Ally

 
6127 Mack Road, Sacramento, CA 95823. (916) 427-8598.

Hope you're having a relaxing holiday week, readers and are all ready to welcome in the new year. I was doing some sorting on the laptop today and came across a forgotten photo I took a few weeks back when Mr. S. and I snuck off to South Sac for a quick a.m. coffee and a bagful of señorita bread from Starbread Bakery. Mmmm, señorita bread...my mouth's watering just thinking about that trip. For just $2, you get 5 pipin' hot sweet rolls drizzled with a hint of honey. It's just the perfect bit of sweetness to get you started in the early morning. What are you waiting for? Go get some....
Ally


Happy Holidays To You & Yours,

A Girl & Her Fork
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Ally

Looking for a last-minute homemade gift to whip up? Or perhaps you're just thinking ahead about a yummy condiment to pair up with some leftover Christmas turkey? Then give this mouth-smackin' cranberry honey mustard a try.


Cranberry Honey Mustard (The Mustard Book by Jan Roberts-Dominguez)

Ingredients

3/4 cup yellow mustard seeds

1/2 cups cider vinegar

1 1/4 cups dried cranberries

3 tablespoons honey (I added a little extra)

1 teaspoon salt


Instructions

- In a non-aluminum pot or jar, combine the mustard seeds, vinegar and cranberries, cover and soak for 48 hours; adding additional vinegar if necessary to maintain enough liquid to cover the seeds (but you don't want it to be overly sloshy).

- Scrape the soaked seed-and-cranberry mixture into a food processor and process until the mixture turns from liquid and seeds to a creamy mixture flecked with seeds and bits of cranberry. The process takes about 3 to 4 minutes, so be patient. You may need to add additional vinegar as necessary to create a nice creamy mustard, keep in mind that it will thicken slightly upon standing. After about a week of aging the cranberry flavor seems to settle into this mustard and make it all the better, but it is perfectly good immediately. Makes 3 1/3 cups.

- Follow standard hot water bath procedures for canning.
Ally
(Skate Wing)

2924 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95818. (916) 443-5154 

Date night...even at my age, I still get excited about it. On the rare night, when Mr.S. and I have a night without his kidlets and have the foresight to make a reservation we get to have a date night. Date night usually involves dressing up, having a glass of wine and getting to relax and chat over a delicious, leisurely dinner at a nice restaurant. Last Saturday evening, Mr. S. and I had plans to stop by a friend's holiday party and then head out for our date night dinner at Taylor's Kitchen. We had heard great things about the restaurant from friends so we were eagerly anticipating an excellent meal.

When we arrived we were greeted by a friendly waitress, who seated us at a nice corner two-top by the front window. Normally, I would have loved where the table was located but it was an unusually chilly night and the restaurant was quite cold. When we asked if we could be moved to a warmer spot she graciously offered to move us to the chef's counter. Perfect, we could watch the chefs in action and the heat of the stoves would keep me warm. I was pleased as punch. However, with the move in location, came a switch in servers. Our new waiter came and introduced himself, asked us if we had ever visited Taylor's before and advised us of the specials. He came back over a few minutes later and asked if we would like to place a drink order, Mr. S. ordered some sparkling water and advised him that I would probably like to order some wine. At this point, our waiter launched into a full-length lecture (in a bit of a condescending tone) about how the food at Taylor's is extremely flavorful and how one should never order their wine until AFTER they've placed their dinner order so they can pair their wine with what they've ordered. I let him finish his lecture, at which point I told him I would go ahead and order my wine NOW. As someone who worked in the restaurant industry for nearly a decade and who likes to dine out a lot, I was initially flabbergasted then insulted by my waiter's behavior. First of all, I should hope that all the food at Taylor's is flavorful and I shouldn't need to be told that. It should just be a given. Secondly, never order your customer around. Anyhow, we did ask our waiter a few questions about the menu items and I did even ask for an entree recommendation. I felt that he did a nice job in recommending a dish for me. He didn't push the special or the most expensive item on the menu and rather suggested a dish that he said he felt the restaurant did a fabulous job in preparing.

Mr. S. and I started with an appetizer of sautéed sweetbreads served over a bed of shaved Brussels sprouts, hen of the woods, and roasted mini apple orbs tossed with a mascarpone sauce. This was probably our favorite dish of the night. The sweetbreads were perfectly cooked and the accompanying side was absolutely delicious. I could have eaten another plate of this ---it was that good!  For dinner, Mr. S. ordered the skate wing with Ecuadorian shrimp and fingerling potatoes in lobster broth and I went with the pan roasted chicken served with red jasmine rice, Cajun andouille sausage, beans and kale. Both of us really enjoyed our dinners. (By the way, my wine choice- the Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz-Viognier paired perfectly with my chicken.) I usually don't order chicken when I go out, but was glad I had gone with the waiter's rec. The chicken was perfectly seasoned and cooked---juicy inside and crisp outside. Delicious! At this point, I had simmered down and even thanked our waiter for his suggestion.

Post-dinner, Mr.S. opted for some coffee and wanted to peruse the dessert menu. Our waiter brought the menu over, told us what the night's dessert special was (some sort of molten lava cake) and then proceeded to launch into a step-by-step explanation of how a lava cake works like we had just fallen off a turnip truck. At this point, I'm biting my tongue from screaming at him that when he asked us if we'd ever been to Taylor's before and we said no, did he interpret that as we had never eat in a restaurant before? Sweet Baby Jesus! Who doesn't know how a flippin' lava cake works? I think Mr.S. could tell I was about to lose my cool, so we decided to skip dessert and get going.

