of treats-past as the traditional once-a-year favorites draw delicious memories.

But it’s also when the schedule gets so packed on every level that the thought of digging in and creating wonders of the season can set you over the edge. Yet, it must be done. How can a year go by without the Frosted Sugar Cookies, Dede’s Coffee Cake or Christmas Eve Lasagna?

Although you’ve likely got your own collection of December regulars you must satisfy yourself and others with, I will share as many of mine as I can before the big day closes in. Maybe you’re ready to let one of yours go, at least for this year, and are willing to make room for some novelty in the repertoire.

These Pecan Bars are my new one. Date Bars, you’re not forgotten, but these are irresistible with a crunchy, shortbread crust and buttery pecan topping. Not too time consuming either.

Pecan Bars

And for a whole variety of Christmas Cookie recipes, from Russian Tea Cakes and Chocolate Mint Sandwich Cookies to Orange Shortbread Cutouts and Black and Whites, check out the link below. I’ve had the pleasure of attending an annual cookie extravaganza where the reliable favorites and stylish newbies are baked and shared. There’s much to inspire bringing in the new.

Christmas Cookie Exchange



Pecan Bars Dipped in Chocolate

Yield: 12-16 Bars


For the Shortbread Crust

  • 1 1/2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut in 1/2 -inch dice
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed, light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Pie Filling

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed, light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 2 heaping cups of whole pecans, roughly chopped

For the Chocolate Dip (optional)

  • 8 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped (try Trader Joes “Pound Plus” Dark Chocolate)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with parchment paper (or foil) leaving some excess hanging over the ends. (This is important, otherwise the bars won’t come out of the pan)
  3. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process all the ingredients for the crust together until the mixture begins to form tiny lumps, about 30-45 seconds.
  4. Pour this mixture into the prepared pan and using your hands or a big spatula, evenly press the shortbread crust into the bottom of the pan.
  5. Bake in the middle of the oven until golden, about 18-20 minutes.
  6. While the shortbread crust is baking, prepare the filling.
  7. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, brown sugar, honey, cream and salt. Bring to a simmer and allow to bubble, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute.
  8. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and pecans.
  9. Pour the pecan filling into the hot shortbread crust and spread as evenly as possible.
  10. Bake in the middle of the oven until bubbling evenly all over, about 12-15 minutes. Cool completely.
  11. Lift out of the pan using the overhanging parchment or foil and cut into bars.
  12. To dip in chocolate, prepare a large baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper. Melt 6 ounces of the chocolate and the oil together in a glass container that is taller than it is deep and heat in the microwave in 15-20 second increments stirring after each round. When the chocolate is just melted, add the remaining 2 ounces and stir until completely smooth and glossy. Dip the bars into the chocolate allowing the excess to drip off. Place on the prepared baking sheet to cool and firm up.

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Recipe adapted from Just a Taste

Easy Weeknight Recipe: Chicken, Salsa and Mushroom Bake

4 Dec

Tis’ the season for easy recipes. The hardest part of this one is finding a suitable salsa. Many supermarkets carry it fresh in the refrigerator so if you can, avoid the jarred variety. If you find your only options are on the shelf, click the image below for the results of a taste test done by The Daily Meal.

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Thanksgiving Leftover Sauté with Poached Eggs

30 Nov

Hopefully you haven’t polish off all of the stuffed Tupperware containers yet. Brighten up that last long weekend morning with poached eggs on leftover sauté. This particular blend combines stuffing, sweet potatoes and creamed spinach with a bit of crumbed, cooked bacon sprinkled on top. But almost any leftover combo will work. Place an egg on top for an irresistible breakfast. Or lunch.

You can find general recipe directions at the bottom of this post although I recommend sautéing your ingredients in melted butter in a frying pan. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Leftover Eggs


Thanksgiving Feasting Favorites

24 Nov

Although tradition dominates the Thanksgiving feast, leaving little room for variation much less something entirely new, here are a few favorites and tips to stir up inspiration prior to the big week ahead.


For a turkey deep in flavor and a moist, yet firm consistency, try following the award-winning Judy Bird technique inspired by the roast chicken made famous by the late Judy Rodgers at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. (See my post here about the chef, her philosophy and restaurant and her recipe for Salmon with White Beans, Bacon and Red Wine.)

NOTE: I do not follow Step 7 and start the bird in the oven breast side down.

Sage and Bay Salt Dry Brine
Sage and Bay Salt Dry Brine

The turkey is dry brined for three days although I have done it for much less with equally good results. Here is a tasty dry brine recipe.


Ellen's Nuts
Ellen’s Nuts
Rustic Bakery Meyer Lemon and Chickpea Spread
Meyer Lemon and Chickpea Spread, recipe from Rustic Bakery
Baked Rosemary Beet Chips
Baked Rosemary Beet Chips, by Minimalist Baker
Crab Cake Bites
Crab Cake Bites, from Savory Simple
from The Real Deal Marin


Tyler Florence Mashed Potatoes
Tyler Florence Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Savory Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Creamed Pearl Onions
Thomas Keller’s Creamed Pearl Onion, via Smitten Kitchen
Ina Garten Spinach Gratin
Ina Garten Spinach Gratin via The Food Network


How to Make Stock, A video tutorial with simple instructions from Mario Batali on Food 52.

