The Italian Street Painting Festival

 - by Sarah Lipoff

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Last weekend one of the hottest (in more ways than one) events in the Bay Area made its way back to the streets of San Rafael after a two year hiatus. We’ve been connected with the Italian Street Painting Festival for awhile and it’s an event that really draws people from all over the globe. Downtown San Rafael is taken over with artists transforming busy streets into sections of fine art that are eventually washed away  — which seems so sad (but traffic accidents would ensue if they weren’t).

We joke every time the Italian Street Painting Festival rolls around it is the real beginning of summer in Marin because the temps are usually the hottest after the change of  season. And this Street Painting Festival delivered in all ways. The temps were way up there (we’re talking upper 90s and over 100) and the street paintings were some of the best we’ve seen. Here’s a collection of favorites (thanks to Dean Lipoff) of the wonderful event.

Want more information? Please learn more about how to get involved.

Italian Street Painting - kids

Italian Street Painting Festival

Italian Street Painting Fest

Italian Street Painting

Italian Steet

San Rafael

Street Painting Fest

San R. Street Painting

L’Appart Resto

 - by Sarah Lipoff

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I decided to treat the husband last weekend to a tasty Sunday brunch (it was Father’s Day) so booked a reservation at a restaurant right in our downtown that we’d walked by many times but hadn’t tried. For some reason we thought it was too fancy or too expensive or too this or that.

We were wrong.

L’Appart Resto is welcoming, reasonably priced, and seriously kid-friendly. From the team that opened Le Garage in Sausalito, L’Appart Resto is a comfortable bistro-style restaurant that offers small plates, fresh salads, and substantial entrées that focus on showcasing simple French classics, big flavors, and seasonal and local ingredients. And the service is amazing. We enjoyed our brunch so much we decided to head there for dinner later in the week.

Along with having a well-rounded menu for brunch/lunch and dinner, L’Appart Resto also has a tasty kid’s menu that had our mouths drooling. Our daughter enjoyed her flaky ham and cheese pastry (we did too)…

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The husband and I split the fresh melon soup studded with mint and other bright and fresh flavors…

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My husband ordered the seasonal omelette, which was filled with goat cheese and savory fresh tomato basil concassé.

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And I had soft-boiled eggs with toast points coated with decadent truffle cream.

It was amazing.

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Later in the week there was a fun function downtown that I insisted the entire family attend, so we figured we’d head to L’Appart Resto for an early dinner. And once again we had an awesome dinning experience. We ordered the child-sized Kobe burger for our daughter, which was topped with ooey-gooey French cheese.

l-appart-restoInstead of ordering entrées, the hubs and I decided to taste test with a few small plates, including a bowl of luscious asparagus cream soup, along with a delicious beet salad that was studded with pistachios and French feta cheese.

l-appart-resto-beetsaladWe followed that with soft shell crab over a melon salad with smokey dressing…

l-appart-resto-softshellcrabAnd THE BEST Kobe beef tartar topped with a fresh quail egg.

l-appart-resto-kobetartarHere’s the deal — this is a kid-friendly restaurant that has phenomenal service, but that doesn’t mean the place is running with babes if you’re considering eating there for a romantic or kid-free meal. With indoor and outdoor seating, the restaurant is comfortable and welcoming. We didn’t feel rushed or pushed to try the specials or concerned our child was bothering others around us. The menu isn’t huge, but there are options for all tastes. From burgers to lobster, the prices run from $7 to $25 brunch/lunch and dinner.

Check out the menus before heading to L’Appart Resto, but both days we ate there, the specials sounded amazing — and were different (even in the same week). The most important thing? MAKE A RESERVATION.

Bon appétit!

*By the way, I wasn’t paid or bribed or enticed in any way to write this post by L’Appart Resto. I simply wanted to share my wonderful dining experience(s) at this restaurant with you. 

Summer eats: Grilled eggplant Parmesan

 - by Sarah Lipoff

grilled eggplant parmesan

While embracing the warmer weather, I’m also excited to dust off the grill and get outdoors for making seriously flavorful dinners (without sweating in the kitchen). But my grill had other plans, and became infested with bees and spiders over the rainy season. After bombing the interior with bug sprays, several loud screams after discovering big lurking spiders, I decided an indoor grill pan would have to do for now.