So, to wrap it up...the food at Taylor's was outstanding. Their head chef leaving recently to go work for Tyler Florence obviously has not impacted their quality because our meal was perfect. The only thing that tainted my experience there was the service we received. I'd definitely eat there again...but you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be requesting that we have a different server.
Ally

3675 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95816.
www.junoskitchen.com

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting up with my friend, Michelle, for a little pre-holiday lunch. We decided to hit up Juno's, a little delicatessen on the 37th & J block. Despite having only been open for two months, Juno's exudes a vibe of being a neighborhood joint that's been around for awhile. When I walked in, I immediately recognized the smiling face working behind the counter as a former waiter at Tapa's and the owner, Mark Helms, is known for previously running the tasty Ravenous Cafe out in the Pocket area before selling it. The eatery itself is cozy (there's just a handful of small tables) and personalizes itself with small touches like the dog bed out front for furry friends but what really captivates you about Juno's is the food. It's delicious. I had heard numerous raves about their burger, which uses grass-fed Wagyu beef from New Zealand and is topped with mouthwatering caramelized onions and Manchego cheese. Michelle ordered it and I went with the pastrami sandwich since I had a burger the night before. When her burger came out, it looked so juicy and amazing, I almost regretted my decision but the pastrami sandwich was a total winner! It was served on delicious homemade toasted bread with braised cabbage, sliced cornichons and a mustard aioli (normally it would also be topped with some Gruyère but sadly I had to skip it as I had forgotten my Lactaid...doh!). The mélange of flavors- tangy, sweet and sour- was superb. Additionally, at Juno's sandwiches come with a choice of a side salad or roasted mixed potatoes. I went with the potatoes, which were tasty and seasoned well. The portion sizes for the meals which initially didn't look very large turned out to be quite filling and I left there happy, full and definitely wanting to come back!

[PS If you get a chance, check out their cute lavatory. It's decked out in an adorable woodland creature motif, complete with raccoon and deer statuettes...very Etsy-esque. I know it has nothing to do with the food...but it's cute!]
Ally
So last Thursday night, I was invited to a tiny dog party. Yes, you heard me right...a tiny dog party and once you quit laughing I'm sure you'll be jealous because the guest of honor was absolutely adorable. Here's a picture of Lily (formerly known as Franny).

(photo courtesy of C. Schmiedt)

Cute, huh? I told you so. Lily here, used to be a foster puppy about two years ago. When my friend C. took her in she was pretty pathetic looking. She suffered from mange, had an odd odor and didn't do much beside heave the occasional sigh. Despite this, C. took her into her home and gave her lots of love. Lily thrived under C.'s care. Since then, she's been adopted to a loving home. So when Lily's owner asked C. if she'd like to dogsit while she was gone, C. asked if we'd all like to come by for a "tiny dog party" and see how great Lily was doing (and no, there were no party hats!). So if you're thinking of adopting a pet this holiday season, please think about adopting from a shelter or rescue. Pets like Lily need a home to flourish in...look how your love and attention can totally turn their world around.

Note: Through December 30th, the Sacramento SPCA, City of Sacramento Animal Care Services, Sacramento County Animal Care & Regulation, and Happy Tails Pet Sanctuary will be working together on a special pet adoption program called, "Home For The Holidays," where adoption fees for all animals will be reduced by 75%.

Sooooo....after we all got to see Lily, the human people needed to eat, drink and talk (of course!). Some of us brought wine, some brought beer, our hostess made some tasty treats including some fancy homemade cheese (which was delish). I was in a hurry that day so I made some mini frittatas; after all, who doesn't like miniature breakfast food as an appetizer? No one, I know....



Mini Frittatas
Makes 12

Ingredients

8 large eggs

2.5 cups chopped veggies and/or meat of your choice (I like to use leeks, sun-dried tomatoes & ham)

1.5 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

salt and pepper, to taste


Instructions

- Spray a non-stick muffin pan with cooking spray.

- Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

- Fill about 1/3 of each cup with your veggie/meat mix.

- Place about 1.5-2 tablespoons of cheese in each cup.

- In a bowl, beat the eggs. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

- Divide the eggs amongst the 12 cups evenly.

- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the frittatas puff up and turn golden. Serve warm.

- Can be served with a side of guacamole, salsa or sriracha for added flavor.
Ally

Mr. S.' s Kidlet #1 will eat anything, no questions asked. Kidlet #2 on the other hand...if it's remotely different looking, we'll usually get bombarded with questions like, "What IS that?" "Why's it smell funny?" "What's in it?" etc etc and the conversation will usually end with, "I don't like it," and a vomit face. So recently to avoid the whole rigmarole when we were serving dinner, I told him prosciutto was "fancy bacon." (He loves bacon.) I just wanted to eat one meal in peace and it is similar to bacon...in a way. No harm, no foul, right? Well, I didn't think much of it until last Saturday night when we had the same dish during our dinner party -a prosciutto wrapped chicken breast stuffed with cheese and basil. One of our guest's children asked what the meat enveloping the chicken was and the child's father replied, "Prosciutto." From the kitchen, I immediately heard a little voice firmly correct him, "No it's not! It's FANCY BACON!"....Oops! Lesson learned. On the bright side, he ate it and liked it.


Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Breast Stuffed With Cheese & Basil
Serves 4

Ingredients

4 medium, boneless skinless chicken breasts halves

8 squares of Taleggio or mozzarella cheese (the size of a pat of butter)
(*The Taleggio gives a more mature, salty taste which we liked but we found the kidlets preferred the mozzarella)

8 large basil leaves

8 slices prosciutto

1 T extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup chicken broth

Salt & fresh ground pepper


Instructions

- Preheat oven to 375F degrees.

- Cut a deep pocket in the thickest side of each chicken breast half without cutting all the way through the chicken breast (watch your fingers!). Insert two pieces of cheese and 2 pieces of basil (stack one on top, one on bottom) in the pocket.

- Close the pocket. Salt & pepper your chicken breasts.

- Lay two pieces of prosciutto down so that the long sides overlap a bit. Lay the chicken breast so that the pocket opening faces the middle of the prosciutto. Wrap the breast with the sides of the prosciutto, press to seal.

- Heat 1 T of olive oil in a large non-stick pan (at medium/medium-high heat). Add the prosciutto wrapped chicken breast to the pan and let it brown undisturbed for 5 minutes, then flip and cook for 3-4 minutes.

- Take an oven safe pan/casserole dish and add enough chicken broth to cover the bottom, then add the chicken breasts. Place pan in oven. Cook for 20 minutes. (* The broth keeps the breasts from drying out.)

- Remove from pan. Serve.
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Ally



Last Saturday night, Mr. S. and I threw a small dinner party for about eleven people. I love entertaining but choosing what to serve is always a giant PIA. We had decided on the main course but I was in a bit of a quandary on what side dishes to make. Luckily, I ended up finding a true crowd pleaser with this wild rice salad. I wanted to mix it up on the texture so I threw in some golden raisins, dried cranberries and candied pecans. I also cut the sharpness of the vinaigrette with some honey and it turned out great. It was tangy, hearty and best of all I was able to make it the night before. This tasty salad will definitely be added into our household recipe rotation. Mr.S. loved it so much he ate all the leftovers and both of HIS buddies actually took the time to send us emails thanking us for a great meal. Hmmm, straight men taking the time to sit down and write a thank you email for a meal?...It must have been good. I feel pretty honored.

Winter Wild Rice Salad 
Servings: 4-6 as side dish

Ingredients

Salad

1 cup wild rice (depending on the kind of wild rice you buy the rice color may range from light brown to a black in color)

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup chopped toasted candied pecans

1/3 cup chopped toasted unsalted cashews

1/4 cup finely chopped green onion tops

2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

Dressing

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1-2 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon sugar

1/3 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

1/2 tsp salt

honey, to taste

*Helpful Tip: Many of these ingredients can be readily (and cheaply) found at Trader Joe's- like the dried cranberries (they carry regular & organic), unsalted cashews, & candied pecans.


Instructions

1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the wild rice. Bring it back up to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the rice is tender (about 50 minutes to 1 hour). Drain and cool.

2. Transfer the rice to a large bowl. Mix in the raisins, cranberries, candied pecans, cashews, green onion tops, and red onion.

3. Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, mustard and sugar in a separate bowl. Add in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the rice mixture and toss. Add in a few quick drizzles of honey to cut the tartness. Season salad with salt and pepper to taste. Toss again.
Ally

6930 65th Street Suite 109, Sacramento, CA 95823. (916) 429-9999. (Located around the corner from the SF Market)

There's a certain self-satisfaction and smugness to getting all your Christmas shopping done two weeks early. Yep, that's right folks...you heard me correctly--I'm done TWO WEEKS early. It took me 37 years to get to that point, but this year I'm finished with plenty of time to spare. No sitting in holiday traffic, having to pushing my way through throngs of people at the mall or getting elbowed at the register this year for me. All my shopping is done...barring a few gifts on their way via UPS. It's a great feeling. All I have left to do between now and Christmas is to pour myself a big glass of wine, bake a few cookies and watch "Elf," a half dozen times. (I love it when Will Ferrell hisses, "You stink...you smell like beef and cheese, you don't smell like Santa!") Anyhow, my holiday shopping's done so you know what that means...my pocketbook is e-m-p-t-y...but no worries. That's what Huong Lan Sandwiches is for. For $2.75 you can grab one of their yummy banh mi sandwiches. They're sooooo good. If you've never had a banh mi before, the best way to describe it is that it's kind of like a Vietnamese sub sandwich. Huong Lan uses a fresh crunchy baguette slathered with a house mayo mix which they stuff with your choice of meat, julienned pickled daikon and carrots, some cilantro, onion and top it with a few sliced jalapeños. The meat choices range from bbq grilled pork, steamed pork, chicken, pâté, sardines and there's even a vegetarian choice. The sandwiches are super filling and delicious. A combo of sweet, tangy, salty, crunchy and spicy...perfect for lunch, dinner or anytime in between. The set up at Huong Lan is pretty simple. When you walk in there's tables to the left. If you want table service sit down. If you want takeout, walk to the back right corner and place your order at the counter. There's a giant illuminated picture menu above, for easy reference. Just tell the cashier what number sandwich you'd like to order, pay for your purchase and wait. They'll call your order out when it's ready. Just think- with all the money you save, you'll be rollin' in the green just in time for the new year.