How to Make Gravy, from The New York Times Cooking


Although no dessert would be shunned, Apple Pie is a must. If you have any doubt, read this, and you may get lured into making it a regular closer to your feast too, if it isn’t already.

    Butter Pie Crust, from Epicurious

    Crust Tipsfrom Joy the Baker

    THE Apple Pie, inspired by Kierin Baldwin

    Ala Mode, a basic vanilla ice cream recipe

    Best Apples for Piefrom Baking Bites


Thanks Benedict on Stuffing Cakes with Sage Hollandaise, by Giada De Laurentiis
Thanks Benedict on Stuffing Cakes with Sage Hollandaise, by Giada De Laurentiis
Turkey Tetrazzini
Turkey Tetrazzini, from The Real Deal Marin 
Loaded Turkey Panini
Loaded Turkey Panini, from Pinch of Yum

 (This is a good framework that you can alter based on what you have leftover.)

If you try one of these recipe, please let me know what you think in the comments section below. Or take a photo and post it on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #realdealmarin.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Great Pancake Debate and The Quest for the Best

7 Nov

PancakesThere’s no question that making pancakes from scratch is well worth the limited effort. But a recipe debate has risen lately as a new contender has entered the fray. On the one side are the original Fluffy Homemade Pancakes, the most visited recipe on this site. And on the other, Fluffy Homemade Pancakes Version Two (recipe below) which has gained a position on the top of the rotation.

PancakesSo if you find yourself in the mood for pancakes in the coming couple of weeks, I pose a request that you give this new one a try and compare it to the original. Maybe you’ll find no discernible difference. Or perhaps regardless of the results, you’ll align with the kids’ Nana and prioritize the lower sodium content of the first.


Whatever the case, if you seek a no-frills, go-to homemade pancake mix for the every day, you can feel you’ve done your due diligence and have what you deem to be the best basic recipe ready for the wanting.

You can cast your vote here and please share comments below. I will post the results before the holidays draw more morning time in the kitchen. Thanks for your input!

Tips for Quicker Pancakes

Here are a couple of strategies to streamline the pancake preparation process, particularly helpful on a weekday morning:

1) Keep a storage container filled with the dry ingredients in your pantry. Whisk 2 cups of the dry mix (which has previously been sifted as per the recipe) and then add the butter, milk, egg and vanilla.

2) Make extra pancakes and, when cool, refrigerate or freeze the leftovers. (If freezing, lay them out on a cookie sheet in a single layer. After two or so hours, transfer to a ziplock bag.) To reheat, lightly toast or heat in the microwave. Great for a quick breakfast or snack.

Fluffy Homemade Pancakes - Version Two


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Heat a griddle or frying pan over low to medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Lightly grease with canola or vegetable oil.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together or whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  3. Melt the butter in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the melted butter.
  5. Crack the egg and vanilla into the measuring cup and lightly beat with a fork. Add to the bowl.
  6. Measure the milk in the cup and add to the bowl.
  7. Mix with a spoon until smooth with a few remaining lumps. Don’t over mix.
  8. Spoon the batter onto the griddle or pan. When bubbles begin to form on the surface, turn the pancakes and cook for another minute until golden brown.

Zucchini, Mushroom and Tomato Roasted Casserole

7 Oct

It may be fall, but the deep heat I experienced on both the east and west coasts last week was no indication. A football tailgate spent seeking shade rather than warmth has thankfully delayed the inevitable seasonal shift in mindset.Fall 2And since summer produce remains readily available at the farmers market, the hearty squashes can be nudged out for a bit longer as far as I’m concerned. Soon enough.

Squash and Chard

Try to fit this colorful, flavorful veggie casserole in before the turn. You get the joy of layering but without the heavy prep of lasagna. And you can delete, substitute or add just about any vegetable which is a great way to use things up you have on hand. Any way you stack it, it’s simple to throw together and delicious to go along with any meat, poultry or fish.

Zucchini, Mushroom and Tomato Roasted Casserole

  • Servings: 6+
  • Time: Prep 15 mins
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  • 3-5  Zucchini, sliced lengthwise or in rounds (amount depends on variety/size)
  • 15  Mushrooms (sliced)
  • 5  Scallions (sliced up to dark green stalk)
  • Tomatoes (one basket cherry or 4 -5 sliced whole *)
  • 1 Tablespoon Salt (Herb, Large Grain or Kosher)
  • 3/4 Tablespoon Black Pepper, preferably freshly ground
  • 1 Tablespoon Thyme (Dried)
  • 1 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup or more Parmesan Cheese

NoteMeasurements are approximate. 

* If using whole tomatoes, slice and place on a paper towel while prepping other ingredients to soak some of their liquid.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Arrange 1/3 of the vegetables on the bottom of an oiled or buttered medium baking dish.
  3. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the salt, pepper, thyme, and red pepper flakes.
  4. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil over and sprinkle with 1/3 of the parmesan cheese.
  5. Repeat three times.
  6. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.




23 May

Click the image for recipes.


Strawberry Muffins


Juicy Sliders

Grilled or Baked Herb Chicken with Green Aioli

Herb Chicken with Aiolias a Main Dish

Herb Chicken with Aioli Appetizeror an Appetizer

The Best of the Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie

Chocolate Chip Cookie

 Creamy Homemade Ice CreamCreamy Homemade Ice Cream