I use the grill for just about everything in warmer weather. One of our family favorites is eggplant Parmesan (here, and here), and when made on the grill, it’s a healthier and tastier meal. Make this vegetarian dinner over a gas or charcoal grill, or make anytime of year on a stove-top grill pan (like I did). Serve with crusty bread and a fresh salad for a delicious summer dinner.

Ingredients

1 large eggplant, sliced

1/4 cup salt

3 cups warm water

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup tomato sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (fresh is best)

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup bread crumbs

Fresh basil or spinach leaves

Directions

Slice the eggplant in rounds, cutting away the skin if desired. Fill a mixing bowl with the warm water and add the salt. Place the eggplant slices in the water and let soak for at least 20-minutes, which will remove any bitterness from the eggplant and give it a slight salty flavor.

eggplant

Rinse the eggplant and pat dry. Toss the rounds in olive oil and set aside.

If using a charcoal grill, crank those coals until they are nice and hot, or set your gas grill to medium-high heat. For an indoor grill pan, heat over medium-high heat, turning on both back and front burners.

Place the slices on the grill and let sear over the heat for around three minutes. Use a tongs to carefully lift the eggplant rounds and rotate 90 degrees. Let cook for another three minutes.

Flip the rounds and let grill for three minutes. Now flip again and rotate 90 degrees. Let the eggplant hang out for a few minutes until the it is fork tender.

grilled eggplant

Gather your favorite tomato sauce, sliced fresh mozzarella, and fresh spinach or basil leaves. Top each eggplant round with a spinach or basil leaf, a hearty spoonful of tomato sauce, and a slice of cheese. Grill until the cheese is bubbly.

grilled eggplant with sauce

Sprinkle the tops with freshly shredded Parmesan cheese and the breadcrumbs, and grill for another few minutes.

Yum.

 

 

Vacation (and what happens when there’s no WiFi)

 - by Sarah Lipoff

We spent the week at the beach enjoying the hub’s home digs. It was the first visit for the tot, and was packed with meeting relatives, actually getting into the warmer East Coast ocean, and walking the boardwalk. Along with having someone to meet or somewhere to go the entire trip, the cool pad we stayed at wasn’t equipped with WiFi. At first I panicked. How was I going to check and see what was happening on Twitter? How to share on Facebook? I might need to see what was hot on Pinterest, catch up with celeb gossip, search for a recipe, check Twitter, update my Facebook, check my website stats, check Twitter….

Yeah.

It was awesome to have a break from it all and just be. Even though we had a bit of bad weather, the sunny days and great visits with relatives and friends made it a seriously memorable trip. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from our vacation (thanks to the husband – although I did happen to snag the camera and snap a few of him too).

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And, if you’re not a relative or friend that knows where we spent our vacation, extra credit if you can name our destination in a comment below….

 

Easy and healthy baked zucchini Parmesan

 - by Sarah Lipoff

baked zucchini parm

We’re really working on enjoying family dinner, but some nights it’s still easier to toss the tot a bowl of boiled noodles topped with butter and call it a night. Spring zucchini are seriously cheap at the grocery store right now, so I couldn’t resist bagging up a ton and bringing it home. And this easy and seriously healthy dish is so simple, my daughter basically made it.

Ingredients

6 zucchinis

2 cups tomato sauce

1 cup shredded provolone cheese

1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs

Olive oil

Directions

Slice the fresh green zucchinis in half and then cut a bit off the rounded sides so they’d lay flat in your big pan. Coat the pan with a bit of olive oil and then create an even layer of the zucchini. Preheat your oven to 400˚F.

zucchini parmesan

Now top the sliced zucchini with the tomato sauce — your favorite kind is perfect. And you can use as little or as much as you’d like. After my daughter got tired of dolloping the sauce, she layered on the cheese (after a bit of taste testing), and then sprinkled the breadcrumbs over the top.