* Tip: Bring cash (there's a minimum purchase amount for credit/debit purchases)
Ally

"Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart. " ~Erma Bombeck

I'll admit I've never been one to go all crazy over cupcakes. When all that hoopla was going on over Magnolia Bakery and "designer cupcake flavors" were the rage, I just didn't get it. Sure, from time to time I bake cupcakes for a party or for Mr. S.'s kidlets but cupcakes as MY dessert of choice? Nah, I tend to like savory. I'm pretty sure it's all that gacky frosting that's plopped on top that turns me off. So when I heard about these not-too-sweet cupcakes, I had to give this recipe a try. (Add to the fact, that I was craving something tropical after seeing my buddy Maxx's Turks and Caicos vaca pics on FB...can you say super jealous?) End result--the Coconut and Pineapple Cupcakes didn't exactly assuage my desires for an overseas getaway (c'mon now, let's be realistic! I still want to go) but they were quite good and not over-the-top sugary tasting. In fact, they kind of reminded me of a piña colada. Yum!

Coconut and Pineapple Cupcakes (from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)
makes 12

Ingredients

Cupcakes

1 cup all-purposes flour

a scant 3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt

3 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 egg

9 canned pineapple rings, chopped into small pieces (*use less though or you'll have a soggy mess, I used 6 rings)

desiccated coconut, to decorate


Coconut Frosting

2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

5 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tbsp coconut milk


Instructions

-Line a 12-hole cupcake pan with paper cups. Preheat oven to 325F.

-Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

-Mix the coconut milk and vanilla in a separate bowl, then beat into the flour mixture on medium speed until well combined. Add the egg and beat well (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side o the bowl with a rubber spatula).

-Divide the chopped pineapple between the paper cases. Spoon the cupcake batter on top until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven or 20-25 minutes, or until light golden and the cake bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the center should come out clean. Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

-For the coconut frosting: Beat the confectioners’ sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Turn the mixer down to a slower speed and slowly pour in the coconut milk. Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is very white, light and fluffy, 5-10 minutes.

-When the cupcakes are cool, spoon the coconut frosting on top and finish with a sprinkling of desiccated coconut.
Ally

BGH QUICK CHEF MUSIC CASE from brenocosta on Vimeo.

Saw a blurb about this gadg on Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn today and thought it was a joke so I did a little research. Turns out--nope, it's for reals. Argentinian company, BGH-Quickchef, has created a microwave that plays any music file you want instead of emitting that annoying beeping sound when your chow's done thanks to a USB slot. Kind of neat.
Ally
Here's some great food & kitchen-related gift ideas to help you get your holiday shopping done early so you can kick back, relax & start knocking back those hot toddies in front of the fireplace....

1. Big Paw's Hot Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil - My friend Mig, in SF, introduced me to this oil a few years back and I've been addicted ever since. My favorite way to use it is to halve some Brussels sprouts, throw them on a baking sheet, drizzle some oil along the top, toss, pop the whole lot in the oven, toss again halfway through -- and you're done. Over the years every time I've used this oil, my dinner guests have asked me what it is. It's a winner every time. (Makes a great stocking stuffer!)


2. Silpat Baking Liner - I can't tell you how many times my Silpat has probably saved my cookies and appetizers from burning on the bottom. They don't take up much room (I roll mine up), they're easy to clean and they'll get used often. Pair it up with your favorite baked goods' recipe or some cute cookie cutters and you have a nice gift ready to go.


3. What's better than a great cup of coffee? Not much. How about surprising the coffee connoisseur in your life with a Aerobie Aeropress and a bag of yummy Temple coffee? Their Brazilian Boa Sorte is one of my favs.


4. Have friends that are into cheese making or just want to learn how? Pick them up this book by Mary Karlin- "Artisan Cheese Making at Home: Techniques & Recipes for Mastering World-Class Cheeses." Think of all the fun times you could have in the new year making (and eating) all the recipes together.


5. Looking to buy a locally grown gift? How about some Chocolate Infused Olive Oil from Lucero Olive Oil, grown right here in Northern California (in Corning, 25 miles northwest of Chico). Delicious in chocolate chip cookies, over ice cream or as a dipping sauce for biscotti.


6. Looking to gift something beautiful yet functional? Try one of these unique cutting boards from Sol Boards in West Sacramento. They come in two sizes- 10″ x 12″ and 10″ x 16″.




7. Got a half-pint that likes to cook? Well, if you're going to get them a kitchen set then get them one that's retro-looking and super adorbs, like this one made by KidKraft. It even comes with an old-fashioned looking wall phone and red and white gingham curtains...how cute is that?


8. The economy sucks and your wallet's a bit bare...need a present that's cool but not going to break the bank? Pick up some of these colorful French-inspired paring knives from Chefs Catalog. (A set of five 7" stainless steel knives- includes brown, red, yellow, blue and green handles.)


9. And don't forget homemade gifts are always awesome too! The holidays tend to get a bit harried but a jar of bourbon bacon jam or some fresh Meyer lemon curd is sure to be a big hit and will bring a smile to the lips of a loved one.


(print by Freshline, available on Etsy)

Happy Holidays!


(* Photos from product websites)
Ally
While perusing the internets, I came across this trailer for a little movie called, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," that was shown at the Tribeca Movie Festival earlier this year; now I can't wait until it's released this March in the theaters. The sushi lover in me is positively drooling at the imagery and the food lover in me is entralled by the storyline. Hopefully the Tower or the Crest will pick it up and I'll be able to catch it this spring.

