Yay for mid-week day trips! Yesterday, I went with my friend Michelle to the Giants-Dodgers game in SF. The weather was absolutely perfect and we had a great time. We kept it simple by taking BART in and bringing a lunch with us. No fuss, no muss. Sometimes that's the best way to go. Same goes for cooking.

So if you're feeling lazy this weekend, try this watermelon salad recipe- it only requires 3 ingredients and a knife. If you want to get a little more elaborate, you can use a fancy cutter or a melon baller but it's not required. Minimal effort, maximum taste- the tartness of the lime juice really complements the sweetness of the watermelon and the coolness of the mint. See for yourself!

Watermelon Salad


1 seedless, chilled fresh watermelon: cubed/balled/or cut into shapes (your choice)
roughly 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh mint
fresh lime juice


- Cut watermelon into bite-sized chunks, balls or shapes.

- Add in chopped fresh mint (to taste)

- Squeeze some lime juice over the melon and mint. Toss gently. Let the ingredients mingle for a few minutes.

- Enjoy!

Yesterday, I blogged about attending the Avett Brothers concert on Sunday night and it got me thinking about how I love to listen to music while I'm cooking. Am I alone in this or do you like to have some tunes going while you bustle about in the kitchen? Oftentimes I just put my iPhone on shuffle, dock it to the speaker system and just listen to whatever comes up in the rotation but if I'm doing a lot of cooking I like to listen to my playlists...yes, I have "cooking playlists." They're just bands/songs I like to listen to while prepping, cooking and cleaning. Lately I've been listening to Mumford & Sons, We Are Augustines and Middle East while puttering in the kitchen. Pretty mellow. What have you been listening to?

These potato and chorizo empanadas, however, required me to put on some Gaslight Anthem to make the monotonous task of filling, folding and crimping go a little faster. The empanadas turned out flaky, spicy and delicious! We even had some filling leftover, so we mixed it with some egg for breakfast the next morning. 2-meals-in-one. Gotta love it!

Potato & Chorizo Empanadas (inspired by Red Shallot Kitchen)


3 white potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 pkg. (17.3 ounces each) Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets (4 sheets), thawed
1 lb Mexican chorizo, casing removed (longaniza or Soyrizo can be substituted)
1 tbsp canola oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste


1. Thaw puff pastry.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add canola oil, chopped onion and minced garlic into the pan, cook until fragrant. Add potatoes and cook until they are tender.

4. Add chorizo. Cook for another 5 minutes, until it's well browned.

5. Reduce the heat  and add seasonings, stir well. Cook for another 4-5 minutes and then remove pan from heat.

6. The puff pastry dough should be chilly when you start. Open it up/unfold it on a lightly floured surface. Place a large piece of Saran Wrap over the dough and use your rolling pin to roll it out to.

7. Remove Saran Wrap. Using a drinking glass or biscuit cutter, cut out your 2 1/2-inch pastry rounds.

8. Place a small bit of filling on each pastry round. Enough to make a small mound but not so much that it's spilling out. Brush the edges of the pastry with water, fold the pastry over the filling and crimp with a fork to seal. 

9. In a small bowl, mix the egg with one tablespoon of water. Mix well. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the empanadas with the egg wash. This will give the empanadas a nice golden color.

10. Slice a small vent on the top of each empanada so that the steam has a way to escape.

11. Place the empanadas on a Silpat. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until golden.

Whoa, it's Monday already? Feels like Saturday and Sunday flew by. Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend. Ours was buuuuuu-sy! Mr.S. and I started the weekend out by having some friends over for a dinner party-BBQ on Saturday. Since the weather was so nice we made pulled pork sliders, some Korean chicken, several salads and various finger foods. Festivities had to be moved indoors halfway through the night though because it got a bit chilly in the backyard. Maybe one of these days we'll get around to buying a firepit.

We closed out our wonderful weekend by listening to The Avett Brothers play under the stars at the Woodlake Hotel (which by the way is one of the crappiest concert venues I've ever been to. I loved being outside but who was the genius who thought to plant TREES throughout the sightline?)  Anyhow, The Avett Brothers were amazing and seem to have picked up more fans since I saw them at the Crest last year. I've never seen so many plaid shirts in one place. :)

In keeping with the country stylings of The Avett Brothers, I'm posting a corn, avocado and tomato salad I made this weekend. It's sweet with a hint of tangy. The perfect summer BBQ side dish.