Pop the zucchini casserole into the hot oven and let it bake and bubble for 25 minutes. Your baked zucchini Parmesan is ready! Serve with seared chicken breasts or enjoy as is for a delicious vegetarian dinner.

easy zucchini parmesan

 

Transform a cardboard box into a fun word game

 - by Sarah Lipoff

This last week I received several boxes of wonderful things in the mail. Instead of breaking them down and adding to the recycling, I decided to have some fun and create an easy word game for the tot. She’s right at the point where encouraging letter recognition would be a really good thing, and instead of heading to the store and paying big bucks on some plastic game, or one that she’d only play with for a week and then toss aside, I upcycled one of those cardboard boxes into a fun and interactive game that could be enjoyed — and then eventually recycled.

Simply cut away the sides from the cardboard box using a scissors or paper cutter. You probably won’t be able to cut completely through if using a cutter, but it does help create nice, straight scored lines, which can then be cut with the help of a scissors. I created four squares to use for creating matching letter and number games.

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Now use the trimmings to create the squares for the letters and numbers. I found around a one inch square was the perfect size.

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Use a black marker to write letters and numbers on the squares. You could do all capital letters, lower case letters for encouraging advanced learners, and numbers up to 100 — or even higher! I kept it simple and wrote out the alphabet in block letters along with numbers 1 to 20, reserving any blank squares for replacing lost numbers and letters later.

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To create the game grids, use a ruler to mark each side of the cardboard squares and one inch intervals and then draw straight lines to create boxes. Now you can fill each box with a number or letter, create words, or even number combinations. Because my little one is just starting to figure things out, I kept things pretty simple. You can even have a theme for each square, such as one for only numbers, and others for letters, or short words.

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I helped my daughter spread the letters and numbers on her work table and offered her a square to fill in. I was amazed as she found the first match and stayed engaged while filling in the rest. We spent over an hour going over the numbers and letters and finding their matching spots on the game cards and exploring number and letter recognition.

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I was so excited my daughter loved her new game, but loved even more that it was made from a recycled cardboard box, which basically cost nothing to make.

Looking for another fun way to repurpose your cardboard boxes? Make a cardboard box oven for hours of pretend play….

 

 

Zucchini cornbread muffins

 - by Sarah Lipoff

zucchini cornbread

There’s nothing like the soft sweet crunch of cornbread muffins. One of my favorite things while growing up where muffins from that little box of mix that only required an egg, a bit of oil, and a splash of milk to make. The other day I had an abundance of fresh spring zucchini and knew they would taste divine paired with cornmeal. I baked a batch of muffins and totally admit to winging the recipe. But after they were eaten within hours, I decided it was a good idea to whip up another batch — making sure to write the ingredients down. And with the Shine Supper Club all about revisiting our favorite childhood eats, this recipe mixes classic cornbread with healthy and fresh zucchini.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup cornmeal

1 cup flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 pound shredded zucchini

2 eggs

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup oil

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350˚F and get out a big mixing bowl. Measure and add the cornmeal, flour, sugar, and salt to the bowl and give a stir to break up any lump. You can also add the ingredients to a blender and pulse on low to create a really smooth and delicate cornbread muffin.

mixing muffins

Now add the baking powder, baking soda, and shredded zucchini. Crack in the eggs, add the milk and oil, and stir to incorporate. That’s it — really.

cornbread ingredients

Line your muffin tin with liners or slightly grease and then ladle in the batter. Pop in the hot oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden.

Remove the muffins and let cool for 10 minutes before eating. They’re wonderful topped with a bit of butter, drizzled with honey, or slathered with cream cheese.

fresh muffins

Yum!

Carrot oatmeal cookies

 - by Sarah Lipoff

carrot cookies

It’s been a busy week, so there hasn’t been time for doing anything fun and crafty. A freelance job that I’ve really enjoyed for the last several months has turned into an actual position (YAY!), so instead of hanging out in my house being anti-social I enjoyed a bit of actual interaction with creative and smart ladies that I’ll hopefully be working with for a very long time. So if things seem a bit quiet over here, head over to POPSUGAR Pets and POPSUGAR Smart Living to see what I’ve been up to.