Press Synopsis:

JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI is the story of 85 year-old Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. He is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Despite its humble appearances, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a prestigious 3 star Michelin review, and sushi lovers from around the globe make repeated pilgrimage, calling months in advance and shelling out top dollar for a coveted seat at Jiro’s sushi bar.

For most of his life, Jiro has been mastering the art of making sushi, but even at his age he sees himself still striving for perfection, working from sunrise to well beyond sunset to taste every piece of fish; meticulously train his employees; and carefully mold and finesse the impeccable presentation of each sushi creation. At the heart of this story is Jiro’s relationship with his eldest son Yoshikazu, the worthy heir to Jiro’s legacy, who is unable to live up to his full potential in his father’s shadow.

The feature film debut of director David Gelb, JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI is a thoughtful and elegant meditation on work, family, and the art of perfection, chronicling Jiro’s life as both an unparalleled success in the culinary world, and a loving yet complicated father.

Ally

Back in my college days, I lived with several interesting characters. Most of which who like myself worked in the restaurant industry to pay their rent and their tuition. At one point, I had a roommate who juggled two or three jobs (it could have even been four) simultaneously, one of which was as a waitress at the local Red Lobster, or as we called it-The Crimson Crustacean. My roommate used to bring home these yummy cheesy biscuits that reeked of delicious garlic that I loved...we used to have a few as we knocked back a few beers after a hard night's work. I was carrying a full load of classes and hostessing 5 nights a week at The Sheepherder's Inn (or maybe I was cocktailing at the Cliffhouse) back then...remember those places? Anyhow, I had kind of forgotten about those biscuits until recently. Kidlet #2 loooooves bread- rolls, biscuits, breadsticks...he's always grabbing for them at the dinner table. So I did some Internet searching and found this recipe on Kayotic Kitchen for Faux Red Lobster Biscuits and decided to give it a go. Mr. S.'s eyes got big when I pulled out the Bisquick...I could tell he was thinking, "What the heck!?!?" but Kidlet #2 was excited. He even offered to help cook. I made a few quick tweaks to the recipe then quickly put him to work measuring ingredients and rolling "snowballs" of dough. The three of us had a pretty merry time in the kitchen. Surprisingly enough, the biscuits came out delish! Mr. S. even suggested that we make them for our next dinner party and both kidlets ate several. I'm pretty sure I saw Kidlet #1 snake one post-dinner as a dessert as well. Heh, whattayaknow.....

Cheddah Biscuits (adapted from Kayotic Kitchen's Faux Red Lobster Biscuits)

Ingredients:

2 cups Bisquick

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp Lawry’s garlic salt

1/2 tsp onion powder

1 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

2/3 cup whole milk

5 tbsp butter

1 tsp oregano


Instructions

-Preheat oven 400F degrees.

-Mix Bisquick, garlic powder (not garlic salt!), onion powder and grated cheese in a large mixing bowl and stir.

-Pour in milk and mix well. Stir until dough firms up. The dough will look dry and that's ok, it's supposed to you're using Bisquick, but go ahead and add a teaspoon more milk if dough looks extremely dry (as long as it will hold together you're good).

-Take dough and make small "snowballs." Place balls on baking sheet. (I used it a Silpat for this recipe and it really helped the bottoms of the biscuits from overcooking.)  Gently press down on the tops of the biscuits to shape them.

-Should make approx. 12 biscuits.

-Melt 5 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in 1 tsp garlic salt and 1 tsp oregano.

-Brush 50% of mixture onto the tops of the biscuits.

-Bake 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. (Ours took about 10 minutes.)

-Remove from oven and brush the tops with the remaining 50% of the butter mixture. Serve them up while they're still warm.
Ally

“Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”
~ Guillaume Apollinaire

Ever have one of those leisurely weekends that almost feels like a vacation? They don't come around often but when they do, they sure are great aren't they? Sans kidlets this weekend, Mr. S. and I settled in at the cottage and "staycationed." We attended a Christmas party on Friday night at a friends' home (cider spiked with homemade spiced bourbon...yum!) but for the most part we just relaxed and enjoyed each other's company. We dined out, did a little shopping and caught a flick. (If you haven't caught Clooney's latest, "The Descendants"- I highly recommend it. It's excellent.) Saturday night however, we decided to cook dinner together. Since Mr. S. had never really had mussels before, I was antsy for him to try moules marinières (drool...). He debearded the lil bivalves while I scrubbed, pretty soon we had a nice little pile ready to be steamed. Now I could have went old school and just steamed them with wine and garlic but I went just a wee bit fancier by also adding some butter and a few spices. We sopped up the broth though simply with some crusty French bread...mmmm, perfect...and only one pot dirtied, gotta love that! ;)


Moules Marinières

Ingredients

• 3 shallots, thinly sliced or chopped

• 4-5 large garlic cloves, minced

• olive oil

• 2 pounds mussels, debearded & well scrubbed

• 1 cup dry white wine

• 6 T unsalted butter

• 1 tsp salt

• 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

• 1 T fresh parsley, roughly chopped

• 1/2 tsp thyme

• 1 tsp lemon zest

• Pinch dried red pepper flakes

• Splash of cream (optional)

• French bread or baguette


Instructions

- Wash the mussels under cold running water. Discard any shells that don't close upon pressure or that are broken or cracked.

- Pull off the beards. Using a knife, scrape off the barnacles from the shells. Use a scrubber and give the shell a good brush off. Rinse.

- Heat a large pan/pot over medium heat. Coat the bottom with olive oil and butter. When it starts to shimmer, add the shallots. Sauté until they soften and become translucent. Then add the garlic. Sauté for another minute.