Sweet Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad
Makes 4-6 servings


4 ears of fresh sweet corn
1 avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
Salt and fresh ground pepper


1. Peel the husks from the corn. Place the ears in boiling water, cook for 4-5 minutes. Remove from water. Set aside to cool.

2. TIP: An easy way to strip the kernels is to balance the ear of corn vertically on the center of a sturdy bundt pan (with the wider part of the ear on the bottom). Hold the top of the ear with one hand and shear off the kernels in a downward motion with a sharp kitchen knife. Turn the ear as you go. The kernels collect in the bundt pan. When all the kernels are off, just run the back of the knife down the ear to get the corn juices to run down.
Voila! Messy kernels flying about the kitchen---> averted.

3. Place cut corn kernels, halved tomatoes and diced red onion in a large bowl.

4. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, chopped basil, lime zest and juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Whisk thoroughly.

5. Pour dressing over the corn mixture. Mix well.

6. Refrigerate.

7. Right before serving, add cubed avocado. Gently toss.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to go pick some loquats. I hadn't had them in years; in fact, the last time was probably when I was in Japan as a little kid. Over there they call them "biwa." They're quite delicious! If you've never come across a loquat before, they look a lot like apricots- oval shaped, a peachy-orange colored downy skin and are about a 3-5cm long. However, when cut open they have several glossy brown large seeds in the center instead of a pit. The loquat's flesh is similar in texture to that of a cantaloupe and the fruit tastes like a cross between a mango and an apple. In fact, loquats are part of the pome family and considered a distant relative of the apple. They're are a great source for Vitamin A, manganese and potassium. You can eat them as is but loquats make terrific jams, salsas and fruit hot sauce. You can also use them in pies and cobblers. I used my loquat harvest to make a couple of jars of chutney.

Loquat Chutney (slightly adapted from Garden of Eating)


1.5 lbs of loquats
1 lb. sweet onion, chopped
1/2 lb. apples, cored & chopped
1 lb. granulated sugar
2 teaspoons mustard
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon mustard seeds, crushed
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
1/4 cup raisins


1. Wash loquats. Slice around them lengthwise with a sharp knife, twist the halves to open, pop out the seeds and remove the seed membrane. Chop the loquats into small pieces.

2. Put all the ingredients together in a large pot and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

4. When done, place chutney in sterilized jars. You can either eat it right away or you can can your chutney.

5. Serve with samosas, meats (roast pork or lamb pair well), on sandwiches or curries.


Do you love to eat food? Do you cook to relax? Do you devour chef memoirs, cookbooks and food magazines like they're made of bacon and chocolate? Well the nice folks at Community Tap and Table might have the perfect thing for you then. They're starting up a foodie book club. Each month a new food-centric book will be chosen. Members will complete their book by the designated meeting day; then gather at Community Tap and Table, where they'll get to cook and partake in a delicious 3-course meal (complete with beverage pairing) while discussing the book with other culinary literature lovers.

The current book schedule is:

July: "Toast" by Nigel Slater
September: "Four Fish" by Paul Greenberg
November: "The Dirty Life, A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love" by Kristin Kimball

$59 includes a copy of the book (print or electronic format), hands on cooking instruction to make a three course meal, paired beer/wine/or cocktail and book discussion.

The first meetings are coming up on July 28th and 31st (your choice), so sign up quickly before all the spots are full.
For more information or to sign up: 


Resolutions and goals aren't solely reserved  for New Year's. I'm a firm believer that you can set them for any time of the year. One of the goals we've in embraced in our household for summer is to get healthy and I'm not talking about sucking down ViSalus shakes and getting up to change the TV channel. By "healthy", I'm referring to nutritious-waistline friendly meals, more exercise and drinking more water. We also enrolled the kidlets in this great program for the summer that I heard from my friend Sheri, who's a nurse. It's called Project HYPE  (Healthy Youth for Physical Excellence) and it's a free day camp (ages 10-15) run by the Mission Oaks Recreation and Park District. It's only the third day in but Kidlet #2 seems to love it and Kidlet #1 slowly seems to be coming around (I think he was hoping for a summer of sleeping in and playing video games all day...teenagers!). The program focuses on teaching the kids proper nutrition and physical fitness in a positive environment. According to Kidlet #2- karate, yoga, and kickball are just a few of the exercise activities on the agenda for this summer. Several speakers, ranging from professional trainers to chefs will be coming to speak as well. Additionally, one of the great things about this program is that it requires that the family be involved. They have bi-weekly meetings for the parents and guardians that are mandatory. According to HYPE's literature, "[i]n 2008, the Center of Disease control published statistics indicating that 1 out of every 3 children are either overweight or obese. Out of 58 counties, Sacramento ranks 3rd in California in the prevalence of overweight children ages 6-11. Overweight and obese children are at a higher risk for developing chronic diseases such as type II diabetes, heart disease and cancer." Sacramento ranks 3rd!! Can you believe that? That is not a statistic we should be proud of.

