Ally

I have a little secret- I love those reusable bags that you buy at the grocery store. I have about a dozen of them. You know what kind I'm talking about- Raley's, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods-- pretty much every place sells them or gives them away. The problem is I never remember to take them to the store with me. Instead I use them for everything else- carrying food/ingredients to Mr.S' casa, transporting my laundry, returning books to the library, even throwing wet clothes in there after a day at the beach. Mr.S used to make fun of me when we first started dating because he thought the bags were pretty dorky (especially my purple one from Whole Foods with a giant eggplant on it and the enthusiastic statement of, "I Love Veggies!" but he confessed to me a few years ago that he started looking forward to those bags because it usually meant I was going to cook something delicious at his house. And last year, he even bought a few himself...now whether he actually takes them to the store or not, I have no idea...but who am I to judge?☺ Anyhow, I used the bags recently to bring the ingredients over to his house to cook Korean ground beef. Both he and Kidlet #1 gave it the thumbs up, as did my friend Michelle when I gave her some. This is a super versatile recipe and I'm pretty sure I'll be making it a lot now that I'm working. It's easy to throw together and you can use it in tacos, rice bowls (this works fantastically in bibimbap) or in lettuce wraps. You will need some gochujang sauce though- a Korean red pepper paste containing chiles, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, salt (and sometimes a sweetner). You can find it as most Asian supermarkets. It usually comes in a jar or a plastic tub and some brands are spicier/sweeter than others. Gochujang tastes great when used to make marinades, stir-fries or stew. Sometimes I like to mix it with peanut butter and few other condiments and use it as a dressing.



Korean Ground Beef

Ingredients

1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 - 1.25 lbs. ground beef
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 scant cup brown sugar
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced (I just use my microplane)
1 heaping teaspoon gochujang
salt and pepper
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds

Instructions

1. In a large non-stick skillet, heat up your sesame oil over medium heat. Add your garlic. Cook until fragrant. Add your ground beef. Cook, stirring to break up the crumbles. When it's no longer pink, drain the fat.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together your brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger and gochujang.

3. Add the mixture to the beef. Simmer for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste.


4. Sprinkle in green onions and toasted sesame seeds. Stir. Remove from heat.

5. Serve over rice, with lettuce leaves or with tortillas.
Ally

Are you looking for some fun food events to attend or get involved in? Here's a few that are coming up in the next few months that might peak your interest:

May 17th: East Sacramento Farmers' Market Grand Opening
8am-1pm
35th Street and Park Way in McKinley Park
info@eastsacfarmersmarket.com or check them out on Facebook

May 18th: A Day on the Farm
10am-3pm
"This event is to create an opportunity for families to visit the American River Ranch for a day of learning, eating, music, celebrating community and exploring the natural world. The Day's Events Include: farm stand  (purchase fresh, local, organic vegetables and fruit), organic plant sale, cooking classes, farm tours, workshops, kid's garden activities, and community education tables."
$5 general; free for children ages 2 and younger

http://www.soilborn.org/

May 24th: Berryessa Gap Wine's Springtime in the Vineyard
11:30am-3:30pm
"Back by popular demand, we will be serving BBQ Oysters, Carne Asada and Mexican Style Beans and Rice. New releases will include our 2013 Verdejo and the much anticipated 2012 Tempranillo. With ticket purchase you will receive a Martinez Orchards Grafted Grapevine to take home."
Wine Club Members $40 General Admission $50
http://www.berryessagap.com/News---Events/Events

Read more here: http://events.sacbee.com/rancho_cordova_ca/events/show/370216433-a-day-on-the-farm#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://events.sacbee.com/rancho_cordova_ca/events/show/370216433-a-day-on-the-farm#storylink=cpy

May 29th: DigIn! at the West Sacramento Farmers' Market
5:30p to 7:45p

Read more here: http://events.sacbee.com/west_sacramento_ca/events/show/370434577-digin-at-the-west-sacramento-farmers-market#storylink=cpy
"The DigIn! dinner series lineup begins May 29 with Michael Thiemann, owner and chef at Mother. This program offers up a three course meal right on the street. "
http://www.westsacramentochamber.com/events/DigIn!-Dinner-Series-Package-1309/details

Read more here: http://events.sacbee.com/west_sacramento_ca/events/show/370434577-digin-at-the-west-sacramento-farmers-market#storylink=cpy