- Add the mussels, white wine, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Cover and wait until the mussels open up- about 3 to 5 minutes. (Do not overcook or the mussels will become rubbery.) Give the pan one shake.

- Remove the mussels from the pot with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. (Discard any mussels that did not open.)

- Add a splash of cream (optional) to the broth .

- Carefully ladle the broth over the mussels. Garnish with parsley.

- Serve with crusty bread for dipping and a bowl for the empties.

** Fresh mussels can be stored in the fridge in a colander with a bowl underneath (out of the bag), covered with a damp cloth, for 1-2 days. Do not store them submerged in water or they'll drown. They need to breathe...because they're aaaaaa-live!
Ally
Did you spend the first Saturday of December raking leaves?


We didn't! We were busy eating korean tacos from Seoul on Wheels at SactoMoFo #3. Mmmm! (Both Mr. S. and I loved the meat in the tacos but agreed there should have been less lettuce...I would have preferred to have seen some kimichi or asian slaw in it's place but they were quite good nevertheless.)


Hope you too were able to stop by and catch some of the tasty delights offered at the mobile truck festival located under the W Street freeway yesterday.
Ally
Sometimes you need a night to yourself...it could be that you had a rough day with your boss, maybe the kidlets are extra demanding, your boyfriend's super loco ex is in town or the dog just took a leak on the Christmas tree. Whatever the reason, throw on some PJs, grab a snugly blanket, shoo everyone away...then make yourself comfortable on the couch with a hot cup of tea, a nice book (or movie) and a bowl of Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Almonds with Sea Salt and Turbinado Sugar (or "turbo" sugar as Mr. S. likes to call it). Seriously, these little bite size treats are so amazing they could probably could bring about world peace...ok, maybe not quite but they do do wonders for PMS and are flippin' DELICIOUS. Salty, sweet, chocolaty- the combo of taste sensations will blow your tastebuds. I'm seriously addicted to them and $3.99 is a cheap price to pay to keep my sanity during the holidays.

Ally


Ahhhh, the holidays....with the parties, tree trimmings and gift exchanges comes a lot of sugar cookies, peppermint bark and fruitcake...it's delicious but after awhile we all get a bit burned out. If you're looking for something a bit off the beaten path for your next gathering, try making this Filipino sweet rice delicacy called- "biko." It's usually deserved at birthday parties, holidays and other celebratory events in the Phillipines. It's pretty simple to make and utilizes a minimal amount of ingredients; however, there are many variations of biko- some people like to add a little orange zest, others throw in some jackfruit strips (langka) or drizzle on some caramel. Do a little research and see what appeals to your palate.

Biko (adapted from a recipe by Ivory Hut)

Ingredients

3 cans (14 ounces) coconut milk

4 cups sweet rice (I used a brand called Sho-Chiku-Bai by Koda Farms available at SF Market)

2 cups light brown sugar

1 cup coconut cream (can be found at most Asian stores)

Instructions

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

- Wash sweet rice by swirling it in cold water and draining. Continue until water is clear. Set aside.

- Pour 3 cans of coconut milk and 1 cup of water into a large pot and let it come to a simmer over medium heat. Stir.

- While it's simmering, add in the rice and stir constantly to prevent burning. (Even if your arm gets tired, don't stop.) Lower the heat if necessary.

- When the rice is cooked, has absorbed the liquid and looks like risotto (about 15-25 minutes) then add 1 cup of brown sugar.

- (Note: If rice is already sticky but not yet fully cooked, add small amounts of water, stir and continue cooking. The rice must be fully cooked before it goes into the oven.)

- Stir well and take it off the heat. Pour it into a lightly buttered (or if you're preparing this for a vegan friend, use a vegan friendly product like those by Earth Balance) 9×13 pan and carefully smooth out the top.

- In a small bowl, mix the remaining 1 cup brown sugar and coconut cream until smooth and pour it evenly over the rice.


- Bake for about 1 hour or up to 1.5 hours, until topping is dark caramel brown and has thickened. (My biko took almost all of the 1.5 hours to cook.)

- Cool slightly before serving.
Ally


It's Tuesday night, Girls' Night and I'm hosting at the cottage. I need something easy to make and also vegan and gluten-free. If it was summer, it'd be no problem to meet my guests' dietary restrictions...I could throw together a simple salad, but being as it's late fall I need to make something hearty, heavy and substantial...or do I? Why not make an autumn salad? Maybe something with pears and candied pecans? Sprinkled with a few plump golden raisins? We can save our calories for dessert. ;)

Autumn Quinoa Salad with Maple Vinaigrette
(adapted from a recipe by the Gluten-free Goddess)

Ingredients for Salad

1 cup organic quinoa

2 handfuls baby spinach leaves- washed, drained

1 large ripe Bosc pear- washed, stemmed, cored & cut into pieces

1/2 cup chilled chickpeas, rinsed & drained

2 T chopped fresh parsley

sea salt & pepper, to taste

1 handful golden raisins

1 handful candied pecans


Ingredients for Maple Vinaigrette

4 T extra virgin olive oil

3 T white balsamic vinegar

2 T pure maple syrup


Instructions

- Place the quinoa in a saucepan. Add 2 cups fresh water or vegetable broth. Cover and cook on a low simmer until all the water is evaporated and the quinoa is tender- roughly 15-20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

- Move quinoa into a salad bowl.