So a healthy meal...last night I took stock of the fridge and decided to make a quinoa casserole. Although it does have cheese in it, on the whole this meatless meal is nutritionally sound. You have your vegetables and your supergrain- quinoa. Which is high in protein and includes all nine essential amino acids. I tweaked the original recipe to utilize what I had in my home and my personal tastes. I also wanted it to be lactose-free so I subbed in soy milk and Daiya Cheese for the dairy items.

Cheesy Quinoa Casserole (adapted from Eat Live Run)


1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
3 cups chicken broth (or veg broth if you want to go vegetarian)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
1 bunch of chard, rinsed and chopped into bite-size pieces (or you can use spinach)
1 tbsp canola oil
1 cup soy milk
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Add canola oil to a large pot over medium-high heat. When it starts to shimmer, add bell pepper, green onions and chard. Saute for about 4-5 minutes.

3. Add the garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds more.

4. Add your quinoa and your broth. Stir well. Then add your dry mustard, salt and pepper.

5. Bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer, cover and let the mixture cook for 20 minutes until the quinoa has completely absorbed the liquid and cooked (the quinoa will take on a translucent look).

6. Add the grated cheddar and soy milk. Stir well. Then transfer the mixture to a greased 9x13 glass casserole dish.

7. In a small bowl, combine the panko and the mozzarella. Sprinkle that on top of the casserole.

8. Bake for 30 minutes. The top with get a golden, crunchy look.

9. Remove and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.

Note: This also makes a great meal to take to lunch the next day. It reheats well.
1300 H Street, Sacramento, CA 95814. At the base of the Sterling Hotel. (916) 594-7669

I currently have a huge crush on Adam Pechal's Restaurant Thir13en. Despite the silly spelling of it's name, the place hits the mark on almost every level- ambiance, food, drinks and service. In fact I've been there three times in the past two weeks and it has yet to disappoint.

My first visit was with my friend, Debbie. I was seated on the courtyard patio at a nice table in the shade, right next to two hummingbird feeders. As I waited for my dining companion to arrive, I got to watch several hummingbirds buzz by (Jeebus, those suckers are fast!). My server, Paul, suggested that I try a cucumber cooler, a house specialty. The drink did not disappoint! It was a refreshing blend of Grey Goose vodka, cucumber and fresh lemon and lime juices...perfect for a sunny day. For lunch, I had to go with their meatloaf sandwich. I love homemade meatloaf and their version of this dinnertime classic was outstanding. The meatloaf itself consisted of two juicy patties with a nice peppery kick, which paired well with the spicy mayo and pickled onions. I was also given a choice of a mixed salad or shoestring fries as a side. I went with the fries...nice and crisp. Thumbs up all around.

On my second visit, I swore I was going to try a new dish but unfortunately the siren's call of their meatloaf sandwich was too strong to ignore. I went with the same dish again and it was again perfect. I did at least try a new drink- their mai tai. It was on par with the lovely mai tais I've had in Hawaii. Their version wasn't overly sweet which is usually the downfall of most places. This mai tai was perfectly balanced and delicious. My friend Gretchen and I were also amazed at the size of the beverage...a nice hefty pour. A great choice for a patio drink. And once again, service (this time from waiter, Casey) was terrific.