June 7th: Sacramento VegFest
Red Lion Hotel, Woodlake Conference Center
11:00am - 6pm
"Sacramento VegFest is to showcase, promote, celebrate, and educate the community and visitors about cruelty-free food through the provision of a festival that will illustrate, in living flavor, the wide variety of plant-based foods and products available in the marketplace. There will be world-class speakers, live entertainment, and fun contests throughout the day in addition to the vast array of vegan & vegetarian food samples. We are happy to present Mariel Hemmingway as our Keynote Speaker. In addition, Doug Lisle, Ph.D. and Chef Brooke Preston will both be speaking and book signing."
Early bird tickets $10, Advanced Tickets $12.50, Door Tickets $15
http://www.sacvegfest.com

July 13th: Twin Peaks Orchards Open House
Summer harvest, demos, tours, tasting and activities for kids. Fun for the whole family!
http://www.twinpeaksent.com/events.htm 
more here: http://events.sacbee.com/sacramento_ca/events/show/370442296-sacramento-vegfest#storylink=cpy

July 24th-28th :- A Celebration of Huell Howser at the California State Fair
Buildings A/B Lobby
"Huell Howser’s enthusiasm for California elevated the simple joys of living in our great state by highlighting undiscovered nuggets of California on his television program, “California’s Gold”. This tribute to Huell Howser reflects the importance he played in promoting California and its counties through his syndicated programs shown on PBS, and features video highlights from some of his popular California’s Gold episodes, and personal memorabilia he collected throughout his travels."
http://www.bigfun.org/come-to-the-fair/attractions/celebration-of-huell-howser/#sthash.DMMehXTl.dpuf

July 29-August 1st : 2014 American Cheese Society Conference
"The 2014 ACS Conference will enhance the idea of local, to reflect the excitement and growth of the artisan and specialty cheese community throughout North America. Just as a good cheese plate brings together a variety of tastes, textures, and experiences, so too will the ACS Conference. Nearly 1,000 industry leaders will come together in Sacramento to celebrate, collaborate, learn from one another, and sample great products."
http://www.cheesesociety.org/conference/2014-conference/

Want to get in for free? The ACS is looking for volunteers for the conference:
"If you love cheese, or simply enjoy lending a hand, consider spending a few hours with us! ACS is seeking volunteers to support the 2014 Conference & Competition in Sacramento, CA from July 24 through August 2. Shifts vary in length. Volunteers must be 18 or older.
All volunteers receive an official volunteer t-shirt and a complimentary ticket to the Festival of Cheese on Friday, August 1 (where more than 1,700 cheeses will be available for sampling, alongside specialty foods from around the country!) as a token of our appreciation. Additional tickets for family or friends can be purchased online beginning on May 5, 2014."
http://www.cheesesociety.org/conference/volunteer/
Ally
 
So readers I have some exciting news. Next week I'll be starting a new job! I'm nervous and ecstatic about the whole thing. So, until things get settled in a bit, the ol' blog might slow down a skosh. I'll try to keep up though, I promise. However that said, you might see a lot more simple prep or one-pot weeknight meals as that's what I'll probably be eating for awhile. Trust me they'll still be just as delicious as the fancier stuff. Take this dish I made the other night for Mr.S. and Kidlet #1, called shakshuka.  Shakshuka is a North African dish that was brought to Israel by Tunisian Jews. The term "shakshuka" means "mixture" (in Arabic slang) and that's exactly what the dish is - a mixture of poached eggs and a spicy tomato-based sauce served in a cast iron skillet. It's similar in some ways to Mexico's huevos rancheros and Italy's uova al purgatorio (eggs in purgatory). Mr.S and Kidlet #1 loved the dish so much I'm sure it'll be our regular rotation. It's one of those dishes that's appropriate for breakfast, lunch or dinner and is extremely flavorful and satisfying. It smells heavenly when you're cooking it too! When I made it the other night, I served it over ground beef and crumbled Italian sausage because Mr. S wanted some meat with the dish, but it's equally great when paired with steamed rice or a crusty peasant bread for dipping.
 
Couple of tips:
 
- If you prefer, a bit of harissa can be substituted for the paprika and cayenne
 
- If you're feeling particularly ambitious, make a double batch of the sauce and freeze the extra portion. That way the next time you make the dish, all you have to do is thaw it out, throw it in the pan and add eggs.
 
- If you want the dish to be spicier, you can add some red pepper flakes while cooking or drizzle some hot sauce on the finished product.
 
- This is a great dish to be inventive with - add in your favorite ingredients like mushrooms, chard or cauliflower.
 