- Whisk together the vinaigrette, pour it over the quinoa salad and toss gently to coat. Cover and chill.

- Add the baby spinach, pear, chickpeas, chopped parsley, raisins and candied pecans to the quinoa and fluff/mix.

-Serve.
Ally
Saturday, December 3, 11 am - 6 pm rain or shine at the W Street Farmers' Market location (8th & W Streets, under the freeway).

No tickets, no fees, just lots of delicious food!

*** This is also a winter food drive for the Sacramento Food Bank and the U.S. Marines Reserve's Toys for Tots, so please bring canned or packaged dry goods and new unwrapped toys to donate.
Santa will also be available for photos with both little and big kids for a small donation to a local children's Christmas charity. ***

http://www.sactomofo.com/



Ally


If you're anything like me, you were probably still reveling in your post-Thanksgiving food coma on Friday. People were coming up to me, rubbing my temporary buddha belly and cheerfully asking, "Boy or girl?" My response, "Turkey, with a heapin' side of stuffing." Yep, I ate A LOT. I like stuffing. Nix that, I love stuffing. Anyhow, I'm chalking this year's Turkey Day in the "win" category since I didn't shiv anyone for driving me crazy (although I got mighty close). I also am counting this appetizer in the win category since everyone seemed to love it. What?!?! You've never had devils on horseback before??? Get to the store right now, get the ingredients and make this recipe ASAP, you can thank me later. They are delish and so simple to put together, a monkey could make them. Seriously...a monkey could make them!

Devils on Horseback

Ingredients

12 Medjool dates

12 roasted almonds

goat cheese

6 slices of bacon, cut in half


Instructions

1. Preheat oven 400 degrees

2.  Cut lengthwise slit in date and remove pit.

3. Fill with goat cheese and 1 roasted almond. Pinch closed.

4. Wrap each stuffed date with a half piece of bacon.

5. Place a wire rack on a cookie sheet. Set each bacon wrapped stuffed date on the wire rack.

6. Place dates in oven, bake 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees, turning dates over halfway through. Remove when bacon looks crisp and cooked.

7. Serve warm. (Share with the monkey, if he helped you cook.)
Ally

I think I may have to pass on this one, but for those who are fans it looks like the Queen of Butter, Paula Deen will be visiting the City of Trees, Feb. 3 at the Sacramento Community Center Theater. Tickets go on sale Dec 2nd and are priced $44.75 to $100.

Read more at: Sac Bee Appetizers - Paula Deen
Ally
103 Sacramento Street, Auburn, CA 95603.
(530) 823-2233. 
www.tsudas.com


Recently, Mr. S. and I snuck away to Auburn to do some small town exploring and while we were there a tiny wooden sign caught our eye..."Award Winning Coffee," it touted. Being big fans of Temple Coffee in Midtown, we just had to check out this ballsy little coffee shop and it's so called award winning coffee. Well, Tsuda's did turn out to have award winning coffee---we loved it...it also turned out that they serve Temple coffee. Ha! How's that for a kick in the pants?


I wish we lived closer to Tsuda's. The charming little coffee shop exudes a laid back vibe and the counter help is super friendly (the kids running the front kind of remind me of the guys from Clerks). They also make the tastiest (and biggest) coconut macaroons I've ever come across, which we enjoyed as we lounged in the comfy chairs and people watched out the picture window. It was nice and quiet in there...plenty of room to relax and nary a laptop or hipster in sight! Definitely, a little oasis in all the hustle and bustle.



Ally

When it comes to November most folks look forward to turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie but me...I look forward to one of my favorite fruits making it's yearly reentrance--the satsuma or as it's known in Japanese, the mikan. I love how it's relatively seedless, peels readily and is oh so sweet! I can usually eat two or three in a sitting. This Saturday, Mr. S. and I decided to check out the Mountain Mandarin Festival up in Auburn where they showcase the Owari Satsuma along with other varieties of mandarins. We weren't sure what to expect but it actually turned out to be quite fun (and a lot more crowded than we thought it would be). There were many mandarin growers, vendors and cooking demos to check out along with some live music. In the food court there were numerous mandarin goodies ("Mandarin milkshake anyone?") to nosh on along with a plethora of non-mandarin choices ranging from lobster rolls, gyros, catfish, beignets, clam chowder, to even Hawaiian lunch plates. We decided to grab some grilled chicken and rice from Sonoma Teriyaki because the aroma was positively mouthwatering and it turned out to be absolutely delicious! The best part of the festival for me though was stumbling across a tent for Lucero Olive Oil, a company from Corning, whose products I've been curious about for awhile. Lucky me was able to taste several of their oils and vinegars...all of which were lovely. I ended up buying a large bottle of their Mandarin Balsamic Vinegar (made especially for the festival) and a small bottle of their Chocolate Olive Oil (which they sell on their website). Can't wait to play around with them in my kitchen!

Ally
Finally! About time! I know, I know....Part 2 of the Foodbuzz Festival :

The second day of the Foodbuzz Festival started early (well, early for me--I'm not a morning person). I met up with Debby from A Feast for Your Eyes and we cabbed it over to the Federated Media Headquarters for some blog workshops. The first one I had signed up for was a featured panel discussion by five bloggers. Oddly enough, even though I write a food blog I don't follow a lot of what I would call the "popular" food blogs, so I had only heard of one of the five panelists.
The topic for the discussion was "Taking Your Blog to the Next Level," and the panelists talked about how to make your blog unique, the importance of good photography and connecting with your readers. It was informative. Several of the panelists also talked about book deals and selling their photography but that part didn't really interest me since I just do blogging as a hobby. Afterwards we divided into smaller groups and I attended two sessions 1) The DSLR-Free Zone led by Greg Henry (Sippity Sup), Angi Chau (Rice and Wheat) and Chuck Lai (Foodgawker).
 