For my most recent visit (Saturday night), Mr.S. and I went there before going to check out Moonrise Kingdom. We decided to sit inside since it was quite hot and humid. The hostess wasn't at the stand when we walked in but we were greeted and seated immediately by a bartender. The transaction was so smooth that there was none of that awkward period of standing at the door and looking around for assistance. The inside of the restaurant is quite nice (albeit a bit loud). Low ceilings and soft lighting made it seem more intimate and I loved the cute little succulent plants outfitting each table. Our waitress (I didn't catch her name) was friendly and attentive without being intrusive. Courses were spaced out well- no huge lag time and no rushing. We started out with an appetizer of seared foie gras served atop a brioche french toast and a strawberry compote. This came paired with a smooth, rich mound of foie gras panna cotta outfitted with a small slice of crisp bacon and an orange gastrique. Both items were absolutely heavenly. For dinner, Mr.S. ordered the seared scallops nestled on a bed of sweet corn risotto. It was a hit. This is probably the first risotto I've ever had that didn't taste heavy. It was light and vibrant and the dish showcased the fresh corn well. The scallops were cooked flawlessly with a nice crispy exterior and soft, tender interior. You know the type of scallop that's so good that it makes your eyes roll back in your head when it hits your tongue? That's what we had. For my main course, I opted for the salmon dish. The salmon was well-prepared, topped with a tantalizing tomato jam and served over a tasty crustless crab cake. And if that's not enough, it was also surrounded by a colorful ratatouille puree with a dash of green chili oil that turned out to be incredible. My god, I could eat this dish every day during the summer. The flavors melded together so wonderfully that even when I surpassed the point of feeling full I couldn't put my fork down. The only somewhat "meh" moment of the evening was the dessert course. They were out of the dessert item that Mr.S. wanted so he settled for the profiteroles drizzled with chocolate and a cup of coffee. The first cup of coffee was cold so he had to send it back. As we were waiting for a new pot to be brewed, we were served our dessert. The profiteroles consisted of three creme puffs (slightly smaller than a ping pong ball) and a scant squeeze of chocolate syrup. It wasn't bad, just not memorable. Next time, we'll probably just skip dessert.

Off the beaten path of Midtown restaurants, Thir13en is the perfect place for an upscale outdoor lunch or place to indulge in a fancy cocktail during the spring/summertime as well as a terrific choice for a romantic dinner out. It offers amazing dishes prepared with fresh, quality ingredients and since the menu changes regularly there's always something new to try. Additionally, it pulls off classy without all that pretentious BS that some higher-end restaurants exude. I was impressed and will most certainly return there (and next time I'm giving their tuna carpaccio a whirl- it looked divine).

* Serves brunch on Sundays
* Patio dining available
* Not a good choice for large parties due to it's small size

Does anyone else get super giddy when they get their monthly magazines in the mail? I get really excited...but then again, in all honesty, I get excited over any mail that's not a bill or marked, "Resident" or "Occupant." I have subscriptions to some of my favorite food magazines like Saveur, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit and Sunset and each month, I enjoy settling down with a nice cup of coffee and indulging in some leisure reading.  Anyhow, my July issue of Food and Wine just arrived this weekend and I've really enjoyed reading their article entitled, "Food Trends: Good or Evil," where they ask Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert their thoughts on various food trends. The eight they listed and discussed were:

1. Food Trends (in general)
2. Pop-Up Restaurants
3. Fancy Chefs Making Burgers
4. No-Reservation Restaurants
5. Chefs Creating Cross-Cultural Cuisine
6. TV Chefs
7. Death of Fine Dining
8. Chefs as Sex Symbols

I'd like to add a few of my own as well as what I think of them:

1. Communal Table Dining in Restaurants: In theory this idea sounds great - you get to meet new interesting people and expand your social circle. However, more often than not, in reality, you end up sitting next to some loud, brash guy who's radiating BO and elbowing you every time you try to take a bite of food or a drunk lady who chews with her mouth open and continually kicks you under the table while interjecting comments in your conversation with your dining companion.

2. Small plates: I can go either way on this one. Done right, it's a fab way to share various dishes with your tablemates but done wrong...well, there's nothing worse then going out to dinner, dropping a C-note on a skimpy meal and going home still hungry.

3. Withholding Water: Many upscale restaurants have taken to not providing you with water at your table and then advising you can purchase bottled or sparking water. Yeah, that chaps my hide too.

4. Bacon: Now I like bacon as much as the next person, but seriously I think we've taken it a bit too far. I don't need bacon in my martini, sushi or milkshake. Moderation, people, moderation.

5. Loud Music & Excessive Noise: In a club it's fine, but having to yell when your chatting with your friend, who's sitting 2 feet away from you, is ridiculous. Keep the music low and insulate the damn restaurant so it doesn't sound like Grand Central Station in there.

