Tag Archives: kid-friendly

Vegetarian dishes perfect for the season, including Annie’s pumpkin mac & cheese

Pumpkin mac & cheese – recipe courtesy of Annie’s

Pumpkin mac & cheese – recipe courtesy of Annie’s

As we move through fall and approach the winter, many of us crave soups and other comforting dishes. Of course, homemade soup is hard to beat, but sometimes pulling one together can be tough for busy parents or those who don’t own a crockpot. In September, Annie’s released a delicious new line of organic soups. Three of the five are vegetarian: tomato, creamy carrot & bunny pasta, and creamy tomato & bunny pasta. The carrot one has a nice sweetness and provides a lot of vitamin A, so it made my daughter and me happy. See end of article for a few more details on the soups.

I’m not vegetarian myself, but I know more and more individuals who are. I tried out a seasonal recipe from Annie’s recipe web site for pumpkin mac & cheese, and decided to make a vegetarian version by skipping the bacon-bit garnish (see my result in photo above). It didn’t taste like anything was missing; I’ll definitely be making this savory dish, which includes chard and apple, again. Because I had it on hand, I also substituted Annie’s organic vegan shells for the “shells with real aged cheddar” that the recipe called for. If you are vegan and want a quick recipe, Annie’s has one for spicy vegan bacon mac and cheese.

When searching for a few more vegetarian fall recipes, I discovered that Lundberg Family Farms has lots of options. I haven’t made these yet, but I look forward to creating kale and rice rolls and brown jasmine rice with pecans and orange honey glazed tofu, which is actually vegan. You can sort their recipes by vegan and/or vegetarian and/or course type (like appetizer), too. They also have recipes that feature their new American-grown organic tri-color blend quinoa, and their sprouted risotto. If you haven’t tried these yet you’re in for a treat. The sprouted risotto made with organic whole grain brown Arborio rice comes in three varieties including cheddar/pepper and sweet corn/bell pepper. They are good on their own, but it’s also fun to use a product you already like as an ingredient for a new recipe.

If you do have time to make some vegetarian soup from scratch, let me recommend a couple cookbooks I became familiar with when doing research for a Santa Cruz Sentinel article; they were both published in 2013. Mollie Katzen’s “The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation” includes recipes such as Black-Eyed Pea, Squash, and Shiitake Stew and Yellow Split Pea Dal (the latter is perfect for beginning cooks). Before this book, Katzen was already famous for writing “Moosewood Cookbook” among others; The New York Times and Amazon both named “The Heart of the Plate” a best book of the year.

“Bountiful: Recipes Inspired by Our Garden” by Diane Cu and Todd Porter includes Hearty Celery Root and Red Lentil Soup. If you’re not vegetarian, the Curried Kabocha Squash and Chicken Stew recipe is one that I’ve made and loved—it’s an easy recipe with only a few ingredients. Foodies out there might already know Cu and Porter through their food/travel/photography, blog WhiteonRiceCouple.com.

More on Annie’s soups: Both tomato varieties offer a half-cup of vegetables per serving, while the chicken-based soups use only organic chicken and broth with no antibiotics added. All varieties are made with NO artificial flavors, synthetic colors, preservatives or high fructose corn syrup.

More on Lundberg: All of their products use organic rice and/or quinoa.

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Free cookies at Pacific Cookie Company in Santa Cruz for 35th anniversary

Pacific Cookie Company in Santa Cruz celebrates its 35th anniversary

Pacific Cookie Company in Santa Cruz celebrates its 35th anniversary

Santa Cruz’s Pacific Cookie Company is celebrating its 35th anniversary this month, and the store is offering customers free cookies plus the chance to win a dozen cookies per month for a whole year.

Through Wednesday, Oct. 28, if you know the secret word or phrase of the day you can get a free cookie (flavors rotate daily; the promotion began Oct. 21). For the secret word, you need to visit Pacific Cookie Co.’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (@pacificcookiecompanysantacruz) site. I’ll make it easy for my readers today: for Tuesday, Oct. 27 the phrase is “Breakfast of Champions.” Just repeat that at the Pacific Ave. retail store and receive a free oatmeal raisin cookie (while supplies last).

During the anniversary celebration they are also offering a “Scoop on a Cookie” special, featuring a scoop of Marianne’s ice cream on top of a cookie for $2.35.

The family-owned local business has added a new oatmeal, cranberry, and white chocolate cookie to its collection. But they are depending on their customers for a name and asking folks to submit suggestions on their Facebook page.  The person that creates the winning name wins a year’s supply of cookies.

President Cara Pearson is thrilled to be celebrating this milestone anniversary. “Thank you Santa Cruz for all of the love and support over the last 35 years,” she shared. “We would not be the business we are today if it was not for all of our loyal Santa Cruz cookie fans!”