 
They talked about how you can use point & shoot and cell phone cameras to get great shots instead of lugging around your DSLR. They also talked about working with natural lighting, ways to work around not using a flash and different post processing apps. I picked up some cool tips from Chuck of Foodgawker that I'm going to try out soon. 2) Introduction to Adobe Lightroom: How to Make Good Photos Great led by Marc Matsumoto (No Recipes).
 
From there we were bussed over to the Metreon for the Tasting Pavillion. This was my favorite part of the weekend. It was so much fun (and this year they allowed you to bring someone so my friend Jenny who lives in the city was able to join me). In a nutshell, they set up this giant room with all sorts of gourmet food and beverage vendors (and a couple of big name sponsors) and all you do is walk around and taste samples and network with the reps for 3 hours. We had a blast. Some of the vendors even gave us full size products to take home, like this Vanilla Bean Syrup by Sonoma Syrup Co.. I can't wait to try it out in some of my holiday baking, it's so delicious!
 
 
The other product that I fell head over heels for was the Black Truffle and White Cheddar Popcorn by 479 Popcorn...it's gluten-free and kind of like popcorn crack...super addicting. While were wandering around tasting red onion confit, sampling goat camembert and sipping gin and tonics; Tyler Florence slipped in  and signed a few autographs and posed for some photos.
 
Now I think I mentioned earlier how I don't really follow a lot of food blogs, well I do follow one popular food blog based out of SF...The Tomato Tart. Anyhow, I ran into Sabrina of The Tomato Tart randomly at the tasting and she's just as sassy and nice as she is in her blog (and was kind enough to take a photo). I was pretty stoked about that!
 
 
Some of us were so pooped afterwards that we went and sat outside and enjoyed the view for awhile. The Metreon had this cool wall of succulents on their balcony that I loved. Maybe I could get Mr. S. to build me one?
 
 
Here's a few more shots of some of the stuff we sipped and tasted that I liked.
 
cute edible printed gnome icing sheets by ticings
 
Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer by 21st Amendment Brewery

Bellwether Farms (a-mazing cheeses!)
 
Gourmet Cupcakes from Mission Minis
 
Stuffed to the gills, I waddled back to the hotel and took a nap to prepare for what else...dinner! I'm not kidding, Foodbuzz had a cocktail reception, a cooking demo with Tyler Florence and a gala dinner on the evening's lineup. Jeebus! Since Alexia Foods was the sponsor of the gala dinner, the cocktail party was stocked with fries from their "Reinvent a Classic" Challenge....a contest where several bloggers had to come up with a new flavor. My favorite flavor was the dill flavored ones. Funny I only hit the fry line once (the fries were kind of lukewarm) but the Alexia photographer somehow photographed me and I found this photo of me online:  
 
  (photo by Ryan Anson/AP Images for Alexia Foods)

Our dinner time entertainment was watching Tyler Florence...or as I will forever call him now, Ty-Flo, cook up some fat Flintstone-looking pork chops, braised red cabbage and herb spaetzle with a mustard and crème fraîche sauce while we munched on hors d'oeuvres. I've always liked Ty Flo's recipes prior to this demo but had never been much of a fan of the chef himself but after watching and listening to him at the dinner, I have to admit his frat boy/dad personality kind of grew on me. The guy's likable.  
 
  Ty-Flo letting us know, "Color = Flavor"
 
Once he was done, it was dinner time. Dinner was...meh. Being that it was a dinner for food bloggers I was thinking the food would be more...well, tasty...especially after all the amazing eats we had at the Tasting Pavillion but quite honestly, the food we had kind of reminded me of hotel food and it very well could have been as the event was being held at the Grand Hyatt. We started with a Bibb Lettuce Salad with Honey Roasted Pears, Glazed Pecans and Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette. (There was way too much dressing on my salad, so much so that when I was done there appeared to be a pool of it on my plate with bits of pecan doing the backstroke in it.) The main course was a Brandt Beef Farms Filet Mignon and Meyer Lemon Roasted Prawns served with Heirloom Carrots, Celery Root Puree and Peppercorn Demi-Glace. Sounds fab, right? The prawns were really overcooked and neither the meat nor the shrimp had a lot of flavor. Pretty disappointing. In fact, I kind of wanted to chase after Tyler and grab that dish of herb spaetzle out of his hand and have THAT for dinner. Mmmm!
 

Dessert was a "San Francisco Trio" of Sourdough Bread Pudding, Cowgirl Creamery Cheesecake and Scharffen Berger Chocolate Mousse. I thought it should have been called the "frio trio" because mine tasted like they might have still been frozen. All three were really hard. I pushed my hockey pucks around the plate for awhile and decided to pass. Luckily I was still full from the giant feast I had indulged in at the Metreon earlier in the day.
 
Although there was a farewell lunch scheduled for the next morning, I decided to pass and meet up with a friend in the city and do a little shopping before heading back to Sac. Overall, I enjoyed myself at FBF'11...great food, friendly people---a fantastic time. Next year though I'll know to start exercising a few months prior in preparation for the calorie-fest. ;)