6. Charging for bread: It's tacky. If it's going to be an economic burden on the restaurant to serve it, then just do away with it.

7. Riding the "Farm to Table" Train: I'm all for chef's utilizing local ingredients but I really don't need to to be handed a menu that lists where EVERY little ingredient comes from down to the parsley garnishing my fish.

What's your take?
Labels: 3 comments | | edit post

Triple digits! Can you believe it? That's the rumor for what this weekend's temp is supposed to hit. That's Africa hot! Tarzan couldn't take that kind of hot. Jeebus, it's only been in the low 90's this week and I'm feeling hot and cranky. Well come this weekend, if you're feeling knackered and sweaty and don't want to turn on your oven then try making some of this crisp green apple salsa. It's crunchy, healthy and absolutely delicious and best of all it requires minimal effort. You can pair it with some pita or sweet potato chips and take it to a BBQ or just enjoy it solo in front of the air conditioning. (I won't tell, I promise!)

Crisp Green Apple Tomato (slightly adapted from How Sweet It Is)


2 Granny Smith apples- peeled, cored and chopped

1 yellow bell pepper- chopped

1 saladette tomato- chopped

1/4 medium sweet onion- chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice


1. Chop/dice all of the fruits and veggies. (Note: You can opt to not peel the apples if the skin doesn't bother you.) Place in a large bowl.

2.  Add salt, sugar and lime juice. Toss thoroughly.

3. If it's too tart for you, you can add a pinch more of sugar.

4. You're done. Told you this was a quickie. Enjoy!


July 21st and 22nd at the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg.
For more info:
Tickets are $25 online, $30 at the door

It must be "baby season" again. Seems like a lot of my friends are welcoming little bundles of joy into their lives this summer. One of my girl friends, Susan, just had her first baby so my friend Rose and I made arrangements to visit and bring a few meals for the new mother and her family. Now Susan's vegetarian and her hubby doesn't do cheese so I was in a bit of a quandary as to what to make; however, I finally decided on a batch of mild coconut milk curry with chickpeas and lentils (since I know Susan loves Indian food) as well as some wild rice salad and some baked goods. I figured that would give them a variety of things to munch on if they didn't feel like cooking. Of course I made a skosh more so that I could have some for lunch tomorrow....mmmm!

Coconut Milk Chickpea and Lentil Curry (adapted from Sweet Sugar Bean)

Serves 6-8 people


3 tablespoons canola oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
2 carrots, diced
3 tablespoons mild Indian curry paste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1 (28oz.) can crushed tomatoes
2 (13.5oz.) cans of coconut milk
2 cups whole green lentils, rinsed and picked through
2 cans (15 oz.) cooked chickpeas, rinsed
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups fresh cauliflower florets
1 cup frozen peas
couple of dashes of hot sauce (optional)
handful of cilantro, chopped


1. In a large pot, heat canola oil on medium heat. Add chopped onions, cook until onions are soft.

2. Add garlic, ginger, red pepper, carrots, curry paste, spices and salt. Stir. Cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add crushed tomatoes, coconut milk, chickpeas, lentils, tomato paste and honey. Bring to a boil. Stir well.

4. Cover. Reduce to simmer. Cook for 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Add cauliflower and peas. Cook for about 20 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.

6. Add a handful of chopped cilantro.

7. Adjust seasonings if necessary. (At this time, add a few splashes of hot sauce if you want it slightly spicier.)

8. Serve hot by itself or over rice.

9. (Optional) Garnish with plain yogurt, cilantro or chopped peanuts.


Looking for something interesting to do and eat this weekend? This Sunday (June 17th, starting at 530pm), Formoli's in East Sac will be hosting a Columbia Night.


First Course: Patacones con Ahogado (Colombian-style Fried Plantains with Tomato-Onion Sauce)
Second Course: Ajiaco Bogotano (Chicken Stew Style Soup)
Third Course: Sobrebarriga con Salsa (Flank Steak with Sauce)
Fourth Course: Postre de Natas (Cream Dessert)

$30/pp. If you're interested you can contact the restaurant at (916) 448-5699 for further details or to make reservations.