Shakshuka (adapted from the New York Times' Shakshuka with Feta)
 
Ingredients
 
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
 
1 large yellow or white onion- halved and thinly sliced
 
1 large jalapeno- stemmed, seeds removed, diced
 
1 large red or green bell pepper- seeds removed, cut into strips
 
6-7 garlic cloves, minced
 
1 teaspoon ground cumin
 
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
 
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
 
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
 
1 28-oz can whole plum tomatoes with juices (chopped or you can crush with your hands)
 
2 tablespoons tomato paste
 
1 tablespoon brown sugar
 
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
 
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, more to taste
 
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
 
1 teaspoon crushed caraway seeds
 
8 large eggs
 
1.5 tablespoons flat leaf parsley
 
hot sauce, for serving (optional)
 
a sprinkle of z'atar (optional)
 
 
Instructions
 
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
 
2. Warm olive oil in large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeno and bell pepper. Cook until onion softens, about 15-20 minutes. Add garlic and sauté it for a few more minutes.
 
3. Add in cumin, sweet smoked paprika, turmeric and cayenne. Stir. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add in tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes thickened slightly. About 7-12 minutes (depending on your oven).
 
4. In a small bowl, mix your feta and crushed caraway seeds together. Add it to the tomato mixture. Stir together.
 
5. Using a spoon, shape shallow little wells in the sauce. Slip a whole egg into each well. Continue this around the perimeter of the skillet. (I found cracking each egg into a small bowl then slipping it to the well made it a bit easier for me.) You want to make sure you're leaving enough room between the eggs so they're not crowded. This helps the eggs keep their shape and enhances the presentation. Season with a little bit of salt and pepper across the tops of the eggs.
 
 
6. Carefully take the skillet off the stove and move it into the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on your eggs, you want to remove the skillet from the oven just as the eggs are beginning to set.
 
7. Sprinkle with z'atar (optional) and chopped parsley. Serve hot.
Ally
One thing I've noticed with Japan is that over the years certain flavors cycle repeatedly in popularity- chestnut (kuri), plum (ume), purple sweet potato (beni imo), and green tea (matcha). You can find the flavors in all kinds of things from ice cream, Kit Kats,  Pringles, even Coca-Cola. The flavor trend has also been creeping over to the US the past few years and the green tea flavor in sweets and drinks seems to be a favorite among many people I know.  I was at the grocery store yesterday and caught sight of these green tea products (among others) lining the shelves:

Green Tea Cream Pocky

Green Tea Chocolate Pocky

Green Tea Kit Kat
 

Green Tea Cappuccino Mix

Green Tea Milk Drink
 
Do you like green tea flavored products? If so, what's your favorite?
Ally


9308 Elk Grove Blvd Ste 100 (corner of Elk Grove Blvd and Waterman), Elk Grove, CA 95624.
(916) 478-4444      
http://www.bestpizzaandcurry.com/index.htm

This is a quickie review. A friend and I trekked out to Elk Grove this week to 1st Choice Pizza and Curry to satiate our curiosity and our hunger. Italian and Indian?  Hmmm? That's a fusion that could work. I had heard about this place through friends and wanted to try the much talked about butter chicken pizza. Turns out the butter chicken pizza is pretty good and the mixture of flavors works well together. We got the mild and the flavors of cumin, coriander, garam masala, chili etc. were detectable but not overwhelming. They do have a spicier version as well for those of you who like a little extra kick. The medium pizza ($14.99) we got came with eight slices and the dough was a regular pizza crust. (I would have loved it if it had been a naan crust.)

The restaurant is located in a large strip mall. It has seating and serves beer and wine but the atmosphere is super casual, similar to a fast food eatery. You order and pay at the counter, then they bring the pizza out to your table when it's done. Service is polite and efficient. The menu states that they also make chicken curry pizza, veggie masala pizza and Malai paneer pizza in addition to the butter chicken. Additionally, they carry several "regular" pizzas (and gluten-free pizzas), as well as a variety of traditional Indian dishes such as saag chana, tandoori chicken and paneer tikka masala. They also have mango lassi and various premade/packaged Indian sweets (rasmalai, gulab jamun, mango kulfi, kheer, and pista Kulfi.

My friend and I both liked the pizza we had. Not enough to drive out from Midtown to Elk Grove for it again but if we were in the area, we'd definitely stop by or get takeout. By the way, for those who do live out there, 1st Choice Pizza and Curry currently will deliver within a 3-mile radius.