A little history: Larry and Shelly Pearson – mom and dad to Cara – opened the retail bakery in 1980 on Pacific Garden Mall, and a retail store is still on Pacific across the street from the original location. The original flavors were Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chip Walnut, Oatmeal Raisin, Peanut Butter and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip. If you want to learn more, read Pacific Cookie’s blog.

Location: Pacific Cookie Company, 1203 Pacific Ave. Santa Cruz, (831) 429-6905

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

New family-friendly Los Gatos restaurant Top This Pizza with personalized pies

Custom pizza at Top This Pizza in Los Gatos

Custom pizza at Top This Pizza in Los Gatos

I had the opportunity to dine at the recently opened Los Gatos restaurant Top This Pizza a few days ago. I recommend it for a casual, fast, and inexpensive lunch or dinner.

It was definitely delicious and I plan to return. While it wasn’t the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life, it was a nice-sized meal and extremely affordable. What a fun concept: design your own 10-inch pizza with unlimited toppings, and it’s only $8! Unless you choose gluten-free crust, in which case it’s $2 more.

After finding the unassuming storefront in the middle of a strip mall, I entered the small restaurant and walked up to the counter. Eager, friendly young staff instantly greeted me and explained how the process worked. I could choose from a few pre-designed combinations, or I could create my own. Reviewing the menu, I was intrigued by creations like “Brandon’s BBQ” with BBQ sauce, cheese, grilled garlic chicken, bacon, red onion, and cilantro. I decided on Leo’s Chickenlicious with pesto, buffalo mozzarella, garlic chicken, roasted red peppers, fresh garlic, and shaved parmesan. Then I added sundried tomatoes and artichoke hearts for a twist. The price was still $8, even if I’d wanted to add several more toppings. I chose to sit inside (there are also a few outdoor tables), and my pizza was ready about 3 minutes later due to their 800-degree “Big Bertha” pizza oven. I greatly enjoyed it; for folks wondering about crust style, it had a “flatbread”-type quality. I also got to taste a few other combinations that my family ordered. Alejandra’s Hot Mess, which includes jalapenos, gorgonzola, and a buffalo wing sauce drizzle, was very good. I also really loved the spicy red sauce that my husband chose for his pizza.

There is a huge range of choices in terms of cheeses (from traditional types to pepper jack), sauces (alfredo, pesto, red/tomato, spicy red), meats, veggies, and what they call “drizzles” (ranch and more) and “finishers” (that’s where my sundried tomatoes were listed). Salads and soft drinks are also available. All in all, it’s a clever idea that allows many choices within a fast-food-type context.

Another note: they have a great online method to take care of those “group lunches” in your office where there’s always that one person that doesn’t chip in enough. You go to the web site, and each person designs their own pizza & pays with their own debit or credit card. When everyone has ordered, someone hits “send” and the whole order will be ready for one person to pick up. Genius!

Husband and wife Jerry and Yovette Raymond opened Top This in October. “Our family loves coming together for pizza night,” says Yovette. “But we always had the same problem. Everyone wanted different toppings and crusts and sauces and such.” That’s no longer a problem, for the Raymonds or other nearby families. They plan to open two more locations in the next few months, starting with San Jose.

Two of the Raymonds’ sons, Brandon and Tyler, work at the restaurant. They also have a son Michael, daughter-in-law Alejandra, and dog Leo (who’s considered one of their kids), all with namesake pizzas at Top This. Even Leo’s dog-friend Minnie has her own pizza!

Top This Pizza is open daily from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Stay in touch with the new restaurant via its Facebook page.

Location: 15466 Los Gatos Blvd. #110 (in the same plaza as Trader Joe’s), Los Gatos (408) 884-8253

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Kid-friendly UCSC Harvest Festival boasts organic food, farm tours, live music

Scene from a previous Harvest Festival

Scene from a previous Harvest Festival

The 19th annual UCSC Harvest Festival, held at the campus’ 30-acre organic farm on Sunday, Sept 29 from 11a.m.-5 p.m., is fun for the whole family. It features live music—from bluegrass to reggae—plus organic food, kids’ crafts, rides, tours, produce and pumpkin sales, and an apple pie contest.

Admission varies between free and $5; general public adult admission is $5 but it’s free for UCSC students with ID, kids 12 and under, and members of the Friends of the UCSC Farm & Garden.

Visitors of all ages are invited to sample more than two dozen apple varieties, savor roasted peppers, enter the pie baking contest, try their hand at pressing cider, scale the climbing wall, and enjoy locally sourced, tasty treats. Also available: workshops on making salsa, growing and using peppers, saving seeds, creating popcorn treats, and understanding permaculture design, along with farm tours and an herb walk through the garden. Plus, there will be campus and community group information tables.