5641 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95819. (916) 457-5600

Remember the Shakey's Pizza on J Street? It doesn't seem too long ago that I was there munching on a slice of pizza pie and gabbing with friends. The pizzeria may have closed but the nostalgia remains for a lot of Sacramentans. Since the closure of the original Shakey's that corner of 57th and J has changed identities several times. These days, it's called Clark's Corner, a family-friendly eatery and neighborhood bar. Mr.S. and I had stopped in there during the winter while we were out holiday shopping; we popped in during dinnertime and were immediately sat in a pretty empty looking dining room at a table not too far from the fireplace. The tables in the area where we sat were half-booths around the perimeter all located under lighting units that cast down a extremely strong, bright beam of light down on the person who was on the booth side. It felt like we were seated at one of those interrogation tables you see in old cop shows. It was extremely uncomfortable; however, there was nowhere to move to as there appeared to be only two small stations open that night (the rest of the dining room looked shut down). We looked over our menus and placed our orders, at which time we were told by our waitress that they were out of both dishes we wanted along with a few others. So, I ended up ordering the Kobe burger and Mr.S. went with their fish dish. When the waitress brought out my dinner, the burger looked tasty but it turned out to be extremely overcooked and the sweet potato fries were cold. Also I had asked for no cheese, but there was a nice big helping of melted cheese on my burger. On the other hand, Mr.S. liked his pan roasted fish dish. The fish and the accompanying greens were cooked well and came with a nice sized helping of mashed potatoes. During our meal, our waitress kept disappearing for long periods of time so we found ourselves having to flag down the other waiter on duty a few times (poor guy) - for silverware, more coffee and soda, ketchup and even the bill. I left unimpressed with the whole experience and never bothered to write a review. In fact, my notes and the photo I snapped of my burger just sat on my laptop for months- untouched collecting cyberdust.

Flash forward to last week. I was meeting my friend Stacey for a few adult beverages and a bite. It was her turn to pick a place to eat and she suggested Clark's Corner since it was close to her neighborhood. At first I was hesitant but then I thought, "Why not? Let's give it a second shot." When I showed up she was seated in the bar area instead of the dining room. Unlike the dim dining room illuminated by harsh spotlights in no man's land, the bar area had windows and was quite lively so I asked if we could stay in there. The bartender (I think his name was Balele?) was super friendly and engaging and seemed to know several of the regulars. He did a terrific job of recommending drinks and getting me to try a few new craft cocktails (both of which were delicious). For dinner, I decided to go with their Corner Bird (grilled chicken breast, fried onion, pepper jack cheese, crispy bacon and ranch on sourdough). Unfortunately, they were out of sweet potato fries so I settled for the potato fries. The sandwich was good and the fries hot this time.

My second visit at Clark's Corner was vastly better than the first. Seriously, like night and day. Better atmosphere, food and service. To be honest, I'm not sure if they worked out the kinks since my last visit, did a revamp or if we just hit it on a really off night back during the winter. I do plan to take Mr.S. back there sometime but I think we'll opt to sit in the front room where the bar is, it's just a better vibe than the dining room. I'm glad I went back though, I guess second time's a charm in this case!

* dog friendly patio
* serves brunch on weekends

As we get older doesn't life seem to get much more complicated? We tend to take a lot things for granted and forget the small joys in life. For example, the other day I was at the doctor's office and I had to go on the elevator. I stepped in and stood by the control panel and was shortly joined by a young boy and his father. I could see the little boy eyeing the elevator buttons and it was obviously taking every ounce of his self-control not to reach in front of me and push all the buttons. So I leaned over and asked, "Would you mind helping me? I'm headed to floor number 2." His eyes lit up with pure delight and he immediately pushed button #2 along with the floor that he and his dad were going to. It was such a small gesture, nothing really...but I could tell I had made his day. As I stepped off the elevator, I looked back to see him grinning from ear to ear. Seeing that mile wide smile on his face reminded me of the things we take for granted as adults. We tend to overlook the things in our day to day life that brought us so much joy as children- like playing in the sprinklers, staying up late or going to the park...and yes, pushing the buttons in an elevator. As kids, we would also look forward to the first fruits of a season- that initial bite of sweet summertime watermelon or sinking our teeth into a juicy ripe peach. Inspired by my interaction in the elevator, I decided to stop on the way home and buy some fresh blackberries. My first of the season. As I got out my ingredients to bake this cake, I popped a few berries in my mouth and savored the intense flavors of tart and sweet...and for a moment or two, life seemed simple.

Note: This cake is based on a recipe for Blueberry-yogurt cake from Sunset Magazine. If you don't like seeds in your cake, you may want to strain them out before adding the blackberries into your cake mix. If you're like me and they don't bother you, you can toss the berries into the mix whole.