After the busy week, cookies were in order. I love cookies and am always trying to put a fun spin on things. I was craving carrot cake, but was feeling a bit too lazy for baking and had a demanding daughter that wanted something sweet that didn’t require any waiting. After gathering the ingredients, we were ready for making sweet and tasty cookies.

And you can put a healthy spin on these cookies by using whole wheat flour, which would also give them a bit more crunch.

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup oats
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350˚F then measure and add the butter, sugars, maple syrup (which is really delicious in these cookies, but if you don’t have any, they’ll still be yum-o), salt, and vanilla. Use a hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar together.

Now add the egg and give the ingredients another mixing. Now measure and add the shredded carrot, flour, and oats. Sprinkle in the baking soda and powder and then stir until incorporated.

Line your baking tray with parchment paper and scoop large spoonfuls of the cookie batter onto the tray leaving an inch or so between cookies to allow for spreading while baking. Gently press with your fingers to create rounds.

Pop the cookies into the hot oven and set the timer for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and enjoy!

*Makes around 24 cookies, depending on how big you make them….

Healthy layered spring zucchini casserole

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Thank you Country Crock for sponsoring this post.

Layered Zucchini Casserole

There’s nothing like fresh veggies this time of year, which makes tossing together a quick, easy, and healthy casserole just about the best thing at the end of a long day. With my daughter really excited about helping to make dinner, and doing the grocery shopping, I ended up with a few more than the three fresh zucchinis that I had selected in my shopping basket the other day. Instead of putting them back, we happily brought them home for making this delicious and low-fat casserole, which is the perfect thing for celebrating spring. Instead of being heavy and covered with loads of cheese, you can enjoy this casserole as a side or on its own. Swapping butter for Country Crock cuts down on extra calories and you’ll never taste the difference when using low-fat cheeses and milk.

This recipe is seriously easy, so invite your little one into the kitchen to help make this light casserole. And if you love creating tasty concoctions as much as I do, head over to Country Crock Stars, enter a picture of your latest casserole, and share in 100 words how you demonstrate creativity and resourcefulness in the kitchen for a chance to win $5,000.

-Keep reading for the easy recipe!

Ode to One Fish

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Yeah, my fish died. I had it for a really long time — like 10 years or so. It was just a simple goldfish that I’d brought home from school to take care of over winter break years ago. For some reason I didn’t take it back and that fish found its way into our home. It moved with us several times, changed locations around the house a million times, saw several fish friends come and go, allowed the cats to drink the water from its bowl, and survived the tot dumping tons of fish food in the tank.

It was a good fish.

I know it is silly to get attached to a goldfish. I love fishing. I love eating fish. But that darn goldfish greeted me every morning when I stumbled into the kitchen, kept watch over me while I cooked dinner, and wiggled its tail like crazy whenever I came near the tank.

Fish’s latest companion of three years left us a couple of weeks ago. Just another simple goldfish. We hadn’t done anything different or changed the water or moved the tank around or anything. But I kind of had a feeling.

When I woke up the other day and One Fish (yes, that was my fishy’s name) was lilting, I just acted like he/she was extra tired. Maybe it had  a long night? Maybe he/she was lonely?

Nope.

One Fish was on the way out.

Last night I bawled while my husband took care of my floating fish. It was pretty pathetic. I know One Fish was just a goldfish, but that goldfish was the awesomest goldfish around. I was used to watching as he/she swam around the tank, loved how my daughter was starting to understand the concept of caring for a pet, and how One Fish’s tail was the coolest fish tail around.

Our solution?

We went to the pet store and picked up a mini tank and plopped it atop of our daughter’s dresser in her room. She’s been a bit of a challenge at bedtime (it’s too dark, I’m not tired, I need water, I’m bored, tuck me in again, I dropped my toy….) and figured having the new fish in her room in a tank with a light would help lull her to sleep.

Her nighttime routine now includes saying goodnight several times to her new itty-bitty goldfish that she named Red, she then sings the fishy a song, then talks to it, then sings again, then talks to it a bit more, and eventually falls asleep.

Hey, I don’t care.

She’s not calling for me every five minutes and that itty-bitty fish cost 15 cents at the pet store and can be swapped as many times as needed.

Thanks for the memories, One Fish.

I’ll miss you.