The event is co-sponsored by the UCSC’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), UCSC’s Food Systems Working Group, UCSC’s Measure 43 (Sustainable Health & Wellness), and the Friends of the UCSC Farm & Garden. People Power is providing free valet parking for bicycles.

For those unfamiliar with CASFS, its research and education programs include the UCSC Farm, the Alan Chadwick Garden, and the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture. The apprenticeship program is a 6-month, full-time organic training program. Upwards of 1,300 people have graduated from the apprenticeship.

For more info, visit the CASFS web site and/or see schedule below. Free parking will be available at the Campus Facilities and Barn Theater parking lots, and a free shuttle will be running.

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

2013 Harvest Festival Schedule


Feed Me Jack 11a.m. – noon

The Downbeets 12:15 – 1:30p.m.

Live Elk   1:45 – 2:45p.m.

Kinetic Poetics   3 – 3:25p.m.

Ancestree Reggae 3:30 – 5p.m.

Activities, Tours, Workshops

Apple and Pepper Variety Tasting                                         11:30 – 4:00
Apple Pie Contest Bake-Off (entry deadline)                          12:30
Salsa It Up!                                                                                     12:00 – 1:00
Crystal Owings, Food Systems Working Group
Guided Tours of the UCSC Farm                                                12:30 & 4 pm
Popcorn Palooza                                                                            1:15 – 2:15
Austin Lewis, Food Systems Working Group
Herb Talk & Walk through the Garden                                         2:00 – 3:00
Darren Huckle, Western/Chinese herbalist & licensed acupuncturist
Introduction to Permaculture Design                                            3:00 – 3:45
David Shaw, UCSC Common Ground Center
Pepper Talk: Varieties and How to Use Them                            3:30 – 4:00
Orin Martin, manager of the Alan Chadwick Garden
Seed Saving and Cleaning Workshop                                        4:00 – 5:00
Cole Thomas and Connor Spears, Demeter Seed Project

Official Rules for the Friends of the UCSC Farm & Garden Apple Pie Contest

Pie entries accepted 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Official judging begins at 12:45 p.m.

Winners will be announced at between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.

1. The Friends of Farm and Garden Apple Pie Bake-Off is a nonprofessional baking competition open to Harvest Festival attendees (entry to the Harvest Festival is $5; free admission for UCSC students, Friends of the Farm & Garden members and for children 12 and under).

2. Contestants are responsible for submitting a written (preferably typed) recipe with their pie.

3. Contestants are responsible for supplying all ingredients and baking the pie prior to bringing it to the contest.

4. All entries in this contest must be homemade.

5. A representative of the Friends of the Farm & Garden will assign each contestant a number. Contestants should verify that the number on the bottom of their container is the same number assigned by the representative.

6. Contestants’ entries are judged on taste, presentation, and creativity.

7. The decision of the judges shall be final. Pie not consumed during judging will be returned to the contestant.

All pies must be entered by 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 29, at the Fall Harvest Festival, UCSC Farm. For questions or additional copies of the rules, call (831) 459-3240 or e-mail casfs@ucsc.edu.

Cooking for Solutions 2012 at Monterey Bay Aquarium with 70 chefs, 60 wineries

This weekend's Cooking for Solutions benefits Monterey Bay Aquarium's unique Seafood Watch

Monterey Bay Aquarium is holding its annual Cooking for Solutions on May 18-20, 2012. The three-day event supports the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, which empowers seafood consumers and businesses to make choices for healthy oceans. Browse the fabulous Seafood Watch web site — a wealth of resources.

Cooking for Solutions includes a variety of events, beginning with a sold-out gala on Friday night. Several events on Saturday and Sunday are also sold out, but there are some that you can still attend, and event organizers invite you to “savor sustainability” with more than 70 chefs and 60 wineries.

One highlight of the weekend is the all-day sustainable foods information fair, held both Saturday and Sunday in the aquarium galleries and on the Great Tide Pool deck. This is a bargain – it’s included with regular Aquarium admission! It features a Whole Foods Marketplace and a Kids’ Zone, too. You can learn about sustainable seafood, organic agriculture, and “earth-friendly winemaking” at various information booths. Local growers and food artisans will be present to speak with you, and you can attend “talk and taste” demonstrations with culinary experts on the deck. See cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs including Sam Choy, chat with the Whole Foods Market Seafood Team to get tips on selecting and preparing seafood, and learn about local olive oil, produce, cheese, honey, ice cream and other treats. Want more? Visit chef Hákon Már Örvarsson at his station and taste samples of Icelandic seafood.

On Twitter? Follow me @santacruzfoodie