Blackberry Yogurt Cake (adapted from Sunset Magazine, July 2006, Blueberry Yogurt Cake)


  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

  • Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    2. In Bowl #1, cream your butter and sugar until it's nice and fluffy. Then add your vanilla and eggs. Beat well.

    3. In Bowl #2, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add it to the ingredients of Bowl #1. Then add your yogurt. Stir thoroughly.

    4. Add in your blackberries and mix gently.

    5. In Bowl #3, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and walnuts.

    6. Place 1/2 of the cake batter in a butter and floured pan (the recipe says to use an 8-inch square pan but I used a 10-inch baking dish since that's what I had on hand), then top with 1/2 of Bowl #3's contents.

    7. Add the rest of the cake batter to the pan.

    8. Mix the remaining brown sugar mixture in Bowl #3 with 2 tablespoons of butter and sprinkle this over the top of the batter.

    9. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a knife slid in the center comes out goop-free.

    10. Serve warm- sliced out of the pan or in individual serving dishes (I used ramekins).


    Aack! Ever feel as through you're going through a period of having the yips? Yeah, yeah, I know...technically "the yips" is used when referring to a sport like golf or baseball, but cooking's sort of a sport, right? ;) Anyhow, I've been dropping stuff left and right in the kitchen lately, unable to concentrate during a recipe and just overall feeling like I'm off my game. It's times like this when I really need to remember to take a breathe and step back for a bit. So while I'm waiting for my case of the yips to subside, I've been letting Mr.S. do some of the cooking. I recently ran across a recipe that sounded pretty interesting. It involved flat iron steaks (aka top blade steaks) and since neither of us had ever cooked one before, we decided to purchase a few from Corti's and give it a go. I threw together a batch of Asian marinade and tossed the whole lot into a Ziploc bag, marinated the steaks for 6 hours and then let Mr.S. work his magic on the grill. Surprisingly, the flat iron steaks turned out to be nice and thick, juicy and tender. Just what I needed for my bad case of the yips. I'd definitely buy them again.

    Grilled Asian Flat Iron Steak (recipe adapted from Savory Sweet Life)


    2 Flat Iron Steaks
    1/2 cup Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
    1/2 cup Extra Dry Sherry
    1/4 cup Honey
    2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil
    2 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Ginger
    2 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Garlic
    1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
    2 Tablespoons Roasted Sesame Seeds
    2 Green Onions, Thinly Sliced


    - Combine soy sauce, sherry, honey, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Whisk marinade until thoroughly mixed.

    - Place the steaks in a large Ziploc bag. Pour the marinade over the steaks, seal the bag and massage it a bit to coat meat.

    - Place the bag in the fridge to marinate for 5-6 hours.

    - After 5-6 hours, drain the marinade and pat the meat dry.

    - Grill on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes a side. Be careful to not overcook.

    - When steaks reach desired doneness, remove from grill. Allow to rest on a cutting board for about 5 minutes before slicing.

    - Slice across the grain, garnish with sesame seeds and green onions and serve.

    Note: If you happen to have any leftovers, they're perfect for making a sandwich or topping a salad.
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    I have to admit some of my favorite recipes have come neither from a book or a world renown chef. Rather, I've stumbled across them by sheer happenstance while cleaning out my fridge, rooting through a cupboard late at night or just haphazardly throwing stuff in a pot. Like this Brussels sprouts recipe I made on Saturday was ridiculously good and tasted oh so decadent, but it was made with just a few ingredients that I had laying about in my fridge. In fact, it was so good Mr. S. and I ate the entire bowl-- in one sitting. Yeah, we're not proud of that little fact...but damn, we couldn't help ourselves!

    Brussels Sprouts and Shiitakes in Mascarpone


    3 cups shredded fresh Brussels sprouts (be sure to remove the stems ends and any damaged/wilted leaves before shredding)

    2 oz. fresh shiitakes, sliced

    3 tablespoons green onions, thinly sliced

    4 oz. mascarpone

    1.5 to 2 tablespoons garlic, minced (less if you're not a garlic slut like I am, I love the stuff)

    3 tablespoons unsalted butter

    salt and freshly ground pepper


    1. In a large skillet or pan, heat your butter over medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).

    2. Add the Brussels sprouts, green onions and a pinch of salt. Saute for about 4-5 minutes. Stirring occasionally.

    3. Mix in the sliced shiitakes and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

    4. Stir in the mascarpone. Cover, lower heat to medium-low. Braise for about 20-25 minutes until the shredded sprouts get to the point where they are nice and tender. Take care though to not overcook them because, "overcooked sprouts become, yellowish, mushy and develop the flavor of stale cabbage." (Julia Child) And no one likes a mushy sprout.

    5. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir well and simmer for another minute or two, uncovered.

    6. Remove from heat and serve immediately.


    Sometimes life's about the small celebrations just as much as it is about the big ones. It could be something simple as you hooking up your new TV all by yourself, that your kidlet learned how to do a wheelie on his bike without crashing or that your horrible boss was switched to a different department. This weekend, Mr.S. finally sold his car and whoo boy was he excited! That BMW has been a pain in his rear for the last few months and he's been wanting to 86 it for ages and get a more practical vehicle; in his case, a SUV since we haul the kidlets and their buddies around a lot. Also, it would come in pretty handy for when we go camping or on roadtrips. To celebrate, I baked him a batch of peanut butter cookies (his favorite kind of cookie). A batch all to himself. I even used "creepy peanut butter," a joke between us. It's the all natural peanut butter, you know the kind if you let it sit too long it separates and you have to stir it up? He loves the stuff. And it turned out he loved the cookies as well.

    If you're interested in making up a batch, they're super easy to make and only require 4 ingredients. I found the recipe on a PBS site and it makes about a dozen soft, thick, very peanuty cookies that are gluten-free. And since there's only four ingredients, this would be a great recipe to use if you wanted to bake cookies together with your kidlet.

    Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies (adapted from PBS Parents: Kitchen Explorers Four Ingredient Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies)


    1 cup natural peanut butter* (my current fav for this recipe is Trader Joe's Valencia Creamy Peanut Butter with Sea Salt)
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1 large egg, lightly beaten
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    * if you're using unsalted peanut butter, add a pinch of sea salt


    - Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    - Using a hand or stand mixer, mix the ingredients on low speed until well combined.

    - Place a Silpat on your baking tray.

    - Take about a tablespoon and a half's worth of dough and roll it into a ball. Then lightly "smash" it down into a cookie shape.

    - Place on the Silpat. Continue with the rest of the dough. Be sure to leave adequate room between the cookies.

    - Once done, use the tines on a fork to push down and make a cross-hatch design on the tops of the cookie.

    - Place the cookies in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes.

    - Once they're done, take them out and let them cool on the tray for about 2-3 minutes then transfer them to a cooling rack. (If you move them before that, they will fall apart).


    Did you survive the heat this weekend? When it gets super hot like this all I usually want to do is throw on some shorts, crank the AC and loll around indoors. However today, Mr. S. and I had plans to go check out the Good Street Food and Design Market in Del Paso Heights so lolling was out of the question. I had heard that the marketplace was trying to follow the format of Dose Market in Chicago and San Francisco's Ferry Building so I was excited to check it out.

    We arrived early at the marketplace (located in a warehouse) to find a clean, bright venue with fun music pumping and various vendors set up. Considering this was their "grand opening." I thought they were very organized and things seemed to be running pretty smoothly. Although it was a relatively small market, there was a nice mixture of vendor types (clothing, art, music, food and drinks), there were plenty of places to sit and they carded guests at the door to ensure those who were of drinking age were braceleted. We ended up browsing through the merchandise for a bit, grabbing a cup of coffee from the guys at Broadacre and then taking a seat to soak in the scene. It was fun to watch the vendors interact with the public. Some might consider the goods a tad pricey but they were on par with what you'd come across if you shopped at a independently-owned boutique or a local bakery/cafe. As we were leaving, Mr.S. commented that it would be really cool if they added a few more food trucks in the future (we only saw two in the back lot when we were there) and I agree- this would be a great place for the food trucks to congregate and peddle their eats. It'll be interesting to see what the marketplace coordinators add to the mix if the concept catches on-- I would love to see some charcuterie offerings or perhaps a table selling hand crafted spirits (small batch bourbon?). Overall, we had a good time and it was a nice way to spend a Sunday morning.

    When: First Sundays of the month, from 1-5 pm. June 3 through November
    Where: 1409 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento
    Cost: $3 for Adults, Kids 18 and under free
    Parking: Bike parking available. Ample street parking for cars.